Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Art Of Losing Yourself - Katie Ganshert

The Art Of Losing Yourself
Katie Ganshert
WaterBrook Press, Apr 21 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781601425928

Family, friends and neighbors believe that Florida panhandle TV meteorologist Carmen and coach Ben have the perfect marriage.  However, both Harts know that their idyllic life is a façade.  Carman questions whether they should have married and now has doubts in spite of her mother Evelyn’s constant baptizing in Texas and the Sunshine State that God exists after several miscarriages.

With Evelyn on another bender and refusing to stay with her dad, Carman’s teenage half-sister Gracie moves into her Aunt Ingrid’s closed motel near Navarre Beach.  Learning of Gracie’s residence and knowing first-hand what life is like when their mom binges on alcohol, Carman takes her younger sibling into her Apalachicola home.  As Carman struggles with regaining what she and Ben lost, helping Gracie, coping with Ingrid’s dementia and recapturing her belief in God; Gracie battles her own demons.

Rotating perspective between the emotionally hurting half-sisters, The Art Of Losing Yourself is an astute engaging family drama; the siblings learn that mental healing starts with acceptance of one’s roots.  The support cast enhances the readers understanding of the lead sisters; who begin to comprehend that DNA does not make a family, but caring loving hearts and souls do.

Harriet Klausner

Death Wears A Beauty Mask And Other Stories - Mary Higgins Clark

Death Wears A Beauty Mask And Other Stories
Mary Higgins Clark
Simon & Schuster, Apr 28 2015, $26.00
ISBN: 9781501110993

“Death Wears a Beauty Mask.”  On their honeymoon, LA Deputy District Attorney Michael and college student Janice stop in New York to see her older sister Alexandra the supermodel, but she fails to meet them.

“Stowaway.”  Even with the deadly Commissioner of Police onboard, Carol the stewardess hides a young stowaway.

“When The Bough Breaks.”  Marian blames her son’s best friend Peter for his accidental death.

“Voices In The Coalbin.” Laurie suffers nightmares of musicians playing “Chinatown”.

“The Cape Cod Masquerade.”  After meeting Cynthia just released from prison, Alvirah and Willy believe she never murdered her stepfather.

“Definitely, A Crime of Passion.”  Once the Secretary of State, Tom is indicted of murdering his second wife; but the former President and First Lady reject he committed a homicide.

“The Man Next Door.”  He has a secret place for visitors to stay with him; his current guest being his next door neighbor.

“Haven’t We Met Before?”  Westchester County ADA Jack questions William re the attempted murder of Emily.

“The Funniest Thing Has Been Happening Lately.”  Fred waited years to kill four people he holds responsible for what happened to Jenny.

“The Tell-Tale Purr.”  Fred wants his inheritance now so plots to kill his octogenarian grandma by using her fear of cats while arranging a power failure to leave her trapped inside her elevator.

The title novella and the nine shorts are entertaining though not all are excitingly tense.  The best are the Alvirah and Willy entry, the Stephen King-like “Voices In The Coalbin”, the Twilight Zone-like “The Funniest Thing Has Been Happening Lately” and the classical Mary Higgins Clark suspense “Death Wears a Beauty Mask”. 

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Hottest Ticket In Town - Kimberly Van Meter

The Hottest Ticket In Town
Kimberly Van Meter
Harlequin Blaze, Apr 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798490

Exhausted from her brutal yet unfinished tour with Atlanta coming up next week and from her demanding manager Trent Blackstone, burned out country music star Laci McCall flees after her latest sold-out gig in Memphis for her childhood haven, the Bradford Ranch in Woodsville, Kentucky.  At the same time Elite Protection Service co-owner Kane Dalton tells his brother and partner Rian to handle the Senator’s gig as he heads to the Bradford Ranch.  He further explains that Warren, who is a like a grandfather to the Dalton gang, asked him to watch the spread while the elderly man takes his wife Cora for medical treatment out of state.

Laci finds her first love Kane sleeping in her bed.  Stunned to see the female he never forgot, Kane knows leaving her again will destroy him; as he barely survived walking away from her when they were teens.  As they both recognize that they remain in love with one another, neither wants to consider the future.

The latest Wrong Bed romance (see Good With His hands by Tanya Michaels) is a heated second chance contemporary.  Trent is over the top of Black Mountain as he destroys the Golden Goose with an outrageous schedule; and Kane’s response to change the upcoming dates too simplistic and glib (though health-wise necessary) as more than just the avarice Svengali manager is impacted.  Still fans will want to obtain The Hottest Ticket In Town.

Harriet Klausner

Under Suspicion - Mallory Kane

Under Suspicion
Mallory Kane
Harlequin Intrigue, Apr 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698356

NSA Agent Zach Winter returns to his hometown Bonne Chance, Louisiana for the funeral of his best friend undercover Homeland Security Agent Tristan DuChord who died in a Gulf oil rig accident.  Also in town is DHS agent Maddy Tierney; assigned to protect Tristan’s pregnant widow Sandy.  Zach learns from the M.E. Dr. Bookman the body was not recovered but Sandy is unaware that the coffin does not contain her late husband’s body, and that there are some minor remains whose DNA results remain pending.

Zach and Tristan recognize the alertness in one another.  While he is unofficially asking questions, her contact says the Director insists she goes slow as for now an oil rig worker not a DHS operative died.  The two Feds are attracted to one another, but keeping Sandy safe is the prime objective from those who believe she knows something important.

Though the steamy atmosphere is similar to the Delancey Dynasty (in nearby Lake Pontchartrain), Mallory Kane’s first Bayou Bonne Chance romantic suspense is a fabulous opening act.  The protagonists are a wonderful pairing while the widow struggles to understand what is going on when villains target her.  Readers will want to tour the Bayou with the two Feds as their guides.

Harriet Klausner

Navy Seal Justice - Elle James

Navy Seal Justice
Elle James
Harlequin Intrigue, Apr 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373698332

Upon leaving the Navy SEALs, James Monahan obtained a position at civilian Covert Cowboys, Inc.  When a SEAL Boat team-22 brother in arms “Rip” Cord Schafer sends him a message to protect Melissa in Biloxi, James drops everything to head to Mississippi

After receiving a text for help, FBI agent Melissa Bradley travels from San Antonio to a Biloxi Post Office to pick up a package and deliver it to her Ohio childhood friend Cord at the Shoot the Bull Bar in nearby Stennis.  In Biloxi James notices her and protects her from an assault.  Melissa fears the stranger until he says Cord sent him to keep her safe, but still tries to dodge him.  James’ new boss Hank Derringer informs him that a SBT-22 SEAL went missing during a live fire exercise at the Stennis Space Center Complex on the Pearl River.  James goes undercover inside his former unit while Melissa DOES likewise at the bar.  Soon they team up in search of MIA Cord; at the same time deadly traitors try to kill them.

The latest Covert Cowboys Inc. romantic suspense (see Triggered, Taking Aim, Bodyguard Under Fire and Cowboy Resurrected) is an action-packed atmospheric thriller in which armchair readers will believe they are accompanying the covert leads in Southern Mississippi.   Fast-paced, the intrigue comes before the romance as saving the SEAL, and taking down terrorists and their Quisling allies remain the main tasks.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Seal’s Pleasure - Tawny Weber

A Seal’s Pleasure
Tawny Weber
Harlequin Blaze, Apr 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373798476

Navy SEAL detonation expert Gabriel “Romeo” Thorne and eMagazine’s Tessa Monroe explosively met through their respective best friends Lieutenant Commander Mitch Donovan and Livi Kane (see A SEAL’s Secret).  Their second dynamite encounter is at Mitch and Livi’s wedding.

Each cannot understand what is going on as their feelings are in the troposphere when it comes to the other.  At the same time, Tessa and Gabriel deal with problems at the workplace; which each uses as a handy excuse proclaiming that they have no time for anything but a fling.  Still neither Gabriel nor Tessa wants to end their trysts as they struggle with the disease of love while hiding behind the façade of the best sex either ever had.

This Uniformly Hot! sequel stars two protagonists singing the refrain from “I’m Not In Love” (10Cc).  Although more insight into the leads’ apparently difficult youths would have strengthened the characterizations (or omit these hints entirely), readers will relish the heated relationship between Gabriel and Tessa fueled by the deadly Ds (desire and denial).

Harriet Klausner

The Wood's Edge (The Pathfinders) - Lori Benton

The Wood's Edge (The Pathfinders)
Lori Benton
WaterBrook Press, Apr 21 2015, $18.99
ISBN: 9781601427328

In 1757 Upstate New York, after six days of a siege, Fort William Henry’s His Majesty’s Loyal American Commander Monro surrenders to the French.  Major Reginald Aubrey ignores the humiliating defeat since he grieves a more personal loss.  Instead Aubrey’s mission is to bury his newborn son.  However, as he goes out on his task, Reginald notices a sleeping Oneida woman holding two babies.  Rationalizing she does not need two living children, he replaces one of her boys with his deceased infant and takes William as he calls the lighter skinned one home with him.  He also finds an orphaned baby girl Anna who he brings with him too.

Reginald and his wife Heledd raise the two infants as their own though no one including his spouse knows that he abducted their son from their Oneida mom Good Voice.  Years later Anna and Two Hawks, whose parents still mourn a loss, secretly become friends. 

Lori Benton’s third Colonial Era Christian drama (see The Pursuit of Tamsen Littlejohn and Burning Sky) is an electrifying historical.  The pivotal abduction weighs heavy on both families; with Stone Thrower and Good Voice grieving the loss of one of their children, and their one living offspring feeling their anguish; while Reginald suffers guilt, Heledd chooses ignorance to the truth, and their two kids sense something not right.  After an awesome beginning, the storyline slows down somewhat especially with the unlikely friendship, but closes with an incredible finish.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost Image - Ellen Crosby

Ghost Image
Ellen Crosby
Scribner, Apr 21 2015, $25.00
ISBN: 9781451659375

After attending a conference in London, environmental scientist and activist Franciscan Friar Kevin Boyle returns to Washington D.C.  Brother Kevin enthusiastically tells his friend photojournalist Sophie Medina to meet him at his monastery to discuss a rare seventeenth century botany book with modern day medical implications.  When she arrives, Sophie finds Brother Kevin dead in the monastery’s gardens.

Assuming the valuable tome led to the homicide, Sophie seeks the identity of the killer and finding the seventeenth century rare botany encyclopedia that excited her late friend.  She heads to London where Brother Kevin’s recent euphoria began, but soon has a bigger concern when an unknown predator tries to kill Sophie.

The second Sophie Medina investigation (see Multiple Exposure) is an engaging leisurely-paced whodunit in which readers know the why early on, but have plenty of individuals with motives and opportunities.  Although the threat to the heroine seems relatively tepid, Ghost Image is a thrilling mystery as Ellen Crosby (see the Virginia Wine Country cozies) deftly connects the past and present while providing her fans with unique tours of London and Washington.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, April 26, 2015

From Best Friend To Bride - Jules Bennett

From Best Friend To Bride
Jules Bennett
Harlequin Special Edition, Apr 21 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373658879

Stonerock, Tennessee residents, therapist Megan Richards and Police Chief Cameron St. John, first met and became friends in kindergarten.  Years have passed since they became best buddies; but each conceals from the other the same secret that they love their BFF but fears the revelation would nuke their friendship.

When Megan has a lucrative offer to practice in Memphis, she and Cam separately reconsider whether to reveal or not reveal their love though hesitant that the revelation could devastate their special bond more than a commute relationship would.  Still the cop and the therapist hesitate because each accepts if they tell their heart’s desire they cannot go back to the way it was; as revelations mean all or nothing.

The third St. Johns of Stonerock (see The Fireman's Ready-Made Family and Dr. Daddy's Perfect Christmas) romance is a warm jocular contemporary starring two pleasant protagonists and sensational secondary characters (their families and other townsfolk).  Readers will enjoy the leads’ dilemma between Friends and Lovers (artists: Gloria Loring and Carl Anderson; Words and Music by Paul Gordon and Jay Gruska); as we root for Megan and Cam to take a chance.

Harriet Klausner

Hard As A Rock - Christine Warren

Hard As A Rock
Christine Warren
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Mar 31 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250012678

Wynn Powe the witch (see Stone Cold Lover) flies into Chicago seeking her missing brother Bran; this generation of her family chosen as a warden instead of her because gender is a key Guild criterion.  Controlling her acrimony, Wynn seeks the help of a nearby Guardian.  Instead in the upscale Lake Forest suburb, Wynn finds the rocky remains of the Guardian blown into smithereens by she assumes agents of the Order of Eternal Darkness.   

Knox arrives as the replacement Guardian in order to keep Wynn safe from the enemy who tries to kill her.  He also recognizes this Warden is his soul mate, but knows there could be nasty repercussions if he pursues his heart’s desire.  Believing she is a temporary fill-in until fresh testosterone meat is selected as the Warden and mocking herself for turning mushy towards her Guardian, Wynn struggles with her feelings for Knox.

The third Gargoyle romantic urban fantasy (see Heart of Stone) is a fresh paranormal entry due to the acerbic lead female amusingly (to readers that is and not her Guardian) rips pounds of flesh and other “skin” from family, friends, enemy and her beloved.  Christine Warren authors a brisk thrilling tale starring Wynn the winning witch who deploys sarcasm as her weapon of first choice especially towards her befuddled Guardian.

Harriet Klausner

Night’s Blaze - Donna Grant

Night’s Blaze
Donna Grant
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Mar 31 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250060730

The Dark magic wound ripped away Rhys the Dragon King’s innate ability to shift, but also nuked his sense of self-worth at a time when the kiss he shared with Dreagan Distillery employee Lily Ross at a party has left him desperately desiring her.  As shook by that lip-lock as Rhys was, Lily cannot understand her desire for this man after her previous horrific relationship traumatized her; or why her attraction seems to keep him distancing from her.

Her abusive ex arrives with plans to abduct Lily but not before destroying Dreagan.  Watching his Lily from afar, but refusing to act on his intense feelings; until Rhys realizes she is in trouble.  Though Lily does not believe in paranormal species, she trusts the “man” who owns her heart to protect her from evil she cannot accept exist.

The fifth Dark Kings Scottish romantic fantasy (see Hot Blooded, Darkest Flame, Burning Desire and Fire Rising) is a fabulous paranormal as Grant’s world continues to turn increasingly complex yet the otherworldly characters seem real.  Although series fans will feel a sense of déjà vu re the romance; the suspense, the lead couple (secondary players in previous entries) and a deep bench make for a rousing read.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 24, 2015

Force Of Attraction - D.D. Ayers

Force Of Attraction
D.D. Ayers
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Mar 31 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250042187

DEA Agent Scott Lucca and his K-9 partner Izzy work a heroin smuggling case in which the illegal drug is placed inside of dogs.  He needs a “wife” as part of his undercover sting.  Scott knows how an undercover assignment can destroy an operative’s personal life; as happened with his marriage to Montgomery County police officer Nicole “Cole” Jamison.  Still he knows she is the perfect mate to help him infiltrate the ring using the cover of the competitive circuit. 

Reluctantly, Scott asks his ex and her K-9 partner Hugo to join him and Izzy.  Though Cole wants nothing to do with Scott, her rage over the canine abuse supersedes her need to keep a healthy distance from her former husband.  As they role play the loving couple while their dogs compete; the humans know they still love each other, but taking down the monsters comes before exploring or fleeing their feelings.

The latest K-9 Rescue police procedural (see Irresistible Force) is a tense second chance romantic suspense.  Using dogs as drug mules will horrify readers who will root for show stealer Hugo the crime dog to take a bite out of the ringleader’s hide.

Harriet Klausner

Compulsion - Meyer Levin

Meyer Levin
Fig Tree, Apr 14 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781941493021

In 1924 Chicago, geniuses Judd Steiner and Artie Straus kill thirteen year old Paulie Kessler.  Their motive is an experiment to prove how much smarter than the cops and the rest of society they are that they can get away with murder.  However, their premise that they are embodiment of Nietzsche’s superman proves false when they make a minor mistake as Steiner inadvertently left his glasses behind; leading to law enforcement focusing on him and his best friend.  In spite of attorney Jonathan Wilk’s ground breaking mental illness and homosexuality defenses, the pair is convicted of the homicide. 

Three decades later, Steiner will shortly go before the parole board.  The Chicago Daily News assigns reporter Sid Silver to interview Steiner and survivors, like the still in shock killer’s dad, of the horrible crime of the century.

Based on the Leopold and Loeb murder of Bobbie Franks, the reprint of the 1956 true crime novelization remains a powerful dramatization that looks closely at why they did it and the impact of the cold-blooded murder on families and communities years afterward; as there is no closure for anyone.  Over nine decades since the actual murder and almost sixty years since the original book and its subsequent movie were released, Meyer Levin’s Compulsion still haunts its audience.

Harriet Klausner

The Silence - Tim Lebbon

The Silence
Tim Lebbon
Titan Books, Apr 14 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781781168813

The Discovery Channel covers live a team exploring a cave in Northern Moldova.  However, while on the air the scientific expedition turns tragic when an unknown predatory species of apparently the bat family attacks the crew leaving several humans dead to the horror of the TV and Internet audience. 

Not long after that tragedy, these ravenous cave dwellers leave their subterranean home with a vengeance for the surface.  Using an intensified highly powerful sonar sense, the hordes spread across Europe killing anything in their path.  World leaders and the science community are at loss as to how to end the terror before a new species takes over the top of the food chain.  As mankind teeters on the brink of extinction, a deaf English teenager who has followed the horror on social media is the last hope for any to survive; as she understands firsthand how to live in a “Sounds of Silence” (Simon and Garfunkle) world.

Although the premise of a species threatening humanity is not new, Tim Lebbon provides a refreshing young adult take on the theme.  Readers, who ignore their plausibility meter that a young teen whose only credential is deafness can lead the way to staying safe, will cheer on courageous Ally as she tries to teach her family silence is the new world order.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Gathered Waters - Cara Luecht

Gathered Waters
Cara Luecht
WhiteFire Publishing, Apr 15 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781939023308

In 1880 Karlskrona, Sweden, believing he follows Scripture, Anders Modig takes a moral stand by giving newcomer Johan, ostracized by the Stockholm Lutheran Church, a place to stay.  Hiding his disappointment local Bishop Peterson congenially questions Anders re Johan.  Not long afterward, the Bishop ostracizes Anders for not tossing his guest out of the carriage house. 

Although the Bishop is silent on Anders’ family, the townsfolk behave as if his pregnant wife Brianna and their two small children are pariahs too.  Treated by family and friends as undesirables, the Modig family leaves Sweden for the United States where they hope to find religious freedom to practice their beliefs as stated in the American Constitution.  In the States, along with others, the Modig family forms a church that tends to the less fortunate.

Gathered Waters is a fabulous Christian historical based on Cara Luecht’s ancestors fleeing their Swedish homeland for religious freedom.  Readers will respect and admire the frightened yet courageous lead couple who dive into uncertainty believing that the Lord will takes the plunge with them.

Harriet Klausner

Good Rake Is Hard To Find - Manda Collins

Good Rake Is Hard To Find
Manda Collins
St. Martin's Paperbacks, Mar 31 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9781250061065

One of the Lords of Anarchy four horsemen Jonathan Craven substantially leads another club member Frederick Lisle in a carriage race from Basildon to Dartford.  However, a third coach catches up to the former Napoleonic War veteran and as Jonathan tries to escape he crashes to his death with his last thoughts on letting down Nora.

His grieving sister Leonora believes her brother did not die in an accident, but instead was murdered due to his Lords of Anarchy association.  She wants to investigate but knows a woman will receive no cooperation.  Thus she makes her case with her former fiancé Frederick who agrees to help her infiltrate the club; but for Leonora to gain entrance they must pretend they are patching up their broken relationship.  As they work the case closely together, both know they remain in love; but Nora owes Freddy an explanation as to why she ended their betrothal.

The first Lords of Anarchy romantic mystery is a rousing Regency in which Manda Collins adroitly ties together the suspense and second chance at love subplots.  The fully developed amateur sleuths turn this into a tremendous historical as they work the dangerous case while feeling déjà vu of falling in love all over again.

Harriet Klausner

Vigilantes: Anniversary Day Saga - Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Vigilantes: Anniversary Day Saga
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
WMG Publishing, Apr 13 2015, $18.99
ISBN: 9781561466214

Moon’s chief security officer Noelle DeRicci analyzes information collected by her, Retrieval Artist Miles Flint, Police Detective Bartholomew Nyquist and Armstrong’s shady business mogul Luc Deshin, and from interrogating an incarcerated Peyti clone.  Her conclusions frighten her; especially DeRicci’s belief that another wave of terrorist attacks is imminent from those followers to include clones of the executed decades ago mass murderer PierLuigi Fremont

Desperate to save the millions of survivors living on the moon, DeRicci knows she needs to learn who the mastermind(s) behind the deadly suicide bombings on two Anniversary Days four years apart are.  However, to her chagrin everything DeRicci has learned points to the Earth Alliance leadership.  An assassination affirms her fear that time and political correctness are not on her side.

The superb sixth Anniversary Day Saga science fiction continues the monthly releases (see The Peyti Crisis, Search & Recovery, Anniversary Day, Blowback and A Murder of Clones) with a captivating entry as the heroes struggle to prevent more devastating terrorist bombings.  Although the overarching theme does not move forward very much; this exciting plot fills information gaps about the past but interwoven into the frantic effort of the present to avoid a future calamity.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

The Inn At Ocean’s Edge - Colleen Coble

The Inn At Ocean’s Edge
Colleen Coble
Thomas Nelson, Apr 14 2015, $19.99
ISBN: 9780718031220

Meeting her father, Claire Dellamare arrives at the Hotel Tourmaline on the Maine barrier island Folly Shoals.  However, she almost immediately suffers strange déjà vu visions of staying at this hotel when she celebrated her fourth birthday.  Claire soon accepts her dreams are repressed memories of when she disappeared from the Tourmaline only to reappear as mysteriously one year later.  In spite of her parents pleading with her to let it go, Claire obsesses with knowing what happened to her. 

At the same time in 1989 when Claire vanished, Luke Rocco’s mother also disappeared; but she never came back.  When Luke and Claire meet, they agree to investigate together what happened to her and his mom.  At the same someone is willing to murder to keep the truth concealed.

This is an enjoyable twisting mystery in which the truth may be out there and set you free; that is if it does not kill you.  Although the romance between the amateur sleuths feels more a subgenre requirement, this Sunset Cove novel is a taut suspense.

Harriet Klausner

The Mark On Eve - Joel Fox

The Mark On Eve
Joel Fox
Bronze Circle Press, Apr 14 2015, $13.99
ISBN: 9780692306192

In 1717 New England, Eve Hale pleads with Tinuba Tam, the Witch of Cornell Harbor, to save the life of those on board the Zarrago; especially her beloved Marcus Nash.  As the Zarrago breaks apart killing all on board, raging with jealousy, Tinuba curses Eve to walk the earth until Marcus kisses her.

In the present Eve Skellar strongly supports California Governor Judith Rhodes for the presidency.  On a campaign stop, Eve steps in the way of a cop’s assassination attempt.  Miraculously, Eve survives the bullet, but exposes her almost two century hidden secret; as everyone wants to know more about this heroic supergirl.  Los Angeles Post reporter Tom Evanger persistently investigates the reluctant but now famous Eve.  After hundreds of years of watching the oppression and abuse of women and the glass ceiling limiting roles in support of others, Eve believes in the emancipating importance of Rhodes becoming the first female president.

The Mark On Eve is an exciting, entertaining suspense that rotates between the present and several periods in the long life of the heroine; while making a case for the key societal oppression premise of Joel Fox’s refreshing paranormal.  After centuries of ennui and horror at her gender’s historical mistreatment, Eve finally found a purpose to live in Rhodes’ campaign.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Duet in Beirut - Mishka Ben-David

Duet in Beirut
Mishka Ben-David; Evan Fallenberg (translator)
Overlook, Apr 14 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781468310207

In a busy Jerusalem street, terrorists detonate a car bomb leaving many dead and maimed.  The angry Israeli government wants an “eye for an eye” starting with the Hezbollah planner of that attack Abu-Khaled.  Mossad sends a team led by Gadi on an operation in Beirut to take down this killer.  However, the assassination flops when the trigger Ronen fails to take the shot.

Kicked out of Mossad in disgrace, Ronen vanishes.  One year later, Mossad operatives learn that their ignominious former compatriot is in Lebanon without official sanctioning most likely seeking redemption by finishing the mission.  Fearing a catastrophic disaster, also without approval Gadi heads to Beirut to prevent his former sniper from compounding the mess.

Filled with action yet character-driven, Duet In Beirut is a profound look at government sponsored assassinations and the emotional problems when a person’s values collide with that of the organization (most people defer their own to that of the entity; i.e., Penn State).  Although some of the personal sides of the leads seem unnecessary and distracting, Mishka Ben-David provides a fresh look at the psyche of agents working ethically-challenged dark ops.

Harriet Klausner

Where They Found Her - Kimberly McCreight

Where They Found Her
Kimberly McCreight
Harper, Apr 14 2015, $26.99
ISBN: 9780062225467

Molly Sanderson, her husband Justin the tenured English professor and their five years old daughter Ella move to affluent suburban Ridgedale, New Jersey.  Due to Justin’s connection at Ridgedale University, Molly obtains a job as the arts, lifestyle and human interest reporter for the Ridgedale reader.

Five months on the job and her editor Erik Schinazy never called her home until tonight.  He apologizes for the early call, but explains he has no one else available to cover the story of a body found by the University’s Essex Bridge.  Molly wants to quit the case when she learns the corpse is a newborn; as her miscarriage of two years ago remains depressingly fresh like it happened two minutes ago, but remains diligent.  With the pristine façade of an academia town ripped asunder, the cops, Molly and other reporters search for the missing mom.

Rotating leads between several characters and cleverly complicating the voice of the protagonist through various medium methods (affirming Marshall McLuhan’s “The Medium Is the Message”), Where They Found Her is a taut investigative thriller.  Although over the top of High Point Monument happenchance detracts from the tension, Kimberly McCreight authors a gripping whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Fallout - Paul Thomas

Paul Thomas
Bitter Lemon, Apr 14 2015, $14.95
ISBN 9781908524492

For twenty-seven years Auckland District Commander Finbar McGrail regretted not solving the strangulation death of teenager Polly Stenson at an election-night gala in an affluent mansion.  A long time ago, Finbar gave up hope that the killer in the 1987 cold case would be caught.  However, a seemingly minor clue surfaces that rekindles his optimism.  He assigns recently demoted for his unruly behavior and appearance (see Death on Demand) Sergeant Tito Ihaka to lead the new inquiry.

At the same a reporter insists that Tito’s father Jimmy did not die from a heart attack; but instead believes someone ordered a hit to silence the fiery union activist.  Meanwhile Tito’s former police partner and at one time best friend, Johan van Roon is hired to investigate the shocking alleged sighting of a vanished VIP who disappeared in 1987.  Soon the three seemingly disjointed cases merge.

The latest Tito Ihaka New Zealand police procedural (see Guerrilla Season and Inside Dope) contains three exciting mysteries.  Paul Thomas uses satirical jocularity to depict the destructiveness of racism; as the always in trouble with the brass protagonist deals with bigotry from his peers and superiors in his brusque run them over manner.  Fallout is another Ihaka winner.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, April 20, 2015

When Grace Sings - Kim Vogel Sawyer

When Grace Sings
Kim Vogel Sawyer
WaterBrook Press, Mar 17 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780307731333

Chicago-based Real Scoop editor Ken assigns reporter Briley Forrester to look behind the kind pious façade of the Amish-Mennonite communities featured in their rival Illinois Times.  Briley heads to Arborville, Kansas believing when he uncovers the dirt he will be rewarded by becoming a featured journalist at the tabloid rather than a minor player buried in the middle of the rag.  In Arborville, Briley stays at Alexa Zimmerman’s Grace Notes Bed and Breakfast.  He learns she is not Old Order Mennonite but lives their lifestyle as her adopted mom Suzanne (see When Mercy Rains) is.  Attracted to each other, the guest and the hostess share in common childhood abandonment issues.

Steven Brungardt and Anna-Grace Braun are engaged.  However, he recently inherited his late grandfather’s farm in Arborville.  Though he prefers to be a teacher, he considers working the land to please his parents and his fiancée.  However, having learned that her biological parents reside in Arborville, Anna-Grace has doubts about relocating there as she does not want to meet them.

The second Zimmerman Restoration family drama is an exhilarating entry due to a three-dimensional ensemble cast.  Although like its predecessor the pleasant storyline lacks closure, When Grace Sings is a well-written novel that leaves the audience wanting the final story released yesterday.

Harriet Klausner

Black Scorpion: The Tyrant Reborn - Jon Land

Black Scorpion: The Tyrant Reborn
Jon Land
Forge, Apr 7 2015, $25.99
ISBN 9780765337238

Five years ago, Seven Sins Resort and Casino owner Michael “the Tyrant” Tiranno saved Las Vegas from a terrorist attack (see The Seven Sins: The Tyrant Ascending).  Running the most financially successful establishment on the Strip, Michael prefers leaving his fighting to MMA bouts in the gym, but battles the State Gaming Control Board in Carson City over his expansion project investment debt. 

While on an archaeological dig in the Retezat Mountains in Romania’s Transylvania, archeologist Scarlett Swan uncovers an ancient Roman temple, but argues with the host country’s appointed project manager Henri Bernard over a special find that will interest her boyfriend Michael.  Soon after that run-in, the human trafficking cartel Black Scorpion and its leader Vladimir Dracu murder everyone at the site except Scarlett who contacts Michael from a bar in the nearby village of Buna Ziua.  Michael directs his legal counsel Naomi Burns to deal with the Gaming Control Board at a critical time which could impact his casino’s value; while he and his associate Alexander head to Romania. 

Filled with stunning viable twists and over the top of Mount Moldoveanu escapades, this sequel is a fantastic action-packed thriller that grips the audience early on with anticipation of a showdown between the Tyrant and the trafficker.  Loaded with excitement, Jon Land shows his writing skills as the unstoppable antagonist collides with the immovable protagonist.

Harriet Klausner

Tracker - C.J. Cherryh

C.J. Cherryh
DAW, Apr 7 2015, $25.95
ISBN: 9780756409098

Human diplomat Bren Cameron knows he needs some R&R after a hectic extended journey with the atevi aiji-dowager and others; so plans time on his estate in Najida where he is the Lord.  However, they return home to find chaos greets them with leadership upheavals and changing alliances impacting vast sectors of atevi society including the critical Assassins Guild. 

Thus as the Lord of Heaven in the atevi court, diligent diplomat Bren sets aside his personal needs to work on the various issues that sprung up while he was away including the Guild effect,  two leaderless domains and a space station conflict ready to implode.  As the Guild begins to resolve its problems an alien space ship heads towards the space station.

The start of the sixth Foreigner trilogy is an excellent science fiction as C.J. Cherryh successfully alters her universe somewhat by brilliantly realigning the power structure.  Society-driven, this is a terrific outer space tale; as Bren’s timely efforts to achieve a peaceful diplomatic resolution rather than war (as some demand) with the new kids on the block.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Sparrow In Terezin - Kristy Cambron

A Sparrow In Terezin
Kristy Cambron
Thomas Nelson, Apr 7 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9781401690618

In present day Sausalito, California Sera James feels blessed as she has just opened her art gallery and married William Hanover.  Just after they exchange their vows, Carter arrives to arrest William for illegal business dealings that he insists he never did.  While he faces ten years, his wife faces denunciations that threaten her family.  Thus she travels to Europe to learn what her husband hid from her.

In 1939, Kája Makovsky feels fortunate to escape Nazi occupied Prague, but fears the worst for her family; especially since some are Jewish.  Three years later in England, Kája, working as a Daily Telegraph journalist, learns of Hitler’s Final Solution mass executions of Jews.  Though frightened, with help from her boyfriend Kája returns to Czechoslovakia trying to get her family to England.  Instead she ends up incarcerated in the Terezin Concentration Camp near Warsaw where Kája and others become teachers, mentors and bearers of hope to children like Sophie.

The second Hidden Masterpiece (see The Butterfly and the Violin) is a thrilling inspirational based on the premise of Dr. Viktor Frankl’s “Man's Search for Meaning”; a person has a better chance for obtaining a wonderful life if they believe it will occur even while trapped in hell.  Character-driven in both eras the captivating subplots hook the audience throughout as we root for the sparrow to soar free of the evil men do unto to others.

Harriet Klausner

By Tooth and Claw: Clan of the Claw Book Two - S.M Stirling, Eric Flint, Jody Lynn Nye, Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin

By Tooth and Claw: Clan of the Claw Book Two
S.M Stirling, Eric Flint, Jody Lynn Nye, Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin
Baen, Apr 7 2015, $15.00
ISBN: 9781476780405

“Bury My Heart” by Mercedes Lackey and Cody Martin.  The flood left the Clan of the Long Fang surviving Mrem destitute as they flee without Dancers from the still rising waters and the vicious Lishkash.

“A Clan’s Foundation” by S.M Stirling.  Klar leads the desperate ragged band to needed water while fearing Ashala’s Lishkash troops will slaughter most of them and enslave those left alive.

“Sanctuary” by Eric Flint.  Sebetwe takes charge of dispatching Knest’s soul and leading his followers up the mountain while concealing from his superstitious Lishkash followers his disdain for those who worship the Goddess Huwute.  After Zilikazi’s army slaughtered most of their Dancers causing the Mrem tribe to flee in disarray terror, Achia Pazik and a few others find themselves separated from the main pack with no hope of surviving.

“Feeding a Fever” by Jody Lynn Nye.  In an oasis, Petru begs Lailah Clan lead Dancer Cassa to eat, but she says she cannot as she believes she soon will join Assirra in heaven before they reach haven.  Water remains a problem for the clan especially after what they recently found proved lethal.

Based on the premise the asteroid that ended the dinosaur era did not occur, the second Clan of the Claw alternative history (see Exiled) contains four pleasurable survival novellas.  All are well written as the Mrem feline mammals and the Lishkash humanoid dinosaurs are intelligent enemies fighting for domination in the Bronze Age.  My personal favorite is the heroic sacrifices of brave warriors in “Bury My Heart”.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, April 17, 2015

A Broken Life - Jan Christensen

A Broken Life
Jan Christensen
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Oct 24 2014, $14.99
ISBN: 9781502974624

In Taylor, Rhode Island private investigator Paula Michael heads to her office when she realizes a nearby homeless woman is her high school classmate Martha Hendricks.  Paula persuades a reluctant Martha to have coffee and pastry, and to tell her what happened to her.  Downtrodden Martha explains she worked for five years as an office manager at a medical practice when her boss Dr. Treverson learned from a routine background check she spent three days in jail for drug use.  Martha insists she never spent one day behind bars, but someone gave her identity as theirs to the police.  No one believes her innocence and soon Martha found her life broken.

Paula takes Martha to meet lawyer Geri Smithfield who after hearing the story agrees to take on a pro bono case.  The sleuth also takes Martha into her home while she investigates.  The PI obtains info from Dr. Treverson, but upon leaving she spots an amateur in a car obviously tailing her.  Not long after she began her inquiry, someone kills Treverson, threatens Paula and an attempt to silence her fails; however an assault on Martha leaves her unconscious.

While Tina Shaw takes a breather after being Buried Under Clutter, the second Paula Mitchell, P.I. case (see Perfect Victim) is a timely, tense and twisting cozy.  The impact of the identity theft feels incredibly genuine due to key factors: Treverson waited too long to explain why he really fired her (instead of his downsizing excuse); and by the time she knows the truth impoverished Martha had driven away all her friends (her parents were dead) and lacked transportation to get legal aid in Providence. 

Harriet Klausner

The Red Notebook - Antoine Laurain

The Red Notebook
Antoine Laurain; Jane Aitken (translator)
Gallic Books, Apr 7 2015, $14.95
ISBN: 9781908313867

In Paris, Laurent Letellier walks towards his Le Cahier Rouge bookstore when he notices a handbag on top of a bin.  Believing the owner was probably a mugging victim, Laurent takes the bag with him; but his efforts to give it to the police are met with polite sarcasm.  At his shop, he empties it seeking the identity of the owner so he could return it to her; especially when he finds personal items like a red journal.  However, nothing he finds tells him who she is.

Laurent remains steadfast to his resolution but unable to decide what next.  His daughter encourages him not to give up his mission when chance intervenes.  Eventually learning that Laure Valadier owns the bag, the red book and other sundry; Laurent wants to meet her as he feels he knows her.  However he also feels his obsession already led him to overstep decency; unaware that recently released from the hospital Laure wants to meet the person who rescued her red notebook. 

This is a warm whimsical romantic cozy in which the location and the support cast bring plausibility to Laurent’s quest that will remind the audience of the movie Serendipity.  Readers will root for fate to intervene by bringing Laure and Laurent together so they can collaborate on a new red and blue notebook.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Games - Mari Hannah

Fatal Games
Mari Hannah
HarperCollins/Witness Impulse, Apr 7 2015, $11.99
ISBN: 9780062387134

On Bambaugh Beach just below the Bambaugh Castle in Northumberland, a father and child find human bones.  Leaving Newcastle with her team, Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels leads the investigation hampered by increasingly bad weather and the poor terrain.  Forensic anthropologist Abby Hunt says the victims were both females with one being a teen and the other a tweener.  However every time Kate and Detective Sergeant Hank Gormley believe they made progress on resolving what happened to the two young girls, more questions arise especially when more corpses are found; as the case to the chagrin of everyone involved seems heading to the cold files. 

Psychologist Emily McCann returns to work at nearby HMP Northumberland Category B Prison for the first time since her husband died a few months ago.  Although worried about her young daughter Rebecca being without her for the first time since she lost her dad, Emily also fears her fascination with convicted sexual predator Walter Fearon who will soon be released after his seven year sentence for raping an elderly woman ends.  Emily also is concerned with Fearon’s return to society.  Clues finally lead the police to diabolically brilliant Fearon at the prison where Kate’s former lover psychologist Jo Soulsby works.

The fourth Kate Daniels police procedural (see Deadly Deceit, Settled Blood and The Murder Wall) is a very dark atmospheric mystery.  In a cold foreboding background and character-driven especially by Fearon and the prison staff perhaps even more than the DCI and her team, subgenre fans will want to read this exhilarating British whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, April 16, 2015

False Tongues: A Callie Anson Mystery - Kate Charles

False Tongues: A Callie Anson Mystery
Kate Charles
Poisoned Pen, Apr 7 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9781464200045

In spite of having a new beau in London Police Family Liaison Officer Mark Lombardi, All Saints Church Anglican curate Callie Anson wants to skip Deacon's Week; as she is not ready to see her former lover Adam who dumped her for someone else.  Still Tamsin Howells insists Adam is not coming; so Callie’s friends Val Carver and Nicky Lamb persuade her to head to Cambridge.  However, to her dismay Adam decides to attend Deacon’s Week.

At the same time that Callie struggles to arrive in Cambridge, Mark works on the murder investigation led by Detective Inspector Neville Stewart of popular teenager Sebastian Frost in Paddington Green.  However, the cops soon find a cyber-crack in Sebastian’s seemingly golden life as an intelligent, handsome star athlete and son of two medical professionals.  Mark works on obtaining the cooperation of the victims’ reluctant parents while reading the riot act to his own family for their cold reactions towards Callie.

Linked only by each subplot containing a close look at family relationships, these diverse captivating dramas grip the audience throughout the outstanding fourth Callie Anson (and Mark Lombardi at least in this book) mystery (see Secret Sins, Evil Intent and Deep Waters).  The Callie tale focuses on encountering a former love for the first time since the other party broke it off; while the Lombardi segue concentrates on cyberbullying and families rallying around one of their own (in death or against their loved one’s wishes).

Harriet Klausner

Blood Sweep: A Posadas County Mystery - Steven F. Havill

Blood Sweep: A Posadas County Mystery
Steven F. Havill
Poisoned Pen, Apr 7 2015, $24.95
ISBN 9781464203893

In Posadas County, New Mexico an unknown sniper just misses killing Sheriff Robert Torrez.  The trail leads to a dead Miguel A. Quesada, whose vehicle contains a rifle that could be the one used in the murder attempt; but leaves unanswered who killed him and why.

Undersheriff Estelle Reyes-Guzman worries about her beloved former boss retired Sheriff Bill Gastner who broke his hip; her nonagenarian mom who withdrew $8000 from the bank; and her concert pianist son performing in a cartel dominated area of Mexico.  Adding to her tsuris is meeting Benedicte Mazón, who insists he is the black sheep uncle she never met before or even heard of.

The twentieth Posadas County police procedural is an intriguing mystery in which Reyes-Guzman’s family drama supersedes the Torrez-Quesada subplot.  Targeting longtime fans, Blood Sweep engages those who have read the backstory (see NightZone and One Perfect Shot); newcomers will appreciate the police case and the rustic environs but struggle with understanding what the heroine knows and more significantly not knows re her family.

Harriet Klausner

Vengeance of the Demon - Diana Rowland

Vengeance of the Demon
Diana Rowland
DAW, Apr 7 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756408268

Demon lords abetted by a summoner tampered with the energy nodes.  As such the demon realm turns nasty; with the ugliness overflowing onto the earth.  If left as is, demons could cross over without a summoning but also intensify the growing instability on both sides until it becomes irreversibly lethal. 

Summoner of demons Kara Gillian knows she must bring order back starting with fixing the nodes.  Fuming at his peers’ dangerous foolishness, Kadir the demon lord, Idris, Bryce and others assist Kara.  At the same time the police are interested in questioning Kara as a witness reported seeing her near Farouche when he was murdered at the Plantation.

The seventh Kara Gilliam demon urban fantasy (see Fury Of The Demon and Touch of the Demon) is an entertaining entry with a lot going on (several more subplots than above), but very little resolved; as Vengeance reads more like a setup novel for the next act or two.  Kara has come a long way since the Mark and as usual the ensemble cast adds depth to a likable tale.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Manhattan in Miniature: A Miniature Mystery - Margaret Grace

Manhattan in Miniature: A Miniature Mystery
Margaret Grace
Perseverance, Apr 7 2015, $15.95
ISBN 9781564745620

Lincoln Point, California SuperKrafts store manager Bebe Mellon has a booth in a Manhattan Christmas crafts show.  She invites her friend retired English high school teacher Gerry Porter to accompany her to help with the setup.  Having grown up in the Bronx, an excited Gerry calls her former neighbor Cynthia Bishop that she and her tweener granddaughter Maddie are coming to town.  Ignoring Gerry’s explanation that she is working, Cynthia, who was there for her when her late husband had cancer and knows about the sleuthing success, tells her that someone murdered her Aunt Elsie; but NYPD refuses to investigate.

Besides assisting Bebe, Gerry shows Manhattan to an awed Maddie.  However at the event, Maddie watches a woman pocket an item on display from a table; while Gerry looks into the alleged homicide.  Grandma’s inquiry places the California pair on the radar of a clever killer.

The eighth Miniature mystery (see Monster in Miniature and Madness in Miniature) is an appealing amateur sleuth that combines two fine investigations with a charming tour of the Big Apple.  Although I admit I am biased when it comes to New York City settings having grown up in the Bronx (I even know why the borough is called THE Bronx), Manhattan in Miniature is a superb cozy.

Harriet Klausner