Sunday, July 31, 2011

Pretty-Jillian Lauren

Jillian Lauren
Plume, Aug 30 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780452297340

Beth "Bebe" Baker worked at Rudy’s in Toledo when Aaron the horn player on tour with jazz star Billy Coyote enters the dive. He had three things going for him and one negative. The positives are the horn like Bebe’s pop, his being very tall like she is, and his kiss. However, he also seems tentative as if he cannot play the final note. Bebe hops on the tour bus as it leaves Toledo.

In Los Angeles the band becomes marooned. Bebe becomes a stripper while Aaron's drug use increasingly gets out of control until he dies in a car crash that leaves her physically scarred and emotionally damaged. Over the next year Bebe goes to rehab vocational facility while attending beauty school. As she tries to reinvent herself by staying clean and grieve her hero, Bebe also sees schizophrenic Jake.

This is an intriguing character study of a woman who makes bad choices on her life as she seems to repeat her errors. Bebe is a fascinating protagonist who though she goes to school and sees another man, has not moved passed her loss of Aaron. Besides some sympathy over his death, readers will not empathize with Bebe as every time she takes a big leap forward, she follows up with gigantic leaps backward. Readers will appreciate Jillian Lauren’s look at a complicated individual who believes graduation will prove her savior.

Harriet Klausner

The Ronin's Mistress-Laura Joh Rowland

The Ronin's Mistress
Laura Joh Rowland
Minotaur, Sep 13 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312658526

In 1703 Edo, forty-seven ronin samurai arrive at the estate of the Shogun Tsunayoshi's master of ceremonies Kira Yoshinaka. Though the shogun had declared no vendetta, in an act of revenge for turning them into masterless ronin twenty-two months ago; the band’s leader Oishi Kuranosuke beheads Yoshinaka for his evil involvement in the death of their master Lord Asano during a feud; others at the estate were also killed.

Having been demoted from Chamberlain back to his previous job as the Most Honorable Investigator of Events, Situations, and People, Sano Ichiro leads the investigation though he seethes that manipulative, corrupt, ambitious and lethal Yanagisawa was back in power as the Chamberlain. At the same time, Kuranosuke’s mistress Okaru informs Ichiro’s wife Reiko, that the feud is not what is publically believed. Ichiro looks into the strange case of the forty-seven who completed a cleansing ritual and wait further “orders”, but came quietly with him and his detectives. Now he needs to recommend whether the forty-seven commit ritual suicide as the honorable end to the dispute.

This is a great entry in the Feudal Japan saga (see The Fire Kimono and The Cloud Pavilion) based on the legend of the 47 Ronin. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Kuranosuke severs the head of Yoshinaka and never slows down as dedicated Ichiro and his wife uncover anomalies in what looks like a shut and closed case.

Harriet Klausner

The Gilded Shroud-Elizabeth Bailey

The Gilded Shroud
Elizabeth Bailey
Berkley, Sep 6 2011, $15.00
ISBN 9780425242896

Lady Emily Fanshawe’s personal maid Mary Huntshaw walks to her mistress’ bedroom with a hot chocolate only to smell a horrific odur and the room in disarray. Mary starts screaming as she realizes someone strangled Lady Emily and her husband Randal is missing.

Randal’s mother the Marchioness of Polbrook fears her son the marquis killed his wife. Her other son Francis struggles to control his nausea as he takes charge. The Marchioness’ temporary companion Widow Ottilia Draycott offers to investigate the homicide. Though she has doubts the Marchioness agrees as she hopes to keep her oldest son out of gaol. Tillie quickly learns a theft of a valuable family heirloom occurred also. Asking questions of those at the estate, Tillie seeks the motives and opportunities of a house of strangers; while her attraction to Francis helps and hinders her inquiry.

The Gilded Shroud is a charming Regency romantic amateur sleuth starring a wonderful intelligent heroine. The story line engages the reader in the mystery while the romance between “Fan” and “Tillie” enhances the investigation. Sub-genre readers will want Tillie and Fan working future inquiries.

Harriet Klausner

Tears of the Sun-S.M. Stirling

Tears of the Sun
S.M. Stirling
Roc, Sep 6 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780451464156

A quarter of a century has passed since the 1998 Change killed over 90% of the human population in one year. Modern civilization around the globe was sent back to pre industrial revolution as things stopped working. Small pockets of survivors banded together to cope with the ordeal.

With his beloved Mathilda Arminger at his side, Rudi Mackenzie has completed the first part of his quest by finding the Sword of the Lady forged for him before he was born. He becomes the High King of Montival King Artos as he unites western North America. For the betterment and protection of his followers although he expects to die, King Artos leads the fight against the Big Sky based Church Universal and Triumphant.

Although the main thrust is Rudi, subplots involving the Dundain Rangers, d’Ath the Grand Constable of the Portland Protectorate Association and Wiccan in several locales star in critical subplots. Thus the action is less intense than previous Emberverse entries (see The Sword of the Lady), but enhances the impact of the Change by 2023 while also setting up fresh hot zones for the future thrillers. In spite of being a transitional novel, Tears of the Sun engages fans of the saga who will anxiously await the next Change.

Harriet Klausne

Shadow Kin-M.J. Scott

Shadow Kin
M.J. Scott
Roc, Sep 6 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451464040

Blood Lord Lucius orders the “soulless” wraith he raised as an assassin to kill human sunmage Simon DuCaine. Lily goes after Simon, but he defeats her. Instead of killing Lily, Simon lets her live though he is not being altruistic.

He and his Templar knight brother believe Lily is the proof that Lucius broke the City’s treaty signed by the Blood Lords, Beast Kind, the Fae and the Humans. He pleads with his captive to testify against the master who raised her. He is attracted to the “Nightseeking whore” who glides like a shadow between worlds. She believes joining him in the light is impossible though she is falling in love with the mage who showed her mercy though she knows he condemned her as being like his sister Edwina.

The Shadow Kin political fantasy is a fabulous tale as the world of Scott comes vividly alive through the competing machinations between the prime groups. Blood Lords and the Beast Kind rule the Night World; while Fae and human mages guard the rest of the Half Light City. Fast-paced from the onset, fans will relish this strong thriller though the romance never quite gels with the pasts of the two protagonists except when they curse at each other.

Harriet Klausner

Crossroads-Jeanne C. Stein

Jeanne C. Stein
Ace, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020775

In Mission Beach, SDPD Detective Harris visits Anna Strong over odd anomalies involving two hundred year old DNA found in the fiery death of his late boss Warren Williams. She knows she is the “Chosen One” (see Retribution). However, she needs a little time to accept her destiny and grieve the loss of her mentor and the betrayal of her late lover. However, the battle against Chael the vampire is still on as the ancient one challenges her position as he believes vampires belong at the top of the food chain not roaches scurrying for food.

Anna’s former human lover Drug Enforcement Agent Max asks for her help to end the murderous terror of a rogue vampire. This Undead transports people across the Mexican border, but once stateside he drains the blood from his human cargo. Her partner David has found out some information about his lost weekend that Anna would prefer he not remember. Anna confronts Chael who implies he knows how she can return to being human, her fondest desire. To do so Anna must locate a Navajo shaman living as a hermit on a reservation. Chael also makes Anna realize he knows shapeshifter Daniel Frey has a young son that Anna fears the vampire or something else will target.

This is an enjoyable Anna Strong, Vampire urban fantasy as the heroine’s life keeps getting increasingly complicated. Besides dealing with vampires like Chael, the human trafficker and the late chief’s wife, she also has issues with humans like Harris and David. However, this is nothing compared to what awaits the hero on the Navaho Nation.

Harriet Klausner

Bloodlines-Richelle Mead

Richelle Mead
Razorbill/Penguin, August 23 2011, $18.99
ISBN: 9781595143174

Four Alchemists arrive at the home of Sydney, her parents and her sister Zoe. Sydney assumes they will send her to a reeducation center for her assistance to Rose Hathaway the dhampir (see the Vampire Academy series). Instead they want Zoe, but her dad says his frightened youngest is not ready to protect other humans from vampires. He suggests Sydney instead. Reluctantly they agree so with a warning they will assign teenaged Sydney to protect Moroi vampire Queen Lissa Dragomir's half-sister Jill from an assassin. The plan is to hide the princess at Amberwood Prep, a Palm Springs, California exclusive school for humans while Sydney poses as Jill’s older sister.

Sydney knows this will not be an easy assignment as she has been indoctrinated with the belief that vampires are predatory monsters though her work has her dividing the undead into two sub-species, the evil Strigoi and the Moroi. The safe school includes sleazy Keith who blames Sydney for his troubles and her friend Adrian who helps her though she has a different kind of help in mind. She finds the prep school has unsafe secrets.

The start of a related to the Vampire Academy new series, Bloodlines is an engaging urban fantasy starring an intriguing heroine who keeps the exciting story line focused. Sydney accepts a job she does not want to protect her sister and to gain fatherly approval while hoping to get out of trouble with the Alchemist hierarchy. Besides the fun of crossovers like Adrian, Sydney brings freshness with her personality so different from the extroverted VA protagonists. Although this reviewer has a problem with teenage females dieting to size zero to obtain approval from family and friends, readers will enjoy Sydney’s Palm Springs adventures.

Harriet Klausner

With Fate Conspire-Marie Brennan

With Fate Conspire
Marie Brennan
Tor, Aug 30 2011, $27.99
ISBN: 9780765325372

For over three centuries, the Onyx Court of the Fae has existed beneath London. Most humans living above ground are unaware of those residing underneath the city. However, several decades ago, the Industrial Revolution began a new iron age as pipes, bridges and rails run over and under the city; iron is lethal to the Fae whose species has become endangered with short term extinction a likely outcome as their magical realm rapidly diminishes. Only the resolute Queen Lune keeps at bay imminent extinction, but she is dying.

Meanwhile Eliza O'Malley continues her seven years old fruitless search for her vanished best friend Owen who she insists was kidnapped by the fairy; people believe she is insane. Like Lune, Eliza refuses to quit as she seeks the dog man, Goblin Market head gangster Nadrett’s slave Dead Rick who betrayed her Owen. Ironically Dead Rick is perhaps the only one who empathizes with Eliza as he wants the return of his stolen memory that Nadrett, as he has done with humans and fae, took from him.

The fourth Onyx Court Victorian fantasy (see Midnight Never Come, in Ashes Lie and A Star Shall Fall) is a terrific tale anchored by one of the best sub-genre backgrounds in recent memory though that also slows down the start of the thriller. Described with dark Dickensian depth in the human and Fae realms, fans will envision the grim squalor of Goblin Court and mortal London as well as the hopelessness of the Onyx Court as urban development fostered by iron encroaches. The key cast is solid as readers anticipate a confrontation between the three determined antagonists as the new Iron Age is destroying Onyx Court and the Fae.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Repeat It Today With Tears- Anne Peile

Repeat It Today With Tears
Anne Peile
Serpent’s Tail, Aug 16 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846687471

In 1972 London, Susanna is a disaffected teen who cares about nothing. Her pathetic mother and acrimonious older sister ridicule Susanna while her friends are not true BFFs. School is no escape for her as it is boring though she is intelligent having taken the Oxford exam early. Her only attachment is her obsession over her absent Welsh dad John ap Rhys Owen of whom she never met.

Susanna finds out that her dad fiftyish Jack the artist lives in Chelsea. She visits him and kisses him on the lips while failing to inform the immediately besotted Jack who she is. They begin an affair not worrying about what will happen if the truth of their filial connection becomes known to anyone including Jack.

This is a stunning character driven incestuous drama in which the first part of what Susanna does will shock the reader who knows what Jack does not. However, the second half seems even darker as the outside world begins to penetrate the incest world of father and daughter. Not an easy read as the subject is taboo; fans will appreciate the well written Repeat It Today With Tears.

Harriet Klausner

Secrets to Seducing a Scot-Michelle Marcos

Secrets to Seducing a Scot
Michelle Marcos
St. Martin’s, Aug 2 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312381783

In 1819, the Prince Regent assigns Earlington Marsh as a diplomat whose mission is to settle the Scottish rebellion from turning into a war. Marsh decides his independent daughter Serena will accompany him so he can keep her safe. Serena prefers London where she writes the witty Rage Page column for the Town crier, but her dad says no.

In Scotland Earlington retains mercenary Malcolm Slayer, whose family was massacred two decades ago which left him growing up without a clan, to protect his feisty offspring when rebels threaten her to get at the mediator. As the barbaric soldier of fortune and the cutting columnist fall in love, he is her only hope to rescue her abducted father from rebels.

This is an entertaining Highland Regency romance starring a strong support cast and a delightful pairing of seemingly opposites who readers will root for a Wickedly Ever After ending. The story line is fast-paced whether the protagonists argue or kiss, and when they mount a rescue attempt or go to the fair. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the tale of Rage Page and the clan-less for hire warrior falling in love.

Harriet Klausner

Midnight Sins-Lora Leigh

Midnight Sins
Lora Leigh
St. Martin’s, Aug 2 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312389086

In Corbin County, Widow Jami Flannigan Kramer misses her late soul mate Ty; so much so she has a fling with Tye’s blood brother Rafer Callahan as the next best thing. Jami also notices how her thirteen year old younger sister Cambria looks at Rafe with adulation. However, everything ends when someone kills Jami and the townsfolk of the county seat Sweetrock blame Rafe and his two cousins. They are exonerated but he leaves town as he joined the military.

Now twenty-one years old, Cami still wants Rafe, who returned to town as a rancher. However, a series of homicides rocks the sweet town with the residents once again blaming the Callahan cousins. Rafe recalls his death bed pledge to Jami, a vow to keep Cami safe. As they fall in love, Cami wonders if Rafe is the killer.

This is an exciting edgy romantic suspense that grips the reader from the opening murder of Jami and never slows down. The fast-paced story line is extremely dark as a serial killer haunts the county. Although the cliffhanging climax leaves little closure while setting up a cousin’s tale, readers will appreciate this taut thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Deep Disclosure-Dee Davis

Deep Disclosure
Dee Davis
Forever, Sep 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446582926

Thirteen years ago in Walsenberg, Colorado, the fire at their home left Alexis Markham’s parents dead. Her father’s friend George placed her in hiding to keep her safe as he knew her dad’s work on a top secret biochemical weapon formula led to his murder and she would be next by whoever betrayed Markham.

George is dead from an explosion in which former San Mateo undercover prisoner Tucker Flynn saw first hand while on the phone with his brother. The CIA A-TAC operative obtains the position of Alexis’ bodyguard to keep her safe and learn what the secret is she conceals. He knows she conceals something that he needs to know. As they fall in love, he realizes he willingly would die for Alexis and she feels likewise for Tucker but she refuses to reveal what she hides.

The latest A-Tac romantic suspense (see Desperate Deeds, Dangerous Desires and Dark Deceptions) is a deadly delightful CIA thriller in which the heroine’s secret as well as who wants her dead make for a compelling tale. The story line is action-packed from the first fire until the fiery finish as the engaging romance supports the intrigue.

Harriet Klausner

Don’t Mess with Texas-Christie Craig

Don’t Mess with Texas
Christie Craig
Forever, Sep 1 2011, $5.99
ISBN: 9780446582841

He manta being “It’s the right thing” to persuade her not to bolt, Nikki Hunt meets her former husband Brian and Sterns lawyer Jack Leon for dinner at expensive Venny’s Restaurant after he pleaded with her that he made some mistakes. The gallery owner knows she is short paying bills like her Nana’s cable and her BFF assistant Ellen’s salary. This is why she is unhappy when Jack leaves her with the exorbitant tab. Mumbling she will kill him, Nikki goes to her car to find Jack dead in her trunk.

The police suspect Nikki killed her spouse. Former cop Dallas O’Conner empathizes with the beleaguered Nikki as he worked at Glencoe PD before being accused unjustly of a crime; now he works as a private investigator. He bet against her innocence until he saw her dinner is now the puke on the victim’s suit. . Since he was once falsely convicted of a crime, he tends to be very sympathetic to those who find themselves in the same position. While his homicide detective brother Tony works to solve the murder while dealing with his broken marriage to LeAnn, Dallas also looks into the killing and that of a related injured victim while dealing with his attraction to the prime suspect.

This is a fun Texas investigative romance that in some ways feels like a throwback to the madcap comedies of the 1930s. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the heroine vomits and never slows down as her knight in shining armor tries to prove her innocence while falling in love with “Leon’s leftover”. Fans will appreciate this terrific Texas two-step.

Harriet Klausner

Garden of Secrets Past-Anthony Eglin

Garden of Secrets Past
Anthony Eglin
Minotaur, Aug 16 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312648367

The intriguing unsigned letter asks retired botanist Dr. Lawrence Kingston to come to a specific address In Mayfair. The anonymous author who says he knows that Dr. Kingston has solved cases wants his help in solving a crime that occurred on his property three weeks ago.

Fascinated by the note, Kingston visits the address, which turns out to be Jardine’s gentlemen's club. Stunned as they have had a checkered past, Kingston is greeted by Lord Frances Morley, owner of the Sturminster a country estate; which is renowned for its historical gardens. Morley explains he wants Kingston to investigate the murder of a man found dead at Sturminster by a little girl. Kingston investigates the homicide believing the enigmatic unbroken code on a monument in the garden is the key; someone agrees as the inquiry places Kingston and Morley in danger.

The fifth English Garden Mystery (see The Water Lily Cross and The Trial of the Wild Rose) is an entertaining whodunit as the past and the present converge during Kingston’s amateur sleuthing. The cast is solid in support of the protagonist who is at his best working the enigmatic murder case. The story line is fast-paced with a fascinating brief afterward explaining the code in further depth. Gardens of Secret Past is wonderful mystery as events two centuries old still remain relevant.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Ties-Mari Mancusi

Blood Ties
Mari Mancusi
Berkley, Aug 2 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780425241363

All she wanted was a normal life but Sunny McDonald was born to be a slayer; was actually a vampire for six days; and has a vampire Magus leader of the Blood Coven as a boyfriend. On top of that she is also a fairy princess who is second in line to the throne. Magnus heads to Japan with the other vampire covens that make up the Consortium to fight the Alphas a fanatical splinter group that once belonged to Slayer, Inc. The group broke off from the alliance that polices vampires.

Sunny, a vampire slayer talks Magnus into going to Glastonbury, England with her sister, a vampire and a slayer and her boyfriend Jayden so he can ask the Druid if he can drink a drop of blood from the Holy Grail. They arrive too late as the Alphas stole the Grail. Magnus leaves the pair in a safe house while he goes to Japan, but when she hears that her friend ordered Jayden poisoned, they escape and flee to Japan where Sunny plans to take the fight to the Alphas in order to retrieve the Grail and confront Magnus. Meanwhile a supernatural civil war has ignited between vampires and slayers.

This exciting teen urban fantasy (see Boys That Bite and Stake That) continues the bloody darker spin somewhat lightened by campy humor that started when the twins were sent to Night School in Switzerland for their safety. The dilemma Sunny faces is similar in potential consequences as that she confronted in Night School, fast-paced with the focus is mostly on her; she fears whatever she does will lead to the death of someone she cherishes or her own demise.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Cursed-Erica Hayes

Blood Cursed
Erica Hayes
St. Martin’s, Aug 2 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312624712

At the Unseeling Court nightclub in Melbourne, Jasper the dark fae pimps his girlfriend Emmy to the vampires. The Undead pay exorbitant amounts of money to taste the nectar of bloodfairy juice. The bloodwhore and her pimp rob the dazed bloodsucker. However, Emmy is emotionally hurt when she sees Jasper kissing ardently another female fae.

Glassfairy Diamond the gangster takes Ember under his wings as she has something he wants. Ember stole crystals from Kane who demands their return with a catch; whoever does so must enter hell to do so, but not entering hell would prove worse. Diamond knows Ember is an expendable pawn in a gangland war, but he loves her. Ember distrusts Diamond especially since she loves him, but if she wants to live he is her only chance.

This is an interesting Australian urban romantic fantasy in which the world of Erica Hayes is a dark, gloomy and bloody as the readers tours this alternate Melbourne mob underground. The story line is fast-paced even with a need to adapt to the butchered “speechified” way Diamond talks. Fans will enjoy the latest exhilarating Shadowfae Chronicles (see Poison Kissed, Shadowfae and Shadowglass).

Harriet Klausner

Friday, July 29, 2011

Foolish Games-Karen Wiesner

Foolish Games
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek, 2011, $17.95
ISBN: 978161160155

One year ago on New Year’s Eve Lydia Samuels died from a brain tumor. She left behind her grieving husband Peter and their two children (thirteen year old James and eleven year old Brenna). The single dad struggles to raise their kids alone while wondering how God could allow such a bad thing to happen to such a good person as his wife.

Kimberly Wolfe works for Peter at the Christian bookstore he owns. She has loved him for years and he considers her family beyond the connection of his sister married to her brother. Lydia tried to hook Kimberly up with good Christian men, but never forgot how her martinet father used the bible to destroy her mother with his God gave man the right philosophy. Besides which none were Peter though she hid her feelings from both of them while envying their relationship. On New Year’s Eve, Peter and Lydia share a kiss. He realizes he is attracted to Kimberly but wonders whether he can risk his heart again. Kimberly wants to a take a chance but distrusts men though she tries to forgive her unrepentant father.

The latest Family Heirlooms Christian drama (see Glass Angels) stars a terrific lead couple and a strong (not all kind) support cast. Kimberly and Peter have different issues to overcome before they can consider becoming a couple. Peter especially is a great protagonist as readers will empathize with him. Sub-genre readers will cherish this fine tale with an inspiring final coda from Kim leaving no one’s eyes dry.

Harriet Klausner

Naomi’s Gift: An Amish Christmas Story-Amy Clipston

Naomi’s Gift: An Amish Christmas Story
Amy Clipston
Zondervan, Sep 12 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310327356

Widower Caleb Schmucker accompanied by his eight year old daughter Susie leaves Ohio to spend time with his sister Sadie Kauffman and her family in Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania on the anniversary of his wife Barbara’s death in a horrid accident. His daughter asks him to stop at a farmer’s market so they can pick up a pie for her Aenti Sadie. Inside the market, Susie vanishes from Caleb’s sight giving him a heart attack until he finds her discussing quilts with Naomi King. He likes how kind the woman is with his daughter whose late mom was into quilting.

His family and friends want the buggy maker to stay. His sibling tries to hook him up with Irene Wagler whose father owns Wagler’s Buggies in Intercourse. However, he is attracted to Naomi whose reputation for chasing after men (Timothy Kauffman in A Place of Peace) and Luke Troyer in A Promise of Hope) makes her unacceptable to his sister. However, it is the way Naomi treats Susie that has him willing to take a second chance on love.

With ties through the secondary characters to the Kauffman Amish Bakery series, Naomi’s Gift is a warm second and third chance at love Amish romance. The secondary characters are critical to the delightful story line with Sadie interfering, Susie “choosing” and Irene uninterested in the daughter. Readers will enjoy this Amish Christmas Story as the way to a widower’s heart is through loving his daughter too.

Harriet Klausner

The Captive Trail-Susan Page Davis

The Captive Trail
Susan Page Davis
Moody, Sep 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780802405845

As a little child she was abducted from her family and forced to become a Numinu Comanche or starve. Years later in 1857 North Central Texas, Peca offers the insultingly low six horses to her adopted parents to make Taabe Waipu his squaw. Taabe fears Peca so instead flees hoping to find her white family. Instead she falls when her horse stepped into a hole.

Butterfield Overland Mail Company owner driver Ned Bright sees the body of a Comanche female who is clearly white. With two Sisters on board, he still stops to pick her up and take her to Fort Chadbourne. The two nuns take Taabe to their mission where she heals from dehydration and a broken ankle. As she relearns to speak English, Taabe and Ned fall in love, but he feels he owes her finding out who her family is even as the Comanche attack the Ursuline Mission.

The second Morgan family Americana tale (see Darlene Franklin’s opener, The Lone Star Trail) is a wonderful romantic suspense starring a strong cast that brings to life Antebellum Texas. Character driven, still the story line is loaded with action. However, although Ned is too heroic, the heroine owns the tale as her struggles to readapt are skillfully described as a key element in a warm Texas romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Betrayal-Jerry Jenkins

The Betrayal
Jerry Jenkins
Tyndale, Sep 21 2011$14.99
ISBN 9781594153884

Chicago Police Department Gang Enforcement Section Detective Boone Drake took a life threatening bullet while leading the arrests of gang leaders and the crime syndicate (see The Brotherhood). On medical leave while he heals at what all natives still call Cook County Hospital (instead of Stroger); from his near fatal wound, Boone has plenty of time to ponder what went wrong. His former partner and current boss Jack agrees with his assessment. Though it makes him ill to consider what he believes happened; he concludes someone inside of CPD tipped off the shooter, which leaves the key informant former gang kingpin Pascual Candelario in jeopardy.

However, as he digs a bit deeper, Boone finds his nightmare turns uglier. He wants to deny what seems increasingly obvious. The evidence points overwhelmingly to Haeley, his new girlfriend.

The latest Precinct 11 Christian police procedural (see The Brotherhood) is a fabulous thriller in which there are no atheists in the fox hole is a critical element in the strong plot. Fast-paced and filled with action, readers will appreciate Boone’s uncertainty about the woman he adores as he prays to God for wisdom. Fans will enjoy this entertaining internal investigation into who sold out the team.

Harriet Klausner

All Cry Chaos-Leonard Rosen

All Cry Chaos
Leonard Rosen
Permanent Press, Sep 1 2011, $29.00
ISBN: 9781579622220

Thirty years old American mathematician James Fenster is in Amsterdam to give a talk on his mathematical economics formula to at the World Trade Organization conference. However, instead of the speech, he dies in a terrorist explosion at his hotel; the killer used a smart bomb military-grade rocket fuel.

Although his health is poor and he grieves the deaths of his loved ones at the hands of a vicious Serbian war criminal, Interpol agent Henri Poincare leads the investigation. He starts with those close to Fenster like the victim’s former fiancée and his grad assistant; as both are missing. However, the inquiry leads away from the females to a militant Christian Rapture group, but Poincare cannot rule out others interested in the late professor’s models.

This super cerebral police procedural is a terrific whodunit with a mathematical formula as the key to the homicide. The story line focuses on chaos theory as Poincare quickly learns while dealing with the mathematician’s fractured personal life, religious fanatics and rival economists, and his own chaotic brain. Readers who enjoy something different in their puzzlers will appreciate the aptly titled All Cry Chaos.

Harriet Klausner

Naughty in Nice-Rhys Bowen

Naughty in Nice
Rhys Bowen
Berkley, Sep 6 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9780425243497

In 1933 in spite of being 34th in the queue to the throne, Lady Georgiana Rannoch is impoverished. She works in a London soup kitchen where she can save money an get some free meals.

The Queen temporarily saves her from more terrible tasting food by assigning her an all expense paid trip to the French Riviera. Her mission is to retrieve a snuff box stolen by nasty Sir Toby Groper. In France, while riding the rails, Rannoch meets the legend Coco Chanel, who shocks the pauper when she asks her to model a new line of clothing when they arrive in Nice. While doing her royal assignment and modeling for Coco Chanel, Georgina investigates whether her lover Darcy O'Mara is cheating on her. However, her efforts merge when she is caught in the middle of a homicide and the royal necklace is lifted.

The latest endearing jocular Royal Spyness amateur sleuth (see Royal Blood) is a delightful Depression Era French Riviera romp. The heroine is a charmer as she fumbles and bungles her investigation while strutting on the catwalk. Coco Chanel adds to the fun as number 34 using the Queen’s money (she hopes) acts Naughty in Nice.

Harriet Klausner

Back of Beyond-C. J. Box

Back of Beyond
C. J. Box
Minotaur, Aug 2 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312365745

In Montana, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff's Department Investigator Cody Hoyt has a problem with the evidence in the house fire death of Hank Winters. Apparently, Hank was intoxicated based on the flask near the corpse, but Cody knew the deceased personally when it came to alcohol; as Hank was Cody's AA sponsor who saved him several times from going on binges.

Though removed from the case due to his connection, Cody believes his sponsor was murdered and due to his friend on the force Larry Olson he helps with the inquiry. Cody finds a frightening series of links of cross country murders with the same modus operandi as the Winters’ death. He also concludes the serial killer is heading to Yellowstone Park where Cody's teenage son Justin, accompanied by Walt Franck the wealthy developer and fiancé to the investigator’s ex wife (and Justin’s mom). Big city Cody goes to the Back of Beyond Yellowstone wilderness.

Joe Pickett gets a respite as C.J. Box introduces readers to a new law enforcement official who has personal and professional issues due to his drinking problem. The investigation is deftly handled while the suspense is stratospheric. Although some of the spins seem over the top of Granite Peak, fans will enjoy this tense thriller starring a flawed cop whose son is the stake in a cat and mouse game with a psychopath.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Rules-Christine Cody

Blood Rules
Christine Cody
Ace, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780441020768

Her werewolf has increasingly tried to take control of Mariah Lysander. At the same her vampire bond mate Gabriel loathes Mariah for killing his beloved Abby though the latter challenged the former for her place in the secret werewolf community hierarchy. So fearing she is becoming out of control and knowing how her mate feels about her, Mariah leaves the safe were-species habitat.

Mariah hopes to control the beast. She travels the American wasteland where water is the most precious commodity. At the same time she enters a dead zone necropolis of the diseased and meets 562, a former government Shredder Johnson Stamp who stalks the Were and Vamps with one mission: kill them.

This exhilarating return to the post-apocalyptic American Bloodlands is a super action-packed entry as readers will ponder just who the monsters are. Angst-laden with Mariah feeling guilty for some of her deeds and Subject 562 seeking redemption of sorts, fans will enjoy this exciting thriller. Rotating perspective mostly between Mariah, Gabriel and Stamp, readers will see how the trio agree that Christine Cody’s color of choice is a gory landscape from sea to bloody sea.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Stand in Wife-Karina Bliss

Stand in Wife
Karina Bliss
Harlequin SuperRomance, Aug 2 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373717224

While interviewing on a job out of town, Merry Coltrane breaks her leg. She pleads with her twin sister Vivienne Jansen to pretend to be her like they did as kids so her estranged husband Charlie who walked out on her and their three kids will not know as he sues for visitation rights. Flying in from New York, the theater costume designer arrives in Auckland, New Zealand to temporarily masquerade as Merry when the latter’s mother-in-law Linda dies with the former in the house in Hamilton.

Vivi as Merry helps arrange the funeral while caring for her sister’s children and keeping her brother-in-law at a distance as Merry’s husband seeks a reconciliation. Although overwhelmed Vivi handles all this with aplomb until Charlie’s brother Ross (support role in Here Comes the Groom), the injured Special Forces operative, comes home. Ross finds himself inexplicably attracted to his sister-in-law; while Vivi reciprocates but as Merry has to hide her feelings.

Twins switching is an old theme, but Karina Bliss makes it refreshing with a zany madcap romance. The support cast is a delight as they add madness to the wild comedic New Zealander comedy. Still the bottom line is the romantic subplot as Ross and Vivi fall in love in a wonderful example of chaos theory at work.

Harriet Klausner

The Texan’s Secret-Linda Warren

The Texan’s Secret
Linda Warren
Harlequin SuperRomance, Aug 2 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373717231

Southern Cross ranch manager Chance Hardin considers joining his two brothers (Cadde and Cisco “Kid”) as partners in an oil company. However, he knows if he does he no longer can hide his secret from them. As Chance debates quitting his ranch job to join his siblings, Shay Dumont breaks into the Calhoun family home to take from a safe her mother Blanche’s wedding rings; her nasty mom was once married to Jack Calhoun whose son owns Southern Cross.

Chance decides to help Shay learn who her father was. As they team up and fall in love encouraged by her feisty eight year old daughter Darcy, Chance wonders if it is time to tell his brothers the secret about their cherished late father he has concealed from them.

The key to this engaging contemporary romance is the parents of the lead couple as they have left both emotionally fractured with doubts about relationships. With a strong support cast and entertaining character driven the story line, the first Hardin Boys tale is an enjoyable opening act.

Harriet Klausner

One Good Reason-Sarah Mayberry

One Good Reason
Sarah Mayberry
Harlequin SuperRomance, Aug 2 2011, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373717248

Almost a year ago after his abusive father died, Jon Adamson arrived in Melbourne from Canada to settle the estate and spend time with his brother Tyler (see The Last Goodbye). However, he remains aloof from his sibling as he “renovates” their dad’s home. Tyler and his wife Ally force Jon to move past his demons though the latter has no plans to remain in the area beyond settling their dad’s estate. However, he is also attracted to his sibling’s office manager Gabby Wade, who was Tyler’s former girlfriend.

Gabby reciprocates Jon’s feelings, but is reluctant to do anything outside the office with another Adamson who unintentionally broke her heart. However, neither can resist the other as they fall in love, but she fears another broken heart when he leaves.

This is a deep family drama with a strong romantic subplot. Jon is a wounded warrior as he wants to flee back to Canada and alcohol, but his family and Gabby will not let him even with her trepidations of having her heart busted up again. This is a terrific Australian romance.

Harriet Klausner

The Bad Always Die Twice-Cheryl Crane

The Bad Always Die Twice
Cheryl Crane
Kensington, $25.00
ISBN 9780758258861

1950s TV star Rex March is found dead in the bed of realtor Jessica Martin. Known for her sexual proclivity with living hunks, Jessica is stunned to have a corpse of her former lover in her bed. Rex was reported dead six months ago. The police name her the prime suspect.

Jessica’s partner Nikki Harper, daughter of movie legend Victoria Bordeaux, investigates the case as she knows her friend would not kill anyone. Nikki is extremely nice to those she interviews as she drops her mom the siren’s name on start struck Hollywood and charms information out of those she feels might have a motive to see Rex dead twice in under a year.

This is a fun entertaining amateur sleuth as Nikki tosses her DNA as the opener to meet suspects and then deploys her considerable charm (more DNA) to obtain info. The mother-daughter relationship brings jocularity and warmth to the well written story line. However, this is Nikki’ tale as she makes the murder mystery fun to read with her gutsy ballsy feminist inquiries.

Harriet Klausner

Flowering Judas-Jane Haddam

Flowering Judas
Jane Haddam
Minotaur, Aug 2 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312644338

In Mattatuck, New York, the corpse of long missing college student Chester Morton is found hanging from a billboard that had been asking for information from anyone who had seen him for a dozen years. The Local Police Chief Howard Androcoelho asks private investigator Gregor Demarkian to help investigate whether Morton was murdered or committed suicide as he was missing for a dozen years.

After taking his friend ninety-nine years old George Tekemanian to the hospital in Philadelphia, Gregor goes to Mattatuck. Although concerned about his friend’s health that interferes with his case focus, Gregor still finds oddities that lead him to conclude Morton did not die on the billboard but was placed there after he was dead. He soon finds a back pack near where the body was found; inside is the skeleton of an infant, which may have belonged to Chester. While Gregor ponders why Chester vanished years ago, the deceased’s shrilling mother demands the cops arrest her son’s former girlfriend while also wanting odd information about her son.

The latest Gregor Demarkian private investigative thriller is an exciting tale that deftly contains a different type of inquiry compared to the last case (see Wanting Sheila Dead). The protagonist works on the mystery of Chester Morton as he seeks answers to several whys that he believes will lead to the culprit; at the same time he is worried that his friend back home will not make it to celebrate his upcoming birthday. Flowering Judas is a strong entry as Demarkian shows both his hard and soft boiled sides.

Harriet Klausner

Home Improvement: Undead Edition-Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Home Improvement: Undead Edition
Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
Ace, Aug 2 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780441020355

This fourteen urban fantasy anthology are tongue in cheek tales that humorously lampoons the sub-genre and self help guides. All the entries are lighthearted fun as the readers leans the true meaning of bump in the night. The editors book end the collection as Charlaine Harris opens with Sookie greeted by a newcomer when a wall comes down in “If I Had a Hammer”; while Toni L.P. Kelner finishes the book with “In Brightest Day” in which raising the dead Gorrfried proves difficult as he keeps getting dead. Elyna “Gray ” (Patricia Brigg’s learns you can’t go home to renovate in Chicago. Broahm calls “Wizard Home Security” (by Victor Gichler) when someone broke into his home. In New Orleans, Defeo goes home to find pig’s “Blood on the Walls” of the family tombs by Heather Graham. The European knows he needs to change his GPS now that he is in the American Midwest’s Switzerland Wisconsin learning first hand about “Woolsey’s Kitchen Nightmare” by E. E. Knight. All the entries are enjoyable humorous Home Improvement tales that Tim Taylor would appreciate the paranormal power tools.

Harriet Klausner

One Salt Sea-Seanan McGuire

One Salt Sea
Seanan McGuire
Daw, Sep 6 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406837

An unknown adversary kidnapped the three sons of the Duchess of Saltmist Diandra. The ruler of the undersea duchy believes the Queen of the Mists abducted her children. Toby saves the life of the Diandra’s spouse Patrick from an assassin. Still the Duchess gives the Countess of Goldengreen October “Toby” Daye and the latter’s boyfriend Connor O’Dell three days to safely bring home her children and prove that the Queen did not take the lads by finding out who did or war at land and at sea will follow.

Toby, her newest squire Quentin, Connor, the Luidaeg and Tybalt investigate the abduction on the streets of San Francisco. However, the clues lead to the Pacific. Someone insanely ignores Oberon’s Laws and ergo wants to prevent Toby and her team from succeeding in rescuing the abducted sons; that adversary uses any deadly means necessary.

The latest Toby Daye urban fantasy (see Late Eclipses) is an excellent entry that focuses on the convoluted untrustworthy agreements between the paranormal leaders. With a stunning late twist, the story line is a fast-paced exciting thriller. Fans of the series will relish Toby’s latest escapades as the clues lead increasingly to a paranormal psychopath.

Harriet Klausner

The Unincorporated Woman-Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin

The Unincorporated Woman
Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin
Tor, Aug 16 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765319043

Awakening from a cryogenically preserved facility Justin Cord (see The Unincorporated Man) led the rebellion against the incorporated dictatorship. He became President of the Outer Alliance bringing hope to many unincorporated like he was labeled. Everything changed when he was assassinated. General Janet Delgado “J.D.” Black replaced Cord as the leader, but she knows she belongs on the battlefield leading the Outer Alliance in The Unincorporated War against the United Human Federation.

Desperate to keep the fervor alive, the Alliance locates a cryo container holding Sandra O'Toole, who like Cord lived during the time of freedom. The Alliance revives her as an Unincorporated Woman though they do not expect her to be anywhere near Cord in terms of quality leadership. Instead she is to be the symbol of freedom as a puppet. However, she proves to be much more than anyone anticipated.

The third visit to the Kollin universe contains another fresh fantastic futuristic science fiction thriller. The story line is fast-paced even during the passive moments with soliloquies provide insight into the minds and motives of the key players. Fans of the saga will relish the latest twisting leap into the Kollin squared realm while newcomers should read the first two books (see The Unincorporated Man and The Unincorporated War) to understand how the OA and the UHF got to this point.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ranger Daddy-Rebecca Winters

Ranger Daddy
Rebecca Winters
Harlequin American, Aug 2 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373753710

When they were teens, Jeff Thompson and Gabrielle Rafferty were in love, but his parents and her foster mom thought they were too young and kept them apart. Gabi married Ryan, but divorced her abusive husband when he demanded she abort their baby, which she did not.

Fourteen years later after warnings from her lawyer and her foster mom, fearing for the life of her seven year old child Ashley from her dad’s rage, Gabi flees Rosemead, California where she teaches school. Accompanied by Ashley she heads to Yosemite where Jeff works as a park ranger. She trusts Jeff with her life and more important to her that of Ashley. Jeff remains attracted to the girl he loved as a teen; he vows to keep mother and daughter safe even as little Ashley trusts he will keep her safe from her dangerous father. Gabi never got over her love for Jeff, but the past and her violent ex linger over their future.

Ranger Daddy is an exciting second chance romantic suspense thriller that grips the audience from the moment the heroine’s lawyer warns her to leave town and never slows down as the reader anticipates two different confrontations. Although Ashley is too precocious, fans will appreciate the latest Yosemite Ranger romance (see The Bachelor Ranger and The Ranger’s Secret) as the lioness protects her cub.

Harriet Klausner

A Mother’s Homecoming-Tanya Michaels

A Mother’s Homecoming
Tanya Michaels
Harlequin American, Aug 2 2011, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373753727

Overwhelmed at seventeen with a marriage and a baby Pamela Jo Wilson felt the pair would be better off without her as she suffers from depression and a dysfunctional relationship with her mom. With sadness and guilt she fled their home in Mimosa, Mississippi.

Now thirteen years later, a recovering alcoholic Pam has left California returning to Mimosa to see Mae Danvers Wilson, her mom; only to learn she died a few months ago. Her former husband Nick Shepard is hostile towards her for deserting him and especially their newborn Faith who he raised as a single dad. She would like time with her daughter, but Nick distrusts her and instinctively protects their offspring as he realizes he still loves Pam but expects at the first sign of problems she will flee and hurt Faith.

This is a super second chance family drama in which Pam makes the tale as a recovering alcoholic who also deals with depression and guilt issues. The support cast obviously Nick and Faith, but also the townsfolk and her California BFF coach Annabel enhance the terrific tale of A Mother’s Homecoming.

Harriet Klausner

Making Waves-Tawna Fenske

Making Waves
Tawna Fenske
Sourcebooks, Aug 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402257216

After two months short of twenty years of dedicated work at Kranston Shipping Enterprises, Alex Bradshaw is stunned when his boss Tom Portelli fires him. However, the former executive at the largest shipping firm in the world is upset because he and others were left with nothing. He refuses to sit idly by especially when his former employer has arranged an illegal diamond shipment in the Caribbean. Alex and other downsized suits decide to intercept the cargo.

Juli Flynn meets Alex in a bar the night before she is heading to the Virgin Islands’ St. John to spread the ashes of her late uncle. She boards the wrong ship. When she awakens from a nap she finds herself as the only non former suit on the vessel. Alex does not trust the stowaway while Juli insists on joining their high seas adventure, a big secret and an attraction to the “captain”.

This is an amusing zany romance with some suspense. The jocular tale is fun as Juli keeps coming up with one stunner after another; a few she is ignorant about as her late uncle puled a few tricks from the urn. With a quirky support cast, Making Waves is a lighthearted frolic that will remind readers of the madcap Cary Grant-Katherine Hepburn 1930s comedies.

Harriet Klausner

Catriona-Jeanette Baker

Jeanette Baker
Sourcebooks, Aug 1 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9781402255861

Kate Sutherlands’ adoptive mom Bonnie’s last wish was for her ashes to be spread over their homeland the Shetland Islands. Kate leaves Laguna Beach for Scotland to perform the deathbed request but remains stunned that her late mom had not conceived her as she was unaware until recently she was adopted. Wiccan Celia Ward informs Kate that the reasons for what happened can be found from Pectiwita High Priestess Maura Sutherland on Cait Ness Isle.

Maura has waited for Kate to come home. Meanwhile Kate is attracted to Niall McCormick while she also dreams of a woman who historian Niall MacCormack says is the late Countess of Bothwell Catriona Wells of the court of King James IV. Accused of treason, Catriona tries to save her brother’s life while only Patrick MacKendrick may save hers.

This is an intriguing paranormal romance as Catriona's tragic life haunts Kate who cannot move on until she resolves what happened five centuries ago so her spirit can finally rest. With a strong support cast then and now, fans will relish this engaging thriller as Kate tries to understand her heritage including why Catriona has come to her.

Harriet Klausner

The Neighbors Are Watching-Deborah Ginsburg

The Neighbors Are Watching
Deborah Ginsburg
Broadway, Aug 2 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307463876

In the summer of 2007 seventeen year old pregnant Diana Jones arrives at her father Joe Montana’s home in the upper crust Fuller Court of San Diego. Joe’s wife Allison is shocked by the biracial Diana’s arrival because her husband never mentioned a teenage daughter. Feeling betrayed and irate as she had an abortion as Joe wanted no children, Allison cannot cope without alcohol as even her hair is no longer brushed.

Neighbors Dick and Dorothy Werner gloat over the scandal next door. However, a few months later they are taken aback as their son Kevin is attracted to Diana and likes her newborn Zoe. In October wildfires threaten the area while Diana vanishes. Foul play is suspected as the teen’s extended family and the neighbors are suspects.

The Neighbors Are Watching is an entertaining thriller that looks deeply at the impact of Diana’s disappearance on her family and the neighbors though their eyes. The cast is solid except ironically the missing person who may be the focus of the tale, but is more a shadow as there is not much action re what happened to Diana. Still this is en enjoyable tale that centers on degrees of connection between people.

Harriet Klausner

The Vampire Next Door-Ashlyn Chase

The Vampire Next Door
Ashlyn Chase
Sourcebooks, Aug 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402236631

Sly Flores the vampire misses his wife who died over two decades ago. Now a caring loner except for his daughter Merry, he patrols his neighborhood keeping it safe from crime. One night Sly intervenes when a mugger attacks a young woman. He takes a bite into the felon only to chip a fang on the dude’s sterling silver knockoff bling, which is poison to his kind.

He quickly races to the apartment of his friend Morgaine the psychic healer so that she can cure him of his illness. Morgaine loves Sly; she makes the elixir he needs. Meanwhile apartment 1b dubbed the “love shack” below that of Morgaine becomes vacant; so Merry plans to move her lonely dad in so that he and Morgaine can become an entry. At the same time that his offspring pulls his string, others plan to keep Sly and Morgaine apart.

To the delight of fans, Ashlyn Chase provides a wonderful romantic urban fantasy in which readers will believe that a vampire, a wiccan and other paranormal live next door. Sly is attracted to Morgaine but fails to act on it though she encourages the love of her life to do so; as do his daughter and other caring souls. The suspense enhances the romance between the vampire and the wiccan in the Chase universe.

Harriet Klausner

The Lady of the Storm-Kathryne Kennedy

The Lady of the Storm
Kathryne Kennedy
Sourcebooks, Aug 1 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9781402236532

The humans rebel against the malevolent Elven lords who control much of England. The hope of the rebels lies with hybrid Cecily Sutton, daughter of Imperial Lord Breden Elven Lord of Dewhame and a human female. At nines years of age she was placed in hiding with fifteen year Giles Beaumont assigned to keep Cecily safe.

By 1734, the Elven learns who she is, where she hides in Devon, and what she means to the resistance. She is a threat to the Elven who must die. Cecily knows she loves her guardian who is a dunderhead when it comes to his feelings for her though any time he has sex with a woman he dreams of her. As they head to the center of the storm, she must learn to control her magic to use as the critical weapon against the oppressors.

The latest Kathryne Kennedy Georgian romantic fantasy (see The Fire Lord's Lover) is a fabulous tale that deftly provides an alternative historical England in which Elven Lords brutally rule. The story line is leisurely paced as the relationship between the lead couple evolves while they flee from a persistent lethal adversary. Sub-genre readers will enjoy a trek into the Kennedy realm.

Harriet Klausner

Aftermath-Ann Aguirre

Ann Aguirre
Ace, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441020782

Sirantha Jax saved the galaxy from total annihilation from the invading flesh-eating Morgut armada. To do so, she disobeyed orders and destroyed the grimspace beacons that enabled interstellar jumps and six hundred Conglomerate soldiers died (see Killbox).

Jax manages to return from grimspace, but is arrested for dereliction of duty, desertion, mass murder and high treason. If convicted on any of these charges she will be executed. Adding to her sense of isolation, her friends and allies are not allowed to visit her. She knows she has no chance of acquittal as almost no one believes the Morgut threat now that it is over. However, Jax knows if she survives her trial, she must find a way to liberate the Lorcas as pledged by her.

This is a great science fiction tale in a strong series as the heroine disobeyed a direct command in Killbox and must pay the price for her actions. The overarching theme moves forward as several subplots end while Sirantha Jax knows saving her galaxy is not enough to keep her from being haunted by her decision to kill six hundred of her comrades in arms or being potentially spaced if the jury verdict is guilty. The trial is handled deftly providing a refreshing legal procedural subplot to a powerful outer space thriller as anyone who visits the Ann Aguirre universe knows is an entertaining exciting realm.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Thunder In the Morning Calm-Don Brown

Thunder In the Morning Calm
Don Brown
Zondervan, Aug 28 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310330141

U.S. Navy Lieutenant Commander Gunner McCormick as the intelligence officer assigned to the Pacific Rim Carrier Strike Force 10 arrives at the office of Naval Intelligence in Suitland, Maryland for a top secret briefing on the fleet joining the South Koreans in a joint exercise in the Yellow Sea. However, the historical background catches Gunner’s attention when the report states there are probably still POWs in North Korea though the “Forgotten War” ended in an armistice six decades ago.

Back on the USS Harry Truman in the Yellow Sea, Gunner debriefs the officers and obtains permission for leave from Admiral Hampton as long as he leaves a number where he can be reached. He says he will spend time in Seoul. Thinking of part of the Soldier Creed “will never leave a fallen comrade” and using his inheritance, Gunner obtains the help of two retired soldiers, Jung-Hoon and Jackrabbit, to make a daring unauthorized three person commando raid to liberate the POWs.

The entertaining first Pacific Rim military thriller will obviously remind readers of Rambo (even Gunner’s recruits tell him that), but is much more as Don Brown places a spotlight on the Korean Police Action with its sixty years’ armistice. The story line rotates between following Gunner and what has happened and is happening in a prison camp in North Korea. Although over the top of Baekdu Mountain, readers will appreciate this terrific rescue attempt with a fascinating late twist as Thunder In the Morning Calm is a super thriller that pays homage to our military especially those who fought in the 1950s in Korea.

Harriet Klausner

Son of Stone-Stuart Woods

Son of Stone
Stuart Woods
Putnam, Sep 20 2011, $26.95
ISBN 9780399157653

Lawyer Stone Barrington has made full partner at Manhattan’s Woodman & Weld. After his latest escapades (see Bel Air Dead), Stone plans to stay low key in New York and get closer with his teenage son Peter who he only recently learned he sired. Stone’s former lover and Peter’s mother Arrington Calder wants that for both males.

Peter plans to attend Yale University Drama School as he wants to become a film director. He and his dad develop a nice relationship while Arrington is sleeping with University of Virginia Architecture Professor Timothy Rutledge who oversees the finish to her mansion in Virginia. Stone uses some of connections to help Peter with his career choice. Meanwhile New York Post tabloid reporter Kelli Keane senses a scandal so she investigates the relationship between Stone and Arrington while a threat using Peter as the bait occurs.

Son of Stone is more of a family drama than the usual Barrington suspense thriller as Stone and Peter get to know each other while the father uses his influence to try to help his son further his career. Well written with a surprising twist, the tension comes late as much of the tale is about father and son getting to know each other.

Harriet Klausner

Crack in Everything-Angela Gerst

Crack in Everything
Angela Gerst
Poisoned Pen, Sep 6 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590589441

In Waltham, Massachusetts attorney Susan Callisto becomes a political consultant. Susan finds her clients to be pieces of work as she holds Roddie Baird’s hand as he needs help with everything he does. At the same Callisto practices law helping restaurant owner Nino Biondi in a suit with his landlord Peter Lombard.

However, her third client Charles “Chaz” Renfro offers her $20,000 to help him in a last second run for the office of the mayor of Telford. However, her three clients are difficult enough, but the murder of Renfro's assistant Tori Moran and assaults on Biondi and Callisto make her wonder if she gave up more than just financial security when she left the prestigious Boston law firm. Her former boyfriend State Detective Lieutenant Michael Benedict investigates the homicide and the attacks.

The first Susan Callisto amateur sleuth is an entertaining twisting tale as each time the heroine feels she is about to solve the situation, a new spin occurs. Fast-paced with a strong protagonist and solid support cast, fans will enjoy the political consultant learning a “You Can’t Take It With You” lesson about money, power and clients.

Harriet Klausner

Under the Dog Star-Sandra Parshall

Under the Dog Star
Sandra Parshall
Poisoned Pen, Sep 6 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9781590588789

In Mason County, Virginia feral dogs apparently ripped the throat of Dr. Gordon Hall. However, deputy sheriff Tom Bridger has doubts that a wild pack murdered Hall; he believes a human handler had his or her canine kill the victim as a part of an illegal dog fighting operation. However proving his assertion and finding the real culprit appears impossible though he looks closely at the dysfunctional family of the victim. The outraged locals plan to hunt down the packs even as dog-napping has arisen in the county.

At the same, Tom’s girlfriend veterinarian Rachel Goddard and her assistant Holly Turner try to prevent the canine massacre from occurring while their clinic wall has been posted by Missing Dog pleas. They end up in the middle of Tom’s investigation while the local dog fighting ring chief watches them carefully in case they need to join Hall.

With a nod to the Michael Vick conviction, the latest Rachel Goddard amateur sleuth (see The Heat of the Moon and Broken Places) is a superb thriller that focuses on animal abuse inside of a strong whodunit. The story line is action-packed with a strong mystery, but it is the description of the maltreatments of animals, whose images at times overwhelms the heroine, her assistant and the readers, and will remain in our memories long after the climax.

Harriet Klausner

Pirate King-Laurie R. King

Pirate King
Laurie R. King
Bantam, Sep 6 2011, $25.00
ISBN 9780553807981

In 1924 Scotland Yard Inspector Lestrade sends Mary Russell to investigate rumored criminal activity by the Fflytte Film Company. Her husband Sherlock Holmes supports her going to Portugal to keep his wife and his soon to be visiting brother Mycroft from another combative round.

Mary arrives in Lisbon where she obtains a position as an Assistant’s assistant on the documentary about The Pirates of Penzance so she can make her inquiries undercover. She detests Gilbert and Sullivan so the chore of working that production is difficult, but so are the day to day operations with so many pratfalls. Holmes joins her as they cross the Mediterranean on the road to Morocco.

As MRH says in the Author’s Forward to the latest Russell memoirs (see The God of the Hive): “I fear that the credulity of many readers will be stretched to the breaking point” proves accurate as the exciting story line is over the top of the pirate ship’s mast. Holmes arrives late (this is his wife’s memoir), but Baker Street fans will enjoy his spouse’s Peninsular adventures as this is an entertaining historical with Mary working the Pirate’s King caper and dealing with a Gilbert and Sullivan production.

Harriet Klausner

Those Across The River-Christopher Buehlman

Those Across The River
Christopher Buehlman
Ace, Sep 6 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441020676

Former University of Michigan professor Frank Nichols accompanied by his almost wife Eudora travels from Chicago to Whitbrow, Georgia where he inherited a yellow house from an Aunt Dottie McComb whom he never knew existed. Dora dubs the place The Canary House. Frank plans to write the definitive historical about his family's Savoyard Plantation to include the atrocities that occurred there while Dora dislikes the idea of bringing literarily life to his late malevolent great grandfather.

Frank and Dora find they enjoy the quiet friendliness of the townsfolk. Then the trouble begins as it has in past generations. Something evil is killing people. Frank and other locals vow to find out who or what and end the reign of terror that has waited dormant at Savoyard Plantation for Frank to arrive to pay a family blood debt.

This is an exciting horror thriller that starts slow and meanders a bit as the local area is established. Once the rural Georgia background, which will remind readers of James Dickey’s Deliverance even with tea socials, is set, the action-packed story line accelerates as the evil comes to collect. Frank holds the plot together as the prime focus of the dreaded malevolence.

Harriet Klausner

Down the Mysterly River-Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (illustrator)

Down the Mysterly River
Bill Willingham and Mark Buckingham (illustrator)
Starscape (Tor). Sep 13 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9780765327925

Boy Scout Max “the Wolf” excels at being prepared for anything. So he is confused with finding himself waking on a road in a forest when he cannot recall how he arrived at his present location or where the path leads to. His journey goes from odd to bizarre when he encounters Banderbrock the badger who can communicate with him and is as bewildered as Max is for the same reasons. They are joined by the equally perplexed McTavish the cat and Walden the bear.

As the foursome leisurely walk, talk, and argue the Blue Cutters stalk the quartet. These hunters change the essence of beings to make them conform to their notion of literally a narrow society. Only the wizard can keep them from being altered, but Max fears this mage who is the keeper of the sacred script in which he may swiftly delete the Boy Scout from solving mysteries.

Down the Mysterly River is an entertaining metafiction fantasy that targets middle school students, but adult fans of Jasper Fforde’s Thursday’s Next saga will enjoy it too. The illustrations by Mark Buckingham enhance the entertaining story line as Bill Willingham provides an engaging complex thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Circle of Enemies-Harry Connolly

Circle of Enemies
Harry Connolly
Del Rey, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780345508911

The Twenty Palace Society of sorcerers kept car thief and amateur magician Ray Lilly from prison time. In return he provides the mages with non-magical support mostly manual labor.

Ray receives an enigmatic message from a friend that sends him rushing to Los Angeles. Magic has hammered his former car ring associates. They hold him culpable because the sorcerer who cast the deadly enchantment is Wally King who blackmailed him into becoming the pawn of the Twenty Palace Society. Ray searches for the magical source in order to save his friends’ lives while increasingly doubting the motives of his puppeteers who claim they save the world from other dimensional monsters while he has killed innocent people for them.

The final Twenty Palaces urban fantasy thriller (see Child of Fire and Game of Cages) is a great morality tale as the protagonist struggles between duty and honor with the weight of the dead innocents he has killed making the tale. Remorseful Ray understands the mission of the Society is to protect the world from magical predators, but wonders who will protect the world from the Society as collateral damage is an acceptable practice. Fast-paced and loaded with action, Ray’s timely and angst ethical dilemma (think of drones in the war against terrorism) makes for a great tale.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, July 25, 2011

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories-Megan Kelly Hall (editor) and Carrie Jones (editor)

Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories
Megan Kelly Hall (editor) and Carrie Jones (editor)
Harper, Sep 6 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780062060976

As the subtitle states, seventy authors provided their story of either being bullied or bullying someone. There is a common theme that it will get better once you are an adult so hang in there, but also admit that is not easy for a middle school student to wait a decade to be free. Other themes include finding an adult who will listen and act though once again that is not easy to achieve. The target audience of teenagers will struggle to read more than a few entries as most are too short and never quite drill down deep. The exceptions to prose are the comic strips; Cecil Castellucci and Mo Willems provide insightful looks at bullying that the younger teens especially will appreciate. Few of the contributions provide insight into the motives of why they were bullies though some of the victims offer their opinions. Bottom line is this anthology is a terrific tool for the counselor who can customize the entries to the needs of the victimized student.

Harriet Klausner

Canyons of Night-Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle

Canyons of Night
Jayne Ann Krentz writing as Jayne Castle
Jove, Aug 30 2011, $7.99
ISBN 9780515149883

Fifteen years ago on Rainshadow Island, Charlotte Enright was recued by her hero Slade Attridge from the assault of three drunken off islander visitors near the Preserve. She already had a young girl’s crush on the orphan teenager before he saved her. She explained she could read auras, a useless talent for an arcane while he never was registered as a hunter but will soon leave for the Federal Bureau of Psi Investigation academy.

In the present, Charlotte runs her late Aunt Beatrix’s Looking Glass Antiques. Slade has just retuned to be the island as the police chief though his talent has become somewhat muted after a traumatic incident though his buddy Rex the dust bunny remains at his side (and on his shoulder). As the pair starts seeing one another, she finds the corpse of a persistent customer who her father felt was a stalker; someone killed Jeremy Gaines in Charlotte’s shop.

The final Looking Glass sci-fi romantic suspense (see In too Deep by Jayne Ann Krentz and Quicksilver by Amanda Quick) is an engaging and delightful paranormal police procedural. The romantic subplot within the Rainshadow otherworld realm leads in a slow deliberate manner until the homicide investigation begins about half way into the story line, but still does not pick up much speed. Still fans of the Arcane Society saga will enjoy a visit to the island of Rainshadow.

Harriet Klausner

Damage Control-Denise Hamilton

Damage Control
Denise Hamilton
Scribner, Sep 6 200, $26.00
ISBN 9780743296748

In 2009 in Los Angeles thirtyish middle class Maggie Silver works for Blair Company crisis management firm. Her clients include the rich and famous up and down the Pacific Coast Highway while her job description is insuring the spin favors her firm‘s affluent customers.

The firm’s Jack Faraday assigns Maggie and others to work with U. S. Senator Henry Paxton. When she was a teen she was best friends with his daughter Anabelle, but they no longer talk to each other following a tragedy. Maggie wants out but has no choice but to be part of the team as she supports her ailing mom. Paxton’s assistant twentyish media director Emily Mortimer was found dead; the senator is the last known person to have seen her at a bar at midnight.

This is an exhilarating suspense thriller in which justice is irrelevant as the truth does not matter; only how good the spin is. Character driven by Maggie, as an adult she struggles with her memories of an idyllic time that she begins to wonder how Eden it truly was. Readers will appreciate Damage Control as the wealthy use experts to spin the media to tell the story their way.

Harriet Klausner

Lethal-Sandra Brown

Sandra Brown
Grand Central, Sep 20 2011, $26.99
ISBN 9781455501472

In Tambour, Louisiana, four year old Emily Gillette informs her mother Honor that a stranger dripping blood is in their yard. Assuming her daughter’s imagination is running wild, the Widow Honor checks anyway. Holding a gun Lee Coburn is fleeing from the police who believe he killed seven people on a mass murder spree.

Coburn searches her home hoping to find a clue left there by Honor’s late husband Eddie a cop who dies in a car accident two years ago. He fails to find what he seeks. Eddie’s father sends the cops to check on his granddaughter, but Coburn is already gone. However, he shoots a cop Fred who he swears to Honor was sent there by the Bookkeeper who runs illegal trafficking and owns the local police, including Coburn believes her husband.

This is an exciting thriller that grips the audience from the moment Coburn points his gun at the frightened mom and never slows down even with some intriguing subplots involving other people. The entertaining story line is character driven by the mom who must decide between believing an accused mass murder who claims her late spouse was dirty and the cops including her husband she has known all her life. Although the tale follows the anticipated course, fans will enjoy the visit to Tambour, the Gulf and DC with Sandra Brown as the tour guide.

Harriet Klausner

Inmate 1577-Alan Jacobson

Inmate 1577
Alan Jacobson
Norwood Press, Jul 28 2011, $29.99
ISBN: 9780983626008

In 1955 in Northfield, New Jersey, the police are on the scene of the murder of Sally MacNalley with her seven year old son Henry as the witness. Her husband Walton arrives and is arrested for the vicious homicide, but a jury found him not guilty. However, his life is shattered though he tried to raise his son.

In the present in San Francisco, SFP Inspector Lance Burdon leads the investigation into the rape, sodomy and murder of an old woman. FBI profiler Karen Vail is sent from DC to San Francisco to assist Burdon and his partner Detective Roxxann Dixon on the vicious homicide of the octogenarian. The FBI agent does not want to return to California after the recent Napa Valley mess (see Velocity and Crush), but does. In spite of the efforts of the trio, the ruthless psychopath rapes and kills other victims. The clues lead to Alcatraz, a tourist attraction for decades, but still the Rock for its surviving former inmates.

The latest Vail police procedural is a fabulous thriller as the sarcastic profiler and the dedicated serious cops struggle to end a psychopath’s brutal killing spree. Although serial killers are a too frequent breed in the sub-genre (including the Vail case The 7th Victim), readers will relish this action-packed tale as the Fed, and the locals play cat and mouse with a vicious lunatic.

Harriet Klausner

Unwelcome-Michael Griffo

Michael Griffo
Kensington, Sep 1 2011, $9.95
ISBN: 9780758253392

In the English town of Eden, Archangel Academy resides on consecrated land. The vampires known as Them are able to walk around the campus in sunlight. However there is another subspecies of vampire connected to the sacred Well, who in their other form has webbed feet and hands as descendants of Atlantis.

The water vampires can walk outside in daylight and only eat once a month. The new Headmaster David Zachery is one of Them and vampire American Michael Howard and his lover Ronan are water vampires. Ronan knows who and what David is because of his relationship to their family. David and his kind want to destroy the Well and kill the water vamps. The headmaster has a plan to ethnically cleanse the world of the enemy. He uses his children as foot soldiers to carry out his scheme. Michael and Ronan lead the opposition along with their allies so who will prove victorious remains to be seen.

The second Archangel Academy (see Unnatural) teen urban fantasy is a terrific tale with a beautiful star-crossed romantic subplot that accentuates the two combative subspecies. The expatriate Cornhusker has come a long way from Nebraska in a short time but his journey even with Ronan to guide him remains difficult as he must be Unafraid of his full essence for his deep psychological need to feel accepted and belong to happen. The key to the exciting story line is that readers will accept the existence of vampires as a natural species with issues and disputes as Michael Griffo provides an enthralling and totally entertaining entry that teenage readers and adults will appreciate and put on their keeper shelf.

Harriet Klausner

The Tale of Castle Cottage-Susan Wittig Albert

The Tale of Castle Cottage
Susan Wittig Albert
Berkley, Sep 6 2011, $24.95
ISBN 9780425243508

In the summer of1913, Beatrix Potter is currently residing at Hill Top Farm in the Lake District while working on her latest story The Tale of Pigling Bland. She admits to her publisher that her eight drawings are not that good as Beatrix still recovers from her recent illness in which she lived with her parents at their domicile in Kensington. As she works on her latest novel, Beatrix also oversees the renovation of her new home that she and her fiancé solicitor William Heelis will move into once Mr. Biddle finishes the Castle Cottage improvements and they are married (in spite of the doubts of her parents).

While the author struggles with her new work, the locals of nearby Near Sawrey begin to misplace items ranging in value from baked goods to money to family heirlooms. Her friend Sarah Barwick believes she is the victim of a thief, but fears it is someone she knows. However that pales in comparison to the death of carpenter Lewis Adcock who was just fired by Biddle. Beatrix and Will end up investigating the thefts, the death and Biddle’s lack of commitment to the castle Cottage renovation.

The eighth Cottage Tales of Beatrix Potter (see The Tale of Oat Cake Crag) is a great historical cozy that brings to life the Lake District just prior to WWI. The story line is a wonderful entertaining tale as once again Susan Wittig Albert combines Ms. Potter’s real life, the fables of the animals who dominate her tales and an enjoyable amateur sleuth into a delightful story.

Harriet Klausner

The Postmortal-Drew Magary

The Postmortal
Drew Magary
Penguin, Aug 30 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9780143119821

The postmortals voluntarily have taken the Fountain of Youth Cure gene therapy that allows the recipient to remain eternally young. Though aging has been defeated that does not mean the individual cannot die as accidents, homicides, suicide and illness can still kill a person.

John Farrell who is about to take the Cure soon learns that perpetual life causes a new set of problems as the population explodes since few people are exiting. Resources have failed to keep up since the Cure was found six decades ago and ennui remains a problem for those with nothing to pass the years with like John the blogger. Thus Now in 2090 John explains life has issues that are not that different from those who lived in the pre Cure era.

This is superb clever futuristic science fiction that makes the case of eternity does not necessarily denote happiness. The story line focuses on the definitive account by John the blogger that is accepted as an accurate and valid look at the first decades after the Cure because it is written down. The story line is passive, which enhances the belief that eternity is another word for enervating ennui, but also lacks passion and action. With insight on individual and global consequences, fans who enjoy a leisurely something different science fiction tale will want to read The Postmortal.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Stranger You Seek-Amanda Kyle Williams

The Stranger You Seek
Amanda Kyle Williams
Bantam, Aug 30 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553808070

In Atlanta fired FBI profiler turned private investigator Dr. Keye Street is a struggling alcoholic who does not believe she can say recovering though she is doing reasonably well. The Chinese American was raised by white southerners Emily Jane and Howard Street who also adopted her gay African American brother Jimmy. While Jimmy fled Georgia for Seattle with his lover Paul, Keye returned to the state to open up Corporate Intelligence & Investigations after losing her job with the Feds.

Atlanta PD Police Lieutenant Aaron Rauser asks Keye to assist them with capturing the vicious Wishbone Killer. Using her profiling skills, she seeks the links between the victims and an overall analysis of the brutal serial killer. While more murders occur, the Wishbone Killer contacts the task force hunting the psychopath as the homicidal maniac begins stalking Keye and others.

Although serial killers are too frequently appearing in mysteries, readers will enjoy this engaging whodunit thanks to a self deprecating heroine whose asides lighten the taut story line with wisdom from the start (for instance an Asian is expected to excel at school while a black male is a local terrorist; ironically Jimmy is the behaved one). Fast-paced with a strong support cast including a diabolically brilliant psychopath, readers will enjoy Keye’s take on being part of the now old new south.

Harriet Klausner

End of Days-Robert Gleason

End of Days
Robert Gleason
Forge, Aug 30 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765329929

Ancestor of a Shaman, media mogul Lydia Lozen Magruder has had visions of the End of Days for years. When she built the Citadel on the southwest desert and dedicated her media empire to warn of the coming end of civilization, everyone even her daughter Kate assumes she is a lunatic.

L.L. becomes concerned that the countdown has begun when Houston reports a problem. Her ace reporter John Stone has been investigating a Russian general who vanished along with numerous nuclear subs, and a terrorist scheme to prove Einstein right that the fourth world war will have soldiers using stone age weapons. Stone like the Russian officer has vanished. L.L. asks Kate to find her former boyfriend John while warning her daughter that the countdown to nuclear Armageddon has started.

This is an exciting over the top but entertaining thriller. Besides L.L. who holds the story line together, the zillion secondary players include lunatics like the aptly named Chaplain and two brutal Mideast princesses as well as heroes like sailor and innocent like the population of Manhattan. It takes one nut with a paranoid Pygmalion Effect belief to cause the beginning of the End of Days. Fans will enjoy this thought provoking tale as readers will compare the Citadel to what led to destruction of the world in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach.

Harriet Klausner

Heiress-Susan May Warren

Susan May Warren
Summerside, Aug 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781609362188

In 1896 New York City, Esme Price wants to be a reporter like her idol Nellie Bly who has shocked high society with her behavior. Esme’s wealthy father August owns a newspaper, but expects his oldest daughter to marry an acceptable member of their upper class.

Esme’s younger sister Jinx envies her as she wants to be the anointed one rather than waiting for her sibling to marry. Upsetting Jinx further is when Esme and the catch of the season Foster Worth become engaged, but her sister seems at best indifferent.

Esme confesses to her dad that she is Anonymous Writer sending in opinions to his New York Chronicle as A.W. He reacts by telling her to go home and slaps her. With her best friend the family butler’s son Oliver’s help, Esme flees to Montana to begin her own newspaper while Jinx makes a play for Foster.

This entertaining timely Gilded Age family drama is driven by the opulent Price sisters who go after what each believes is their manifest destiny, but one day in the future look back to assess whether they were blessed or cursed as to whether the cost was worth it. Although the story line starts a bit slow as time, place and people are established, readers will appreciate this strong entertaining character driven historical that will remind readers all that glitters on Wall St. is not gold for everyone.

Harriet Klausner

Murder on Puncak Jaya-Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins

Murder on Puncak Jaya
Charles G. Irion and Ronald J. Watkins
Irion Books, May 26 2011, $19.95
ISBN: 9780984161843

Having successfully climbed three of the world’s highest mountains on different contents (see Summit Murders on Everest, Elbrus and McKinley), Scott Devlon is joining an expedition to conquer Puncak Jaya, the highest peak in Oceania at over 16,000 feet. Even before undergoing a difficult climb, Scott understands reaching the base of the mountain will prove extremely troublesome as the mountain known locally as Raksasa is located in a remote deadly rain forest of New Guinea; which is why of the selected seven this has been climbed the least. Scott is going because DIA wants information on a new company that may be destabilizing the Grasburg gold and copper mine.

Flying from beautiful Bali to the remote part of Papua proves disappointing as the air strip is a garbage dump of twenty-first century litter. On the trek to the mountain through a rain forest, the natives using poisoned darts do not welcome intruders and attack the climbing party protected by soldiers. Insects carrying lethal diseases also assault the outsiders. The mountain also proves deadly to the party as Sandy, Owen and Jack are murdered and Gabby died from a snake bite.

This one differs from Scott’s pervious climbs as the action starts even before the assent in this super action-packed thriller. The vivid descriptions of Papua especially Puncak Jaya enhances this Summit Murder Mystery as readers will learn how deadly this remote region can be and how ice in the tropics exist at the high attitude of the mountain. As a bonus, the authors include brief descriptions of the seven summits. This is a winner in a winning series in which geography is fun to learn.

Harriet Klausner

The Stranger You Seek-Amanda Kyle Williams

The Stranger You Seek
Amanda Kyle Williams
Bantam, Aug 30 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780553808070

In Atlanta fired FBI profiler turned private investigator Dr. Keye Street is a struggling alcoholic who does not believe she can say recovering though she is doing reasonably well. The Chinese American was raised by white southerners Emily Jane and Howard Street who also adopted her gay African American brother Jimmy. While Jimmy fled Georgia for Seattle with his lover Paul, Keye returned to the state to open up Corporate Intelligence & Investigations after losing her job with the Feds.

Atlanta PD Police Lieutenant Aaron Rauser asks Keye to assist them with capturing the vicious Wishbone Killer. Using her profiling skills, she seeks the links between the victims and an overall analysis of the brutal serial killer. While more murders occur, the Wishbone Killer contacts the task force hunting the psychopath as the homicidal maniac begins stalking Keye and others.

Although serial killers are too frequently appearing in mysteries, readers will enjoy this engaging whodunit thanks to a self deprecating heroine whose asides lighten the taut story line with wisdom from the start (for instance an Asian is expected to excel at school while a black male is a local terrorist; ironically Jimmy is the behaved one). Fast-paced with a strong support cast including a diabolically brilliant psychopath, readers will enjoy Keye’s take on being part of the now old new south.

Harriet Klausner

End of Days-Robert Gleason

End of Days
Robert Gleason
Forge, Aug 30 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780765329929

Ancestor of a Shaman, media mogul Lydia Lozen Magruder has had visions of the End of Days for years. When she built the Citadel on the southwest desert and dedicated her media empire to warn of the coming end of civilization, everyone even her daughter Kate assumes she is a lunatic.

L.L. becomes concerned that the countdown has begun when Houston reports a problem. Her ace reporter John Stone has been investigating a Russian general who vanished along with numerous nuclear subs, and a terrorist scheme to prove Einstein right that the fourth world war will have soldiers using stone age weapons. Stone like the Russian officer has vanished. L.L. asks Kate to find her former boyfriend John while warning her daughter that the countdown to nuclear Armageddon has started.

This is an exciting over the top but entertaining thriller. Besides L.L. who holds the story line together, the zillion secondary players include lunatics like the aptly named Chaplain and two brutal Mideast princesses as well as heroes like sailor and innocent like the population of Manhattan. It takes one nut with a paranoid Pygmalion Effect belief to cause the beginning of the End of Days. Fans will enjoy this thought provoking tale as readers will compare the Citadel to what led to destruction of the world in Nevil Shute’s On the Beach.

Harriet Klausner

The Gentlemen's Hour-Don Winslow

The Gentlemen's Hour
Don Winslow
Simon and Schuster, Aug 2 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9781439183397

Private investigator Boone Daniels prefers surfing at San Diego’s Pacific Beach than working a case. So he wonders how come he has two investigations in the middle of August as he learns a friend in need is a pest.

His board riding buddy Dan Nichols fears his beautiful wife Donna the eleven (on a scale of ten) is having an affair. Dan wants Boone to conduct surveillance on his spouse. His new maybe girlfriend lawyer Petra Hall wants to hire him as the investigator on her defense of accused killer teenage Corey Blasingame, son of a wealthy La Jolla realtor. Her client confessed to killing surfing legend Kelly "Uncle K" Kuhio and admits ties to the neo-Nazi Rockpile Crew of gangster surfers. His two cases converge even as the drug cartel threatens to push the surfers from the ocean.

Don Winslow’s latest Daniel’s private investigative thriller is a terrific not very mellow tale that focuses on several interlocking avaricious subcultures competing for the beach. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with plenty of violent action. Using the vernacular of the surfing culture to anchor the locale, readers will enjoy the Dawn Patrol giving way to The Gentleman’s Hour even when the Pacific behaves like a Kansas.

Harriet Klausner

Full Black-Brad Thor

Full Black
Brad Thor
Atria, Jul 26 2011, $26.99
ISBN: 9781416586616

The attacks on Americans abroad and on home soil have the CIA and HSD struggling to react. Intelligence strongly confirms a bigger terrorist assault is coming. While working on a secret documentary, movie producer Larry Salomon exposes an affluent anti-American. An apparent Russian wet team arrives in California to silence the producer leaving three dead and the movie maker alive only due to former Delta operative technical consultant Luke Ralston.

Near Uppsalla, Sweden, covert counterterrorism agent Scot Harvath and his team begin a measure to infiltrate a nasty terrorist network while trusting no one in the Intel community. Thus he and his squad go Full Black starting with the capture of computer guru Mansoor Aleem, the nephew of Jihad Mufti, on his way to meet with a cell run by Mustafa Karami and replace him with Sean Chase. While the attacks intensify, time is running out

This exciting action-packed thriller has its first death on page one and never looks back as the action in Sweden and Hollywood expands to other locales with death counts rising rapidly. The story line is fast-paced from that opening sequence in which Horvath breaks the neck of a terrorist and accelerates from there as the field operatives try to prevent full implementation of Project Green Ramp. Full Black is an exciting tale that showcases how vulnerable Europe and America remains to terrorism.

Harriet Klausner

Souls on BOring Street-Karen Wiesner

Souls on BOring Street
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek, Jun 15 2011, $18.95
ISBN: 9781603139342

Hospice nurse Erin Shanley lives in Briar’s Point but works in the nearby big city of Riverbend. She and her neighbor police detective Tyler Shaw love each other, but she has a relationship commitment phobia having watched her womanizing father break her mother’s heart; especially when he nastily denied her younger sisters Jacey and Paige were his and even claimed they were Erin’s offspring. Two years later when their mom died Erin raised her siblings.

Psychics move in next door, which reverts Boring Street back to its real name of Oring Street as they are anything but ennui. However, Erin becomes concerned when her hospice patients misplace jewelry and sign over their inheritances to the psychics. Unable to resist because dedicated Erin wants the end of life experience to be as smooth as possible, Erin investigates. Tyler struggles with his beloved canine Ned dying, but still has her back as he has since she came home. Erin will need him when someone notices her snooping.

The third Denim Blues Mysteries (see Retired and on the Rocks, and Love Is Blind and It Don't Pay the Bills Either) proves Ty and Erin are wrong about their street being boring as this is an exhilarating amateur sleuth. The story line is driven mostly by Erin who places herself in danger with her inquiry and her distrust of males due to her role model whose accusations led her to be Briar’s Point Hester Prynne and leaves her unable to have faith in Ty. With two stunning late twists, fans of the series will relish this terrific entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Goblin Corps-Ari Marmell

The Goblin Corps
Ari Marmell
PYR, Jul 26 2011, $16.00
ISBN: 97816163770

The Charnel King Morthul of Kirol Syrreth remains stunned that his centuries of perfect plotting to rule the world from his Iron Keep failed due to a band of idiots too stupid to understand they could not win. His only dark victory in his ignominious loss to the Light is that Princess Amalia, the child of King Dororam of Shauntille, died while ending his schemes.

However, Morthul has a new concern. His spies warn him that raging King Dororam has united the Allied Kingdoms with a goal to end future treachery by the rotting immortal Charnel King and the armies of Kirol Syrreth. Taking a page from the enemy who created the rag tag band of the Light, Morthul creates his version of the Dark, The Demon Squad.

The Goblin Corps is an enjoyable military fantasy that is at its refreshing best when the plot focuses on the dysfunctional Demon Squad members; the story line loses some freshness when grieving Dororam and his top wizard DuMark take center stage. Although the climax is weak as it is more tell than show, The Goblin Corps is action-packed yet filled with jocularity (including inane but fun Stooges like slapstick). Readers will enjoy this lighthearted romp as the bickering evil paranormal unit struggle to come together before the snow melts in the mountain passes.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Recessionistas-Alexandra Lebenthal

The Recessionistas
Alexandra Lebenthal
Grand Central, Aug 15 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446563680

As the recession has gotten worse, cutthroat competition amidst the Wall St. sharks and their spouses has turned even uglier. Flying Point Capital hedge fund owner John Cutter diligently keeping his profit margin high with aggressive investment in the subprime mortgage market while beginning to conceal his money from his estranged Greenwich wife Mimi the art collector.

Blake Somerset watches his fortune shrink by over $50 million while the banker’s Fashionista wife Grigsby refuses to lose her position as the top dog setting elitist of the Upper East Side. He holds on by assisting his Harvard classmate John hide funds that his “client’s brilliant assistant Renee Parker would not be able to trace let alone his “client’s” Connecticut art collecting trophy wife.

Although the key characters are stereotypes, the insightful lucid descriptions of the confusing financial vernacular is superb and helps make the business of Wall St. the prime protagonist of this ironic tale. Many readers will cheer the climax but recent events affirm the opposite with few falling like Madoff. Still overall the Recessionistas is a wonderful satire from an insider who cleverly lampoons her roots.

Harriet Klausner

Frozen Stiff-Annelise Ryan

Frozen Stiff
Annelise Ryan
Kensington, Sep 1 2011, $22.00
ISBN 9780758234568

Amidst the snowy cornfield near Sorenson, Wisconsin, the corpse of a young woman is found. Town life deputy coroner Mattie Winston arrives at the crime scene and realizes the stabbing victim is a total stranger; fellow lifer uniformed cop Junior Feller does not recognize her either. Her boyfriend, SPD homicide detective Steve Hurley takes a look at the face and turns paler than the background and pronounces Bob Richmond will investigate.

Steve dated Chicago investigative reporter Callie Dunkirk over a year and a half ago; she ended their relationship. Complicating matters for Steve is the weapon sticking out of the deceased’s chest belongs to him. A second homicide has the police detaining Steve as the only suspect in both murders. Still married though separated (see Scared Stiff to learn what happened to the other woman) Mattie moves passed her Big Girl jealousy of a dead woman to investigate as she is certain her BF is not a killer even if the evidence overwhelmingly hangs him.

This is an amusing Thanksgiving whodunit as the klutzy Big Girl in her used hearse investigates the murders though she slips and ricochets more than she succeeds. The eccentric cast brings wintry Wisconsin to life while the heroine’s humorous self deprecating asides are fun but can slow down the pace as there are too many of them (sort of like Debbie Reynolds in Mary, Mary). Fans will enjoy the second “Stiff” investigative tale as the heroine tries to save the day in spite of herself.

Harriet Klausner

The Glitter Scene-Monika Fagerholm

The Glitter Scene
Monika Fagerholm
Other Press, Aug 9 2011, $17.95
ISBN: 9781590513057

In 2004 in the District section on the First Cape lives teenager Johanna and her Aunt Solveig who earns a living as a realtor. Joanna misses her cousin Robin who she used to play with until the latter’s mom took her with her when they moved. She spends time with classmate Ulla Backstrom, who tells her the tragic tale of The American Girl in the 1970s.

Fascinated in a macabre way Johanna investigates the decades old deaths with an emphasis on their connection to her family especially her parents. She wants to know who her mother is and why secrets were interred with her late father. Almost two decades after the tragedy that haunts the villagers, fifteen years ago before Johanna begins to tie the sad tale together in ways that stun her, Susette Packlen and Maj Gun Maalamaa become friends of sorts by their connection to the American Girl.

This convoluted complicated Finnish murder mystery grips fans of cerebral thrillers as the story line is not linear, but in fact a series of circles sort of like a Venn diagram that has the audience entering rings from different external points while like the prime protagonist try to connect to dots. The cast is moody which adds to the gloom and doom of the District as readers will not guess where Monika Fagerholm takes us in the aptly tidied The Glitter Scene.

Harriet Klausner