Friday, August 31, 2012

The Other Half of Me-Morgan McCarthy

The Other Half of Me

Morgan McCarthy

Free Press, Sep 4 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451668230

In 1988 the Anthony siblings (seven year old Jonathan and his six years old sister Theo) are best friends as they live in Evendon Manor in Wales. Both know their mom Alicia and their nanny Miss Black dislike and for the most part ignore them. Still they have each other as they explore the estate especially the secret garden with its mysterious pool.

Brother and sister know their family has many secrets, but this pair cares about one in particular; what happened to their father. When their alcoholic mom collapses, their maternal grandmother Eve arrives. Eve insists their father died years ago, but Theo thinks she lies to them. Over the years Jonathan worries about his sibling. Theo seems to behave increasingly mentally ephemeral as slowly she is losing her grip on reality.

The Other Half of Me is a dark character driven family drama as the past haunts the present in vivid rustic Wales. Effortlessly rotating between 1988 and 2008, the storyline grips the reader who needs to know what happened to each member of the extended Anthony family.

Harriet Klausner

Out of Bounds-Ellen Hartman

Out of Bounds

Ellen Hartman

Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 4 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373718016

Madrid Pirates basketball player Wes Fallon is shocked when he learns he was traded to the Serbian team. When he sees a dog running in traffic, he goes to help only to have a beer truck clip his hip. His brother Deacon arrives at the hospital to tell him his basketball career is over as he reinjured the shoulder in the accident. Worried about Wes’ mental state, Deacon hires his sibling to work the Hand to Hand project for their Fallon Foundation he runs with his wife Julia. Wes agrees just before he goes back to sleep.

After leaving the hospital, Wes heads back to New York to join the Foundation. Deacon tells him we have a problem in Kirkland, New York. Blogger Chloe Chastain called with a concern over a missing $65,000 that she and local business owner Trish Jones raised under the Fallon Foundation. He arrives in Kirkland where he meets Trish’s daughter Posy who he knows conceals something involving the transaction from him. As Wes investigates and Posy remains elusive, they fall in love but he feels caught between loyalty to his beloved brother who has always been there for him and his woman.

This engaging Fallon contemporary romance (see The Long Shot) stars two delightful protagonists in a fun tale. The support cast is strong especially little Angel the canine practitioner of chaos theory and Julia whose betting prowess keeps Barry Manilow’s career alive. . Fans will enjoy Out of Bounds as Wes and Posy need to start over but will they do it together since the money intrudes on their love.

Harriet Klausner

The Truth About Tara-Darlene Gardner

The Truth About Tara

Darlene Gardner

Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 4 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373718030

Coming from Kentucky, injured minor leagues baseball pitcher Jack DiMarco arrives in Wawpaney on Chesapeake Bay’s Virginia Eastern Shore seeking to speak with physical education elementary school teacher Tara Greer. He gives her a computer generated age progression picture of Haley Cooper who looks exactly like Tara. Jack explains his sister is the private investigator looking into the case of a missing child who vanished in Louisville twenty-eight years ago.

Tara denies she is that girl as she says she has lived here all her life. Jack believes her assertion and tells his sibling Maria by cellphone that she is not the one. While Jack visits a nearby orthopedic surgeon about his apparent career ending injury, Tara begins to reconsider what her mom has told her about her past. She begins to believe she may be that missing child even as Jack is back to help her with her identity crisis.

Supported by a solid secondary cast, the lead trio makes for a strong romantic family drama as readers wonder whether the truth will set mom and daughter free. Fast-paced with a fabulous late twist, fans will want to know The Truth About Tara.

Harriet Klausner

The Woman He Knows-Margaret Watson

The Woman He Knows

Margaret Watson

Harlequin SuperRomance, Sep 4 2012, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373718047

Darcy Gordon hides in Chicago from her abusive former husband Tim knowing she will never go back to Milwaukee alive. She works at Mama’s Place run by Nathan Devereux. While closing, a car crashes through the restaurant window hitting Nathan before driving away. A horrified Darcy assumes she was the target while her boss lies in a hospital. She would flee if she could, but knows she must remain where she is for now.

Nathan’s brother Patrick, an FBI agent in Detroit, comes to Chicago to run the restaurant and learn who and why. As they fall in love, he knows she hides something that paralyzes her with fear and she knows she must leave before she brings more harm to the kind Devereux family.

The latest Devereux family romantic suspense (see A Safe Place) is an engaging thriller starring two stubborn strong protagonists and a vile villain. The storyline is straightforward but enjoyable as Darcy trusts no one not even the Fed she loves while fearing what her presence will do to the Devereux family.

Harriet Klausner

Murder Most Austen-Tracy Kiely

Murder Most Austen

Tracy Kiely

Minotaur, Sep 4 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9781250007421

Elizabeth Parker knows her future is nebulous as she is unemployed and unsure of her relationship with her boyfriend Peter. However, Elizabeth puts aside her woes as she and her great-aunt Winnie Reynolds fly to the annual Jane Austen Festival in Bath; where the great author placed Northanger Abbey.

At the gala they run into Winnie’s friend Cora Beadle and her daughter Izzy. When Professor Richard Baines announces his shocking theory that Ms. Austen’s death was caused by syphilis, the Janeites are irate and think he is a lunatic; Cora especially rages. Soon after his pronouncement, someone stabs to death Baines at the Regency Masked Ball where he was garbed as Mr. Darcy. The police suspect Cora, his most vocal acerbic critic. Elizabeth and Winnie investigate and quickly find several other people with stronger motives than Cora to kill Baines.

The latest Elizabeth Parker Janeites amateur sleuth (see Murder Most Persuasive; Murder on the Bride's Side and Murder at Longbourn) is a terrific cozy due to a strong cast and scenes from out of Northanger Abbey. Elizabeth is a wonderful heroine as she works the case with assistance from her well-meaning but often mistaken Aunt Winnie. Though the engaging storyline offers few spins, sub-genre fans will enjoy Murder Most Austen as Jane stars.

Harriet Klausner

Cover Her Body-Eleanor Sullivan

Cover Her Body

Eleanor Sullivan

Yesteryear Press/Wyatt-MacKenzie, Oct 1 2011, $14.99

ISBN: 9781936214556

In 1833 in devout Zoar, Ohio, midwife Adelaide Bechtmann heads to the nearby river seeking peace. Instead she finds sixteen year old Johanna Appelgate dead in the river. Horrified Adelaide pulls the teen’s body from the river, but realizes the floater did not die from drowning as her lungs lacked water.

The Separatists elders reject Adelaide’s contention of a murder as the leaders conveniently insists accidental death. Shocked by their reaction, Adelaide takes a harder blow to her gut when her husband Benjamin warns her to back off. Needing to know the truth as she fears a remedy she gave to the pregnant young woman might have killed her, Adelaide ignores the elders and her husband to investigate the wrongful death.

This is a superb nineteenth century amateur sleuth mystery that brings to life the rigid Separatist community that expects full adherence to the edicts. Adelaide is a superb protagonist as her conscience to learn the truth battles with her desire to adhere to the sect’s rules; in some ways her inquiry turns this refreshing Americana into a coming of age tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Toadhouse Trilogy, Book One-Jess Lourey

The Toadhouse Trilogy, Book One

Jess Lourey

Toadhouse Books, Jul 17 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780615644578

In Depression Era Alabama, teenager Aine and her younger brother blind Spenser live with Grandma Glori. Day after day nothing changes in their routine.

Out of nowhere Grandma warns Aine and Spencer to flee with Gilgamesh while seeking three objects that will take them to their mom in Tor Na Nog. Before the shocked kids can leave, they learn Grandma’s companion Moondragon is dead and soon afterward Bilbos sliced Glori in half. Gilgamesh takes the siblings into a Fairy Ring followed by their new friend Tru. As Bilbos pursues them, they dive into the Toadhouse. He explains to them they have resided inside a book that Bilbos will destroy as he comes after Aine. Only the three objects can save her and her sibling as they must enter other novels to survive and bring balance to their world.

With a nod to Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next, The Toadhouse Trilogy, Book One is a great young adult fantasy starring a wonderful courageous cynic who risks her existence to save others. Using two forms of metafictive devices, readers will enjoy the this Fast-paced adventures of the siblings’ lost in the lands of The Time Machine, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, A Tale of Two Cities, and the Ramayana.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Space Between Us Megan Hart

The Space Between Us

Megan Hart

Mira, Sep 4 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9780778313083

Tesla Martin enjoys serving lattes to her loyal regulars at Morningstar Mocha. Though she likes all her customers, her favorite is charismatic Meredith. The woman can charm a story from anyone; for instance Carlos the writer admitted to jerking off to old people porn.

Meredith turns her magnetism on Tesla. Like all the caffeine addicts at Morningstar Mocha, Tesla relates her wild child history, who along with her brother Cap, is the offspring of commune living swingers. Magical Meredith and Tesla begin seeing the town together. Eventually Meredith persuades Tesla to sleep with her husband Charlie while she watches as a Peeping Thomasine. Tesla is attracted to both of the married couple; while Charlie wants both women; and bored Meredith remains a thrill seeking watcher who lives precariously through the lovers.

The Space Between Us is a deep but strange character study that looks closely at the wants and desires of each person in a threesome. Childhood flashbacks enable readers to understand Tesla’s imprint while Charlie’s need for two women is also understandable. However, it is the enigmatic charismatic Meredith who makes the contemporary fresh through her obsessive need for an emotional high from the stories of others. “There are eight million stories in the Naked City…” (Naked City) and Meredith needs to hear every one of them even as she leaves her narrators emotionally nuked.

Harriet Klausner

In Between Days-Andrew Porter

In Between Days

Andrew Porter

Knopf, Sep 4 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9780307273512

On Houston, Elson the highly regarded architect and Cadence are divorced after three decades of marriage. Their two college aged children Richard and Chloe are not dealing well with their parents’ breakup.

Cadence calls Elson to inform him that their daughter is flying home tonight as Stratham College has expelled her for an act of violence involving her boyfriend Raja. Elson’s ex-wife also tells him that Richard, a graduate student at Rice, will pick up his sister as Chloe does not want to see her dad until tomorrow. With his family falling apart, his lover Lorna increasingly distant, and his career collapsing; Elson turns to alcohol to numb the pain of failure.

This is an intriguing family drama in which a monumental event (the end of a long marriage) has lasting impact on the couple and their children. Although reading more like four interrelated novellas, the Harding quartet are fully developed characters. Elson filled with thoughts of loser acts increasingly irresponsible; Cadence filled with self-pity and regret for marrying him struggles to find an identity besides ex and mom; Richard living at home feels torn between poet and supporting himself; and Chloe stunned by her parents’ divorce makes bad relational choices that hurt her and her family. Fans will appreciate this deep look at the impact on people when a key identifier (family role) becomes extinct.

Harriet Klausner

Courageous-Diana Palmer


Diana Palmer

Harlequin HQN, Jun 26 2012, $24.95

ISBN-13: 9780373776726

To reward former Special Forces Major Winslow Grange for leading the rescue of his kidnapped wife Gracie, billionaire Jason Pendleton gave him a ranch near Comanche Wells, Texas. Winslow hires Ed Larson as his foreman and the man’s daughter Peg as his housekeeper. However, Winslow spends a lot of his time on causes he believes in, but when home he avoids his attraction to Peg who loves him.

His current mission is to help General Emilio Machado regain leadership of Barrera, a tiny nation in the Amazon rainforest. While he is in South America, Peg fears for his life. Photojournalist Clarisse Covington arrives at the ranch and tells her that she just saw Grange and he wants to see her. With Clarisse paying for het flight, Peg travels with the reporter to Barrera where her actions place the women in peril and jeopardize the liberation operation.

The two women are stereotypical of the good and bad girl respectively; while Grange is a unique hero who adheres to his values though it would have helped to better understand his motives with whom and what influenced him in his past. The prime romance is slow to develop while ironically the storyline is at its best when Clarisse and deadly mercenary Roarke are the lead. Diehard fans of Diana Palmer’s Jacobsville tales (see Renegade) will enjoy this entry.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Ends-Sandra Balzo

Dead Ends

Sandra Balzo

Severn, Sep 1 2012, $28.95

ISBN 9780727881748

Wisconsin police reporter AnnaLise Griggs takes a month long leave of absence to help her ailing mom Daisy in their hometown Sutherton, North Carolina. Noting her mother’s failing memory; AnnaLise suggests the town create a website with a blog.

Urban County, Wisconsin D.A. Benjamin Rosewood, his wife Tanja and their teenage daughter Suzanne arrive in Sutherton. Having had a tryst with Rosewood, an abashed AnnaLise stays out of his way as much as feasible in the small town. Tanja dies in a car crash when she drives her Porsche off Sutherton Mountain. AnnaLise and Daisy came close to following her over the edge. Police chief Chuck Greystone and his team learn someone shot Tanja with AnnaLise a major suspect. A second homicide and a failed attempt to kill Daisy follow.

The second Main Street Murders (see Running on Empty) is a great regional rural whodunit. The action never slows down as a killer stalks victims whose only seemingly connection is AnnaLise. Dead Ends is a terrific mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Edge of Nowhere-Elizabeth George

The Edge of Nowhere

Elizabeth George

Viking Juvenile, Sep 4 2012, $18.99

ISBN: 9780670012961

Her raging psychopathic stepfather pursues fourteen-year-old Becca who needs to silence her since he learned of her uncanny ability to hear people’s thoughts that he is a vicious criminal. Becca takes the ferry from Seattle to Whidbey Island with no resources or support. Kindhearted recovering alcoholic Debbie takes Becca into her home as they connect on a psychic plane.

Becca makes friends on the island while attending high school as she and Ugandan expatriate Derric become buddies as well as she and Seth the musician. When he takes a nasty fall and ends up in a coma, his adopted father an undersheriff and other law enforcement officials investigate who pushed the teen off a hiking trail ensues.

With Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley (see Believing the Lie) taking a respite, Elizabeth George writes her first young adult thriller. The teen paranormal mystery is entertaining due to the likable and believable heroine. Although the engaging storyline feels too long especially the overly-extended Derric subplot, readers will enjoy the mystery of Whidbey Island.

Harriet Klausner

Viking Juvenile, Sep 4 2012, $18.99

ISBN: 9780670012961

Her raging psychopathic stepfather pursues fourteen-year-old Becca who needs to silence her since he learned of her uncanny ability to hear people’s thoughts that he is a vicious criminal. Becca takes the ferry from Seattle to Whidbey Island with no resources or support. Kindhearted recovering alcoholic Debbie takes Becca into her home as they connect on a psychic plane.

Becca makes friends on the island while attending high school as she and Ugandan expatriate Derric become buddies as well as she and Seth the musician. When he takes a nasty fall and ends up in a coma, his adopted father an undersheriff and other law enforcement officials investigate who pushed the teen off a hiking trail ensues.

With Scotland Yard Detective Inspector Thomas Lynley (see Believing the Lie) taking a respite, Elizabeth George writes her first young adult thriller. The teen paranormal mystery is entertaining due to the likable and believable heroine. Although the engaging storyline feels too long especially the overly-extended Derric subplot, readers will enjoy the mystery of Whidbey Island.

Harriet Klausner

The Miracle Inspector Helen Smith

The Miracle Inspector

Helen Smith

Tyger Books, Sep 4 2012, $12.99

ISBN: 9780956517050

In London, Lucas and Angela are a twentyish couple in love. However, while he works for the government Ministry the Inspector of Miracles (he has not found any so far); she due to her gender must stay at home at all times with few exceptions. Angela is discontented with the ennui of her existence, but knows the all-male government rules makers will kill or incarcerate female rule-breakers. The one exception that matters to women is the allowance to visit other family females, which Angela and others claim a wide pool of relatives.

Lucas' godfather Jesmond gives Angela a journal written before the government crackdown. She cherishes the love letters and romantic poetry and pleads with her spouse for them to relocate to the freer Cornwell. He considers her request, but Lucas is busy investigating whether little Christina is his first miracle. Increasingly desperate, Angela plans to travel top Cornwell with or without her spouse.

The Miracle Inspector is a timely dark horror satire that uses hyperbole as men protect women from their weaker nature. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as she wants more than just his loving protection and he is clueless as to why she wants more. Though British in writing style, Helen Smith’s jocular dystopian seems apropos to America where small government advocates legislate laws to control a woman’s body.

Harriet Klausner

Breed-Chase Novak


Chase Novak

Mulholland Books/Little Brown, Sep 4 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9780316198561

In Manhattan affluent Alex and Leslie Twisden want children, but so far failed to have any. Leslie suggests adoption, but Alex prefers their DNA. Researching what is available, Alex learns of the success of fertility specialist Dr. Kis in Slovenia. Though reluctant, Leslie travels to the European nation with her spouse. Using animal extractions on the Americans, Dr. Kis manages a miracle when Leslie births twins, Adam and Alice though the two parents suffer horrible side effects.

A decade later, the mutant siblings, frightened by the behavior of their cannibalistic parents, run away from home. Alice and Adam seek Dr. Kis to learn what happened to their parents. Alex and Leslie follow their children.

Over the top of Mount Triglav and with a much darker and gorier nod to the movie Splice and the Wells’ novel Dr. Moreau, Breed is an exciting thriller. Though Alex’s obsession is never understood, fans who enjoy a fast-paced horror tale will relish this entry; while those with squeamish demeanors will either need to pass or diet.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Run the Risk-Lori Foster

Run the Risk

Lori Foster

Harlequin HQN, Sep 25 2012, $7.99

ISBN 9780373776955

Two years ago, Police Detective Logan Riske’s best friend Jack Carmin was murdered. The cop suspects’ club owner Morton Andrews was involved with the hit but the witness Rowdy Yates vanished. However, as his partner warns him about his obsession, Logan locates Rowdy’s mousy sister Pepper though she uses the surname Meeks. Musing about her he assumes her brother has turned her into a recluse while ironically she believes her sibling has protected her at risk to his life.

Logan goes undercover as Pepper’s construction worker neighbor Stark. He persuades her to go out to dinner with him as he hopes to use her to get to her hidden sibling. However, Logan is taken aback with his attraction to a reluctant Pepper who prefers to be left alone though she feels the same desires as he does.

The first Love Undercover romantic suspense is an enjoyable thriller as the sexy undercover cop and the damsel in distress hiding her body and herself fall in love. The romance is fascinating, but it is the powerful police procedural subplot that grips readers throughout.

Harriet Klausner

They Disappeared-Rick Mofina

They Disappeared

Rick Mofina

Mira, Sep 18 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780778313816

Montana mechanic Jeff and Sarah Griffin, accompanied by their tweener son Cole, go on vacation in Manhattan. In Times Square, Jeff enters a shop to buy batteries while his wife and child wait outside. After he completes his purchase he goes to join his family, but they are gone. He searches frantically the stores in the area, but fails to find them.

A desperate Jeff goes to the police whose first inclination is the duo are okay and will see him later and second and only other thought if not he harmed his wife and son. Not willing to wait around, Jeff, feeling guilty over his previous thoughts of divorce, begins a frantic search for his family that leads him into the part of the city that tourists never visit.

This is an exhilarating thriller that never allows the reader a moment of respite as one twist leads to another as the clock ticks. Fans will root for this everyman to defeat the dregs of society as Rick Mofina provides a gripping taut tale summed up aptly by the title.

Harriet Klausner

Mixed Signals-Jane Tesh

Mixed Signals

Jane Tesh

Poisoned Pen, Oct 2 2012, $24.95

ISBN: 9781464200618

In Parkland, North Carolina, the two house mates, private investigator David Randall and psychic Camden, come home when the latter goes over to say hello to their neighbor Jared Hunter. Camden finds him stabbed to death while David calls the cops. The police suspect David’s client Boyd Taylor killed Jared.

Soon after discovering the body Camden has flashbacks to the murder, but Boyd is not included in what he envisions. David learns that Jared and Bert Galvan the son of the Parkland Herald editor, were involved in a break-in at the Parkland Museum of History. Meanwhile the Parkland Avenger is a failing fool in which the Super Hero Society of Parkland insists this bumbler is not one of them.

The latest entertaining Grace Street investigation (see Stolen Hearts) is an engaging cozy that has too many eccentric characters making it difficult to keep track of the several subplots. The narrator Randall is a fascinating protagonist as he works the whodunit and sees Kary while fearing his mom’s interrogation over the death of his daughter. Fans will enjoy this zany regional cozy as Christmas arrives in Parkland.

Harriet Klausner

Killing the Emperors-Ruth Dudley Edwards

Killing the Emperors:

Ruth Dudley Edwards

Poisoned Pen, Oct 2 2012, $24.95

ISBN 9781590586389

Irate Russian business mogul Oleg Sarkovsky knows the London art world betrayed him and he seeks vengeance for his foolish purchases based on expert advice. He begins his vendetta with a string of abductions of those he holds culpable for his mistakes to include kidnapping Baroness Ida “Jack” Troutbeck, Tate galleries director Sir Nicholas Serota, teacher Dr. Hortense Wilde, and artists Anastasia Holliday, Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin.

The art world panics out of fear of being the next snatched or worse not being the next victim. While the culprit is silent on his or her demands except for the business of the kidnappings, the realization by the impacted shallow community is that those abducted all defended the conceptual art school. Meanwhile mystery writer Robert Amiss investigates the kidnappings with the goal of rescuing Jack.

The latest Baroness Jack Troutbeck and Robert Amiss Series (see Ten Lords A-Leaping) is a super satire that mocks conceptual art as “rubbish" and its defenders as “nihilistic” con artists. Using real persona alongside fictional characters enhances a fabulous lampooning of the world of art.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Woman-Hank Phillippi Ryan

The Other Woman

Hank Phillippi Ryan

Forge, Sep 4 2012, $24.99

ISBN: 9780765332578

In Boston Channel 11 fired investigative reporter Jane Ryland when she refused to reveal the source of a story in court that led to grocery business mogul Arthur Vick suing and winning a million dollars from the station for libel. Jane knows that Vick broke his promises to call-girl Sellica Darden, who since vanished.

Boston Register city editor Alex Wyatt hires Ryland and assigns her to interview Moira Lassiter, wife of the former governor Owen who is running for the US Senate. Moira avoids the media using campaign experts Trevor Kiernan and Rory Maitland as blockers. When Jane finally gets Moira to chat, what she tells the reporter is a shocker; as she believes her husband is cheating on her. Campaign volunteer Kenna Wilkes and groupie Holly Neff have diverse plans for Owen and his past indiscretions surface. Meanwhile Police Detective Jake Brogan feels a serial killer targeting young women has surfaced when a second corpse near a bridge is found.

The first Jane Ryland investigation is an exciting thriller with plenty of villains (not all deadly) for the reporter and the cop to deal with. Fast-paced there is plenty going on in the several subplots that can become overwhelming. Still fans will enjoy Charlotte “Charlie” McNally’s journalist peer taking center stage in this action-packed tale.

Harriet Klausner

Fall from Grace-Wayne Arthurson

Fall from Grace

Wayne Arthurson

Forge, Aug 7 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780765324191

Canadian Leo Desroches knows his gambling led to his wife leaving with their kids. He knows the alcohol costs him jobs. Now he knows he got the Aboriginal Issues reporter position in Edmonton because of his mom the Cree and plans to keep it by avoiding his self-destructive behavior.

His editor assigns him to cover the homicide of a Native-Canadian prostitute strangled to death in an Alberta wheat field. He completes his article, which causes a stir. Leo follows up and soon concludes a serial killer is on the loose murdering Native-Canadian prostitutes who society prefers to be forgotten and the cops failed to connect the homicidal dots. Desroches’ inquiry leads him to the Edmonton Police Service; only to have several cops abduct Leo.

Desroches is a fabulous protagonist who is a caring person wanting to do the right thing; but loses the battle to his addicted other side. The whodunit is well written as readers obtain a slice of life in Alberta. However, this is Desroches’ story as he snatches defeat from victory every time he veers towards success.

Harriet Klausner

Downward to the Earth-Robert Silverberg

Downward to the Earth

Robert Silverberg

Orb, Aug 7 2012, $15.99

ISBN: 9780765331731

After years of exploiting the natives of Holman's World, the human Company left. Though the Company never looked back at what they did to the flora, fauna and two sentient populations (the elephant-like Nildoror and the ape-like Sulidoror), a remorseful Gundersen returns to Belgazor as the planet has returned to its pre Company name. He seeks redemption for what he did as a manager.

Gundersen meets the last of the humans at the decaying hotel. He is taken aback to observe the Sulidoror are doing many of the assignments the Company enslaved the Nildoror into doing when he last was here. He heads to the interior where the Nildoror allow him to continue if he returns with the human who committed an atrocity against their species. Later he meets transformed by the Nildoror rebirth ritual Kurtz and decides to undergo the same.

This is a reprint of a classic 1970 science fiction in which Robert Silverberg makes his two alien species seem genuine as he questions what is sentient (similar to Avatar). Readers will feel Gundersen’s guilt as he seeks atonement for what he allowed to happen to the indigent species including the abrupt departure by the earthlings after years of enforced servitude. With a nod to Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness, this is a strong look at the Europeans leaving Africa in the 1960s.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Haven-Suzanne Woods Fisher

The Haven

Suzanne Woods Fisher

Revell, Aug 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780800719883

Lancaster County Game Warden intern Will Stolz arrives at Stoney Ridge to protect two endangered Peregrine falcons and their eggs. Will stays at the farm of widower Amos Lapp whose daughter Sadie has just come home accompanied by a baby after visiting her older married sister Julia and her sibling's husband Roman in Ohio. Amos’ youngest daughter Mary Kate and their housekeeper Fern Graber also reside on the family farm.

Sadie expects her reputation torn asunder due to the infant given to her at a bus station. Meanwhile, Twin Creeks' teacher Gideon Smucker loves Sadie, but has been shy about courting her. When he learns of her baby, he fears he waited too long while Will makes it clear that he is attracted to her.

The second Stoney Ridge Seasons Amish family drama (See The Keeper) is an exciting tale starring a strong cast as readers will enjoy the interactions between the caring heroine, whining Will, gossipy M.K., helpless Gid, wise father and the common sense housekeeper. Although the ending feels rushed, readers will enjoy Sadie’s saga.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Peasants-Larry D. Thompson

Dead Peasants

Larry D. Thompson

Dunne, Oct 2 2012, $25.99

ISBN 9781250009494

In Beaumont, Texas, after winning an enormous wrongful death civil suit for three families of dead refinery workers, attorney Jack Bryant retires. He plans to spend time with his son J.D. an ex-marine who is a walk-on trying to make the nationally ranked TCU football team, and to do pro bona legal services for the poor in Fort Worth.

The “Boss” hires a hit man to kill several former employees, but make it look like accidents. Meanwhile Widow June Davis shows Jack an exorbitant insurance check made out to her late husband’s employer. She explains that the payoff is exponentially greater than what her spouse could have made at the auto dealership in a booming economy. Jack accepts June as a client as he files in civil court for her to collect the life insurance money.

The murder for insurance money of “Dead Peasant” is an engaging legal thriller with a powerful underlying concept. The fast-paced storyline is at its best when the focuses are on insurance practices or in the courtroom. However, Jack spends too much time as a detective, which detracts from an otherwise intriguing tale.

Harriet Klausner

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy-Susan Elia MacNeal

Princess Elizabeth’s Spy

Susan Elia MacNeal

Bantam, Oct 16 2012, $15.00

ISBN 9780553593624

Following the Battle of Britain, the country remains on alert anticipating a blitzkrieg invasion. In that fearful atmosphere, American expatriate Maggie Hope left her position as Mr. Churchill’s Secretary to become an MI5 agent in training though she knows her superiors, peers and instructors consider espionage a man’s job in spite of her being one of the best code-breakers.

Her first assignment annoys Maggie as she expected to head to the continent not Windsor Castle where she goes undercover as fourteen year old Princess Elizabeth’s math tutor. However, instead of ennui, Maggie finds the castle finds a disturbing one as she investigates a murder that leads to a possible traitorous conspiracy reaching high in the royal family

The second Maggie Hope WWII mystery (see Mr. Churchill’s Secretary) is an entertaining whodunit that brings to life Windsor Castle and England during the war. Maggie is a superb heroine as she begins to realize the scope of sedition and knows if she fails the Battle of Britain will have been lost at Windsor. The storyline starts slow while the cast is introduced; but once that is done Princess Elizabeth’s Spy turns into a fabulous thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Falling Glass-Adrian McKinty

Falling Glass

Adrian McKinty

Serpent’s Tail, Oct 9 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781846687839

Killian the Irish traveller enforcer retires from his debt collecting and finding missing people because his is a young person’s game and not that of a forty years old male whose body reminds him his DNA is noted for reducing the average life span. Still he is highly respected for keeping the mess minimal as he always tried to use his head and not his weapons to complete the task effectively.

However, following the purchase of two expensive apartments, Killian needs money. He accepts affluent Irish businessman Richard Coulter’s offer of $500,000 to find his ex-wife Rachel and the two children hiding in Northern Ireland. The fee is exorbitant so Killian concludes his client hides his real purpose. Unbeknownst to Killian, Coulter has doubled down by hiring a professional who kills first.

This is an exhilarating noir starring a brave antihero. The fast-paced storyline never slows down as the audience wonders what Killian will do when he meets Rachel and the kids especially since he expects Coulter has a dark outcome planned. The Russian hit man adds suspense while there is also amusing asides and Michael Forsythe (see the "Dead" trilogy) gets the Life game started. Readers will enjoy this action-packed noir anticipating a high noon showdown in Northern Ireland and a stunning coda.

Harriet Klausner

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me-Phillipa Bornikova

This Case Is Gonna Kill Me

Phillipa Bornikova

Tor, Sep 4 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780765326829

In New York, due to her connections with a powerful vampire family, Yale Law School graduate Linnet Ellery obtains an associate position at White-Fang law firm where the partners and most of the senior staff are vamps. She finds being a human at the law firm bitingly tough as she runs into prejudice all the time.

As the lowest lawyer, Linnet takes over a case that has gone nowhere for years involving a billion dollar security firm owned by werewolves. Chip Westin who has been the solo attorney on this inheritance fiasco warns her “This Case Is Gonna Kill Me” and probably her. They work together late when a werewolf arrives at the office and kills Chip; Linnet somehow survives and kills the deadly beast. She begins to uncover information that the werewolves prefer buried and target her to stay silent.

This is an enjoyable legal urban fantasy starring an intelligent, “lucky” heroine who makes the Bornikova mythos of vampires, werewolves and other of their ilk seem genuine by her interactions with the paranormal. Mindful of Fred Ward’s character in Cast A Deadly Spell, Linnet uses her knowledge of the law to battle the supernatural. Although the storyline starts slow as the realism of a newbie in an office setting is highlighted and the supernatural as genuine established, the plot accelerates into a delightful thriller.

Harriet Klausner

In a Fix-Linda Grimes

In a Fix

Linda Grimes

Tor, Sep 4 2012, $14.99

ISBN: 9780765331809

Ciel Halligan the "aura adaptor" can make herself look exactly like someone else so that it is almost impossible to separate her from the original person. To catch the overall demeanor of her subject requires a little background into the person. Thus Ciel makes a nice living by taking the place of a client.

Ciel's current customer is high society Wilhelmina “Mina” Worthington who cannot be with her boyfriend Henry “Trey” Harrison III at a luxury cabin in the Bahamas. At the cabin Trey shouts at “Mina” to leave the bungalow; someone else does likewise. Ciel rushes outside just before an explosion occurs. Trey and the Good Samaritan are gone. While her adoptive cousin Billy and FBI agent Mark warn her to stay out of this mess, Ciel investigates. Her findings lead to Vikings.

This is a fresh romantic urban fantasy starring a wonderful heroine whose ability to emit a copycat aura is genetically driven while others like Mark share her skill. The cast is solid especially the lead triangle as Ciel is attracted to both overly protective hunks. Though Ciel’s motive to investigate is weak, readers will enjoy this unique paranormal amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Town-Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Tim Waggoner

Ghost Town

Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Tim Waggoner

Gallery, Oct 9 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451613827

In late October at a bookstore in Exeter “the most haunted town in America” books suddenly fly off the shelf like missiles killing employee Tonya Jackson. At about the same time, the Ghost Trackers (Trevor Ward, Drew Pearson and Amber Lozier) arrive in Exeter to give a presentation at the "Dead Days" convention and sell some books.

Soon other mysterious deaths occur that has the three Ghost Trackers concluding that the Dark Lady is behind the paranormal serial killings. This follows by realizing who awakened the dormant Dark Lady; as the trio must choose whether this individual is a friend or foe while a town filled with locals, visitors and three Trackers face death.

The latest Ghost Trackers paranormal mystery is an engaging tale with the protagonists searching for a deadly ghost. Some of the breathing support cast is stereotypical, but the lead trio and the key ghosts are fully developed. Fans will enjoy the hunt for the lethal spirit and the twist of who is the catalyst as this is a fun ghost hunting and busting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Town-Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Tim Waggoner

Ghost Town

Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson with Tim Waggoner

Gallery, Oct 9 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9781451613827

In late October at a bookstore in Exeter “the most haunted town in America” books suddenly fly off the shelf like missiles killing employee Tonya Jackson. At about the same time, the Ghost Trackers (Trevor Ward, Drew Pearson and Amber Lozier) arrive in Exeter to give a presentation at the "Dead Days" convention and sell some books.

Soon other mysterious deaths occur that has the three Ghost Trackers concluding that the Dark Lady is behind the paranormal serial killings. This follows by realizing who awakened the dormant Dark Lady; as the trio must choose whether this individual is a friend or foe while a town filled with locals, visitors and three Trackers face death.

The latest Ghost Trackers paranormal mystery is an engaging tale with the protagonists searching for a deadly ghost. Some of the breathing support cast is stereotypical, but the lead trio and the key ghosts are fully developed. Fans will enjoy the hunt for the lethal spirit and the twist of who is the catalyst as this is a fun ghost hunting and busting thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, August 27, 2012

A Place Beyond Courage -Elizabeth Chadwick

A Place Beyond Courage

Elizabeth Chadwick

Sourcebooks, Sep 1 2012, $14.99

ISBN 9781402271083

Though only in his twenties, John FitzGilbert is the Marshal to King Henry I. He is loyal to His Highness and brave as he controls access to the monarch as well as living arrangements at court. Deciding it is time to marry; John weds fearful Aline and has two sons with his frightened spouse.

When King Henry dies, John must decide whether to support the successor claim of the royal daughter Mathilda or nephew Stephen. H swears fealty to King Stephen, but quickly realizes the nephew is a loser so he switches to Empress Matilda and her son Prince Henry. Taking advantage of the division, he obtains an annulment of his marriage to Aline and quickly weds Sybilla, sister of an enemy the Earl of Salisbury. Sybilla and John are happy together as they raise two sons while he holds on to what he gained until Stephen abducts his child William (see The Greatest Knight for his tale).

This is a terrific biographical fiction that fans of the era will enjoy as John the Marshal proves able, brave and opportunistic in a world filled with intrigue, but is truly tested when his favorite offspring is snatched. The cast starting with Henry I, those at court, John’s two families and the civil war combatants enhance a deep look at a fascinating twelfth century powerful “chief of staff”.

Harriet Klausner

A Place Called Armageddon-CC Humphreys

A Place Called Armageddon

CC Humphreys

Sourcebooks, Sep 1 2012, $25.99

ISBN: 9781402272493

The once mighty Byzantine Empire crumbles from within and from the assaults of the Ottoman armies. By 1453, only Constantinople remains free of the enemy. Advised by Hamza Bey, Sultan Mehmet II leads a force of 100,000 warriors to take the “Red Apple” as a symbol of Muslim supremacy over the weak Christian infidels. Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos leads 10,000 soldiers defending the walled city, but without the professionals he knows they fight a losing cause.

One of these mercenaries Gregoras Lascaris vowed to never go home; as Constantinople is the place where his twin Theon betrayed him turning him into a disgraced outcast; his scarred visage reminds him of what his popular sibling did to him including taking his beloved Sofia. However, he returns to Constantinople to defend a city that he realizes has become a death trap since he left.

This is a powerful fifteenth century thriller that focuses on the Battle of Constantinople by rotating perspectives between various people from both sides. The storyline grips the audience as we learn why some from side come to fight (or defend) like Venusians, Achmed the farmer and John Grant the Scot. Although the myriad of cast can be confusing, each character adds depth to a vivid picture in which armchair fans will believe they are witnessing the siege of Constantinople from within and outside circa 1453.

Harriet Klausner

The Ragnarök Conspiracy-Erec Stebbins

The Ragnarök Conspiracy

Erec Stebbins

Prometheus/Seventh Street, Oct 9 2012, $15.95

ISBN 9781616147129

FBI agent “Mad John” Savas is still grieving though over a decade has passed since his son died in the 9/11 terrorist mass murders. John believes he will always be angry and in mourning until the day he dies. However the Fed takes some solace in his job as a counterterrorism unit Intel 1 agent. Divorced John also feels his romance with FBI agent Rebecca Cohen gives him a sense of normalcy in his troubled mind

An unknown cabal using runes of Norse code to communicate is assassinating and bombing Muslims around the world. John has an affinity with the unknown anti-Muslim killers who take the war on terrorism back to the source. Still he tries to do his job right as he keeps reminding himself terrorism is terrorism. When Muslim-American agent Husaam Jordan joins the unit, Savas and others resent him initially until he proves himself worthy of their respect and support.

This is an entertaining thriller in which the protagonist must overcome his prejudice to not just work with a Muslim-American, but to end the assaults on innocent Muslims. The fast-paced storyline strongly pushes tolerance though he recognizes how difficult that can be to someone who lost a loved one due to intolerance. Although some of the key life changing events lack depth to persuade readers of their authenticity, fans will enjoy this unique global war on terrorism thriller as we get inside the head of an emotionally hurting counter agent.

Harriet Klausner

Say You’re Sorry -Michael Robotham

Say You’re Sorry

Michael Robotham

Little, Brown/Mulholland, Oct 2 2012, $24.99

ISBN 9780316221245

During a blizzard that cripples much of England, someone brutally murders Patricia and William Heyman in the home. From inside the Heyman house, Augie Shaw called the police reporting the deaths of the couple. The police hold Shaw as the only suspect as he is uncooperative refusing to explain why he was at murder scene.

To help them on the case the police turn to psychologist Joe O’Loughlin to profile Shaw. Joe concludes Shaw suffers from delusions so is unlikely the killer as these homicides were militarily précised strikes. However Joe also believes the suspect conceals something that may not be connected to the murders. Joe and retired cop Vincent Ruiz find a link between the killings and two missing teenage BFFs (Piper Hadley and Tash McBain) who vanished three years ago.

The latest Joe O'Loughlin psychological thriller (see Shatter and Suspect) is a taut tale that starts off as a profile of a potentially schizophrenic murder suspect, but effortlessly switches gear into a race to save the Bingham Girls. The storyline is fast-paced from start to finish as the former cop and the clinical psychologist convince the police that time is running out for the living abducted teens.

Harriet Klausner

A Lady and Her Magic-Tammy Falkner

A Lady and Her Magic

Tammy Falkner

Sourcebooks, Sep 1 2012, $6.99

ISBN 9781402268120

In 1817 the widow Duke of Robinsworth, Ashley Trimble struggles with the temper tantrums of his daughter Anne. At the same time Sophia Thorn is told she will lose her wings if she fails to help the petulant child. She arranges to meet father and daughter when she intervenes during an incident and calms down raging Anne to Ashley’s shock.

Not long after their first encounter, Sophia and her grandma obtain invitations to a house party hosted by Robinsworth. He is already attracted to her, but she reciprocates when she hears him play the piano with passion. As they fall in love, Sophia knows the cost of loving a mortal is while Ashley fears her reaction when she learns everyone believes he killed his wife.

A Lady and Her Magic is a charming Regency romantic fantasy starring star-crossed lovers and a horde of mischievous matchmakers and match breakers. Fast-paced from the first meeting between the scandalized duke, the raging daughter and the feisty fae until the final scandalous encounter; sub-genre fans who enjoy something whimsically different will appreciate Tammy Falkner’s marvelous magical mayhem.

Harriet Klausner

Kiss of Steel-Bec McMaster

Kiss of Steel

Bec McMaster

Sourcebooks, Sep 1 2012, $6.99

ISBN: 9781402270277

In London, Honoria Todd hides in the dangerous Whitechapel slums from the Echelon as she tries to keep her siblings safe and alive. However, anyone foolish or desperate enough to enter Whitechapel must deal with the master of this slum Blade, infected with the identical vampiric virus as the Echelon.

Blade lives to destroy the beast who changed him. When he realizes that same monster pursues the Todd trio, he decodes innocent Honoria would be a perfect lure. However, the one problem with his otherwise sacrificial scheme is he also needs her blood. All changes when a monster enters Whitechapel, as Blade will do anything including letting her go to keep his beloved Honoria (and her siblings) safe.

Kiss of Steel is an enjoyable steampunk horror thriller starring a vivid radically different London and two seemingly opposite protagonists. Fast-paced, readers will root for the brave intelligent heroine while unsure of the motives of the master of Whitechapel. Filled with action and especially vile villains with the one being particularly evil, fans will enjoy Bec McMaster’s strong opening act.

Harriet Klausner

Daughter of the Sword-Daughter of the Sword

Daughter of the Sword

Daughter of the Sword

Steve Bein

Roc, Oct 2 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780451464774

In the Heisei Era Year 22 (2010 in the Julian calendar), Tokyo Police Detective Sergeant Oshiro Mariko works in the narcotics division where her superiors and peers believe no female belongs. Her direct reports boss Lieutenant Hashimoto is particularly hostile towards her as he treats her with disdain and gives her the dregs of assignments.

Hashimoti tasks Mariko to investigate a failed attempted robbery of a centuries-old samurai sword. She finds out the blade is one of three forged by the legendary Master Inazuma, whose swords allegedly contain magic. Mariko also learns the secret history of Inazuma’s magical swords as she begins to believe she is the latest chosen warrior using one even as the power threatens to destroy her.

This is a great police procedural urban fantasy that deftly rotates between Mariko in present day Japan and other warriors in past eras; the deep background in the various time periods enables readers to tell the taut storyline is real. Fast-paced from the moment Mariko starts her official inquiry into the failed theft and never slowing down, readers will the first Fated Blades thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Roc, Oct 2 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780451464774

In the Heisei Era Year 22 (2010 in the Julian calendar), Tokyo Police Detective Sergeant Oshiro Mariko works in the narcotics division where her superiors and peers believe no female belongs. Her direct reports boss Lieutenant Hashimoto is particularly hostile towards her as he treats her with disdain and gives her the dregs of assignments.

Hashimoti tasks Mariko to investigate a failed attempted robbery of a centuries-old samurai sword. She finds out the blade is one of three forged by the legendary Master Inazuma, whose swords allegedly contain magic. Mariko also learns the secret history of Inazuma’s magical swords as she begins to believe she is the latest chosen warrior using one even as the power threatens to destroy her.

This is a great police procedural urban fantasy that deftly rotates between Mariko in present day Japan and other warriors in past eras; the deep background in the various time periods enables readers to tell the taut storyline is real. Fast-paced from the moment Mariko starts her official inquiry into the failed theft and never slowing down, readers will the first Fated Blades thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Loving Lady Marcia-Kieran Kramer

Loving Lady Marcia

Kieran Kramer

St. Martin's, Aug 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781250009883

In 1814, fifteen year old Lady Marcia Sherwood meets the Lattimore brothers when they travel together to Liverpool. She is attracted to one of the siblings, but Finn breaks her heart leaving for the States the morning after her sixteenth birthday.

In 1819, the other brother Duncan sees her and knows he remains attracted to her as he learns she teaches school. When Marcia comes home, she finds Duncan there. He tries to court her but Marcia ignores his efforts though Duncan is unsure why. Marcia has rejected romance ever since Finn rejected her. At the same time an unscrupulous rival goes after her school while Finn is back from America. Duncan knows he has his work cut out to win the heart of the woman he loves.

This Regency romantic version of the Brady Bunch is an amusing historical with not so subtle references to the TV show; for instance, the names of the cast including Alice the housekeeper. Readers will enjoy this jocular jaunt while looking forward to more episodes from the Brady Bunch.

Harriet Klausner

Postcards from the Dead-Laura Childs

Postcards from the Dead

Laura Childs

Berkley Prime Crime, Oct 2 2012, $25.95

ISBN: 9780425252758

The Loomis krewe parade marches down the French Quarter during Mardi Gras. TV reporter Kimber Breeze interviews people for the event at the Hotel Tremain. Next on line is Carmela Bertrand, owner of the Memory Mine scrapbooking store, who never gets her fifteen seconds of fame. Someone left Kimber hanging off the hotel balcony with a cord around her neck.

Carmela failed to neither witness the actual murder nor see who the killer is. Soon afterwards postcards signed by Kimber arrive at the Memory Mine. She talks with her best friend Ava Gruiex, the owner of Juju Voodoo, about the situation; they agree a killer is trying to frighten her just in case she can identify the culprit. Having solved several mysteries (see Fiber & Brimstone and Death Swatch) together, the BFFs ignore the threat and investigate.

The latest Scrapbooking amateur sleuth is a wonderful whodunit as this time the heroine vows to not investigate but feels compelled when the postcards start coming. Carmela and Ava are brave buddies who team up in search of the person sending Postcards From The Dead.

Harriet Klausner

The Jewels of Paradise-Donna Leon

The Jewels of Paradise

Donna Leon

Atlantic Monthly, Oct 2 2012, $25.00

ISBN 9780802120649

Opera expert Dr. Caterina Pellegrini has been an assistant professor at a Manchester, England conservatory for four years where she teaches music theory to the uninterested. Though she hated the ugly city and her students, Caterina enjoyed her research into Baroque music.

However, she accepts an assignment in her hometown Venice to catalogue the contents of three-century old trunks allegedly containing items owned by baroque composer Bishop Agostino Steffani and determine who the rightful owner is. His descendants are vultures greedily competing for who owns and sells whatever is found.

While Commissario Guido Brunetti takes a respite, Donna Leon introduces readers to another interesting Venusian Dr. Caterina Pellegrini who in her thirties struggles with what she wants out of life. The storyline is filled with plenty of fascinating historical tidbits about Agostino Steffani and the Baroque music era that is fun to read but distracts from the ownership mystery. Although there is too much late seventeenth century-early eighteenth century information and contains an improbable climax, The Jewels Of Paradise remains overall an intriguing thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Death on Telegraph Hill-Shirley Tallman

Death on Telegraph Hill

Shirley Tallman

Minotaur, Oct 16 2012, $24.99

ISBN 9781250010438

In 1882 lawyer Sarah Woolson and her brother crime reporter Samuel attend a reception for visiting Irish poet Oscar Wilde the champion of the Aesthetic Movement at the Telegraph Hill home of San Francisco Weekly owner Mortimer Remy. After an interruption by a rival editor and a long winded talk by Wilde, the siblings leave. However, on the way home, a gun man shoots Samuel.

Irate at the near death of Samuel though she also realizes she may have been the target, Sarah investigates with the goal to expose the shooter; her family is appalled as they fear for her safety from this unknown assassin. At the same time the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hires Sarah to represent them in a law suit to prevent a wealthy Mexican with city backing from building a bull-fighting ring

The latest Sarah Woolson Mystery (see Scandal on Rincon Hill) is a fabulous historical whodunit starring a brave woman whose law practice is struggling as few clients want a female attorney. The storyline contains a strong amateur sleuth investigation and a solid legal case as Shirley Tallman provides a deep look at 1880s San Francisco.

Harrier Klausner

Bone Shadows-Christopher Valen

Bone Shadows

Christopher Valen

Conquill Press, Oct 1 2012, $15.00

ISBN: 9780980001754

St. Paul Homicide Detective John Santana investigates the apparent downing death in the Mississippi River due to alcohol of twenty-three year old Scott Rafferty. John interviews the victim’s parents (narcotics cop Hank Rafferty and Judge Rachel Harper) and girlfriend Kimberly Dalton, daughter of a cop; as well as psychiatrist Dr. Benjamin Roth who the deceased Iraqi vet was seeing for PTSD.

All evidence points to a tragic accident, but freelance award winning but defrocked reporter Jack Brody offers him a counter theory in which Scott was murdered by a serial killer working the I-94 corridor. Diligently John follows up on Brody’s data with an interview of the parents of a drowning victim who send him to a private investigator Jordan Parrish they hired as they believe their son was murdered. Parrish tells John she thinks so also. FBI Agent Ed Kincaid warns John to back off or else. Having faced horror when he lived in Columbia, John refuses to quit as increasingly he believes Parrish and Brody are right.

The latest John Santana police procedural (see White Tombs, The Black Minute and Bad Weeds Never Die) is a superb detective tale starring a dedicated cop and a strong support cast; some of whom want him to take down a killer and others who hinder his inquiry. The storyline is fast-paced but provides a deep methodical investigation. With a romantic subplot that blends nicely into the thrilling tour of the Twin Cities, fans will appreciate Bone Shadows as Christopher Valen provides another great entry in a super series.

Harriet Klausner

Little Star-John Ajvide Lindqvist, Marlaine Delargy (translator)

Little Star

John Ajvide Lindqvist, Marlaine Delargy (translator)

Dunne, Oct 2 2012, $26.99

ISBN 9780312620516

In 1992 failed rocker Lennart Cederstom seeks mushrooms in the woods when a BMW comes driving at high speed past him. He soon finds a bag, a grave and a howling baby with a perfect E pitch. Lennart brings the abandoned infant home where he and his wife Laila discuss what to do with the child. They agree to raise the child they name Theres as their own.

Years later languid teen Theres murders his adoptive parents. She moves in with her older adoptive brother ex-con Jerry in Stockholm. Also recognizing the quality of her voice, Jerry enters Theres in a national singing competition on TV. Another adolescent outsider sees Theres on the show and recognizes a kindred spirit. Teresa goes to meet Theres and when they do, they turn Sweden into their personal battleground.

This is a well written violent satire that mocks pop music, pop teens, pop websites and pop bullies. The two females come across as real amoral soulless individuals. They chillingly kill anyone in their path in a sort of bloodier Bonnie and Bonnie (no Clyde need apply) as they make Thelma and Louise look like nuns. Fast-paced, readers who enjoy something different (and gory) will appreciate the tea for two.

Harriet Klausner

The Unincorporated Future-Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin

The Unincorporated Future

Dani Kollin and Eytan Kollin

Tor, Aug 21 2012, $27.99

ISBN: 9780765328816

When the only Unincorporated Man Justin Cord was assassinated, Sandra O’Toole replaced him as leader of the Outer Alliance. The group’s personal freedom message resonates strongly among colonists living in the Asteroid Belt and the orbs beyond. The United Human Federation control Mars and earth with every person under corporate control.

Thus UHF President Hektor Sambianco remains steadfast with his quest to destroy the freedom rebels even if millions must die. The war is bloody, but OA General J.D. Black overcomes the overwhelming resourcing advantages of UHF with ingenious strategy leading to victories though his opponent brutal brilliant Admiral Samuel Trang proves a strong leader too. As millions die, O’Toole wonders if victory is worth the cost of human extinction; while Sambianco pushes victory at any cost. Meanwhile unbeknownst to either side, artificial intelligences are in a civil war whether to help or exterminate the humans.

The final unincorporated science fiction is an exciting finish to a strong thought provoking outer space thriller. The storyline is action-packed while also looking deep at the timely morality of war with leaders knowingly sending pawns to die as well as civilian deaths. Although more military than political-social themes of the previous works (see The Unincorporated War, The Unincorporated Man and The Unincorporated Woman), fans will enjoy this entry; as Stalin stated” “'when one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it's statistics”; when millions die…

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, August 25, 2012

How To Capture A Countess-Karen Hawkins

How To Capture A Countess

Karen Hawkins

Pocket, Sep 18 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781451685176

In 1806 seventeen year old Miss Rose Balfour believes she loves Lord Alton “Lord Sin” Sinclair. She goes for a kiss from the seemingly aloof Lord Sin, but suddenly shows her age when she becomes frightened and pushes him into a fountain. Rose flees while Alton sits in a lily pond with everyone laughing at him.

For six years, Sin patiently has waited for an opportunity to embarrass the chit who made him look foolish. He persuades his aunt the Duchess of Roxburghe to invite the Balfour family to a party she hosts. However, his plan to humiliate Rose takes a hit when Alton sees her. She is no longer an inane schoolgirl, but instead an intelligent beautiful woman. As they match wits, they fall in love.

The first Duchess Diaries Regency romance is a fun historical gender war starring two likable wary adversaries and a strong support cast especially the Duchess who swears to not get involved though she is already considering her next matchmaking endeavor. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy this jocular tale as a Rose and a Sin fight, fuss and fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

The Geneva Trap-Stella Rimington

The Geneva Trap

Stella Rimington

Bloomsbury USA, Oct 2 2012, $25.00

ISBN: 9781608198726

At a Swiss tennis club Russian agent Alexander Petrov states to British operative Russell White he needs to speak with “Lees Carlisle.” The Russian also says no one else before leaving. Russell tells what happened to Terry Castle at the M16 station in the British Embassy in Geneva. They agree that Petrov, once listed as Second Secretary, Soviet Trade Delegation, wants to make contact. In Vauxhall Geoffrey Fane knows the Russian wants to speak with Liz Carlisle of MI5.

Liz recalls meeting Petrov years ago; she agrees to see him in Geneva. Fearing Cold War II, he warns her of a cyber-attack on software controlling unmanned drones. He further insists his country is not behind the assault but is unaware who is. Since the drones are a joint venture with the Americans, the British Intel warns London based CIA chief Andy Bokus.

The latest Liz Carlyle espionage thriller (see Rip Tide) is a great action-packed tale as the protagonist and her unit search for a traitor within and the enemy without in order to prevent a new Cold War that could turn hot rather quickly. Although a personal scenario adds depth to Liz’ personal side, this also detracts from what spy aficionados want: an otherwise fantastic thrilling international espionage saga.

Harriet Klausner

Sleep No More-Iris Johansen

Sleep No More

Iris Johansen

St. Martin’s, Oct 16 2012, $27.99

ISBN 9780312651244

Forensic sculptor Eve Duncan suffered for years with nightmares involving what happened to her beloved daughter (see Eve trilogy - Eve, Quinn and Bonnie). Recently, Eve ’s dark dreams focus on fleeing from a stalker in a forest. Her mom Sandra, asking for her help, informs her daughter that Eve’s half-sister, Beth Avery recently escaped from a Santa Barbara mental hospital after years of institution..

Stunned as she was unaware of the existence of her half-sibling, Eve and her lover Atlanta PD detective Joe Quinn travel to Santa Barbara seeking to find Beth. In California, profiler Kendra Michaels assists Joe and Eve. At the same time as Beth begins regains memories that drugs buried for years, a professional killer sent by a powerful individual stalks her.

The fourteenth engaging Eve Duncan thriller is an exciting tale with an intriguing premise of the heroine meeting her previously unknown sister in trouble in a dream. Fast-paced from the first nightmare to the final confrontation, series fans will enjoy the perils of brave Beth as Eve and Joe helped by Kendra seek to protect her in trouble half-sibling.

Harriet Klausner

The Eyes of Lira Kazan -Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon

The Eyes of Lira Kazan

Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon

Bitter Lemon, Sep 18 2012, $14.95

ISBN: 9781908524003

In Abuja, Nigeria, following the assassination of his friend and colleague Uche, fraud squad investigator Nwanko needs to get his wife and children out of the country. The British government offer to take him and his family safely away if Nwanko agrees to say nothing about the corrupt Nigerian government he has been investigating for the last few years. Realizing his choice is death for his loved ones and himself or keeping quiet, he agrees to leave Lagos pretending he knows nothing

In Nice, the wife of an affluent Faroese banker drowns. The police insist an accident occurred but junior prosecutor Felix thinks otherwise.

In St. Petersburg, Lira the investigative journalist understands the hazards of her pursuits and especially fears for the safety of her child. However she diligently probes the business dealings of wealthy Russian Louchsky.

These three dedicated individuals will converge in London as Nigerian oil and undercover operatives target them for elimination.

The Eyes of Lira Kazan is a powerful satire that mocks the marriage between dirty money and “values” spouting politicians. Using hyperbole, Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon insist the affluent silence the crusaders by threatening innocent family members. However the keys to this engaging crime thriller is how haunted Nwanko, Felix and Lira feel about the potential assaults on their loved ones from mercenaries and untruth spins about each of them by the dirty money crowd.

Harriet Klausner

The Warlord of Willow Ridge-Gary Phillips

The Warlord of Willow Ridge

Gary Phillips

Dafina/Kensington, Oct 2 2012, $6.99

ISBN: 9780758203854

Heading to San Francisco, O’Connor’s bike dies near Willow Ridge. With no funds, he decides to hide in Willow Ridge, which once was an affluent gated community, but now has many abandoned vacant houses, some trapped families and several low life punks like the Mas Treces gang who established a meth lab there. He squats in one of the buildings.

Connie begins to clean up his temporary abode, but soon gets involved with the residents when he confronts gangbangers and thugs. To his shock he enjoys his time in the burb and begins an affair with Gwen Gardner. However as the Mas Treces and their rivals the Vandal Viking fight for Willow Creek lab rights, Connie finds himself protecting his neighbors.

The Warlord of Willow Ridge is an exciting thriller as a noirish loner knows it is time to pull a sting and make like the wind, but finds he is reluctant to leave the burbs. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy Connie kicking bad dude butt though like him wonder why he stays in a place he never belonged to before.

Harriet Klausner

Powdered Peril-Jessica Beck

Powdered Peril

Jessica Beck

St. Martin's, Aug 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9781250001061

In April Springs, North Carolina, Grace Gauge visits her BFF Suzanne Hart to tell her she ended her relationship with Peter Morgan as she claims he cheated on her. Early the next morning Suzanne arrives at her Donut Hearts donut shop only to find yellow paint splattered on her front window and bricks; the paint bucket nearby. She calls the police. Suzanne notices footprints in the paint and follows them to nowhere. ASPD Officer Grant arrives.

Chief Martin, who is seeing Suzanne’s mom, informs her they caught the vandal, Peter Morgan, but someone murdered him. With Grace as a prime suspect especially after her slapping down the victim and his apparent retaliation via her BFF, she and Suzanne investigate the homicide only to find several people besides cuckolded females with motives for wanting Peter dead.

The latest Donut Shop Mystery (see Drop Dead Chocolate, Killer Crullers and Sinister Sprinkles) is an engaging amateur sleuth as the intrepid duo investigates who murdered the sleaze. The storyline is an enjoyable regional culinary cozy due to the small-town relationships including the donate maker adjusting to a new assistant.

Harriet Klausner

Soul Trade-Caitlin Kittredge

Soul Trade

Caitlin Kittredge

St. Martin's, Aug 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780312388256

The denizens of Black London do not allow maternity leave as new mom Pete Caldecott can affirm. Neither does the Prometheus Club who, at a cemetery invites mom (and she her boyfriend Jack White) with an offer she cannot refuse to attend (or die) one of their secret gatherings. Jack says they should gracefully decline as he knows of this exclusive club, but Pete disagrees as she thinks they need to work with the members as they do not need another adversary.

The pair gets involved in Prometheus Club vicious in fighting while they learn why their new “allies” came to London, which places them in peril from all sorts of paranormal powerhouses. Meanwhile, Pete is haunted by a not any longer cold case in which she failed to protect children and Jack’s past also returns in an ugly manner. Then there is Morwenna the dealer.

The latest Black London (see Devil's Business) urban fantasy is a superb entry as the heroine poorly balances motherhood with battling some nasty sorts including a form of PTSD as she has emotionally internalized her failures. Readers will appreciate this strong storyline as the working mom and her mate once again confront and kick butt evil.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, August 24, 2012

The Accomplice-Charles Robbins

The Accomplice

Charles Robbins

Dunne, Sep 4 2012, $24.99

ISBN 9781250010513

Henry Hatten was press secretary for Tyler when the latter lost the race for Governor of Iowa probably because the former failed to finish an unethical but needed assault. The only moderate Republican running for the presidential nomination in a field of conservatives, Nebraska Senator Tom Peele hires Henry who knows Iowa, the first key state in the process. Though spending time in Iowa is not enticing as Henry recalls someone telling him that if you have six months to live stay in Iowa as it will feel like ten years; still he thinks the charismatic Peele has a strong chance of winning.

However, Henry soon learns of married Peele’s potentially fatal flaw: beautiful women. On top of that Henry finds the candidate who allegedly adheres to his values and their election chairman act like many politicians corrupt and avaricious. Soon all hell breaks out when a murder occurs with Henry stuck either holding the bag or covering the bag.

Timely with condemnation, the Accomplice is a delightful political thriller that enables the audience to observe what goes on behind the curtain on a major run for the White House. Ethical politician seems like an oxymoron as even knowing to keep oneself clean fails to prevent scandalous, illegal and in this case murderous behavior from happening. Purist Henry is superb as a sort of Forty Year Old Virgin surrounded by hedonist devils who ask not what they can do for their country - ask what their country can do for them.

Harriet Klausner

The Bookseller-Mark Pryor

The Bookseller

Mark Pryor

Prometheus/Seventh Street, Oct 9 2012, $15.95

ISBN 9781616147082

In Paris, former FBI profiler Hugo Marston enjoys the City of Lights while working as the head of security at the American embassy. However, while touring the city, his idyllic time ends when he watches in horror as someone with a gun abducts elderly book dealer Max Koche from the victim’s Seine bouquiniste. Hugo becomes frustrated with the local gendarme who seems disinterested in attempting to rescue the kidnapped Max.

Not one to sit idly on the sidelines, the Texan expatriate investigates. He obtains help from sort of retired CIA agent Tom Green and soon learns Max is not the first bookstall owner kidnapped. Evidence mounts that the bouquinistes are victims of gang warfare as they become Seine floaters. Hugo and journalist Claudia de Roussillon begin a romance that is in peril when he learns Max was a Nazi hunter with a stunning tie to Claudia’s father.

This is enjoyable French investigation in which Paris as seen through Hugo’s eyes comes to life. Hugo is a solid hero though his inquiry may make him persona non grata and expelled from France. Although the violent abductions and homicides are somewhat muted, the storyline is fast-paced from start to Hugo and Tom confronting their adversary who expects their visit.

Harriet Klausner

The Rendition-Albert Ashforth

The Rendition

Albert Ashforth

Oceanview, Oct 2 2012, $25.95

ISBN 9781608090594

In 2007 in the Baltics, war between Serbia and Kosovo is heating up. American intelligence officer Alex Klear enters Kosovo to abduct Ramush Nadaj; as the plan is to rendition the leader of the Kosovo Liberation Army. The mission proves not fully planned as everything goes wrong ending with Klear captured and tortured by the KLA for two days before his partner Buck Romero retrieves him.

While Klear physically heals in Germany at an American military hospital, he decides his covert field days are over as he lost something during the hours of torture especially since his superiors who sent him in hastily hold him culpable. Colonel Sylvia Frost recruits Klear with a do-over mission that will enable him to strike back at the KLA who haunt him and rendition Nadaj. However, once again Klear faces lies as the KLA want him dead and the German police want him arrested for an alleged murder.

This is a great espionage thriller starring a terrific spy whose perseverance and diligence lead him to uncover a diabolical plot as Kosovo Independence Day nears. Fast-paced from the opening failed rendition and never slowing down; fans will appreciate Klear’s escapades as he knows he is the pasty if the mission fails.

Harriet Klausner

The Aden Effect- Claude Berube

The Aden Effect

Claude Berube

Naval Institute Press, Oct 15 2012, $27.95

ISBN: 9781612511092

Newly appointed American Ambassador to Yemen, C.J. Sumner understands she has two objectives besides watching for al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. First she to negotiate with the Yemeni authorities to allow American companies to drill for oil off Socotra Island. Second she needs to establish a cooperative team to include the local government and other interested nations to end piracy off on the Aden Sea south of Yemen and north of the Horn of Africa. Madame Ambassador’s efforts on both fronts prove futile. Sumner hires former US navy officer Connor Stark, who knows the area as a mercenary, as her defense attaché.

Stark arranges a meeting between Yemeni shipping company CEO and the ruling family. At the same time, American diplomatic security operative Damien Golzari investigates a death of a State Department employee’s son when he finds evidence of illegal khat drug sales in the states that tie to a shipping company in Yemen. Sumner sanctions a humanitarian aid mission on Socotra, but pirates attack while Stark leads a counter attack. Golzari and Stark soon realize there is a more powerful adversary behind the troubled Aden Sea.

This is an exciting naval thriller that showcases how difficult it is for USA to help the local nations bordering on the Aden Sea with their myriad of problems while also furthering American interests on the region. The storyline is action-packed throughout, but goes hyperspeed when Golzari and Stark meet. Although the key support cast lacks depth, fans will relish this deep look at Yemen.

Harriet Klausner

Return to Atlantis-Andy McDermott

Return to Atlantis

Andy McDermott

Bantam, Aug 28 2012, $9.99

ISBN: 9780553593662

Archaeologist Nina Wilde and her husband former SAS soldier Eddie Chase have three interrelated ancient statues that will release energy not seen since before the fall of Atlantis. However, nothing goes right as the statues are stolen. Soon afterward Nina witnesses Chase killing her friend INTERPOL Cultural Property Crime Unit chief Ankit Jindal in Peru.

On the one year anniversary of their marriage, Nina wonders how Chase is doing as he vanished three months ago after murdering Kit. Her search for the stolen statues is her only relief from her depression. At the same time, Eddie misses his wife, but knows he must prove his innocence and catch Kit’s real killer if he is to have a future with his beloved Nina. He gets an anonymous tip that’s ends him to Japan; while she learns the statues were sold to a wealthy industrialist in Tokyo. However, Chase realizes his true mission is to keep Nina safe as she has become the focus of some nasty souls.

This is an exhilarating over the top of Mount Kita thriller that originally was published as Temple of the Gods. Chase and Wilde are on separate thrilling adventures with his to save his life and hers to save the planet. Their merging in Japan speeds up the planetary doomsday countdown. Fast-paced, readers will enjoy the latest Wilde-Chase escapades.

Harriet Klausner

Lightning's Child-Michael A. Smith

Lightning's Child

Michael A. Smith

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Apr 30 2012, $17.50

ISBN: 9781466378094

At GeneWorks in suburban Maryland, Director of Research geneticist Diane Kowalski and her team make a major breakthrough on dramatically increasing the life span of humans. However, someone(s) destroyed her experiments; placing the company at financial risk.

Desperate to prevent anymore industrial sabotage, the firm hires private investigator Jack O’Sullivan to investigate. As she gives him a tour, he struggles to focus on the assignment as images of making love to her keeps intruding on his thoughts. Jack and Diane track clues that take them to GJ Mendelsohn Research Laboratories as they find proof that founder Thomas Winthrop and his family seem to have applied the life span secrets but share it with no one.

This is a superb complex DNA thriller in which Michael A. Smith explores societal aspects of longevity of a family who lives several generations beyond the norm; in other words being able to play with your great-great grandchild. The intelligent storyline is filled with twisting action starting with a car accident that severs part of Thomas’ leg and a complicated romance as the past and the future merge with increasing complexities for those in the middle. With a nod to Tuck Everlasting, readers will appreciate this strong character driven tale as taking a drink from the Fountain of Youth is only the beginning.

Harriet Klausner

Iced Chiffon-Duffy Brown

Iced Chiffon

Duffy Brown

Berkley Prime Crime, Oct 2 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780425251607

In Savannah, Georgia, due to a prenup Hollis Beaumont keeps everything when he and his now ex-wife Reagan Summerside divorce. However, he agrees to let her keep their fixer upper Victorian Cherry House. A realtor Hollis turns to Cupcake for comfort while Reagan and her Aunt Kiki open up the Prissy Fox consignment shop out of her house.

Reagan “borrows” Hollis’ Lexus to deliver a fountain to Raylene Carter. However, Kiki opens the trunk only to find too much “junk” inside as the corpse of Cupcake occupies the space. The police suspect Hollis killed her following a public argument. Needing money for his legal defense, Hollis informs Reagan he needs to sell Cherry House. Reagan refuses to give up Cherry House so believing his insistence that he is innocent, she investigates the murder of Cupcake.

The first entertaining Consignment Shop Mystery is a humorous amateur sleuth tale +

due to the wry asides by the heroine. The investigation is fun due to Reagan and her “posse” as they find several people wanting to crush Cupcake. Though Reagan’s logic to look into the murder seems weak, fans will enjoy touring Savannah with Reagan as a guide as Duffy Brown writes a lighthearted amusing amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Three and a Half Virgins-John Blumenthal

Three and a Half Virgins

John Blumenthal

Farmer Street Press, Dec 22 2011, $8.99

ISBN: 9780967944418

As her husband turns forty with the middle age bulge beginning to show, Deirdre wishes her spouse Jimmy Hendricks (“No relation”) a happy birthday by informing him she is divorcing him. Stunned as if he is trapped in a Purple Haze and feeling almost as alone as he felt when he and Deirdre were allegedly happy over the last few years, Jimmy recognizes that he is a recovering idiot. He muses about what could have been if he was not an idiot when he attended high school and college and dreams of a reunion with any or all of his ex-girlfriends.

He decides to visit them to ask them to forgive his stupid troglodyte behavior though he also hopes for a heated tryst or three too. His best friend Morris the Orthodox Jew accompanies Jimmy on his redemption tour. Jimmy starts with the minister’s daughter Laura Beasley of Rimbaldi High School. Next up is Samantha Jane Conrad at Fryman College. Third at bat is Molly Martinez also at Fryman College. Then there was Christine while Molly was away at a family funeral.

With a nod to Denis Leary’s Bad Boy movie, Three and a Half Virgins is an amusing character study of a man looking back at his transgressions towards women. Each female owns a chapter so that the audience knows how they felt about Jimmy during and after. Although the storyline is thin, readers will enjoy Jimmy Hendricks’ forty years old idiot gig.

Harriet Klausner

Hemingway's Girl-Erika Robuck

Hemingway's Girl

Erika Robuck

NAL, Sep 4 2012, $16.00

ISBN: 9780451237880

In 1935 Florida, the Bennet family American patriarch dies leaving behind a Cuban widow, three young daughters and no money. The oldest child nineteen years old Mariella Bennet bets on a boxing match in which Ernest Hemingway referees. She loses but meets the famous writer, who, accompanied by his second wife Pauline and their two sons, recently moved to Key West.

Hemingway hires Mariella as a housemaid. He takes the teen to a fight where she meets pugilist WWI veteran Gavin Murray who is working on the Overseas Highway. He is attracted to the spunky young lady as is Hemingway. As the thirtyish males vie for the attention of the much younger maid, she likes both of them but Papa is married as a Labor Day Hurricane batters the Keys.

The key to this engaging historical drama is Hemingway seems real as he transitions into “Papa” while the rest of the key players come across as genuine too. Although the enjoyable storyline starts slow while the characters, relationships (including unneeded ones) and the setting are introduced, the plot accelerates once the two overlapping triangles form. Fans will enjoy Depression Era Papa Hemingway’s Girl.

Harriet Klausner

Sins of a Virgin-Anna Randol

Sins of a Virgin

Anna Randol

Avon, Aug 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780062025791

During the war, Madeline Valdan worked for the Crown as an undercover agent. With the war over, the Crown downsizes Madeline who has no money or prospects except her body. Known as a scandalous courtesan by the Ton, a desperate Madeline knows only one way to obtain funds. Thus she boldly enters White’s where she states to the astonished male aristocracy that she is auctioning off her most prized possession to the highest bidder, her virginity.

Bow Street runner Gabriel Huntford has hunted down many criminals over the years, but the SOB who killed his twin sister remains elusive. As the price for Madeline goes stratospheric, Gabriel works an assignment that sends him from a school to her bidders; he hopes this will grant him access to those he deemed may have killed his sibling. As Madeline and Gabriel team up, they soon admire and respect each other while falling in love. However, a serial killer targets Madeline.

The first of a trilogy starring former criminals-spies is a delightful historical romantic suspense. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing while the support cast enhances the engaging storyline. As the runner and the courtesan risk their lives to catch a killer, the predator is in plain sight but impossible to identify due to fabulous red herring targets. Madeline is the next victim.

Harriet Klausner

The Way to a Duke's Heart-Caroline Linden

The Way to a Duke's Heart

Caroline Linden

Avon, Aug 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780062025340

In 1810 Lord Charles de Lacey, heir to a dukedom, ignores responsibilities for decadence. However, he is shockingly awakened from his hedonism when a blackmailer demands payments or he and his siblings will lose their entitlements due to the potential exposure of his father’s scandalous behavior.

As manager of her brother’s businesses, Tessa Neville is in Bath looking into whether he should invest in a canal. She and Charles meet and it is hate at first sight. However, Charles suspects Tessa is in league with the person he suspects is extorting funds from his family as she meets with this reprobate. As such he follows her everywhere until they compare notes and realize they suspect duplicity by the same scoundrel.

The final Truth About the Duke Regency romance (see Blame It On Bath) is a pleasant historical starring two wonderful protagonists engaged in a gender war. Although there is too much reiteration of the overarching theme, fans will enjoy Lord Charles getting his comeuppance and hope that the blackmailer does too.

Harriet Klausner

The Look of Love-Mary Jane Clark

The Look of Love

Mary Jane Clark

Avon, Aug 28 2012, $7.99

ISBN: 9780061995576

“The Look Of Love.” Daughter of the owner of the luxurious Elysium Spa Jillian Abernathy sends a Facebook message to Piper Donovan in which she says she saw the Glenna Brooks’ cake and wants to hire the professional cake decorator to do one for her wedding. Piper accepts as she will spend a full paid trip in Southern California at a fabulous resort and have time to recover from the hurt that FBI Agent Jack Armstrong did to her. Inside the exclusive spa, Jillian’s maid Eserpanza enjoys putting on the posh clothing her employer owns. When she answers a door expecting another wedding gift for Jillian, a man tosses acid in her face. Soon afterward she is murdered. Others are also attacked and killed. Though she knows better having done some dangerous sleuthing before (see To Have And To Kill), Piper investigates.

“The Bracelet.” ‘Piper Donovan loves her brother Robert but loathes his wife Zara as he is kind and caring while she is selfish and avaricolus. When a gold bracelet vanishes, evidence overwhelmingly condemns Zara as the thief. Piper struggles between the cops and her family.

The Look of Love, as the second Piper amateur sleuth, is an enjoyable whodunit though the rapid fire changing of perspective (average chapter size is under 4 pages) is distracting especially when the three “papa bears” are front and centered. The Bracelet is a super-fast pit stop short-short read in which Piper struggles with what is right and for whom. In both cases, Piper is an engaging protagonist as she works on a cake, mending her broken heart and solving a mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Sacrifice-Michael Lister

Blood Sacrifice

Michael Lister

Pulpwood Press, Oct 31 2012, $16.99

ISBN: 9781888146967

After several bloody cases (see The Body and the Blood, Flesh and Blood, Power in the Blood and Blood of the Lamb) and the destruction of his marriage, prison chaplain John Jordan needs a breather. The former cop is staying at St. Ann’s Abbey retreat center in Bridgeport, Florida Panhandle. He sees police lights nearby and goes to help Chief Steve Taylor, a former deputy to John’s dad Potter County chief. As everyone waits for Taylor, John interferes with the body proving the victim who he knew as Tommy Boy was not a floater. Taylor lectures him and Jordon knows he erred. Sister Abigail who has been counseling Jordon lectures him too.

Someone brutally murders Gulf Coast Paper Company heiress Tammy Taylor who was undergoing an exorcism conducted by the retreat’s Father Thomas Scott. Increasingly Father Thomas looks guilty of the savage murder in which he insists demons inside the victim killed her. Sister Abigail, believing he is innocent, asks John to investigate. John assumes earthly matters involving the Gulf Coast Paper Company’s selling its property to developers is more likely the motive rather than demonic possession.

The latest John Jordon whodunit is a great investigative tale with several viable suspects including Father Thomas and Chief Taylor among others. The storyline focuses on the conflict between hard core religious beliefs in demonic possession and hard core economic credo in developing one of the last pristine natural Florida areas. Readers will appreciate Chaplin Jordan’s inquiry as the hero wonders whether Tammy is a Blood Sacrifice to the Christian God or capitalist god.

Harriet Klausner