Sunday, November 30, 2014

The King: The Original Sinners The White Years-Tiffany Reisz

The King: The Original Sinners The White Years
Tiffany Reisz
Harlequin MIRA, Nov 25 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778315834

In New York, Kingsley Edge reflects back on his life in which he knows he has been successful in every endeavor he undertook except one.  That lone failure has left him despondent and always wondering what he could have done different to keep the love of his life Søren with him. 

He travels to England where he surprises Zach and Grace Easton with a visit.  They introduce him to their child Fionn who Grace had with King’s beloved.  King tells Grace how he and Søren forged their relationship at school, his time in the Foreign Legion but mostly about the creation of the Eighth Circle thanks to Father Søren’s support while facing Reverend Fuller, a fire and brimstone preacher, and his equally caustic flock.

The second Original Sinners The White Years (see The Saint) tells the enthralling back story of how King built his BDSM kingdom.  Well-written, series fans will enjoy the early relationship between Søren and King, and the later one that led to the Eighth Circle.  Additionally, we also learn about the past of several Red Years (see The Mistress, The Angel, The Prince and The Siren) support players.  Although Fuller is too stereotyped, this is a delightful erotica.

Harriet Klausner

Lovely Wild-Megan Hart

Lovely Wild
Megan Hart
Harlequin MIRA, Nov 25 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9780778316756

Mari barely survived her harrowing Pennsylvania childhood but the conditions she grew up in still haunt her in her marriage to Ryan and her parenting of their two children, (eight year old Ethan and fifteen year old Kendra); as she believes her only role in life is to help her family. For instance, traumatized Mari obsesses about insuring the refrigerator is fully stocked and makes home-made meals for them, while also hording food in concealed locations throughout the house. 

With the malpractice lawsuit brought against him by Annette Sommer’s husband ruining him and already on probation, Ryan worries about money and how to hide the truth from Mari.  Feeling ashamed, Ryan would do anything for his wife since he knows her first eight years of life were so below the poverty line that few could understand.  Financially desperate he insists the family go back to the home where Mari suffered as a little girl until his dad Leon rescued her; Kendra pities her mom who always acquiesces.  Entering for the first time in years the house of her horrors, Mari goes under the kitchen table where she hid many times as a little girl.  Now memories buried for years begin to surface.

Lovely Wild is an intriguing leisurely-paced character study based on the concept that “… in every adult there dwells the child that was …” (The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly).  The present crisis is handled well while primarily serving as the mechanism to what happened to Mari in grandma’s house.  Although the climax is too neat for the dark revelations of Mari’s early childhood, Megan Hart provides a strong thought-provoking drama

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wolf Haven-Lindsay McKenna

Wolf Haven
Lindsay McKenna
Harlequin HQN, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779031

Former Navy combat nurse 1st Lieutenant Skylar Pascal still suffers nightmares from when the Black Hawk she flew on an emergency flight crashed in Afghanistan and the Taliban captured her.  Once she was freed, she left the military, but the torture at the hands of the enemy traumatized her so she knows she cannot return to civilian duty as an ER nurse like she once planned.  Instead she accepts a position as a wildlife rescue assistant on the Elk Horn Ranch in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Her new boss veteran Grayson McCoy runs the wildlife rescue mission.  Like Sky, the former Navy SEAL struggles with PTSD from his war experience.  Recognizing the signs of a fellow tormented soul, Gray resolutely plans to help Sky heal though he has not moved on from his traumatization.  As they fall in love, both finds solace with one another; but an unknown adversary has a different concept re Sky’s health.

Character-driven, the sixth electrifying Wyoming romantic suspense (see The Loner and High Country Rebel) is the strongest yet of a very deep series. Lindsay McKenna provides readers with harrowing descriptions of the crippling impact of PTSD on a person and their loved ones.  This powerful drama enables the audience to witness extremely disturbing flashbacks, and crippling anxiety and panic attacks that leave a person unable to function and overwhelmed with dark exit strategy thoughts as the only escape from their mental hell.  Love and patience from caring people is not easy to provide but is a critical lifeline. 

Harriet Klausner

Broken Open-Lauren Dane

Broken Open
Lauren Dane
Harlequin HQN, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779352

Widow Tuesday Eastwood emotionally struggled for five years with her paralyzing grief after her husband died, but found her footing when she settled in Hood River, Oregon where her BFF Natalie the librarian lives.  Residing nearby at the Sweet Hollow Ranch, rock star Ezra Hurley became a heroin addict but now is clean and vows to stay that way though he tests his resolve with his first Sweet Hollow Band tour since before rehab. 

Tuesday and Ezra met through her BFF Natalie the librarian and his brother Paddy also a rocker-rancher being an entry (see The Best Kind of Trouble).  Attracted to each other each fears a commitment for different reasons, but simply cannot pretend their growing desire does not exist.

The second Hurley Boys Beaver State romance is an enjoyable second chance at life starring two scarred protagonists who must overcome their emotional issues if they are to forge a permanent relationship built on love.  Both leads are three-dimensional although the depth of their respective emotional tsuris each confronts is a two-edged sword with astonishing layers that makes them feel incredibly real but also slows down the storyline.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Secrets of a Thousand Beauties-Mingmei Yip

Secrets of a Thousand Beauties
Mingmei Yip
Kensington, Nov 25 2014, $15.00
ISBN: 9781617733215

Years before she or her fiancé were conceived, Spring Swallow was engaged to the son of her mom’s BFF if one had a boy and the other a girl.  As she turns seventeen, her mother and her future mother-in-law enforce the zhifu weihun ancient marital tradition though Spring Shallow finds that ghastly as her soon to be husband died before he was born. 

On the day she is to “exchange” vows with her “ghost”, a horrified Spring Swallow runs away.  Martinet Aunty Peony finds her and employs her along aside other females with depressing backgrounds at her Su-style embroidery shop.  Spring Swallow struggles to adjust to the strict rules enforced even much more than usual to insure they complete a Peking order in six months.  When she can she mountain climbs where she falls in love with Shen Feng; and learns what she can about her “mentor” including Aunty was a royal embroiderer before the Revolution two decades earlier.  When she loses her position, Spring Swallow obtains work at an embroidery store and soon marries the owner’s son.  When she suffers a miscarriage losing Shen’s baby, her irate husband’s family tosses Spring Swallow out.  Missionaries give her a home and a priest his love.

Though there are too much happening to the heroine especially several fortunate and tragic events in a short period, this is an entertaining 1930s Chinese drama due to an energetic heroine who “The record shows (she) took the blows and did it (her) way” (My Way by Frank Sinatra).  Filled with captivating insight like the zhifu weihun ghost marriage, Mingmei Yip authors another delightful historical (see The Nine Fold Heaven and Peach Blossom Pavilion).

Harriet Klausner

The Accidental Countess-Valerie Bowman

The Accidental Countess
Valerie Bowman
St. Martin’s, Oct 28 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9781250042088

Captain Julian Swift and Cassandra Monroe have exchanged notes as he served in the combat zone while she remained at the home-front.  They begin to fall in love, but with the Napoleonic War seemingly over, Julian returns to England engaged to Cass’s cousin Penelope, who does not want to marry the second son soldier.

To delay meeting her fiancé, Penelope pretends to be attending a house party hosted by Countess Patience Bunbury.  Aware that her relative made up Patience, Cass masquerades as the hostess so that she can spend quality time with her beloved.  Julian arrives at the gala to inform Penelope he adores someone else, but when he meets “Patience”, he feels fickle to fall in love again.

The second pleasant Playful Brides Regency (see The Unexpected Duchess) is a lighthearted zany romance as the relationships between the fascinating lead “quartet” make for a wild frolic.  The subgenre audience will relish the enchanting machinations of the not-so Accidental Countess and her real persona competing for the love of Julian while her cousin sets the stage.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 24, 2014

Abracadaver-Laura Resnick

Laura Resnick
DAW, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756409784

In Manhattan, film director Ted Yee shut down his project after his mother’s antics and much worse his sister used cursed fortune cookies attempting to murder those involved in the movie (see The Misfortunate Cookie).  Two backers including Chinatown mobster Capuzzo died while a family friend John Chen, whose family owns a Chinese-Italian mortuary, fortunately survived; the Yee & Sons Trading Company store did not as it was destroyed by a fire.  Actress Esther Diamond is out of work with the filming ended and her sometimes boyfriend NYPD Detective Connor Lopez is fuming for her breaking into his department car to destroy a fortune cookie.

However, the popular TV crime show The Dirty Thirty hires Esther to return as prostitute Jilly C-Note; which is another reason for Connor to rage at her as the drama depicts police corruption and worse.  Strike three with Connor occurs when Esther persuades her superego star to ride with Lopez and his partner Quinn. 

Esther is stunned when her three century and a half old sorcerer friend Max Zadok’s dog Nelli growls at Quinn.  John informs Esther, Max and their associate semi-retired Gambello family hit man Lucky Battistuzzi that soon after a visit by Quinn, Capuzzo left his coffin and walked a few feet before collapsing.  Esther and associates seek evidence that Quinn is a mystically dirty cop.

The seventh Esther Diamond lighthearted (except for the Yee family) urban fantasy (see Vamparazzi and Doppelgangster) is an enjoyable paranormal investigation that leads to strike four with Lopez and strike out forever with his mom.  Though it behooves the audience to read the previous entry The Misfortunate Cookie; it is unnecessary as Laura Resnick deftly weaves the key points into this entertaining tale. 

Harriet Klausner

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels-Sarah MacLean

Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover: The Fourth Rule of Scoundrels
Sarah MacLean
Avon, Nov 25 2014, $7.99
ISBN: 9780062068514

In 1823 Essex, teenage daughter and sister to dukes, Lady Georgiana Pearson, knows she loves Jonathan.  Expecting to elope with him, they have sex before he deserts her.  Over the next decade she survived the scandal by turning into mysterious Chase the gentleman owner of London’s most popular gambling club The Fallen Angel and sexy madam Anna.  However, Georgiana believes her semi-exile from the Ton must end so that her nine years old daughter Caroline can join Polite Society; to do so she needs a titled husband. 

At a ball Georgiana and newspaper publisher Duncan West meet after he observes her lose control when one of the guests calls her and her daughter trollops; ironically unknown by him he has conducted business with her via missives with Chase and Anna.  Attracted to each other; a feeling neither desires nor plan to act on; he vows to help her find an aristocratic spouse while with Chase’s assistance identify a traitor.  As they fall in love, both fear their darkest secrets will become known.

The Fourth Rules of Scoundrels is an awesome nineteenth century romance.  Smartly done very early in the storyline, the audience will marvel over the shocking revelation of Chase being someone who would not have been listed in the London books, yet seems apropos.  Aptly titled, Never Judge A Lady By Her Cover is a fantastic finish to a stupendous series (see No Good Duke Goes Unpunished, One Good Earl Deserves a Lover and A Rogue By Any Other Name).

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Memories Of Flames-Armand Cabasson

Memories Of Flames
Armand Cabasson, Isabel Reid (translator)
ISBN: 9781906040840

In March 1814, less than seventy thousand French troops anxiously wait for the much larger allied armies coming from the east to invade Paris; while the English already have taken Bordeaux and Italy appears ready to fall.  The Emperor’s brother Joseph Bonaparte fears Paris will burn, but adding to his gloomy outlook is the assassination in his home of key military genius, sexagenarian Colonel Berle with burn marks on the corpse.  Aware of Lieutenant Colonel Quentin Margont’s deft handling of a sensitive matter for the Emperor's stepson Prince Eugène de Beauharnais (see The Officer's Prey), Joseph and “The Limping Devil” Talleyrand order him to investigate discreetly Berle’s murder.

Based on paid information provided by Swords of the King member Charles de Varencourt to Joseph, the Emperor’s brother insists Margont join these fiercely dedicated Royalists masquerading as Chevalier Quentin de Langè.  Though Margont expects to die, he is offered no choice besides going undercover inside a fanatical group who vehemently believe the end justifies the means even if thousands of innocent French must die.  As Margont struggles to be accepted by the suspicious Royalists in spite of de Varencourt’s sponsorship, a second homicide similar to that of Berle occurs.

The third Napoleonic Murders (see Wolf Hunt) is a great historical mystery due mostly to the profound look at the mental state of the French troops knowing what most likely will happen to them and the Royalists rationalizing they save France from worse destruction.  Conflicted Margont is fantastic as he fears capture yet needs justice. 

Harriet Klausner

Eagle’s Last Stand-Aimée Thurlo

Eagle’s Last Stand
Aimée Thurlo
Harlequin Intrigue, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698059

At the Brickhouse Tavern, his five Navaho foster brothers and their families welcome home former undercover FBI agent Rick Cloud.  Working part-time as the event’s coordinator at her uncle Frank’s tavern while going to school, Kim Nelson also greets Rick.  Attracted to each other, he especially appreciates she ignores his scar to look into his eyes as they chat.  When suddenly the party smells a gas leak, they try to leave; but find the door jammed.  Noticing a cut gas line in the kitchen, Rick lifts the unconscious half-owner Frank and with everyone else escapes the trap just before the tavern explodes. 

One of the brothers, Hartley, New Mexico Detective Preston Bowman leads the inquiry.  Thinking he was the target though not by the cartel he infiltrated, Rick wonders if the disappearance of their mentor Hosteen Silver the medicine man is the link to the deliberate attempt to kill him by someone who could not care less about murdering numerous innocents.  As Kim leads Rick to a message left for him on a Copper Canyon wall by Hosteen, he will do anything to keep safe the woman he loves safe from a predator wanting him eliminated before he reads the note.

The sixth Copper Canyon romantic suspense is an excellent final novel in a quality series that showcases the talent of Aimée Thurlo, who passed away in February.  Paying homage to the late author, fans will appreciate this exciting thriller that ties up the major threads of the previous tales (see Undercover Warrior, Power of the Raven, Winter Hawk’s Legend, Falcon’s Run and Secrets of the Lynx).

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 22, 2014

A Last Chance Christmas-Vicki Lewis Thompson

A Last Chance Christmas
Vicki Lewis Thompson
Harlequin Blaze, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798278

Ben Radcliffe drives the icy roads from Sheridan to Jackson Hole to deliver a custom made saddle that Jack Chance commissioned as a family birthday present to his mom Sarah on her seventieth birthday.  At the Last Chance Ranch, Jack loves Ben’s artistry, which relieves the tense artisan as this is his biggest commission.

Also staying at the spread, Chance relative Molly Gallagher the genealogist works on a family tree.  When she and Ben meet, each feels a powerful uncomfortable attraction.  As they fall in love, the reclusive Ben revises his opinion about family being undesirable hemorrhoid creators since the loving rowdy Chance clan embraced him as one of them and Molly wants him.

The fourteenth Sons of Chance (see Riding Home, Riding Hard and Riding High) Wyoming ranch romance is a pleasing tale as two professionals with polar opposite views of family fall in love.  Although understandable as apparently this is the last entry, the Chance horde at times overwhelms the romantic storyline.  Still Vicki Lewis Thompson provides her appreciative audience with a nice Christmas present.

Harriet Klausner

Deliverance At Cardwell Ranch-B. J. Daniels

Deliverance At Cardwell Ranch
B. J. Daniels
Harlequin Intrigue, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698004

Freezing his butt in Montana, Texas Deputy Sheriff Austin Cardwell hates he promised his siblings and his cousin Dana Cardwell Savage (see Crime Scene at Cardwell Ranch) he would spend Christmas with them to celebrate the grand opening of their Texas Boys Barbecue.  Used to Houston traffic and no snow, he drives to his destination while a blizzard makes the roads hazardous.  When he comes across an overturned car, Austin stops to help anyone stranded; only a crazed woman assaults him with a tire iron.  Stopping the attack, Austin asks her name and noticing a child’s car seat in her car asks where her baby is.  She cannot recall her name; insists she has no infant; and that is not her car.  Her watch says Gilliam, but her driver’s license lists her as Rebecca Stewart, but she insists she is not Rebecca. 

Highway patrol arrives and takes her to a hospital in Bozeman.  Her husband Marc Stewart arrives to take his wife home; Austin observes how terrorized she is of him.  Though having doubts and challenging Marc’s claim, Austin leaves for the Cardwell Ranch feeling foolish for getting involved in a domestic dispute; yet the inconsistences haunt him.  As a family favor, Dana’s law enforcement husband Hud chats with Marc who shows him a picture of him with his wife holding their baby and her sister Gillian Cooper.  Still unable to let go of the woman’s terrorized expression, Austin investigates.

The third Texas Cardwell Cousins romantic suspense (see Wedding At Cardwell Ranch and Rescue At Cardwell Ranch) is an action-packed taut thriller with a solid lead triangle.  Series fans will appreciate Big Sky Country takes Austin.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 21, 2014

Wild Holiday Nights-Samantha Hunter, Meg Maguire and Debbi Rawlins

Wild Holiday Nights
Samantha Hunter, Meg Maguire and Debbi Rawlins
Harlequin Blaze, Nov 18 2014, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798292

“Holiday Rush” by Samantha Hunter.  In New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, performance baker creative genius Calla Michaels is tired of the days leading to Christmas as she fills orders.  Related to cops and a firefighter back in Texas; Calla reacts smartly when a robber enters her establishment.  Her brother Nathan’s friend police officer Gideon Stone arrives to keep her safe even as he struggles to control his desire.

“Playing Games” by Meg Maguire.  Due to the weather, Carrie Baxter’s flight from Sacramento to Portland on Christmas Eve is cancelled.  Unable to get a rental, Daniel Barber offers to share his vehicle with her since they both need to be in Grafton, Oregon by morning.  She cringes with the thought of hours in a contained isolated car with the man she secretly craves.

“All Night Long” by Debbi Rawlins.  Paralegal Carly Watts is a grouch because her first vacation in three years is on hold as she works the Emerson case documents in Manhattan instead of being home for Christmas in Pittsburgh.  Equity partner Ryan Dunn gives her a chance to make it home when he sends her to Chicago to obtain Jack Carrington's signature authorizing the sale of his grandfather's company.  As he wants more time to consider what he wants to do with the family firm, Carly wants more time to get to know Jack.

These are three cheerful Christmas contemporaries starring likeable leads.

Harriet Klausner

A Certain Retribution: A Merrick McKnight Novel-Michael Lister

A Certain Retribution: A Merrick McKnight Novel
Michael Lister
Pulpwood, Nov 28 2014, $16.99
ISBN 9781888146455

Merrick McKnight lost his journalist position at a Florida Panhandle newspaper due to downsizing, and his wife and child due to a car accident.  Living in Wewathitchka, Florida he runs into Reggie Summers at the Tiki Grill; she attended Wewa High School like he did.  Though attracted to each other, Reggie doubts a reporter like Merrick would want a too big country-fried trashy single mom raising a teenage football player.  At Tucks, Merrick and Reggie intervene when Deputy Donnie Ray threatens Dahl Rogers.  As Rogers flees the scene, Reggie tasers nasty Donnie Ray.

Not long afterward Gulf County Sheriff Robin Wilson asks Merrick questions re Dahl, who was killed soon after his last call to Merrick though the reporter failed to answer his phone.  Insisting his innocence though the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates him and his department for alleged wrongdoings, Wilson wants Merrick to cover the inquiry offering full access.  At the same time, using the nuts test Reggie checks on whether Donnie Ray killed his former sheriff department’s peer.  Soon someone kills more cops.

As Prison Chaplain John Jordan (see Blood Sacrifice) and WWII detective Jimmy "Soldier" Riley Series (see The Big Hello) take respites, the second McKnight Panhandle mystery (see Thunder Beach) is a twisting dark investigative thriller.  Adding fun to the mix is Michael Lister entering the Corner Café.  Although the sex distracts from the grim inquiries, the gender role switching enhances an overall exhilarating regional whodunit. 

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

A Last Goodbye-J.A. Jance

A Last Goodbye
J.A. Jance
Pocket Star eBooks, Nov 24 2014, $1.99
ISBN: 9781501103698

Lovers Ali Reynolds and B. Simpson plan quietly to marry on Christmas Eve in Las Vegas.  However, when friends crash their nuptials, Ali tries to throw together a last second much more complex reception than what she and B decided to have.

Ali’s grandson rescues a miniature dachshund.  Believing someone who loves the canine must be despondent, Ali searches for the owner.  She soon identifies Bella’s owner, elderly Harriet, but cannot locate her.  As Ali and B search for Harriet, they learn she was rushed to a hospital six months ago with aphasia while her son coldly shut down her apartment; Ali fears much worse happened.

The tenth Ali Reynolds investigation (see Moving Target and Deadly Stakes) is a sad Christmas e-novella in spite of the wedding finally occurring.  The inquiry is very minor compared to previous whodunits yet readers will feel deep empathy for Harriet and Bella.

Harriet Klausner

The Cinderella Murder-Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

The Cinderella Murder
Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke
Simon & Schuster, Nov 18 2014, $26.99
ISBN: 9781476763125

Two decades ago, UCLA student Susan Dempsey skipped her father’s sixtieth birthday bash to audition for a role in director Frank Parker’s production.  She was found strangled to death near the director’s home.  Because a shoe had fallen off the victim, the media dubbed this The Cinderella Murder.

In the present, Under Suspicion TV producer Laurie Moran wants to do a recreation show on the cold case.  Susan’s still grieving mom Rosemary agrees as she sees this as an opportunity for her daughter Susan to become known as a victimized person rather than a fairy tale in which everyone has ignored that the ogre won.  No one else from Susan’s inner circle including her then boyfriend actor Keith Ratner, her college roommates (Madison Meyer and Nicole Melling) or her close friend Dwight Cook want to participate; though their motive for avoidance may have to do with their present elite stature rather than guilt.  In spite of a persistent refusal to help from those who knew Susan; Laurie and show attorney Alex Buckley continue their inquiries.

The latest (and first collaboration with Alafair Burke) Under Suspicion (see I’ve Got You Under My Skin) is a thrilling cold case whodunit as the TV protagonists investigate what happened twenty years ago, but with practically no cooperation from the victim’s friends.  As readers will try to guess whose lead character seemingly represents which of the two authors, The Cinderella Murders is a super mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 17, 2014

Herald Of The Flame-Sylvia Engdahl

Herald Of The Flame
Sylvia Engdahl
Ad Stellae Books, Oct 2 2014, $16.50
ISBN: 9780692293768

He was Terry Radner from top secret Maclairn where, unlike the rest of humanity on other planets, mental powers are encouraged; on Ciencia he became a freedom fighter, prisoner, and escapee Terry Rivera, but crashed his ship to protect his homeland from terrorists.  Elders saved his life; gave him a new identity as Terry Steward; provided him with a starship he calls Estel to recognize what he fostered on Ciencia; and a mission to help spread support for mind skills in order to save mankind.  He knows he can never go home and misses his wife and the tweener son he never met, but embraces his role. 

Captain Steward returns to Ciencia to ask his beloved Allison Willard and pilot Jon Darrow to join him.  Gwen the engineer also becomes part of the crew.  As the quartet begin their impossible Quixote quest, Steward makes a dangerous announcement to the people of Ciencia; while, assaults on those with mental abilities everywhere intensifies.  The Captain of the Estel becomes public enemy number one hunted by hired guns by those in charge who reject these skills as an abomination, but conceal from the manipulated masses their fear of losing power.

The second Hidden Flame science fiction is a terrific timely futuristic thriller as deniers in charge persecute those with abilities they fear leading to equality and subsequent loss of power.  The pace starts more leisurely than the first entry (see Stewards of the Flame) and the previous series Rising Flame (see Promise of the Flame and Defender of the Flame), but once in space readers will want to fly with stalked Captain “Terry and (his) Pirates” (cartoonist Milton Caniff).

Harriet Klausner

One to Go-Mike Pace

One to Go
Mike Pace
Oceanview, Dec 2 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781608091355

DC lawyer Tom Booker drives on the Arlington Memorial Bridge while also texting.  Not focused on the road, Tom crashes into a minivan driven by his sister-in-law Rosie Battaglia and his seven-year-old daughter Janie and her friends inside.  To his helpless horror, Tom observes Rosie’s vehicle on the verge of falling into the Potomac below.

A couple approaches Tom with a deal to save his child.  They will turn back the clock to before his neglect occurred but he must murder someone every two weeks to pay the “soul exchange” debt for each one saved in the minivan.  The desperate father accepts their terms; but when he finds himself driving on the Arlington Memorial Bridge with no accident, Tom assumes he suffered a strange nightmarish fugue moment.  His reality alters when two weeks later a text arrives informing him that Rosie has been viciously killed and one of the kids will follow if he fails to live up to the terms of the contract.

One To Go is an absorbing Faustian thriller as the father finds himself in a moral quandary between saving his daughter at the cost of killing innocents.  Although the climax disappointingly impacts Tom’s responsibility and accountability, Mike Pace authors an interesting ethical question of how far will a papa (or mama) grizzly go to save a beloved cub.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 16, 2014

A Billion Ways To Die-Chris Knopf

A Billion Ways To Die
Chris Knopf
Permanent, Nov 21 2014, $29.00
ISBN 9781579623630

Not fully recovered from his head injury suffered when his late wife’s enemies killed her and left him for dead in their Connecticut home (see Dead Anyway), Arthur Cathcart feels safe in his new identity especially after they took care of their foes (see Cries of the Lost).  Arthur and his girlfriend psychologist Natsumi Fitzgerald enjoy sailing his ship Detour on the Caribbean.  However, his contention that it is over proves false when hired guns invade his sailboat, demanding he turn over the missing billion.  He insists he knows nothing about the lost loot.

Warned to find it or else, Arthur and Natsumi conclude they must go home to face criminal charges involving stealing money and murder.  Though the FBI and mobsters make the pair toxic with their wanted dead or alive pursuit, Arthur’s sister Evelyn who faked his death (see Dead Anyway) and ex-Fed Shelly Gross assist the beleaguered couple; while Cathcart shows once again his uncanny adaptability skill under pressure.

The third Cathcart amateur sleuth is an action-packed cat and mouse thriller in which who readers believe are the felines and rodents change during the storyline.  Fans will root for agile Arthur and nimble Natsumi; as the awesome lovers take the fight in person and on line to the enemy.

Harriet Klausner

Purged-M. E. May

M. E. May
M&B Literary Creations, Nov 20 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781500411121

In Indianapolis, Doug watches and waits in horror as a local Wiccan coven praises the Goddess on Sabbath Samhain.  When they leave, he abducts the last Wiccan to depart while thanking the heavens for his opportunity to save the soul of this devil worshipper.  Doug explains to his frightened victim Sasha that he is an angel who must do the Lord’s work using any means to cleanse the evil out of her.  When he completes God’s work, he etches “Forgiven” in olde English on her corpse.

Zach and April find the location where the “witches” recently performed their rite.  April trips over Sasha’s body before Zach, thinking human sacrifice, calls 911.  Police Detectives Chennelle Kendall and Erica Barnes lead the investigation into the homicide of the tortured Wiccan.  They find numerous suspects, but most people of interest belong to the deeply pious Avenging Angels Evangelical Church flock whose goal is ending the devil worshipping Wiccan coven.  More torture murders follow from an avenging angel claiming his divine mission from God is saving souls.

The fourth Circle City police procedural starring different lead cops (see Ensconced, Inconspicuous and Perfidy) is a gripping murder mystery even with readers knowing the identity of the deranged serial killer from the start.  The keys to the engaging investigation are the beliefs backed up by strong convictions of the Wiccan coven and Avenging Angels Evangelical Church congregation seem real; as does the psychopath’s contention that he is God’s messenger purging evil from sinners.  

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 15, 2014

The Wrong Man-Laura Wilson

The Wrong Man
Laura Wilson
Felony & Mayhem, Dec 7 2014, $14.95
ISBN: 9781937384838

In 1950, Merthyr Tydfil, Wales police send a telegram to Metropolitan Police that John Davies confessed to killing his wife Muriel after she miscarried and giving away his infant daughter Judy to Norman Backhouse in London.  Although he wants nothing to do with this case that echoes the murder of his wife Jenny and their unborn child several years ago, London Detective Inspector Ted Stratton and Sergeant Ballard head to the address provided by Davies.  The two cops search the drain in front of 10 Paradise Street where Davies said he disposed of her body but find nothing as it takes a team of four strong cops to remove the lid.  Supported by his spouse Edna, Norman tells them that John said his wife and baby were in Bristol and that the couple fought so much they wondered if he was a bit mental and dim-witted.

Davies changes his confession to claiming Backhouse killed his wife during a failed backroom abortion.  Taken to London, when the bodies of his wife and daughter are found, Davies admits to murdering both.  However, instead of case solved, Stratton senses something is not right with this air-tight capital case in which his guts scream The Wrong Man heads to the gallows.

Based on a true murder, the third Ted Stratton police procedural and first post WWII novel (see The Empty Death and The Innocent Spy) is a terrific historical psychological crime drama.  The clever opening telegram as a prime communication between police in Wales and London sets the time as does the way evidence is found and handled.  Although an unnecessary romance with Diana Calthrop feels forced, Laura Wilson provides a fabulous Cold War mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Brothers’ Keepers-NLB Horton

The Brothers’ Keepers
NLB Horton
RidgeRoute Press, Nov 17 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9780991401734

At four in the morning from Switzerland, upset BBC war correspondent Jeff Madison calls his archeologist mom Grace who is in Brussels.  He tells her someone fired a shot that just missed his wife Becca, a former M16 operative, and that he cannot locate his sister Maggie who is in Paris before heading to Marseilles to attend a water conference.  When Grace fails to make contact with her daughter, she calls her husband Mark who is in Colorado. 

Though the attack on Becca and the vanishing of Maggie probably are unrelated harrowing incidents; Mark, Grace, Jeff and Becca rendezvous in Paris; as none of them want to take a chance otherwise.  Also meeting them in France is Grace’s former teaching assistant and current acting director of the Kinneret dig in Israel, Cliff, who wants to marry Maggie.  As they search for missing Maggie, each Madison turns to God praying for her safe return, but hesitant to rely solely on the Lord.

The second Parched inspirational family drama (See When Camels Fly) is a rousing thriller in which the females are very competent in their abilities to take charge and the smart males let them.  With a fully-developed lead family and a solid support cast, sub-genre fans will appreciate the Madison inspiring tour of Europe and to a lesser amount the Holy Land.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Black Stiletto: Endings & Beginnings-Raymond Benson

The Black Stiletto: Endings & Beginnings
Raymond Benson
Oceanview, Nov 4 2014, $26.95
ISBN 9781608091034

Martin Talbot tells his daughter Gina about the daring five years of escapades of her maternal grandmother Judy Cooper starting in 1958.  Like him, Gina is excited over her grandma leaving Texas for NYC where she became the Black Stiletto masked vigilante.  After reading the first three diaries, Gina starts the fourth (see The Black Stiletto: Secrets & Lies) in which Judy left for Los Angeles with the love of her life Leo Kelly.  Martin begins the fifth and what appears to be the last diary.  The pair will do what it takes to keep their one time superhero relative safe from those with a five decade plus grudge.

In 1962 pregnant Judy cannot believe her former lover Leo the mobster and his psycho sister Christina framed the Black Stiletto for crimes they committed.  Limited physically as she carries her baby, Judy shrewdly tries to fight back using brains not brawn; but is forced to leave Southern California for Texas to make her last stand.

The Fifth Black Stiletto Diary is a great ending to a tremendous series as all the major threads are deftly and logically completed.  Once again, Raymond Benson makes it seem as if Judy wrote her latest diary over fifty years ago.  Rotating subplots (and points of view), the gripping storyline provides readers with wonderful Endings & Beginnings.

Harriet Klausner

Proof of Angels-Mary Curran Hackett

Proof of Angels
Mary Curran Hackett
William Morrow, Nov 4 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062279958

In Los Angeles, firefighter Sean Magee is trapped with no way out of a three-story blaze.  He hears his nephew Colm’s voice encouraging him to go back because there is always a way.  Praying to God for the first time in years, Sean promises to return as a better person if saved.  An angel escorts him to a third story window.  Reluctantly he performs a leap of faith.  Surviving but with his back and legs busted up, Sean awakens weeks later in a hospital.  As he slowly recovers, Sean knows he will never work a fire again.

From his L.A. hospital bed, he calls New York to talk to his friend Dr. Gaspar Basu who married Sean’s sister Cathleen when they teamed up to save Colm, and have had two babies with a third on the way since.  Gaspar rushes to Los Angeles where Sean shows him his list of those he hurt to include God, mom, Cathleen and Gaspar crossed out, and Colm and Chiara with no line through them.  Sean plans to fulfill his pledge to God by fixing what he broke and left broken.  Physical therapist Tom Smith helps Sean recover so that the patient can go to Florence, Italy to atone for what he did to Chiara Montanari.

This is an entertaining inspirational drama starring a broken man physically and spiritually who struggles to regain his faith, his family and his forever love although he does not believe he deserves God, Cathleen (and Colm) or Chiara’s forgiveness.  Even though the storyline turns too mushy, fans will feel inspired by Mary Curran Hackett’s pleasant Proof of Angels (and … Heaven) redemption tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Coming Home-Jack McDevitt

Coming Home
Jack McDevitt
Ace, Nov 4 2014, $25.95
ISBN: 9780425260876

In 11,256 C.E., most people are thrilled when a nine millennium old beginning of the space age relic is found; as much of them went missing when places like the Florida Peninsular fell beneath the sea.  When charismatic dawn of the space age archeologist (sans degree) Garnett Baylee recently died, he left behind an incomplete enigma in his home tied to the twentieth century mythological Apollo baby steps.

Pilot Chase Kolpath flies antiquities dealer Alex Benedict to Earth to investigate Baylee’s last find, but make no progress on locating the rest of Apollo.  Unable to be in two places at the same time, Alex places their search on temporary hold though the antiquarian fears the delay will prove costly and realizes his beloved father-figure Uncle Gabe Benedict will lecture him for risking an opportunity.  Instead the pair leaves to meet the interstellar vessel Capella, which disappeared eleven years ago with over two thousand passengers and crew on board including Alex’s Uncle Gabe.  Aware of three other lost ships recovered near Sanusar, but also knowing they have a short time before the Capella vanishes again; the Sanusar Recovery Force, Alex and Chase attempt to save those on-board. 

The seventh Benedict-Kolpath science fiction mystery is a fabulous far futuristic thriller though the adventures seem somewhat muted compared with the lead duo’s previous escapades (see Firebird and The Devil's Eye).  The two subplots engage readers in different ways.  The Floridian space age artifacts and whole state being under the ocean serve as a climate warning through an historiographical archeological looking back over nine millennia (mindful of the movie The Virgin President - Fillard Millmore); while the Capella return is a thrilling space time-warp rescue mission. 

Harriet Klausner

Petite Mort-Beatrice Hitchman

Petite Mort
Beatrice Hitchman
Serpent’s Tail, Nov 4 2014, $14.95
ISBN 9781846689079

In 1967, Le Monde reporter Juliette Blanc researches the 1913-14 filming of Petite Mort at Pathe studios in Paris.  Before even the director could see the movie in its entirety, the studio burned to the ground with everything including the silent film destroyed.  However, a housewife in Vincennes cleaning out her basement recently found a copy of Petit Mort but someone mysteriously deleted a critical sequence from the middle. 

Juliette interviews the silent movie’s star Adele Roux; who, in that same fatal year after the film was completed but never released before being lost to the inferno; was embroiled in a notorious homicide trial.  Adele explains special effects creative genius André Durand hired her as a seamstress; but also tells the journalist about her affairs as a naive teenager with him and his beautiful but volatile wife Terpsichore the actress.  

Petit Mort is a fascinating metafictional drama that uses a 1967 find of a lost movie to tell the story of what happened in 1913-14 and the backstory of the triangle (similar technique to that used by Raymond Benson in The Black Stiletto thrillers).  Although there are too many subplots and at times an overwhelming Cecil B. DeMille-size cast especially in the past, readers will enjoy this interesting look at the birth of the French film industry.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

King Of Assassins-Jenna Rhodes

King Of Assassins
Jenna Rhodes
DAW, Nov 4 2014, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756408848

The Gods were disgusted at the damage that the Mage Wars did so they took the magic away from them and turned their backs on the people of Kerith. The Vaelinar Elfin like beings of magic were thrown into Kerith and over the centuries this long life spanned species entrenched their way into the infrastructure of this world.  Warrior Queen Lariel rules the land, but trusts no one, not even pregnant Nutmeg who carries her baby.

When invincible Kobrer assassins attack Nutmeg and Rivergrace the goddess-touched Vaelinar, the latter’s hybrid lover Sevryn fights to protect the two females with help from injured former warrior turned trader Bregan.  In the heat of the battle, Bregan flees, but instead of killing Sevryn the Kobrer abruptly cease fighting; they tell him their client broke the contract and he should seek the King’s Assassin.  Discussing what happened with Rivergrace, Sevryn considers whether this affront came from outlawed weapons maker Quendius as a first assault by his brutal army or the Queen’s traitorous rival ild Fallen the Vaelinar.  Changing their assumption from Nutmeg as the target to Sevryn leads to a shocking conclusion that forces him and Rivergrace to flee.

After a six year wait for The Elven Ways Book Three (see The Four Forges and The Dark Ferryman), series fans will relish this exciting entry filled with backstabbing (literally) political intrigue, a heroic lead pair on the run and enemies with agendas to gain or retain power.  Loaded with action from the onset, King Of Assassins is a mesmerizing epic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Jala’s Mask-Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti

Jala’s Mask
Mike Grinti and Rachel Grinti
Pyr, Nov 4 2014, $18.00
ISBN 9781616149789

On the Five-and-One Islands, raised by her Bardo tribe family’s thirst for power, Jala expects to one day become a queen.  When Kayet King Azi selects her as his mate, Jala believes her destiny has been fulfilled, but to her surprise her ambitious kin objects to their marriage.  Seeing an opportunity to replace his nephew as the ruler, Azi’s Uncle Lord Inas encourages dissent.

The islander in-fighting ends with the arrival of a magically powered armada from the mainland; filled with the sorcery-driven insane seeking revenge against the Bardo tribe for their magical marauding.  Meanwhile the Fire Mountain sorcerer warns Jala of dire consequences.  The new Queen concludes that the islanders must put aside their petty squabbles for power or face fate’s death.  However her husband, his uncle and her family fear leading the counterattack, which, encouraged by her BFF Marjani, leaves her to fill the void.

This tremendous gender-bending coming of age fantasy enthralls readers with Jala maturing rather quickly while Azi lags behind his spouse.  The sorcery elements like reef-built raiding ships and the invasion fleet are remarkably refreshing and enhance Team Grinti’s exhilarating saga.

Harriet Klausner

Behind Closed Doors... Anne Oliver

Behind Closed Doors...
Anne Oliver
Harlequin KISS, Nov 1 2014, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373179091

Six years ago, twentyish Jack Devlin left his abusive father Gerry and the teenager he loved Cleo Honeywell to become a renowned photographer.  He comes home for the first time since he fled to attend his father’s funeral, but arrives hours after the burial.  Cleo, who cherished Gerry after her dad abandoned her to run away with his wife, accuses Jack of not caring for anyone except his model of the moment.  He conceals that he no .longer does models but instead goes to hot spots and that he left a Rome hospital against the advice of his doctor to bury his estranged dad.

As Cleo inherits everything from Gerry, she hates still being in love with the second man to abandon her.  Jack knows he also still loves Cleo, but like he did when his drunken father’s fists reminded him she was too young for him, he plans to leave if he can just get Goldilocks to stop haunting his two heads.

This is a fun second chance starring two people with relationship phobia after what his mom and her dad did to their families.  Most intriguing is the 180 degree relativity belief re his dad; who Jack recalls as a violent drunk and Cleo remembers raised her after her father left.  Although the animosity before the coming together takes too long, Anne Oliver writes an appealing romance.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, November 10, 2014

Chorus Lines, Caviar, and Corpses (A Happy Hoofers Mystery)- Mary McHugh Kensington,

Chorus Lines, Caviar, and Corpses (A Happy Hoofers Mystery)
Mary McHugh
Kensington, Nov 4 2014, $24.00
ISBN: 9781617733598

In their fifties, believing they needed exercise and loving tap dancing; Perfect Bride magazine Travel Editor Tina Powell, community theater director Janice Rogers, therapist Pat Keeler, housewife Mary Louise Temple and documentarian Gini Miller formed the Happy Hoofers.  The YouTube video of the five fierce friends forever became popular and soon afterward they were hired to dance on a cruise ship sailing from Moscow to St. Petersburg.

The crew of misfits leaves a lot to be desired, but none worse than British chef Kenneth Allgood.  While the fearsome five hoof the Volga, his food is atrocious and he becomes angry when someone tells him so.  Allgood warns Gini to shut up or else and accosts Tina, but passenger Barry Sheldon intervenes.  Soon afterward, the police fish Allgood’s corpse out of the river though his death improved the meals considerably.  When a passenger vanishes, the Happy Hoofers agree they need to stay near each to insure sailing the Volga is not their final curtain call.

The Happy Hoofer’s opening act is a fine friendship drama starring five affable females; who have each other’s back when it matters.  The mystery acts more as a support plot to the appealing storyline’s focus on the boomer buddies cruising Russia.

Harriet Klausner

By Cook or By Crook-Maya Corrigan

By Cook or By Crook
Maya Corrigan
Kensington, Nov 4 2014, $7.99
ISBN 9781617731389

Cookbook publicist Val Deniston left New York for Bayport on Chesapeake Bay to reside with her grandfather following a car accident in which she suffers from amnesia as to what happened.  She manages the Cool Down Café and has begun authoring a cookbook instead of publicity on someone else’s writings.

When she gives Nadia a ride home from the exercise club, the passenger asks her to meet with her in a couple days to discuss a catering gig.  Upon reaching Nadia’s home, they find a wooden tennis racket on fire.  Two days later, Val arrives for the appointment only to find Nadia dead. The prime suspect is Val’s cousin Monique whose husband was cheating on her with the victim.  Knowing her BFF relative would not murder anyone; Val investigates bringing danger to her and her grandfather.

The first Five-Ingredient Mystery is a charming culinary cozy because of a caring heroine, warm family members and five as the magic number (ingredients in recipes and suspects in the investigation).  This is a pleasant amateur sleuth.

Harriet Klausner

Fired By Her Fling-Christy McKellen

Fired By Her Fling
Christy McKellen
Harlequin KISS, Nov 1 2014, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373179107

In London Flash FM radio DJ Tallulah Lazenby avoided the advances her arrogant philandering boss Jeremy “Jez” Whatley-Hume the station manager until in a weak moment she slept with him.  When Tallulah informed him there will be no encores; Jez punished her because no woman says no to him.  He removed her from the Breakfast Show and replaced her with Darla on the Drivetime Show.

Tallulah files a sexual harassment complaint with the Edinburgh station owner Tristan Bamfield.  He knows Jez as the son of a family friend whose father demands Tristan fire the DJ.  At the hotel bar, Tristan and Louise meet and have sex that rocks both their worlds.  However, after she leaves, he realizes Louise lied as she is Tallulah.  The next morning, they both lose their composure leading to Tristan firing Tallulah.  Next he meets with arrogant Jez and decides something is not right; while rejecting a lawsuit, Lula considers a job in Melbourne.  Tristan digs into the books and fires embezzling Jez, but also needs Tallulah to take over the Breakfast Show.  As she negotiates her new contract, they begin to fall in love; but neither handles commitment very well after the role models of their parents.

This is a lighthearted radio romance between an executive and his top DJ; who share in common love and relationship-phobia.  Fired by Her Fling is a pleasurable British contemporary.

Harriet Klausner