Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Lover's Knot-Clare O’Donahue

The Lover's Knot
Clare O’Donahue
Plume, Sep 2008, $13.00
ISBN: 9780452289796

Twenty something Manhattan based publisher Nell Fitzgerald is stunned when her fiancé Ryan informs her he is not ready to marry. Upset, she decides to leave town to visit her grandma Eleanor Cassidy in Archer's Rest to help her elderly relative recover from a nasty fall and somewhat based on the lovely wedding quilt her grandmother and Friday Night Quilt Club made for her.

Eleanor, who owns Someday Quilts, hires local handyman Marc Reed to expand her store. He outrageously flirts with the newcomer and Nell enjoys his attention. Ryan arrives and ends up brawling with Marc over Nell. Soon after their fight, someone scissors Marc to death at Someday Quilts. Local police chief widower Jesse Dewalt investigates knowing many of the townsfolk hared the womanizing Marc and is aware of the brawl with Ryan, who wants Nell back. Instead she tries to prove his innocence one stitch at a time.

This is an engaging Hudson River Valley amateur sleuth that will remind cozy fans of authors like Maggie Sefton. Although Nell has no experience and no cause to investigate placing herself in danger, she makes for a fine detective. Lighthearted fun as the relationship triangle (to include Jesse not Marc) supersedes the mystery.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Cloister-Melanie Dobson

The Black Cloister
Melanie Dobson
Kregel, Jun 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780825424434

In 1991 when Elise Friedman turned eight her mom Catrina suddenly died. Raised by an adoptive father Steve, she grew up wondering about her biological dad and her mom’s life in Germany before coming to the States. She especially thought about reasons her mom left her homeland.

Now seventeen years later, Elise obsesses over knowing the truth. In Berlin Elise meets her mom’s best friend Ambassador Addison Wade, showing the stunned older woman a photo of Addison with Catrina. Addison wants to ignore Elise as she has buried the past especially since her next post will be American Ambassador to the UN. Elise explains discrepancies in her mom’s past and Steve’s story. Reluctantly Addison, understanding the resolute visitor and fearing for her going solo, takes her to Heidelberg where the quest of the Chosen began.

THE BLACK CLOISTER is a fascinating look at a cult from several perspectives. The story line is fast-paced from the moment a determined Elise arrives in Berlin and never slows with one twist after another as the danger mounts. Steve’s refusal to explain anything leaves Elise taking risks that turn her into a target; yet remaining true to his vows just seems wrong. Still this exhilarating thriller will hook the audience as the present inquiry into the past turns dangerous.

Harriet Klausner

The Memorist-M.J. Rose

The Memorist
M.J. Rose
Mira, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0778325849

As a youngster, Meer Logan only drew pictures of what looked like a treasure chest. Her family obviously noticing the pattern asked her why she insisted on drawing only this object. Meer explained that she had seen it before although no one including her could figure out when; her parents assumed it was youthful imagination though they were somewhat concerned with her seemingly compulsive behavior disorder.

Now an adult, Meer’s sixty-five year old dad Jeremy, known as the “Jewish Indiana Jones” and who works in a Vienna auction house found the box listed in an auction catalogue. Inside the box is a letter that leads Jeremy to conclude that the artifact once was owned by Beethoven's beloved. Meer heads to Austria where memories flood her mind starting with the same flute tune that makes her wonder if she was Beethoven’s lover in a previous life. As father and daughter seek a mystical flute, a murder and the stealing of the box and its letter makers both of them fear someone has a different fate in store for them.

THE MEMORIST is much more complex than the exhilarating THE REINCARNATIONIST, as M.J. Rose provides a superb thriller. There are several subplots that converge on Meer who like her dad begins to believe in her previous life. Meer, her dad and several other support players are fully developed so that the audience believes in all the seemingly paranormal nuances. Set aside plenty of time as this is not a fast read, but worth the time as THE MEMORIST is memorable.

Harriet Klausner

Night of the Furies-David Angsten

Night of the Furies
David Angsten
Dunne, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312373702

Recent college grad Jack Duran feels fortunate to have survived his week long Mexican vacation in which he searched for his missing sibling Dan. During his week stay south of the border, he eluded the lethal man-eating manta ray "El Diablo Blanco", avoided becoming the sacrifice of the devil-worshipping Punta Perdida villagers, and evaded Argonaut gold seeking killers (see DARK GOLD).

In Greece, Jack finally catches up with his brother, and Dan’s Dutch girlfriend archeologist Phoebe Auerbach. The trio visits the Oracle at Delphi where they hope to learn the facts the truth behind the legendary Eleusinian Mysteries that celebrated Demeter and Persephone. Instead the threesome learn little new about their quest, but instead meet violent sexually abusive women whose Dionysian orgies are deadly. When a homicide occurs, the local Greek police suspect Jack and Dan as the killers.

As with BLACK GOLD, David Angsten provides an action-packed over the top campy thriller that never takes itself seriously as the brothers Duran leap from one harrowing incident to another. However, Dan and especially Phoebe are underdeveloped so the winks behind the fast-paced plot never feel complete. Still, this is an exhilarating series of cliffhangers mindful of Indiana Jones.

Harriet Klausner

Undercover Angel-Karen Wiesner

Undercover Angel
Karen Wiesner
Whiskey Creek, Oct 2008
ISBN: 1603132740

Network short term operations chief Shannon McKee supervises the daily actions of the organization whose mission is to eliminate evil villains. However, she also has a personal agenda though she refuses to let her obsession interfere with the work of the Network. Instead she has patiently waited for the right time to annihilate drug kingpin Mareno Ortega, whom she holds culpable for the overdose death of her brother.

The opportunity arises so Shannon jumps at it; going undercover to bring down Ortega. Her former lover ex SEAL Captain and now Network lead strategist Ron Blair worries about the woman he loves when he learns of her mission. Meanwhile Shannon is stunned that the monster she thought Ortega to be is also kind and caring to his children. If she is not careful she will see the other side of Ortega while Ron plans on rescuing his woman and saving his heart with the latter mission much more complicated.

The seventh Incognito thriller is a superb tale due to the characterizations that make the fast paced story line so much more exciting. Shannon and Ron are a fully developed couple with issues while Ortega is a complete adversary who shows a soft side as much as his tough exterior. UNDERCOVER ANGEL is a great entry in a consistently excellent series.

Harriet Klausner

The Other Side of Silence-Bill Pronzini

The Other Side of Silence
Bill Pronzini
Walker, Oct 5 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9780802717139

Since his son’s death and the consequential breakup of his marriage, corporate security specialist Rick Fallon is a loner. Thus when he goes camping in the Mohave Desert, he goes by himself. In fact he selects an isolated section of Death Valley so climatically anti-human no one will disturb him.

However to his chagrin he is not alone as he finds an abandoned car with a suicide note on it. Frantic Casey Dunbar has given up on life after spending the past few months futilely searching for her eight year old son, abducted by his father, her former husband Court Spicer. Rick finds her and saves her life to her bitterness and outrage. She explains that adding to her frustration and hopelessness is the knowledge her ex spouse couldn’t give a sh*t about his offspring; instead his objective is to destroy her, which he has succeeded in doing. Rick offers to investigate; Casey accepts as their encounter in Death Valley brings both back to life.

Starring a named detective, THE OTHER SIDE OF SILENCE is a terific investigative thriller with a great low-keyed final spin. The cast is fully developed especially Rick and Casey. Although mostly straightforward investigating, fans will fully appreciate the great Bill Pronzini’s strong tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Knight of the Red Beard-Andre Norton and Sasha Miller

The Knight of the Red Beard
Andre Norton and Sasha Miller
Tor, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765307484

Having resolved their adversarial relationship the NordornQueen Ashen and NordornKing Gaurin ruled pragmatically yet with fairness for years over a prosperous kingdom. However, before their respective ages becomes issue, the NordornLand monarchs must look at the next generation to insure the heir Dependable and conscientious Bjaudin succeeds them to the throne.

After seeking adventure by stowing away on a Sea-Rover, Bjaudin’s eleven-year-old younger brother Mikkel is made prisoner by the ferocious Wykenigs; especially interested in the captive is abusive Gunnora who has a past with her detainee’s family. His thirteen years old sister Elin, coveting the throne, turns to her scheming malevolent grandmother Ysa as her mentor-ally causing havoc for her parents. Meanwhile, the age of peace and prosperity seems to have ended as a new threat to the NordornLand surfaces; the other grandmother, Zazar uses magic to attempt to free Mikkel and to eliminate the danger.

This is an exciting well written Oak, Yew, Ash and Rowan Cycle fantasy that will leave fans of the saga enjoying the “final” entry, but annoyed that closure to the major dangling plot threads from the previous four books failed to occur. Instead new subplots lead to the conclusion more novels are coming. Still this is an entertaining story as the focus is on the children of Ashen and Gaurin and to a degree their stereotypical diametrically opposite grandmothers.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 29, 2008

The Face-Angela Hunt

The Face
Angela Hunt
Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780778327271

Two decades ago Sarah Sims was born without facial features. The hospital declared her dead and she was serendipitously given to the CIA. Dr. Glenda Mewton raised Sarah hidden from the world at a top-secret CIA lab. Sarah now twenty has no hopes or dreams; isolated even in the isolated CIA construct where she lives.

All that changes when Sarah’s Aunt Renee learns her niece lives in concealment as a CIA computer expert. She offers Sarah a chance to meet the world starting with surgery. However, Renee cannot give Sarah the courage to take a chance on life; that must come from within and her “mom” Dr. Mewton will not let her go.

Avoiding melodrama with touches of humor, Angela Hunt provides a superb character driven thriller as the key three females seem genuine with flaws and all. The story line grips readers from the opening moments when the doctor informs Sarah’s parents and the audience that the newborn suffers from Treacher Collins syndrome. Readers will want what is best for her though that is not easy to discern even if fans want her to step out into the world of her aunt. This is a winner as the angst is high but controlled inside a strong tale of second chances.

Harriet Klausner

Open Doors-Gloria Goldreich

Open Doors
Gloria Goldreich
Mira, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325437

Acclaimed ceramic artist Elaine Gordon has always placed her beloved husband Neil above her work and their four children with her vocation coming in a distant second. Thus when her soulmate anchor dies, she is more than just grieving; she is lost. Each of her adult children loves their mother even if she has always been distant from them. Each wants her to leave the New York City area and move near one of them. They persuade Elaine to visit them.

Elaine goes to see Sarah nee Sandy and her grandchildren in Jerusalem. Next she travels to California to spend time with Peter and more grandchildren. Her third global trek is to Russia where Lisa wants to become a single mom by adopting a child. Finally, the one trip she dreads going to is New Mexico where Denis and his gay boyfriend live.

Elaine’s journey is on two levels: the obvious globetrotting trips to her offspring and the metaphysical journey of spiritual learning as her children, their significant others, and their offspring make solid mentors. The extended cast is fully developed but it is Elaine as the focus who holds it together. Although her revelatory transformation seems unrealistic (sort of like Ebenezer Scrooge’s change), OPEN DOORS is a deep look at a person learning in her late middle ages what is important in life.

Harriet Klausner

Open Doors-Gloria Goldreich

Open Doors
Gloria Goldreich
Mira, Nov 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780778325437

Acclaimed ceramic artist Elaine Gordon has always placed her beloved husband Neil above her work and their four children with her vocation coming in a distant second. Thus when her soulmate anchor dies, she is more than just grieving; she is lost. Each of her adult children loves their mother even if she has always been distant from them. Each wants her to leave the New York City area and move near one of them. They persuade Elaine to visit them.

Elaine goes to see Sarah nee Sandy and her grandchildren in Jerusalem. Next she travels to California to spend time with Peter and more grandchildren. Her third global trek is to Russia where Lisa wants to become a single mom by adopting a child. Finally, the one trip she dreads going to is New Mexico where Denis and his gay boyfriend live.

Elaine’s journey is on two levels: the obvious globetrotting trips to her offspring and the metaphysical journey of spiritual learning as her children, their significant others, and their offspring make solid mentors. The extended cast is fully developed but it is Elaine as the focus who holds it together. Although her revelatory transformation seems unrealistic (sort of like Ebenezer Scrooge’s change), OPEN DOORS is a deep look at a person learning in her late middle ages what is important in life.

Harriet Klausner

Hearts on the Wind-Leslee Breene

Hearts on the Wind
Leslee Breene
Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147166

In 1876 Swedish-American Ingrid Johansson hates the farming life her family has created for themselves in Eden Valley, Minnesota. She yearns for much more as she perfers books like Ivanhoe. Nagging her parents to give her a different life , she persuades them to send her to Minneapolis to attend the St. Agnes Women's Academy where she will study to become a teacher.

At the academy Ingrid and affluent Norwegian-American railroad heir Andreas Eriksen are attracted to one another. When the pair are caught in an unacceptable compromising position, she is warned to carry herself with proper decorum or be sent home in disgrace. As she struggles between her love for Andreas and her love of teaching, her stepsister, Dagmar plots to make Andreas her husband.

This engaging Americana romance provides readers with a strong glimpse of working conditions for those employed by the railroads. The lead couple are both fully developed characters but the key support cast seems thinner than a rail. Still in spite of implausible spins especially involving Ingrid, historical fans will enjoy this look at Reconstruction Era America through the eyes of a young woman who wants the dream.
Harriet Klausne

Bad Penny-Sharon Sala

Bad Penny
Sharon Sala
Mira, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778325963

Wilson McKay saved the life of Cat Dupree when he killed Solomon Tutuola, who already killed her father and was slashing her throat (see CUT THROAT). The two bounty hunters are in love, hope to move on past the traumas, and would like to settle down; but their history still interferes with their present and makes their future uncertain.

Sociopath Jimmy Franks is on a personal vendetta against Wilson whom he blames for his troubles. He stalks Wilson and plans to kill his enemy’s woman before murdering his target. Additionally Mexican Homicide Detective Luis Montoya investigates the suspicious death of Tutuola. Cat fears what the cop will do once he learns the truth.

The latest Cat Dupree tale is a well written suspense thriller, but loses much of the tension in spite of the latest assaults on the lead couple because much of the prime issues have been resolved in the previous tales. The story line is fast-paced and fun to read but BAD PENNY is no CUT THROAT. Still fans of the Dupree saga will wonder how many lives does Cat have left, as Sharon Sala provides an exciting entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Organ Grinder-Maan Meyers

The Organ Grinder
Maan Meyers
Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9781594147210

In 1899 in New York City, John “Dutch” Tonneman, one of the two-man NYPD Commissioner's Squad, investigates a serial killer who stabs his victims to death. The case is somewhat personal for the detective because his lover photographer Esther Breslau met one of the deceased prostitutes Delia Swann as part of her project to take pictures of street walkers.

Dutch wonders if Esther photographing the hooker is a coincidence or not. He ponders whether the killer is following Esther’s work with an especially keen lethal eye. As he follows clues, Dutch worries that Esther could be on the list of this sociopath slasher.

The latest Dutchman turn of the century police procedural is more historical than an investigative whodunit as the audience knows who the killer is early on. The tidbits into 1899 New York City is wonderful as readers obtain glimpses into the subway system construction, the problems with the consolidation with Brooklyn and Queens, and much more as life in Manhattan shines throughout the novel. Although that is a double edged sword as the police investigation into the serial killer slasher homicides takes a back seat to the city.

Harriet Klausner

Eden Palms Murder-Dorothy Francis

Eden Palms Murder
Dorothy Francis
Five Stars, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147027

Her late mom’s friend Francine Shipton invites Des Moines based blues singer Bailey Green to spend time living in her guest cottage on her Eden Palms estate. However, Bailey is shocked when her hostess fails to pick her up at the Key West Airport as arranged. She soon finds out why when she arrives at Eden Palms to see police Detectives Cassidy and Burgundy investigating the death of Francis.

Francine’s son Zack tells Bailey to use the guest cottage. He also asks her to help him look into his mother’s death as he explains she made enemies when she decided to convert the estate into a homeless shelter. The cops look into the alibis of neighbors, realtor Courtney Lusk, Dr. Winton Gravely who found the body and funeral director Tucker Tisdale as well as yardman Mitch Mitchell who is Bailey’s brother under the witness protection program. While working with Zack on the homicide, she learns of a second murder that leads to her life being threatened.

This is an enjoyable amateur sleuth tale in which the heroine is attracted to Zack, but does not trust him as she fears he may be the killer. The story line is fast-paced although Mitch’s woes distract from the plot. Still readers will relish Dorothy Francis’ latest Key West whodunit (see CONCH SHELL MURDER and COLD-CASE KILLER).

Harriet Klausner

Delia’s Crossing-V.C. Andrews

Delia’s Crossing
V.C. Andrews
Pocket, Oct 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 1416530843

Delia Yebarra is dreaming in school about yesterday’s quinceanera celebration when her grandmother bursts into the school and takes her home. She informs the teen that her parents died in an auto accident. Delia leaves her Mexican village to live with her wealthy aunt Isabella in Palm Springs, California. Isabelle married an older rich man. The grieving teenager is shocked that her aunt is taking her in because Isabelle turned her back on her family and village years ago.

When she arrives at her aunt’s vast estate, Delia is told she will live in a rundown building and will be a servant until she learns to speak English fluently. Nobody will know they are related, but eventually Delia’s cousins Edward and Sophia learn the truth. Edward welcomes her to the family and tries to protect her. However Isabelle and Sophia try to harm her so Delia flees for home with a Mexican fugitive at her side.

If this tale is any indication, V.C. Andrews’s new series starring Delia will be a big hit. Delia feels like a fish out of water in the states especially since she does not speak English and thereby unwelcome by her aunt who along with Sophia uses her niece for personal reasons; Delia has no idea how to fight back. Even her relationship with Edward is ruined by her aunt’s machinations leaving her isolated as a stranger in a foreign land. This is a great tale of people in crisis learning to cope with the hand fate (and a cruel relative) dealt them.

Harriet Klausner

Swallowing Darkness-Laurell K. Hamilton

Swallowing Darkness
Laurell K. Hamilton
Ballantine, Nov 2008, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345495938

Princess Meredith NicEssus of the Unseelie Court knows the danger of being a princess; she also knows how hazardous being pregnant can be as Her Aunt Andais the Queen promises that if she gets pregnant before her son impregnates someone else, she will be the heir to the throne. Since few children are born in Fairie, Merry carrying twins from six fathers has become the hope of revitalization and the target of those who want to use her like her insane Uncle Taranis who kidnapped and raped her. He plans to claim that he sired his niece’s children. Even her beloved Gran, under a spell apparently performed by cousin Cair, tries to kill her.

Outraged Merry demands the Wild Hunt to obtain revenge but that comes at a price; as Mistral, another of her children’s’ fathers, is dying. She asks the Goddess to save him and another injured father Doyle. Meanwhile another sire Sholto and Merry are crowned as King and Queen of the Slaugh in Faerie while her uncle stalks her and Queen Andais’ son tries to eliminate her. Merry’s wrath against family is growing.

SWALLOWING DARKNESS has a different overall tone thn the rest of the books in this series as there are infrequent sexual time outs with the battles and plans highlighted instead as Merry needs revenge on those trying to harm her, her unborn and her loved ones. Merry is a wonderful person, who tries to be fair to everyone, but does not fear using her powers against nasty folks. The two Courts remain overall malevolent with one more overt about their evil agenda. Fans will appreciate the latest Princess Merry hypnotic romantic fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Cold Pursuit-Carla Neggers

Cold Pursuit
Carla Neggers
Mira, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0778325539

Secret service Agent Jo Harper is put on administrative leave because while doing her duty an incident turns into an unfair YouTube scandal of her with the Vice President’s merry prankster sixteen years old son Charles Preston Neal. She returns to her hometown Black Falls, Vermont hoping her fifteen minutes of sensationalism ends quickly so she can go back to work; her fear is her career is over.

Also back in town recovering from a war wound in Afghanistan is Special Forces Sergeant Elijah Cameron. Besides recuperating, Elijah investigates the death of his father Drew seven months ago.

At the same time, Jo's friend Thomas Asher witnessed the murder of former Ambassador to Great Britain Alex Bruni in a hit and run in which Thomas’ daughter college age Nora fled into the mountains; Thomas’s former wife and Nora’s mom is Bruni’s widow. Former lovers when they were teens until Drew ended their relationship, Jo and Elijah find their inquiries link; as they fall in love while investigating two murders and search for the missing girl, the killers seek Nora too.

This is an exciting romantic suspense thriller filled with humor and action as Carla Neggers brings the Green Mountain State to life. Jo and Elijah are tough and courageous, but inside both are vulnerable especially when it comes to the other. Readers will relish this exhilarating complex cat and mouse tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Hiding Place-Karen Harper

The Hiding Place
Karen Harper
Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0778325881

Finders Keepers private investigator Tara Kinsale awakens after months in a coma to a series of deep stress shockers. First she learns that her best friend Alexis was murdered. Second, that she had been named guardian of Alexis’ daughter Claire as the father is a rat who deserted his then wife and child for another woman. Third Claire's uncle, Nick McMahon has arrived from military duty in Afghanistan to raise his niece. Fourth her own spouse divorced her and remarried. Finally, she learns from her doctor that she gave birth while in the coma.

As Tara struggles to bring the parts together into a cohesive package, she agrees to help Nick and Claire become a family. She makes inquires into her lost nine months especially the infant she birthed, but some unknown person wants her to remain either ignorant or dead.

This action-packed romantic suspense hooks the audience from the moment Tara opens her eyes to learn one stunner after another starting with the memory of how she became comatose until the final confrontation. The story line is fast-paced though at times overly angst laden with so much pressure on Tara. Still this is an exciting thriller as the past still haunts the heroine’s present.

Harriet Klausner

A Virgin River Christmas-Robyn Carr

A Virgin River Christmas
Robyn Carr
Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 0778325733

Four years ago in the battle of Fallujah, US Marine Ian Buchanan risked his life to save his brother in arms Bobby Sullivan. Three years after that heroism, never having recovered from his wounds twenty-six years old Bobby died. His widow Marcie grieved her loss even before he passed away as she knew he would never recover.

Over the years Marcie sent letters to Ian thanking him, but all returned unopened; he simply vanished. Obstinate and resolute, Marcie decides to find Ian to personally thank him. She traces him to Virgin River; Ian is unhappy to see her as he lives the life of a hermit selling firewood. He needs to forget Iraq, especially Fallujah and Bobby. Marcie feels a deep need to save his soul; in her mind he is not living. As they fall in love, she needs to persuade him to let go of the past so they can share a future.

The return to the small isolated Redwoods town of Virgin River is a triumph as the lead couple is as complex a pair of characters as one is apt to read. Especially intricate is the former marine who suffers from a deep post traumatic stress disorder from what he did and saw in Fallujah. With some jocularity to lighten the tense tale, readers will relish the spending Christmas with a Virgin River romance.

Harriet Klausner

Donovan & Son-Michael Jahn

Donovan & Son
Michael Jahn
Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594142661

With plenty of money from his wife, former NYPD legendary Special Investigations Chief Detective Bill Donovan left the force to spend time with their wheelchair bound son Danny and seeking a cure that would enable his offspring to walk away from the “Beast”. Ironically, Danny thinks of his wheelchair as a commanding chariot not a confinement.

Bill learns of genetic research conducted by Riverside University geneticist Dr. Patrick McGowan, who vanished without a trace over two decades ago; he feels the scientist might be able to help Danny walk. At Riverside, DONOVAN & SON make inquiries, but no one knows what happened to McGowan, why he vanished or where he is now. They explore the boxes in the tunnels beneath the school’s library only to hear a scream. The father and son find janitor Gregorio Paz dying. Donovan’s friend and replacement as Special Investigations chief Brian Moskowitz investigates the murder of Paz even as the retiree finds odd clues that lead back to the Manhattan Project, the Cuban missile crisis, his other son police officer Lewis Rodriguez and Lewis’s mother bartender Rosalie Rodriguez.

The mystery takes a back seat to the extended complicated relationships and the tour of mostly uptown. The story line is driven by Donovan whose past alongside that of Riverside resurfaces; whatever he does he knows nothing will remain the same. Fans of the series will appreciate the twentieth-fifth anniversary thriller with the tunnels serving as metaphors of life as well as existing under the city colleges such as Lehman College when it was called Hunter-Bronx.

Harriet Klausner

The Messenger of Death-Pierre Magnan

The Messenger of Death
Pierre Magnan
Dunne, Sep 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 0312387563

Former postman Emile Pencnat notices the unstamped addressed letter in the disused box at the gate of the Cemetery at Barles, France. Unable to resist perhaps because of his previous occupation, he puts on the postage and sends it to Veronique Champourcieux. However the mademoiselle is not quite in a receiving mood as someone jammed the bayonet blade of a nineteenth century rife through her stomach into a piano.

After the greedy woman is found dead Judge Chabrand asks his friend former Superintendent Laviolette to investigate the homicide. As the pair follows leads across Provencal, more horrific gruesome murders occur. Someone appears to be on a mission of revenge, which Laviolette assumes means greed is the original cause and serial murders are the effect.

The second Provence whodunit (see DEATH IN THE TRUFFLE WOOD) is an excellent French murder mystery due to the sleuthing pair who struggles with a strange case. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the judge asks the retiree to help him end the serial killings. Pierre Magnan provides a strong investigative thriller as the murder count rises while Laviolette and Chabrand try to prevent the next one by capturing the culprit.

Harriet Klausner

Caravaggio's Angel-Ruth Brandon

Caravaggio's Angel
Ruth Brandon
Soho, Oct 2008, $25.00
ISBN: 1569475199

The Director of the London National Gallery approves art historian Reggie Lee’s concept to display three “original” works of artist Caravaggio, who created in 1605 the altarpiece St. Cecilia and the Angel and subsequently made two copies. She knows that the Getty and the Louvre each have one and assumes it should prove no problem to find the third.

Shockingly, Louvre Italian masterpiece administrator Antoine Rigaut refuses to loan the museum’s copy. Since lending is a normal practice, Reggie goes to Paris to plead her case in person with Rigaut. However, he avoids her like she has the plague until he is found dead, an apparent suicide. Reggie is further stunned when a seemingly fourth copy surfaces. This makes her believe one of the originals is a fake; perhaps created in 1937 when the Louvre copy was recovered after being stolen. When the English expert meets Rigaut’s mother, she begins to learn the true early twentieth century history of St. Cecilia and the Angel.

CARAVAGGIO'S ANGEL is an excellent art mystery starring a likable protagonist who goes from art historian to amateur sleuth in her efforts to learn the truth. The story line is fast-paced with the historical aspects adding a terific taste of the early seventeenth century art world and the not so rare museum thefts of the early twentieth century from a modern perspective. Ruth Brandon provides a wonderful thriller that hopefully will lead to more blending of masterpieces with mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

The Sweet Scent of Blood-Suzanne McLeod

The Sweet Scent of Blood
Suzanne McLeod
Gollancz, 2008
ISBN 978057584285

The Spellcrackers consists of good witches whose mission is to defuse evil magic in a world in which vampires have come out of the coffin and are accepted by society although some people believe they are the malevolent predators as legend describes them.

Spellcrackers.com operative Genny Taylor is a Sidhe who distrusts the vamps as she understands the food chain too well. Still in spite of her bias, she investigates the homicide of Melissa the girlfriend of Mr. October, Roberto the celebrity vampire accused of killing her with one bite. As Genny follows the bloody London trail she soon realizes the case is not quite as closed as she and the cops thought. However, she is unprepared for her and Mr. October being expendable tools discarded by two dangerous powerful adversaries who have fought for control of the paranormal communities for centuries.

This is a fast-paced humorous urban fantasy that in some ways will remind the audience of Charlaine Harris’ Stackhouse tales; location aside. The story line is fast-paced and the inquiry solid. However, the thriller is owned by the paranormal species that frequent famous London haunts as if they own the city. Readers will enjoy the first Spellcrackers.com thriller as Suzanne McLeod brings life to her supernatural cast as much as her superb plot.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Exploits of the Second Mrs. Watson-Michael Mallory

The Exploits of the Second Mrs. Watson
Michael Mallory
Top Publications, Jul 2008, $14.95
3100 Independence Parkway
Suite 311-349
Plano, Texas 75075
ISBN: 1929976461

This excellent thirteen story collection provides a fascinating spin on the Holmes mythos. In the Introduction John Shirley explains that Holmes mentions that his chronicler Watson had a second wife (see The Adventures of the Blanched Soldier) whom he was married to in January 1903. Using that footnote Mr. Shirley provides the Baker Street crowd with a wonderful collection in which Amelia Watson solves the cases. Of the thirteen tales, twelve have been in other publications. All the entries are fun and use a real historical item, person or place, event to anchor the tales. Sherlock makes a few appearances with one amusing moment when he steals the dress of the very tall Amelia so he can go undercover; while Mycroft appears more frequently. Also showing up is Lestrade who appreciates Mrs. Watson’s skills. Fans of the great detective will relish this strong compilation as Amelia recognizes her competitor for John's affections is Sherlock and John is envious that not only his friend is a superior sleuth so is his wife whom he adores.

Harriet Klausner

Serena-Ron Rash

Ron Rash
Ecco, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780061470851

During the Depression in Appalachia, wealthy lumber baron George Pemberton returns from Boston to Waynesville, North Carolina accompanied by his new wife, the orphan Serena. Waiting for him to disembark from the train is his sycophant partners, pregnant teenage kitchen hand Rachel Harmon and her outraged father. A drunken Harmon demands Pemberton take care of the child he sired. Instead encouraged by Serena, George kills him as he knows he is above the law.

Pemberton destroys the land and its people and his wife Serena is as evil and avaricious as he is. She insures Rachel is scorned by everyone and that the brat once born remains the bastard he or she is. Meanwhile Serena also obtains the undying loyalty of foreman Galloway whose life she saved; he becomes her slave willing to kill anyone if she asks; however George actually likes having a son adoring Jacob and angering his wife.

This is an intriguing look at the Depression from various perspectives. Especially fascinating is the poignant glimpse at horrific working conditions that make a case for a strong OSHA and yet in spite of the danger of death and maim the workers have forged a club like solidarity (mindful of soldiers in war conditions). Although the key cast is stereotyped; the Pembertons especially Serena are evil caricatures of the abuse of wealth while in contrast poor single mom Rachel is kind and noble, fans will appreciate this powerful 1930s drama.

Harriet Klausner

Fear Death by Water-Kinley Roby

Fear Death by Water
Kinley Roby
Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594146446

As the president of the Stoneman Douglas Alliance whose goal is to save the Okalatchee River from becoming a dead zone, Colleen McGraw expected some threats; however the emails and letters are increasing and turning nastier and now rattlesnakes have been dumped in her mailbox. She asks private investigator Harry Brock to find out who is trying to stop her campaign.

When the murdered body of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission senior ichthyologist Joyce Fields is found in the river, the Tequita County Sheriff’s Department, which has done nothing re Colleen’s complaints, must investigate the homicide. Joyce was making a case that the river is nearly dead having been polluted by chemical and fertilizer runoff. Harry finds several groups including locals doing everything to bury the toxic information. He also has personal issues as his estranged pregnant daughter Sarah comes to see him for the first time in years and he is attracted to a member of the Alliance; both of his women in danger.

The story line is excellent with the prime focus being development and property rights vs. environment and conservation. Adding to the overall fun are Harry’s neighbors Tucker, Oh Brother and Sanchez as they enchant Sarah and the readers. Fans will enjoy his Southwest Florida thriller and seek Brock’s previous cases (see NOW COMES DEATH and TWO IN THE CHURCHYARD LIE).

Harriet Klausner

Trigger City-Sean Chercover

Trigger City
Sean Chercover
Morrow, Nov 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780061128691

In Chicago unable to let go the unsolved murder of his daughter Joan, Colonel (R) Isaac Richmond hires injured (see BIG CITY, BAD BLOOD) private investigator Ray Dudgeon to investigate in what appears to be a solved case. Dudgeon knows he still should refuse as he is still healing, but accepts the $50,000.

To everyone including the sleuth with the lone exception of her father believe Joan’s insane co-worker Steven Zhang killed her and then himself in a murder-suicide. However, being a professional Dudgeon looks beyond the obvious to see if any other potential suspect exists. He learns Joan worked for the Hawk River Company that thrives on Defense Department and Homeland Security contracts and Zhang’s widow admits her late spouse had contacts in China. As the case spins even crazier, Dudgeon begins to believe there were two homicides committed instead of a murder-suicide.

TRIGGER CITY is an excellent Chicago Noir as Dudgeon keeps digging in spite of threats to his still bruised and battered well being. The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never looks back once the sleuth accepts the case. Readers will enjoy Drudgeon’s tour of Chicago as he turns from skeptic to believer while the inquiry turns strange and potentially deadly.

Harriet Klausner

Havah: The Story of Eve-Tosca Lee

Havah: The Story of Eve
Tosca Lee
Navpress, Oct 2008, $14.99
ISBN 9781600061240

Eve, called Havah by her mate Adam, came to the Garden in awe and innocence. When she and Adam broke God’s rule, they were kicked out of their earthly paradise to live in the wilderness. She tries everything she can think of to obtain forgiveness from the One and return to the Garden, but fails. Instead she learns to survive as she gives birth to children only to learn one son murdered another. If anything, Eve has become a survivor although she has never given up hope of redemption from the One, but as she ages she prays that the next generation gets to go to the Garden.

This biblical biographical fiction is a superb look at the “First Lady” Eve. Using events described in the bible, Tosca Lee provides the emotional reaction of Eve to what occurs. For instance she feels shame when she and her mate are kicked out of the Garden into the wilderness by the One. Readers will appreciate this deep tale of paradise lost from the woman’s perspective.

Harriet Klausner

Tender Morsels-Margo Lanagan

Tender Morsels
Margo Lanagan
Knopf, Oct 2008, $16.99
ISBN: 9780375848117

Single mom Liga Longfield has barely survived her father's sexual molestations and a gang rape although emotionally she is on shaky grounds in spite of living in an apparent heaven. Her daughters are polar opposites as Branza is calm and soothing while the bored Urdda is ready to take on the world they left behind.

Meanwhile their isolated haven soon has a treasure hunting visitor, a "little man"; who comes and goes. Others also arrive to include a kind teenage boy who transforms into a bear and nasty bear-man. Fearing the intrusion, Liga can do little when her now teen Urdda wants to leave for the exciting life of the "vivid people".

This is an intriguing dark character study that looks deep at the human psyche through a lens of “two border worlds” representing the extremes of humanity; one side is abusive and brutal, and the other is caring yet boring. Liga has seen both sides having been molested and raped, and now is living in a gentle realm raising her children. She fears for her daughter who wants a taste of the wild side, having had that taste shoved down her throat with sexual abuse. Although the plot can turn overwhelmingly moody and introspectively slow at times, TENDER MORSELS is an engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Plague-Glen M. Page, MD

The Last Plague
Glen M. Page, MD
Synergy, Jun 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9781933538969
Synergy Books, P.O. Box 80107,Austin, Tx.78758

In 1986 on Yankee Ford in Stanley, Idaho, a ten years old Black girl is found bleeding from her abdomen; she is rushed to the emergency room for surgery. Dr. Doug Hunter opens up the area that is bleeding only to find it is one of her ovarian arteries; the other is black. He successfully stops the bleeding, but her mom and friend remove the child from the hospital so that the Sprudiths, Children of Lucifer, cannot find her. Soon afterward two corpses of children with black ovaries are found in an abandoned shack.

The Spendrift leader has Army General McFarland confiscate the bodies because they do not want the public to know about the black ovaries of preadolescents. Doug finds a paper on black ovaries in the CDC library, but is later told the slides he took of his black ovary patient have been taken and the scientist who was examining them is dead. He also realizes they are after him and his friends and associates who apparently know too much. Doug’s son Jason is constantly called a Levite and the Sprudiths refer to him as the “heir” or the chosen one. He apparently has a major role re the future of mankind; if the dark ones don’t kill him first. Neither father nor son seems to have much time elft as the enemy is coming for them.

This is the opening novel of a series that deals with the forces of Darkness personified by Lucifer and his commanders on earth. They fight the forces of good symbolized by Doug’s wife who he believed dies but is actually fighting for their souls. Doug is a non-believer in the heaven-hell war on earth, but ironically plays a pivotal role. Both sides have equal soldiers who will not hesitate to use force on the other side. THE LAST PLAGUE is an exhilarating medical-apocalyptic thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Black Glass-John Shirley

Black Glass
John Shirley
Elder Signs Press, Nov 2008, $15.95
PO Box 389
Lake Orion, MI 48361
ISBN: 1934501077

In 2033, former cop Rick Candle is being released from the California State Centenary once he is ReMinded. He spent four years of being UnMinded for taking the software piracy rap for his younger brother musician and V-Rat addict Danny.

Slaken CEO Terrence Grist is unhappy with Rick’s freedom as the cop came close to destroying his empire. However the Fortune 33 member has a hitman Halido poised to kill Candle.

Rick visits Danny’s former girlfriend Zilia, who he is attracted to, but she has no idea where his sibling is. Meanwhile Shortstack hires Rick to protect his underground illegal web. At the same time Grist orders his leading technocrat Sykes to create the Multisemblant, a merging of the personalities of five of the top Fortune 33 members. Soon that new creation will be out of control and after Rick who stands in the way of its personal agenda.

This is an engaging somewhat cautionary cyber future thriller in which Big Business runs the United States any way they want. The story line is action-packed from the moment Rick regains his mind and never slows down as he searches for his brother, deals with his attraction to Zilia and tries to protect Shortstack and his cronies from Grist’s killers. However it is the unique Multisemblant that steals the show as the copied conscience of five of the top of the Fortune 33 personalities seems almost God-like with the ability to go almost anywhere in cyberspace. BLACK GLASS is a terific science fiction tale.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, September 26, 2008

A Country Called Home-Kim Barnes

A Country Called Home
Kim Barnes
Knopf, Oct 3 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307268952

In Connecticut scholarship medical student Thomas Deracotte met, dated, and married wealthy Helen over the objections of her upper crust parents; her father being third generation Yale especially detested this scholarship student. Soon after they exchange I do, the couple in 1960 moves to a farm in Fife, Idaho where he is to open up a medical practice; the current local health care comes from a pharmacist.

Shockingly, Thomas delays starting his practice as he would rather work the land; Helen quickly misses her family and her New England upper class lifestyle as farm living is not the place for her. She becomes pregnant while Thomas hires teen Manny to work on the farm. Helen gives birth to Elise, but she soon wants freedom from her intolerant spouse and is lonely from the hours of nothing but motherhood; while her husband turns to drugs to alleviate his feelings of failure as a physician, as a farmer, as a husband, and as a father. She considers Manny for a fling and he is falling in love with her. However after a tragedy changes the family dynamics, Manny is more a dad to Elise while her biological father is deeper into drugs.

This is a dark family drama that looks closely at the1960s and 1970s when youthful idealism turned to cynicism and disappointment; yet with Elise there is guarded hope for the future. None of the four lead characters escape the bleakness, which in some ways becomes overbearing when one traumatic event is followed by another and another until suddenly Elsie is a teenager. Still in spite of the overwhelming sense of negativity, Kim Barnes provides a poignant look at idealism without pragmatism.
Harriet Klausner

Diamond Duo-Marcia Gruver

Diamond Duo
Marcia Gruver
Barbour, Oct 2008, $10.97
ISBN: 9781602602052

In 1877 in Jefferson, Texas, Bertha Biddie loves Thaddeus Bloom, but he shows no return of her deep affection beyond friendliness. Desperate to win her man, she asks newly-arrived Annie Stone, who Dr. Turner calls Bessie and allegedly knows her way around men, for help. Bertha idolizes the confident Annie

Thaddeus actually hides how he feels about Bertha whom he loves. However, his father demands he attend the recently opened Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, a military school, which he will though his younger brother is the bookworm. He desperately wants to ask Bertha to wait for him, but he never finds a way to do so before he leaves. He is unaware he broke her heart. However Annie’s murder shakes up the townsfolk and leaves Bertha to know she is on her own to gain Thaddeus’s heart.

The first Texas Fortunes historical romance is a terific late Reconstruction era tale that brings to life a port city. The murder of Annie also known as Diamond Bessie Monroe is a real event that anchors the well written story line; as Marcia Gruver easily blends fact and fiction. With a strong cast especially the lead couple who each has self esteem issues, fans of Reconstruction Era romances will want to read the delightful DIAMOND DUO.
Harriet Klausner

Something Very Wild-Mary Zelinsky

Something Very Wild
Mary Zelinsky
Five Star, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 1594147191

Family matriarch Clotilde Galen is outraged by her daughter Chloe’s latest college scandal in which she was tossed from the University of Mississippi, her third expulsion. Clotilde informs her wild child no more. She will pay tuition at a local art school, but Chloe will live on her own with no other help. Sunned Chloe’s friend Sara allows her to move into her dump of an apartment and she obtains work at La Bella Gallery owned by a friend of her late father.

At the same time, Atlanta based FBI agent Aaron Porter comes home to New Orleans to work on art fraud. The evidence points towards La Bella Gallery. When he meets Chloe, they are instantly attracted to one another, but he hides his law enforcement undercover role from her and she conceals her family wealth from him. They assume the other is a poor student. As they fall in love, the case turns deadly.

The second Galen New Orleans Legacy romantic suspense thriller (see SOMETHING VERY WICKED starring Chloe’s oldest brother) is an enjoyable police procedural cozy with an emphasis on the romance. The story line contains a few delightful spins although the art mystery is secondary, as it is the lead couple and their relationships with each other and with family members that make for a something very fine tale.

Harriet Klausner

Blacklight Blue-Peter May

Blacklight Blue
Peter May
Poisoned Pen, Nov 2008
ISBN 9781590585528

Scottish expatriate forensic scientist Enzo Macleod has earned a well deserved reputation for solving a decades old cold case homicide (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC) as written in a true crime book by his daughter’s boyfriend journalist Roger Raffin. Enzo has five unsolved cases left in order to complete his “read” of Raffin’s book.

Roger describes the 1992 Paris murder of Yves, but Enzo finds focusing difficult on the homicide as he has been diagnosed with terminal cancer with only a few months to live. However, the culprit knows only of Enzo’s success and fears the forensic expert will expose him. The killer works behind the scenes to destroy Enzo including setting him up as a murder suspect and threatens his daughter and other loved ones. Thus Enzo is forced to investigate the rent boy murder.

As with the two previous Macleod investigative thriller (see EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE and THE CRITIC), BLACKLIGHT BLUE is a superb cold case whodunit enhanced by the shocking personal health issue confronting the hero. The story line effortlessly moves back forth through four decades with the past adding to the overall drama. Fans of this extraordinary series will appreciate the irony that the killer forces Enzo to investigate.

Harriet Klausner

Collateral Damage-Fern Michaels

Collateral Damage
Fern Michaels
Zebra, Sep 30 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9781420101874

Both political parties are stunned when their top secret fundraising lists of donors are stolen. The Democrats and the Republicans ask the Sisterhood to investigate the hacker who stile their lists. However, the Sisterhood is divided as to who to assist. The Dems offer a lot of cash while the GOP offer presidential pardon.

One thing the team shares in common is not to trust either party. They have their extended operatives conduct some serendipitous investigations to see if this is a stunt to catch them. As they learn more of what is going on from their allies, the Sisterhood with its one for all and all for one attitude comes together as they always do.

The latest Sisterhood saga is in some ways typical of the series as the magnificent seven deals with a new challenge. However, it is refreshed as they disagree on involvement and more so by previous tales secondary players playing much greater roles than ever before. Fans of the series will enjoy their latest thriller as they fear the risk of getting involved could cause them to become COLLATERAL DAMAGE, but the opportunity may be too great to ignore.

Harriet Klausner

Agent To The Stars-John Scalzi

Agent To The Stars
John Scalzi
Tor, Nov 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 0765317710

Although relatively young compared to his envious peers, Hollywood agent Tom Stein is the top gun in his vocation at this moment. His confidence is extremely high that he can sell anyone. His newest star literally comes from the stars. He will represent the sentient alien Yherajk as they make their first appearance on the earth stage.

However selling the Yherajk to xenophobics will be difficult as the Yherajk are not what humans would call centerfold material. Instead they are gelatin gels with a distinct odor that makes a spraying skunk smell nice. However Tom is confident he can sell his new client to humans though he understands the issues he and Yherajk face.

Although he leaves the military science fiction sector (see THE ANDROID'S DREAM and the OLD MAN'S WAR), John Scalzi continues his specialty of lampooning icons; this time Hollywood and spin doctors. The story line is amusing as Tom adheres to the Barnum-Bush capitalist theory that you can sell to the American people anything. Fans who enjoy am lighthearted first contact satire will relish the selling of a species that smell worse than fish rotting.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Ship-Diana Pharaoh Francis

The Black Ship
Diana Pharaoh Francis
Roc, Nov 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 0451462424

One of the best of the elite Pilots, few can navigate Crosspointe's magical deadly seas better than Thorn can. However, he is stunned when the Pilots' Guild bans him from his love: sailing the seas. Though he knows someone betrayed him and set him up to take a fall and that individual had to be an important person in the guild, he remains clueless as to who and why.

While despairing what to do since he lost his vocation, things get even uglier for the beleaguered Thorn; he is kidnapped and dumped on an unmarked vessel sailing the seas. He soon learns the ship Eidolon is also unregistered but concludes the captain is insane, the crew ready to mutiny and someone in the shadows is sabotaging the vessel to insure it never makes it safely to a port.

The second Crosspointe tale (see CIPHER) is a superb fantasy in which the hero’s shanghaied ocean voyage leaves the audience feeling they are on board the ship; as Diana Pharaoh Francis’ water building is incredible. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the setting along with a fully developed crew, captain and the disgraced pilot who make for a strong thriller.

Harriet Klausner

V The Original Miniseries-Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin

V The Original Miniseries
Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin
Tor, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780765321992

One minute cameraman Mike Donovan and his co-worker Tony Wah Chong are filming a skirmish in El Salvador and in the next all activities halt as a space ship five miles in diameter hovers in the sky. Ships like this vessel are floating above every major city in the world and a voice asks for the United Nations Secretary-General to meet with them in one of their smaller crafts. They insist they come in peace having come to earth seeking help in creating a chemical needed on their homeworld; in return they will provide major advances in technology.

They are welcomed as friends and not even the disappearances of scientists seem to disturb anyone. Mike sneaks aboard one of the alien’s ships where he sees the Visitors; when he gets into a fight with one of them, the Visitor’s skin peels off leaving a sentient lizard with large veracious eyes. Mike escapes with the film he took on board. Soon an underground resistance forms with people risking their lives to get the planet free of the Visitors who are stealing the water and using people as sustenance.

It has been several years (perhaps decades) since this reviewer watched the original miniseries, but this fine science fiction rendition captures the essence of the TV show. The Visitors turn earth into a totalitarian state so they use the planet as a feeding ground. The resistance grows as more people understand the truth. Fans of the saga will appreciate the collaboration of Kenneth Johnson and A.C. Crispin as they convert the exciting V: THE ORIGINAL MINISERIES into an entertaining novel.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Partisan’s Daughter-Louis De Bernieres

A Partisan’s Daughter
Louis De Bernieres
Knopf, Oct 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 9780307268877

In the late 1970s in wintry London, fortyish salesman Chris detests his life; he loathes his job and hates his marriage; though widower status gives him some hope to get past the despair of being with the “Great White Loaf” late wife. Discontented with his lot he keeps asking himself is that all there is?

When he spots Yugoslavian expatriate Roza walking, he assumes she is a hooker. He bungles his efforts to hire her services. She corrects his misconception and they begin to talk. He drives her home and she invites him in her flat for coffee. A friendship forms that he believes is the underpinning of a romance and she assumes is platonic. She explains she came from her homeland seeking a break but so far has found only hardship that has her considering a return to her homeland where her father is a die hard Tito backer.

This is an extremely complex relationship drama. The dark gloominess of both protagonists makes this a difficult novel to read as the focus is actually on opportunity costs, especially those not chosen. Roza is the more interesting star as her tale is sensationally erotic over the top and at times ugly, but also feels hyperbolic symbolizing the plight of minorities everywhere (especially Iron Curtain Europe during the Brezhnev Era). Chris is the more realistic characterization of the western middle aged normal who wonders why life is depressing so finds excitement in his companion’s tales. Not for everyone, as at times overly dramatic and extremely reflective including the action scenes, A PARTISAN’S DAUGHTER is a deep look at the late 1970s.

Harriet Klausner

The Replacement Child-Christine Barber

The Replacement Child
Christine Barber
Dunne, Oct 2008, $23.95
ISBN: 0312385544

On her scanner, elderly Patsy “Scanner Lady” Burke overhears two state cops discuss the death of twenty-three years old Burroway Academy seventh grade teacher Melissa Baca who was thrown from the Taos Gorge Bridge. As she has done a zillion times before, Patsy calls the Santa Fe Capital Tribune but this time is stuck with a female, editor Lucy Newroe with the news.

A volunteer EMT, Lucy and her medico partner Gil answer an emergency call by going to the home of an elderly woman where she finds Patsy strangled to death. She checks the police scanner log but finds no entry re the Baca death. Santa Fe police Detective Sergeant Gil Montoya investigates the Baca death finding discrepancies over alleged drug use. With Lucy badgering Gil, they team up seeking more than just the scanner link between the two homicides.

Readers will understand why THE REPLACEMENT CHILD won the annual Tony Hillerman Prize for best previously unpublished mystery set in the Southwest as the scanner murders are fun to follow and the Santa Fe setting makes an ideal backdrop. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Scanner Lady calls Lucy and never slows down. Although the coincidence of Lucy answering the medical call is a minor quibble, fans will enjoy Christine Barber’s first Santa Fe whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)-Carrie Bebris

The Matters at Mansfield (Or, The Crawford Affair)
Carrie Bebris
Forge, Sep 2008, $22.95
ISBN: 0765318474

Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy are euphoric over the birth of their first child. However, both are bit stunned when they attend a party, as their mousy cousin Anne de Bourgh shows shocking courage and even stunningly a backbone by standing up to her martinet mother Lady Catherine for the first time at least in public. Catherine plans for her daughter to wed odious Neville Sennex, heir to senile Lord Sennex; instead Anne elopes with Mr. Crawford.

Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam give chase, but arrive at Gretna Green too late to stop the marriage. Instead they escort the couple home only Annie hurts her foot so they stop at Mansfield. However, soon afterward, a horde descends on the village. Annie’s mom with her lawyer wants the marriage annulled. Crawford’s mistress and his second wife claim he cannot marry someone else. As everyone argues over whom is married to who, Crawford’s battered corpse is found; the magistrate proclaims suicide but Elizabeth and Fitz think otherwise and begin investigating.

Although some Jane Austen die-hards might take exception to liberties with characters like Anne (critically needed to put the plot in gear), Carrie Bebris provides a fun lighthearted Regency amateur sleuth tale. The story line is a fast-paced Regency and of course includes Austen tidbits. For the most part fans of Ms. Austen will appreciate Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam starring in their fourth entertaining whodunit (see PRIDE AND PRESCIENCE, NORTH BY NORTHANGER and SUSPENSE AND SENSIBILITY).

Harriet Klausner

Kllrs-Phil Bowie

Phil Bowie
Medallion, Nov 2008, $7.95
ISBN: 9781605420608

In the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina, pilot John Hardin hides from his past; twice the Federal Witness Protection Program has given him new identities including his current one. However, he knows his dark history including a murder could surface at any time.

Former Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent Nolan Rader informs John he has video proof that he committed a homicide. He demands John save his brother Clint or he will expose him. The plan is for John to join the dangerous powerful drug running Satan’s Ghosts as a pilot smuggling drugs from Canada; Nolan believes a special cell of the biker gang, Satan’s Wraith kidnapped his sibling.

Reluctantly John agrees, but to keep his beloved girl friend Kitty Birdsong and others safe, he tells no one. At the same time he makes contact at a dive, the Satan’s Wraith leader Kurt “the Brain” Ganz conducts a psychological research study using Clint as a subject on stress.

The third Phil Bowie North Carolina thriller (see GUNS and DIAMONDBACK) is an engaging action-packed tale from the moment Nolan blackmails John into rescuing his sibling. The story line is fast-paced but also contains deep characterizations at least of Harden’s friends; how profound they prove to be comes across with their concern for him as he is forced to end his relationships with his beloved Kitty and others to keep them safe and to hide the undercover truth. Although the Brain is too psychopathic especially with his experiments, thriller fans will appreciate this entertaining tale.
Harriet Klausner

Ghost At Work-Carolyn Hart

Ghost At Work
Carolyn Hart
Morrow, Oct 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780060874360

While sailing off the Gulf of Mexico, Bailey Ruth Raeburn and her husband Bobby Mac die during a storm. However, instead of enjoying Heaven for eternity, Bailey, understanding the Precepts for Earthly Visitation rules as part of the Department for Good Intentions, is sent back to her hometown of Adelaide, Oklahoma to help her niece Kathleen Abbott, the wife of a local rector.

Kathleen found a corpse on her back porch. Instead of reporting it to the cops, Kathleen with Bailey Ruth’s assistance moves the body to a nearby cemetery. Bailey Ruth investigates the homicide, but finds many in the town loathed the victim. Still she keeps digging although she knows when she returns to heaven she will be disciplined for violating the prime directive on visits to earth.

This is an entertaining paranormal amateur sleuth starring a heavenly agent who breaks the rules in order, to the “cardiac arrest” of her superior, to help those in need. The story line is lighthearted yet charming as Bailey Ruth works the case by eavesdropping though many of those conversations are unrelated to her mission; she is nosy. With enough suspects to fill the choir and a bureaucracy running Heaven, fans will enjoy Carolyn Hart leaving her “Death on Demand” and Henrie O sagas to introduce her audience to a fresh fun heaven on earth detective.

Harriet Klausner

Stormcaller-Tom Lloyd

Tom Lloyd
PYR, Oct 2008, $15.00
ISBN: 9781591026938

White eyed are elitists as they are the chosen ones of the Gods. They are always physically and intelligently superior to the inferior non-white eyes and on top of those advantages can use magic too. Besides obvious envy from the nonentitites, their quick rage has left the “nons” fearing the white eyed.

Isak is a white eye who killed his “non” mother in childbirth; his father loathes his wagonbrat offspring who he is unable to discipline as they travel as peasants in a caravan. When the lad turns sixteen he is selected as an heir to white-eyed Lord Bahl of the powerful realm of Farlan. Like his mentor and all white-eyed, Isak can be brutally nasty and impatient yet also inspiring; all within nanoseconds. The God of Storms presents Isak with the armour and sword of a legendary elven king who was the last monarch of all the land; a prophesy that insists the wearer will be a great ruler. Meanwhile vampires are roaming the land attacking humans and the elves want their armour back. War is imminent, but Isak feels unworthy to lead the human counter attack especially against the vicious elven horde.

Book one of the Twilight Reign is an exciting fantasy thriller with the similar problems that most opening acts of a genre saga struggle with: introducing the cast and their pecular traits. In this case, the uniquenss of the wagonbrat suddenly transported into a world of affluence is deftly handled as the reader sees what Isak observes: bewilderment, confusion and strangeness like a fish out of the sea. Building from that premise, Tom Lloyd provides a deep first tale as THE STORMCALLER introduces fans to a unique refreshing world through a stunned teen who goes from unwanted to wanted in a blink.

Harriet Klausner

Order 66: Star Wars Republic Commando-Karen Traviss

Order 66: Star Wars Republic Commando
Karen Traviss
Del Rey, Sep 2008, $27.00
ISBN: 9780345506184

The bloody Clone Wars seem nearing the pivotal moment with the two enemies poised for victory as much as defeat. Still, neither Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) nor the Separatists have gained a major advantage in the hostilities, but Chancellor Palpatine’s forces are overextended and in seemingly deeper trouble than the Seps.

However, the Republic’s elite unit Advance Recon Commando (Null ARCs) fighting against overwhelming odds is stunned when rumors spread that Palpatine has held back clone units that he plans to sacrifice for his cause. Outraged Sergeant Mandalorian Kal Skirata, who trained many clone commandos, plans to rescue them from the Chancellor’s nefarious expendable plan although he knows to truly save their lives he must slow down their incredible aging process. At the same time the Jedi have deployed Order 66 putting the loyal Omega and Delta commando units caught between loyalty to the Chancellor and their admiration of the Jedi.

Karen Traviss shows why she is so popular amongst Star War fans as readers know the future yet are hooked by a terrific story line filled with action that ties together the threads from the previous Traviss tales and a great moralistic character. Obviously the Clone Wars is the prime player, which means for newcomers it would help to read the previous Republic Commando events (see HARD CONTACT, TRIPLE ZERO AND TRUE COLOURS) that has led to ORDER 66: Star Wars Republic Commando. Skirata is the key to the plot as he puts a face to the war in this great entry.

Harriet Klausner

The Wyrmling Horde-David Farland

The Wyrmling Horde
David Farland
Tor, Sep 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 0765316668

Lord Despair captures the son of the Earth King Fallion Orden on the barbaric world Rugassa the latter ironically made by consolidating realities. The flameweaving wizard has little hope to escape as he adheres to his vow to never accept the "endowments" of others.

Fallion’s lover Rhianna, her foster sister warrior Talon, and the Emir Tuul Ra start a dangerous quest to rescue Fallion from Despair. They have made no pledge to spurn endowments so gladly take what is offered by others. However, Despair has allies too on the planet; agents who know how to torture a person’s soul into begging for death.

The seventh Runelords fantasy follows up directly from the powerful climax of SONS OF THE OAK so it behooves readers to have read at least that tale to know how Fallion fell into the predicament he and the audience finds him in. The scenes are bleak, bloody, and depressing, but well written although there are some counter upbeat moments (not directly involving the heroes who despair failure and obviously not Despair whose optimism is visions of death and destruction). This tale is well written and extremely exciting although progress in terms of the overarching theme moves slower than an Ice Age glacier. Fans of David Farland will appreciate the attempt to rescue Fallion from Despair.

Harriet Klausner

Ender in Exile-Orson Scott Card

Ender in Exile
Orson Scott Card
Tor, Nov 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780765304964

The third Formic War ended thanks to Andrew “Ender” Wiggins who believed he was playing a computer simulation game at Battle School instead of actually killing the Queens who gathered on a single planet. With their deaths, their soldiers, workers, and pupae died; Ender was responsible for the genocide of a race. He also killed two bullies in self defense, but the leaders of earth’s nations do not want him residing in the United States because he could become a weapon that could destroy their own country. His brother Peter wants to be the ruler of a one world government, but his sister Valentine decides to accompany her younger brother to prove her sense of freedom.

The Formic Worlds are colonized by Earthlings since they remain in a pristine state. Ender decides to go to Planet Shakespeare where he hopes to learn why the Queens gathered in one place so that they could be killed. He is to be the governor as a hero to those who remained and the new colonists. The Commander of the ship taking him to Shakespeare wants to be the power behind Ender’s government or to find a way to exile him back to earth. Ender, a thirteen years old boy with a brilliant mind prevents the coup before it begins by creating a better standard of living for the people. Ender, in his spare time, digs up Formic artifacts seeking clues to the Queens gathering.

Ender is intelligent and compassionate yet in many ways he is also tortured because of his wisdom and passion. His parents will not communicate with him and he rejects Battle School as he has to emotionally deal with real deaths he indirectly caused and not simulated gaming deaths. Less action than previous tales in the Ender saga, ENDER IN EXILE is much more cerebral as Orson Scott Card takes his fans deep into the heart and soul of a young boy forced to grow up too fast.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

The Wonder Singer- George Rabasa

The Wonder Singer
George Rabasa
Unbridled, Oct 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9781932961560

Legendary soprano Senora Merce Casals hires almost forty year old minor league ghostwriter Mark Lockwood to write her autobiography. He spends several hundred hours interviewing the diva and looking over related information. When the opera star is found dead in her jeweled grotto bathroom tub, her agent Hollywood Hank sees her death as a win. He fires Mark and hires famous biographer Alonzo Baylor to tell Merce’s story.

Irate with the snub as he feels an affinity to his late client to include a belief he owes her the true story and not a titillating fabrication to make the best seller lists, Lockwood takes his interview tapes with him and vanishes. He is abetted by Merce’s loyal team consisting of her nurse Perla, her cross-dressing pal Orson, her husband, and other adoring fans and employees. Lockwood begins writing the definitive biography of Merce Casals.

This is a fabulous work of fiction that hooks the audience from the onset with Mark’s vivid descriptions and never slows down as readers obtain insight through the interviews into the Spanish Civil War and the scenes behind an opera house. Thus the story line contains a “biographical fiction” inside the bigger plot. Through the rival writers, George Rabasa brings to life a late soprano star so explicitly readers will believe Senora Casals was a real diva.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Talent-Eileen Kernaghan

Wild Talent
Eileen Kernaghan
Thistledown Press, Sep 28 2008, $15.95
ISBN: 9781897235409

In 1888, sixteen years old Scottish farm hand Jeannie Guthrie fears her “gift”. She believes she has good reason to do so because she thinks she used her talent to accidentally kill her wastrel cousin George who was pestering her constantly for a kiss since the dance. If anyone finds out Jeannie knows she will be burned at the stake as a witch; just like George vehemently called her as he was bleeding from the pitchfork wound she gave him.

Thus without a look back, the teen flees to London where she assumes she can hide amidst the masses. In town Jeannie and daring Alexandra David meet and the latter takes the former to the salon of renowned Madame Helena Blavatsky. There Jeannie hopes to learn more about her power especially controlling it when she is angry or threatened.

This late Victorian historical is a vivid exciting tale that takes readers into a strange dominion filled with artists, spiritualists and ethnologists; the irony is that this weird world is London and Paris (as well as the land Beyond). Jeannie is terific as a rustic innocent who under the guide of her urbane friend turns from scared country bumpkin to still frightened sophisticate. Based on the real 1888 London journal of Alexandra who mentions a jeune fille, Eileen Kernaghan provides her bewitched fans with a great late nineteenth century tale.
Harriet Klausner

One Perfect Gift-Kathleen Morgan

One Perfect Gift
Kathleen Morgan
Revell, Sep 2008, $14.99
ISBN: 9780800718831

In 1933 penniless widow Jessica Ashmore accompanied by her six year old daughter Emma moves from Baltimore to Grand View, Colorado where she has obtained work as a caretaker to stroke victim Abby MacKay. Jessica and Emma move into Abby’s home, the Culdee Creek Ranch. The mom hopes for a real holiday season for her daughter on this ranch east of Colorado Springs.

However, Jessica is stunned when she meets her employer’s acrimonious adult son, Sean. He seems angry at the world and at times takes it out on Jessica. Still they work as a team trying to do what is best for his mom while falling in love. However, they have no future unless Sean can overcome the demons that haunt him; Jessica believes God can help guide him, but Sean’s anguish keeps him blind.

ONE PERFECT GIFT is a terific Depression Era romance starring two people who have reacted to personal traumas differently. Whereas Sean is filled with anger, Jessica is filled with God and love for her child. Fans will appreciate this Colorado historical tale of redemption if Sean will only reach out for it.

Harriet Klausner

All I Have to Give-Melody Carlson

All I Have to Give
Melody Carlson
Revell, Oct 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780800718824

Anna and Michael love one another and believe their lives are almost perfect except for two major things. First Anna has had recent health issues that have shaken the couple with the mortality reminder of how short life is; each of the loving pair is more concerned over how her illness mentally harms the other. Second the pair is saddened over their seemingly inability to have children; a desire both want.

In their late thirties and having tried seemingly forever, they have given up on kids. Being pragmatic Anna considers changing their once planned nursery into a guest room. Meanwhile Anna and Michael consider what would be the ideal Christmas gift to give to their beloved mate to cheer them up.

ALL I HAVE TO GIVE in some ways will remind the audience of the Gift of the Magi as an uplifting inspiring holiday drama. The support cast like Anna’s sister enhances the plot by bringing enlightenment to the audience re how much the lead couple love one another. Anna and Michael are a wonderful duet who’s caring for one another makes for a delightful warm Christmas tale of love.

Harriet Klausner

A Passion Redeemed-Julie Lessman

A Passion Redeemed
Julie Lessman
Revell, Sep 2008, $13.99
ISBN: 9780800732127

In 1919 Dublin Charity O'Connor loves Mitch Dennehy, but he seems to ignore her. Desperate for him to reciprocate her feelings, she starts flirting with Mitch's enemy, black sheep Rigan Gallagher III, to make her beloved jealous and take notice of her.

Mitch is disturbed with Charity’s behavior. He wants her and believes he is half way in love with her though he condemns her actions and worries what Rigan might do to her. Mitch is also is a deeply pious person and needs his woman to love and cherish God above herself or her mate. He knows Charity does not and her recent behavior affirms his belief.

The second Julie Lessman early twentieth century “Daughters of Boston” passion historical romance (see A PASSION SO PURE) is a superb character driven inspirational tale. Charity owns the story line as she goes from Machiavellian plotter using people to a profound feeling of shame until she gains faith and with that new wisdom. However, she also understands regretfully her new understanding of God’s way may be too late for her when it comes to Mitch. A PASSION REDEEMED is a terific tale of redemption as a lost sheep finds conviction.

Harriet Klausner

A Job to Kill For-Janice Kaplan

A Job to Kill For
Janice Kaplan
Touchstone, Aug 2008, $24.00
ISBN: 9781416532132

In Los Angeles beautiful wealthy Cassie Crawford hires interior designer Lacy Fields to decorate her new three million dollar penthouse apartment. Lacy jokes that Cassie is a bigger pain than her three kids or her surgeon spouse and says to her best friend Molly Archer she wants to kill her bothersome client. Molly understands as she knows Cassie’s spouse. When Lacy completes the job, she shows off her work to her young client; only Cassie drops dead, a murder victim.

Instead of the billionaire spouse, the cops suspect Lacy and her best friend Molly as the most likely killer(s). Refusing to sit idly by while the cops try to railroad her or Molly, Lacy investigates the homicide. However as she uncovers clues, the culprit watches to insure the amateur sleuth does not learn the truth.

The latest Lacy Fields amateur sleuth (see LOOKS TO DIE FOR) is an entertaining whodunit in which the humorous asides make for a fun read. From the onset when the heroine muses she would not have made a joke about killing Cassie if she knew someone was going to kill Cassie until the final confrontation, readers will enjoy Lacy’s antics. A JOB TO KILL FOR is a jocular lighthearted cozy.

Harriet Klausner

The Devil's Eye-Jack McDevitt

The Devil's Eye
Jack McDevitt
Ace, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780441016358

In the far future, famous horror writer Vicki Greene leaves a message of despair with antiquities dealer Alex Benedict. Soon after dispatching her note, Vicki has her memory expunged.

Alex and his pilot companion Chase Kolpath follow a series of clues that take them 36 light years away to the rimway of the galaxy. Apparently Vicki was conducting research there for her next novel. Something or someone panicked her. Soon after arrival at the edge of nowhere Alex and Chase are harangued by officials who want them to leave or else. The pair begins to unravel a pandemic crisis threatening Salud Afar, but are swept aside by government officials and bureaucrats and it seems too late to safely evacuate the residents.

The latest Alex Benedict futuristic science fiction novel (see SEEKER) is a superb action thriller that focuses on how central governments act and react to internal emergency crisis especially concealing critical information. The story line is fast-paced with a deep cautionary message that those in charge will choose to save face not people. With a nod to the Bush response to Katrina, fans will relish this strong exhilarating thriller in which the spin does not just supersede the need, it is the need as far as those in charge are concerned. This is the genre at its extrapolating best.

Harriet Klausner

Running Time-T.J. MacGregor

Running Time
T.J. MacGregor
Pinnacle, Nov 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780786018338

Time travel exists as a fledgling science. People experiment with the boundaries testing how far they can push the past. A government agency SPOT (Special Operational Temporal) filled with black ops were using the new technique to go back in history to dump dissidents, subversives and anyone undesirable in our time. In the 1970s Catherine Walgreen disappeared into Blue River, Massachusetts of 1695.

Her daughter Nora, her significant other Alex Kincaid, and four others who were part of the program before turning rogue are in hiding; each has a biochip implanted in them so they can move through time. Powerful individuals wanting to start up SPOT again are searching for the sextet because they possess a vast supply of the chips that the SPOT enthusiasts do not have and desperately need. The six are determined to keep the cache away from their enemies.

Alex and Nora travel back in time hoping to rescue her mother and end up in the middle of the witch hysteria flamed by the local preacher. For some unknown reason they cannot revert back to their twenty-first century normal time. When Nora is kidnapped and tortured by the insane preacher, another person form the future on the wrong side of the fight, goes back in time seeking redemption by stopping the pending slaughter.

The men, women, and one dog know their lives will never be normal because of what they know, have done, and possess; each understands they will spend their lifetimes looking back over their shoulders. The book is filled with action, extremely complex at times (no pun intended) to track as the plot is far from linear, and loaded with courageous heroes and cruel villains. As always T.J. MacGregor provides an exciting thriller with a cast who are literally RUNNING TIME (also see KILL TIME).
Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Gentleman's Offer-Dara Girard

A Gentleman's Offer
Dara Girard
Kimani Romance, Oct 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373860852

In Michigan pet stylist, some would say just another dog groomer, Yvette Coulier has always been good with animals. When it comes to people especially men she is a failure. She is a bit surprised when she receives a mysterious invitation from the Black Stockings Society as she assumes they are way above her social and financial circles.

Wealthy Nate Blackwell is tired of responsibility for others. He needs a time out from stress. When he meets Yvette in her black stockings at her grooming salon, he offers her a deal. She hires him and he will gain her entrance into high society and pay her tab. She agrees thinking life amidst the elite will be a vacation; he likewise believes life amidst the working class will be a vacation. As they fall in love, each knows that the return of reality will prove a cruel ending unless both of them reach out to the real other.

The second Black Stockings Society tale (see POWER PLAY) is a terific heated contemporary romance. The lead duet are fully developed with each struggling with stress while the support cast enables the audience to better understand what make Yvette and Nate tick. Readers will enjoy the revelations both attain to include love as she learns the rich and famous have their woes while he learns the working class has their woes too. Dara Girard provides a poignant character study that insists grass is green on both sides of the fence (except my lawn).

Harriet Klausner

A Gentleman's Offer-Dara Girard

A Gentleman's Offer
Dara Girard
Kimani Romance, Oct 2008, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373860852

In Michigan pet stylist, some would say just another dog groomer, Yvette Coulier has always been good with animals. When it comes to people especially men she is a failure. She is a bit surprised when she receives a mysterious invitation from the Black Stockings Society as she assumes they are way above her social and financial circles.

Wealthy Nate Blackwell is tired of responsibility for others. He needs a time out from stress. When he meets Yvette in her black stockings at her grooming salon, he offers her a deal. She hires him and he will gain her entrance into high society and pay her tab. She agrees thinking life amidst the elite will be a vacation; he likewise believes life amidst the working class will be a vacation. As they fall in love, each knows that the return of reality will prove a cruel ending unless both of them reach out to the real other.

The second Black Stockings Society tale (see POWER PLAY) is a terific heated contemporary romance. The lead duet are fully developed with each struggling with stress while the support cast enables the audience to better understand what make Yvette and Nate tick. Readers will enjoy the revelations both attain to include love as she learns the rich and famous have their woes while he learns the working class has their woes too. Dara Girard provides a poignant character study that insists grass is green on both sides of the fence (except my lawn).

Harriet Klausner

The Wedding Heiress-Pamela Ford

The Wedding Heiress
Pamela Ford
Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715213

In Holiday Bay, Wisconsin, attorney Mike Connery calls Delaney McBride in Boston to inform her that her beloved great aunt Ellie’s will is legally ironclad. She is unhappy with his calling her “Pumpkin” as she had a high school crush on him that remained unrequited. She agrees to come home partly out of homage to a relative she admired and loved and because she understands that for everyone to inherit including Mike, Delaney must come backto finish the Storybook Wedding plans that her late relative was working on.

In Holiday Bay, Delaney begins to complete her aunt’s final legacy with plans to return to Massachusetts once she is finished here because she still wants Mike and assumes he still does not reciprocate. However, Mike is attracted to her and will do what it takes to convince Delany to remain here working on their wedding plan.

The eccentric flawed cast makes for a delightful Wisconsin holiday romance starring two enchanting protagonists. The irony of the novel is Delaney is set on going back to Massachusetts because she has a life there and has doubts that Mike really loves her while he desperately wants to have her car’s oil and filters permanently changed in Holiday Bay. A mystery subplot re Aunt Ellie and her motives add to the enjoyment of a fine contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner

Cop on Loan-Jeannie Watt

Cop on Loan
Jeannie Watt
Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715206

Someone keeps unlocking the library every night so chief librarian sexagenarian Dorothy Murdock decides on a stakeout to catch the perpetrator. Library technician Jasmine Storm fails to persuade Dorothy to drop the surveillance so she accompanies her to try to keep her boss safe.

However neither library employee is prepared for what happens on their one night vigilance. They end up in the middle of a police operation to find proof that a home across from the library is a drug house. On loan from the big city, police detective Anthony DeMonte is furious especially with all the work his partner Yates did to pull off the maneuver ending with yelling at two librarians not to move; the bust was a bust. However, when strange things occur near Jasmine’s home, Anthony moves into her basement to keep her safe.

COP ON LOAN is a fun police procedural romance starring two warriors who start off wrong when he informs her that her name denotes stripper. Their relationship can only go up from there it would seem, but not with this pairing as she believes you can’t count on this cop. Readers will enjoy the gender battle between Jasmine and Anthony with a strong investigative subplot and sold secondary characters augmenting the wonderful romance.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Mr. Right-Helen Brenna

Finding Mr. Right
Helen Brenna
Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 2008, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373715190

As much as it galls her, Maggie Dillon knows she needs specialized help to win a programming contract for her firm Universal Security with the Greek government. The independent American understands she requires a person with connections to the government and as important he or she must speak the language. Thus, Maggie searches for Mr. Right and soon hires native Californian Nick Ballos, whose paternal heritage is Greek to help her with the negotiations.

Nick has a personal secret agenda to return to Greece that he hides from his new employer. He sees assisting Maggie as his cover to conduct an inquiry into a homicide; as he is obsessed with justice for his late best friend Yanni whose murder in Greece remains unsolved. However, rather quickly Nick finds his obsession changing from justice for Yanni to love for Maggie.

FINDING MR. RIGHT is a superb contemporary romance starring two delightful upbeat lead characters. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Maggie realizes she needs help besides her two sisters and seeks Mr. Right for her firm not for her heart. The suspense subplot involving Yanni’s murder adds the right amount of spice to a super romance.

Harriet Klausner

Good to the Last Bite-Crystal Green

Good to the Last Bite
Crystal Green
Harlequin Blaze, Oct 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373794300

Near the University of Kentucky, Edward Marburn is outraged to be changed into a vampire, as he just wants to remain mortal. Ironically this is the second time he has been changed and knows how to revert back to human: kill the vamp who converted you.

Gisele knows Edward hunts and why he seeks her out. When she and her friend Sam seek their next meal, Edward manages to catch her away from her blood buddy. He plans to kill her, but is stunned by his attraction to her. When Sam frees Giselle and captures Edward, she persuades her friend not to kill their prisoner. Giselle is attracted to Edward and hopes to convince him life as a vampire can prove happy with the right partner.

This is a terific heated vampire romance with the lead male having the paradoxical dilemma of wanting to revert back to human, but to do so he must kill the vamp he loves. The story line is fast-paced, passionate and hot from the opening sequence to the GOOD TO THE LAST BITE. Supernatural romance readers will appreciate Crystal Green's strong tale of love amongst the over bite crowd.

Harriet Klausner

Good to the Last Bite-Crystal Green

Good to the Last Bite
Crystal Green
Harlequin Blaze, Oct 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373794300

Near the University of Kentucky, Edward Marburn is outraged to be changed into a vampire, as he just wants to remain mortal. Ironically this is the second time he has been changed and knows how to revert back to human: kill the vamp who converted you.

Gisele knows Edward hunts and why he seeks her out. When she and her friend Sam seek their next meal, Edward manages to catch her away from her blood buddy. He plans to kill her, but is stunned by his attraction to her. When Sam frees Giselle and captures Edward, she persuades her friend not to kill their prisoner. Giselle is attracted to Edward and hopes to convince him life as a vampire can prove happy with the right partner.

This is a terific heated vampire romance with the lead male having the paradoxical dilemma of wanting to revert back to human, but to do so he must kill the vamp he loves. The story line is fast-paced, passionate and hot from the opening sequence to the GOOD TO THE LAST BITE. Supernatural romance readers will appreciate Crystal Green's strong tale of love amongst the over bite crowd.

Harriet Klausner

Lethal Exposure-Lori Wilde

Lethal Exposure
Lori Wilde
Harlequin Blaze, Oct 2008, $4.99
ISBN: 9780373794270

In Austin, Texas, Confidential Rejuvenations Hospital hires public relations expert Sebastian Black to turn around the image of an out of control celebrity spa. Sebastian knows like much of the public that his new client has become infamous with a Mafia link, sex scandals, and killer staff (see THE WHITE STAR and THE MARTINE DARES).

At the spa Sebastian meets nurse Julie DeMarco, a good girl who has decided life is too short for any more relationship disappointments, so she plans to seek out short trysts. They are attracted to one another from the onset, but someone stalks them and has plans to further disrupt the hospital making more trouble for the facility.

The final Perfect Anatomy romantic suspense book is an exciting final tale that wraps up the overall mystery. The story line is action-packed from the moment Julie sends her naughty note to the commitment phobic PR super-stud and never slows down. Although the motive for wanting to harm the lead couple seems a bit weak even if Seb is the cavalry to the rescue, fans will enjoy the good girl turning bad at an importune moment when a stalker lurks in the shadows.

Harriet Klausner

Conspiracy of Silence-Martha Powers

Conspiracy of Silence
Martha Powers
Oceanview, Nov 2008, $9.99
ISBN: 9781933515427

Chicago reporter Clare Prentice is stunned to learn she is adopted when Dr. Craig calmly suggested after a physical she obtain medical information on her biological parents. Clare had thought Rose, who raised her was her biological mom. Now she knows her late adopted mom Rose hid the truth from her; her biological dad died before Clare was three. Her reaction to the disturbing news is to end her engagement to kind hearted Doug Kitridge.

She finds a high school ring amongst her late adoptive mother’s stuff. With a need to know more, Claire heads to where the ring is from, Grand Rapids, Minnesota. While there she is assigned to interview reclusive novelist, Nate Hanssen, a resident who shuns publicity. Clare learns her birth mother was Lily Gundersen, who was murdered in Grand Rapids. Soon after her arrival someone stalks Clare who assumes her mom’s killer wants his or her murderous secret kept quiet. Clare and Nate begin to act on their attraction to one another.

Outside of the interview occurring in Grand Rapids where the mysterious graduation ring comes from, CONSPIRACY OF SILENCE is a great suspense thriller. Clare uses her reporter skills to learn more about her mom’s murder, but quickly learns nothing is quite like it seems and every one even the author she is falling in love with appears to have an agenda. With some nice twists along the way, readers will enjoy this exciting cozy with just the right amount of a romantic subplot to enhance the investigation.

Harriet Klausner

The Golden Tower-Fiona Patton

The Golden Tower
Fiona Patton
Daw, Nov 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756405175

The city of Anavatan is both magical and mundane. It is the home to six gods and thus protected by the God Wall that keeps malevolent spirits out. Like any city, it has its rich and poor; even homeless children like Brax, Spar, and Graize, who have untrained power. Brax is indifferent to Spar until all three were trapped outside during Haven’s Dance; three nights of terrible storms. To save himself and Spar, Brax pleaded with Estav o save them and he promises to become her favorite. Brax becomes a warrior and Spar became a powerful seer.

Graize was thrown over the God-Wall and also became a powerful seer. Filled with hatred Grazie uses his power to create the Godling called Hisar. Spar befriends him and he taught it things about the world.. Graize lives for one thing; revenge against Brax and Anavatan. He is using the Petchan tribe to help him destroy his enemies and his memories of being a childhood pickpocket in Anavatan to survive. Graize captures Brax, Spar realizes he cannot rescue him in time so he must turn to the Godling for help if he can figure out how to do so.

THE GOLDEN TOWER is pure magic, enchanting the reader with the magical city; a place of palaces and slums populated and divided by seers and Gods who communicate with their followers, at times in person. The city and the Godling are the main characters because each plays a major role in the plot. Spar, Brax and Graize represent differing personalities that make up the functioning city (seer, warrior, and outsider). If this first entry in the Warriors of Estonia fantasy saga is any indication of the quality of the series, fans are in for a delightful time.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 22, 2008

Casanova-Ian Kelly

Ian Kelly
Tarcher (Penguin, Oct 2008, $28.95
ISBN: 9781585426584

This biography strips away the legend of "the world's greatest lover" to provide readers with an in depth look at a person who turns out to have been an eighteenth century Renaissance Man. With a Prelude, Introduction, Curtain Call, and five distinct acts that break the life of Giacomo Casanova into eras, the audience learns that he was a businessman, diplomat, spy, philosopher, author and translator. Ian Kelly points out the great lover wondered Europe and met the famous, the almost famous and the bizarre. Biography fans will relish this insightful look that brings much more to the dining table than just the legendary lover. Mr. Kelly brings alive the Age of Reason, the eras of no reason, and the absurd of Europe from Voltaire’s France to the Russia of Catherine the Great to Casanova’s hometown of Venice and his education town of Padua, amongst others. This is an excellent bio as Casanova proves to be much greater than the myth.
Harriet Klausner

Cutting Loose-Nadine Dajani

Cutting Loose
Nadine Dajani
Forge, Oct 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 0765319438

In Montreal, originally from Riyadh, Ranya looks forward to ending her marriage to a gay person when she meets fourth generation Lebanese-American Georges who intervenes when an idiot opens her mouth about Arab terrorists.

Georges leaves her to sit with his subordinate business woman Zahra, who has doubts ingrained since her West Bank childhood re a woman succeeding in business and her attraction to Joe who doe not reciprocate.

In Miami Honduran expatriate Rosario, called Rio by friends, knows she should not have an intermittent affair with Joe, as she as the editor in chief of Sueltate magazine sort of works for him though his brother Georges runs the publication.

The key to this superb character study is the key cast members all are fully developed and seem genuine as each seeks happiness although none appear to know how to obtain it. Their lives intermingle with Ranya and Zahra being childhood friends and Georges the connection to Rio. Readers will relish following the escapades of the women and the two brothers who chase them whether it is Canada, Florida or London. Nadine Dajani provides a wonderful contemporary tale.

Harriet Klausner