Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Ransome’s Crossing-Kaye Dacus

Ransome’s Crossing
Kaye Dacus
Harvest House, Jun 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780736927543

In 1814, her family is unaware that Charlotte Ransome has a secret fiancé Henry Winchester in Jamaica. Although she knows she is acting rash, Charlotte dresses up as midshipman Charles Lott to sneak on board one of the vessels of a fleet captained by her brother Commander William Ransome.

However, her plan threatens to fall apart when she becomes ill. First Lieutenant Ned Cochran knows who Charles is having met briefly Charlotte in England before setting off for the Caribbean. He is already halfway in love with her from that brief meeting in Portsmouth and decides to conceal her true identity from his superior officer her brother the Commander. On the journey across the sea to find her fiancé, Charlotte finds herself attracted to caring Ned; leaving her to ponder her fickleness as she falls in love with a second man.

The second Ransome historical romance (see Ramsome’s Honor for the turbulent romance between William and Julia) is a terrific early nineteenth century tale as readers will feel they are at sea crossing the Atlantic. The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as she feels capricious while he risks his career for his beloved. Although women disguised as men has been used many times in books and movies, Kaye Dacus makes it feel sea-breezing fresh with a strong entry that also sets up the next novel in the saga with a wonderful final twisting cliffhanger.

Harriet Klausner

Playing With Fire-Amy Knupp

Playing With Fire
Amy Knupp
Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 13 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716463

Macey Locke leaves the Peace Corps after two years and heads to San Amaro Island, Texas, home of her best friend Derek Severson. She loves Derek, but knows he does not return her deepest feelings. However, her mission is to help her BFF move passed the tragic death of his girlfriend Julie in a fire last year.

As a firefighter Derek feels guilty that in spite of his occupation he failed to save Julie’s life. Worse, he finds his attraction to Macey makes him think he is betraying Julie’s memory. However, as he realizes he loves Macey, he also concludes kind-hearted Julie would want him to go on with his life. Now to persuade Macey they can be friends and lovers.

This is a terrific contemporary tale with a romantic subplot that enhances the relationship drama between the lead couple. The key to the well-written novel is Derek as the audience will feel his grief and commiserate with him; feelings from others he does not want. His guilt for failing Julie and for falling in love with his BFF make for a strong emotional story line though the premise of a second chance at love with a best buddy is not new. Amy Knupp provides a powerful novel as this Texas Firefighter learns what happens to one’s heat when Playing With Fire of the woman who loves him.

Harriet Klausner

Baked-Mark Haskell Smith

Mark Haskell Smith
Black Cat (Grove/Atlantic), Aug 6 2010, $14.00
ISBN: 9780802170767

In Los Angeles botanist Miro Basinas is shot. One month earlier, Miro competed in the international Cannabis Cup tournament in Amsterdam. Stunningly his Elephant Crush won the gold medal at the competition because of its wonderful flavoring that tastes like mango.

Miro thought by entering his prize specialty grown weed he would hit the big time especially after he won. Now in a hospital as he recovers from being shot he learns his seed has been stolen by predatory capitalists who plan to sell his cannabis. He vows revenge, but has no idea how one goes about becoming an avenger as this is comic books or a movie and he is a weed botanist; besides he has no idea who shot him and stole his seed as several predators, besides the usual suspects, surface.

This is a dark amusing crime caper starring a half baked capitalist botanist and a horde of eccentric characters who run the gamut of stereotypical free market idealists. Although the support cast can strain the story line with too much quirkiness, readers who enjoy something different will appreciate the battle of the capitalists who want to sell legally at medical marihuana “Starbucks” and illegally on the streets, Miro blend with or without his cooperation; as competition is cutthroat.

Harriet Klausner

Did Not Survive-Ann Littlewood

Did Not Survive
Ann Littlewood
Poisoned Pen, Jul 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590587454

At the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington pregnant Iris Oakley is reassigned from her Big Cat keeper job to the birds. Iris finds administrator Kevin Wallace lying in blood and unconscious in the elephant barn. Hovering near him is Damrey the elephant. Iris manages to rescue Wallace, but is bewildered that gentle elderly Damrey would attack him.

Everyone assumes Damrey assaulted Kevin except Sam the elephant head keeper although no one can explain why the victim would be inside that barn or what he did to ignite Damrey’s fury. At the same time while the humans ponder the elephant walk, Clouded Leopard gives birth. However, the zoo turns macabre when an animal corpse is stolen and other animals kidnapped while the elephant herd seems to have drawn angry animal activists and the keepers are fighting with each other.

The second Finley memorial Zoo amateur sleuth (see Night Kill) is an enjoyable mystery with a nice twist of Iris’ “innocent” inquiries confusing the official investigation. The sleuthing is fun to follow, but the prime pleasure with Did Not Survive is the leisurely vivid descriptions of what goes on behind the scenes at a zoo.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Men-Paul Cleave

Blood Men
Paul Cleave
Atria, Jul 20 2010, $16.00
ISBN: 9781439189610

When Edward Hunter was nine years old his life radically changed. First a voice in his head directed him to put nails inside a steak that he fed to a dog, who died a painful death. In that same year his father dubbed Jack the Hunter was arrested and convicted of killing at least eleven prostitutes; his older sister died from an overdose; and finally Edward’s mom committed suicide unable to cope with what Jack did.

Shocked into behaving, Edward becomes an accountant and affectionately loving towards his wife Jodie and their six-year-old daughter Sam. During Christmas week Jodie and Edward are at a bank in Christchurch, New Zealand when six armed robbers assault the place. Edward goes into face them, but his confrontation leads to Jodie’s death. The dormant voice is back ordering him to kill. Shook by his wife’s death and the voice, Edward visits his father for the first since Jack was locked away. Jack says he heard the voice too and suggests to his son to follow its call and avenge the murder of his beloved wife.

This is a fascinating character study that looks deeply at what motivates anti society activities. The story line is at its best when the focus is inside the head of Edward who thinks he may just be a chip off the old block. However, the story line also contains too many subplots in which none fully take charge though ultimately the myriad converge in a final clash. Still fans of twisting psychological thrillers with a red sea of blood will want to read Edward’s lament (perhaps too much lamenting by him) as he fears his DNA imprint is serial killer not family patriarch.

Harriet Klausner

Cure-Robin Cook

Robin Cook
Putnam, Aug 10 2010, $26.95
ISBN 9780399156625

Medical examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton are euphoric with the birth of their first offspring. Following medical leave, Laurie returns to work and her boss assigns to her a routine inquiry in which the preliminary indication is death by natural causes.

However, something feels off kilter to Laurie and she is positive it is not caused by postpartum blues. She digs a bit deeper and soon realizes the victim has been poisoned. Her investigation leads to the Mafia and Japanese gangsters competing with money laundering investments in a crooked stem-cell research firm. When the felons kidnap her son Laurie goes lioness berserker in pursuit.

Cure in an exciting medical thriller due to the diligence of the lead protagonist whose investigation leads to a convergence of the biotechnical and mob industries aimed at her and her loved ones. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Laurie begins her autopsy and never slows down. Although resolutions are incredibly too obvious, easy and abrupt, fans will enjoy the latest Montgomery-Stapleton tale (see Foreign Body) as the enemy goes after them by targeting their Achilles’ Heel.

Harriet Klausner

Black Swan Rising-Lee Carroll

Black Swan Rising
Lee Carroll
Tor, Aug 3 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780765325976

In her New York City neighborhood jewelry designer Garet James walks into a curio shop that she never noticed before. Owner John Dee notices the swan design on her ring is identical to that on an antique silver box that he cannot open. He asks her to open the box. Shortly afterward, three men with no whites in their eyes enter ner father’s art gallery and then her apartment. They take the box and her father is shot; he informs Garet they are demons who tried to take him over. Garet returns to the store, but it is shut and looks like it has not been used in years.

Garet sees a picture of billionaire Will Hughes and his home which has the same swan design on the arch as that of the ring and box. When they meet, he explains she is a guardian watchtower standing between two worlds fighting evil. Garet visits the Cloisters in the Bronx; where a manticore comes alive and bites her. Will tells her he is a vampire; his bite will rid her body of the deadly manticore toxin. He further explains he is tracking the demons Despair and Discord who came to this plane when the box was opened and are in the process of forming. Will wants to prevent them from spreading their malevolence and needs her help starting with her meeting King Oberon of the fairies.

Garet’s metamorphosis from designer to arcane warrior make for a fun urban fantasy as she sees fey on the city streets. Garet adapts to her new world order rather too easily as the heroine meets demons, elementals, air sprite, a mermaid, a dragon, a gnome and others while falling in love with a vampire. Fans will enjoy touring the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx with Garet as our guide.

Harriet Klausner

After America-John Birmingham

After America
John Birmingham
Del Rey, Aug 17 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345502919

Several years have passed since the catastrophic wave of energy destroyed the United States in 2003 that came like a tsunami Without Warning. Scientists remained baffled with what caused it, why it abruptly vanished a year later and how to prevent a return. In the meantime the White House moved to Seattle where American President James Kipper is frustrated with no answers and as is the case with the traumatized people struggling to endure, he fears what will happen if another such wave assaults the continent. Still he pushes forward with the greatest reconstruction project in the history of the world.

President Kipper visits the Declared Security Zone of New York where militia and pirates rule the city and the burbs, but is greeted by an assassination attempt. At the same time in the breakaway republic of Texas, farmer Miguel Pieraro follows the path to citizenship in the New America until an ethnic cleansing campaign led by a rogue army officer destroys his family. In England, American army officer Caitlin Monroe struggles to survive an assault on her life. Finally, in the wasteland of the Middle East comes a major threat to what is left of the world. Between lawlessness on the eastern seaboard and what is occurring overseas and in Texas, Kipper, a builder by heart, needs to find his warrior fortitude as he is reluctant to confront anyone with America still reeling; but ignoring the threats to local security will destroy the United States permanently.

The sequel to Without Warning is a terrific exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from start to finish. Heroes are everywhere from every walk of life whether they are city engineers turned POTUS, a Mexican-American farmer, an overseas officer and others risking their lives against ruthless lethal fully armed adversaries. Readers will enjoy this exhilarating post-apocalyptic tale that stands alone, but enhanced by reading what the wave caused first.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

A Brush with Death-Elizabeth J. Duncan

A Brush with Death
Elizabeth J. Duncan
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312622824

Canadian Expatriate Penny Brannigan inherited her Welsh cottage in Llanelen, Wales from schoolteacher Emma Teasdale. A reasonably successful manicure shop owner, Penny cleans up her cottage when she finds letters describing Emma's affair with Liverpool artist Alys Jones. The painter, preparing for a gallery showing in Liverpool, died in a hit-and-run driver shortly after leaving in 1970.

Penny’s plate is overflowing, but she is obsessed with Alys's death. She persuades her boyfriend DI Gareth Davies and police Sergeant Bethan Morgan to assist her as she investigates the cold case hit and run. Villagers are also interested in the Jones’ case as most of her paintings vanished with only two canvasses recovered.

The second Brannigan investigative case (see The Cold Light of Mourning) is a wonderful Welsh whodunit as the amateur sleuth assisted by professional cops and the long time residents of Llanelen look into a cold case accident that soon looks like vehicular homicide. Fast-paced, readers will want to joy the intrepid Penny who is in for more than just a pound as she follows the clues, one cup of tea at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Murder at Mansfield Park-Lynn Shepherd

Murder at Mansfield Park
Lynn Shepherd
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 20 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780312638344

At Mansfield Park, usually upbeat Mary Crawford hates, like everyone else, seemingly once meek and insipid Fanny Price the former charity case who has turned nasty ever since she became an heiress; Fanny tossed away her humble pie façade of modesty since gaining wealth. Still, though Mary loathes Fanny, she would not want anything horrific to happen to her tormentor, for the most part. Thus when Fanny’s body is found in a nearby fairgrounds Mary wonders who else the supposed inconspicuous Fanny tortured enough to have the motive to kill her.

Mary decides to investigate who killed the mean queen of complacency. Ever the optimist, she begins to follow the clues while joined by a thief not realizing how dangerous sleuthing at Mansfield Park can be.

Murder at Mansfield Park is an entertaining spin on the original Jane Austen classic as Lynn Shepherd modifies traits (in some cases dramatically) key Crawford-Price extended family players in her fun historical whodunit. The story line is a fast-paced amateur sleuth that Austen aficionados will appreciate, but so will mystery fans of nineteenth century English investigations. This is a fun refreshing Miss Austen spin.

Harriet Klausner

The Good Thief's Guide To Vegas-Chris Ewan

The Good Thief's Guide To Vegas
Chris Ewan
Minotaur, Aug 17 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312580827

British author Charlie Howard makes more money as a sophisticated thief. He and his writing agent Victoria visit Las Vegas. There they meet magician Josh Masters, who is performing as the star attraction at the Fifty-Fifty casino on the Strip and apparently attracted to Victoria.

Charlie decides the obnoxious magician needs a lesson for his designs on Victoria so he plans to rob $60,000 in chips from his intended victim’s hotel safe. Everything goes according to the good thief’s plan until he sees a corpse in Masters’ bathtub. During a performance, Masters performs a perfect disappearing act while the casino owners demand Charlie fork over the chips.

The latest Good Thief Guide thriller (see Paris and Amsterdam) is a delightful crime caper in which everything goes Murphy (wrong) for the urbane title character. Charlie is a combo antiheroic hero whose latest escapades have as always led to him into trouble from all sides of the trapezoidal law. Fans will enjoy Charlie’s humorous lighthearted misadventures on the Strip as he muses that last week (previous tale) he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris and this week he sees the Eiffel Tower in Vegas; both visits having in common someone wanting to roll a snake eyes of him from the top.

Harriet Klausner

Fatal Convictions-Randy Singer

Fatal Convictions
Randy Singer
Tyndale, Aug 1 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9781414333205

The case is controversial as affirmed by no lawyer in Virginia Beach wanting to defend Khalid Mobasser, the Muslim Imam for the Norfolk Islamic Learning Center. He is accused of encouraging and causing honor killings especially when a Muslim male killed his wife for converting to Christianity. Personal injury attorney Pastor Alexander Madison is wary to take on such a charged defense in which the media prefers to hang anyone who wants to insure the Imam receives a fair trial. Making his decision more difficult is criminal law is not his expertise.

However, upon meeting the accused and reviewing the evidence, Alexander believes the Imam is innocent. He begins his unpopular defense believing he knows the full cost to himself; but is unaware until it may be too late to know the personal price of doing so.

This is an excellent legal thriller that grips the audience from the onset when the seemingly sleazy ambulance chaser Reverend Madison offers his legal skill to Imam Mobasser at the hospital where the latter’s wife is recovering from a severe car accident. The story line is fast-paced with a strong legal base that will have readers questioning the law; for instance if an Imam declares honor killing is acceptable does that makes him an accessory and does a person encouraging abortion killing make that individual an accessory. Readers will relish this thought provoking look at the legal system asking whether there are no limits to religious freedom considering recent SCOTUS Second Amendment activist decisions overcoming decades of local law.

Harriet Klausner

Do Unto Others-Michael Z. Williamston

Do Unto Others
Michael Z. Williamston
Baen, Aug 3 2010, $22.00
ISBN: 9781439133835

Minors Bryan Prescot and his family invented technology that enabled the mining of planets in the most inhospitable places. The invention made him and his kin the richest people in the universe. On the down side, many unscrupulous people see the Prescot brood as targets to be mined.

To keep his daughter Caron safe, Bryan hires the Ripple Creek Security firm whose guiding vision is protect the client at all costs. The magnificent six (Jason, Artemis, Alex, Bart, Shaman, and Elke) guard Caron with their lives; each vows to remain vigil as they pledge no harm will come to her. . However, an unknown adversary has sent a horde to kill the girl and her protectors. She has the sextet who doesn’t feel too concerned that they face an army that could take a planet but only need to take out one person. To the six keeping Caron safe is their business even if they have to nuke their way to keeping their client safe.

This is a wild outer space caper as the odds are overwhelming in favor of the thugs kidnapping Caron and killing all on her side. However, the magnificent six plus the miners defend her so don’t bet against Caron and her protective cronies. Over the top with nothing new as Michael Z. Williamston takes the honorable mercenary Magnificent Seven from Mexico into Outer Space (with six) to fight amoral ruthless outlaws. Yet knowing this going in, readers will enjoy every page of the confrontation as Mr. Williamston will not need to beg forgiveness from his fans with this entertaining thriller.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Page-Anthony Huso

The Last Page
Anthony Huso
Tor, Aug 17 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765325167

Twenty-three years old Caliph Howl is the heir to ruling the Duchy of Stonehold. He is proud of his work at school as he is set to graduate with honors; however, his perfect life plan is devastated when he meets upperclassman Sena. She is filled with magic and enthusiasm, but conceals her legacy that she does not quite comprehend. Abruptly she ends their relationship.

In the Seventh House coven, her Shradnae sisters prepare her for what they know is her rightful place in Stonehold as well as theirs. Her assignment is to spy on the new High King who is attracted to her. Obsessed with power, Sena is unaware of what she and her coven wrought when civil war ignites and the ancient Cisrym Ta text surfaces with implications that the mathematics of life and death will change existence. At the same time in the capital of Isca, inexperienced Caliph becomes the High King when the leader is forced to make deadly decisions that will harm the innocent; unaware of the return of Sena. He needs his blood to open the arcane tome.

The world constructed by Anthony Huso is a wonderful imaginary numerically design that readers will admire. The beauty if the Huso realm is fully appreciated when the math formulas of life and dead appear to be changing. Although at times the language seems purposely and to this reader illogically shocking, taking away from the overall fine fantasy, readers will enjoy Mr. Huso strong saga from the start to the Last Page as the logic of math applies to this world’s equation suddenly becomes an out of balance inequality.

Harriet Klausner

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer And The Undead-Mark Twain and Don Borchert

The Adventures Of Tom Sawyer And The Undead
Mark Twain and Don Borchert
Tor, Aug 3 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780765327291

The plague turned people into zombies who could only be stopped by beheading them or shooting them in the head. People like young Tom Sawyer and his Aunt Polly adapted to the Zum as southerners called the zombies with some safety adjustments to normal living like sharpening the top of wooden fences. Tom ever the imp causing Polly and the townsfolk despair was punished for a misdeed by being forced to perform zombie antiterrorist fence sharpening, but conned the other lads into doing his work.

Tom, Huck and their friend play pirate on a nearby island. They stay for days and rumors spread amongst the townsfolk they were dead until they miraculously return home. Another time Tom and Huck get lost in a cave with Becky Thatcher and the Zum serial killer Injun’ Joe.

This is amusing historical fantasy uses the prime cast and story line from the Mark Twain classic, but adds Zum fever to the tale. The cast is solid, but the plot is clearly owned by the mischievous title character and his prime adversary the Undead Injun’ Joe serial killing Zum. Readers who enjoyed zombie invasion of the classics like the respective tales by Seth Grahame-Smith and Steve Hockensmith starring Jane Austen or W. Bill Czolgosz’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Zombie Jim will want to read Tom’s undead farce with Injun’ Joe.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 28, 2010

Of Bees and Mist-Erick Setiawan

Of Bees and Mist
Erick Setiawan
Simon and Schuster, Jul 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9781416596257

Meridia’s home contains all types of magical spells and demons; not all kind. She thinks she will escape her hell of her dysfunctional battling parents when she falls in love with her knight in shining armor. She knows Daniel will rescue her.

However, Meridia had not counted on his family especially his mother making her parents look harmonious. Eva is abusive to everyone but especially her new daughter in law. She uses bees as spies and weapons of mass destruction. Her treatment of others including Meridia has her finally fighting back as Daniel fails to intercede between the two women in his life.

This is an interesting adult fairy tale parable that exaggerates Meridia’s overall purity and the evilness of her parents and mother-in-law; the spouse is a wuss who chooses neither side in the extended family war of good and evil. Ghosts and killer bees add excitement to the mix, but Meridia as victim in her parents’ home and Meridia as victim in her husband’s home is too frequent with little respite as Erick Setiawan argues that adhering to the Golden Rule does not mean others will likewise. Still sub-genre readers will enjoy the war between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law while the man who links them stays docilely neutral.

Harriet Klausner

A Dog's Purpose-W. Bruce Cameron

A Dog's Purpose
W. Bruce Cameron
Forge, Jul 6 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9780765326263

Toby is born in the wild with three siblings. However, he and his family are captured by humans. Whereas his mother wants freedom from their guards, Toby comprehends human speak and likes the kindhearted woman running the shelter for stray dogs like him. However, Toby is hurt when a new vicious canine attacks him. The woman puts him down in act of euthanasia.

He returns to life as Bailey the golden retriever pet of young Ethan. They live during the school year with his parents, but in the summer the lad and his dog live with his grandparents on their farm; both are attracted to Hannah. When Ethan is a teenager, a schoolmate burns down Ethan's house; injuring him. He and Bailey recuperate at the farm even as the boy’s parents separate. Bailey comforts Ethan before dying of old age.

“He” comes back as a female Ellie the K-9 police dog until she loses her sense of smell. She remembers her bond as Bailey with Ethan. When he returns for the fourth time as Buddy he searches for his Ethan, a lonely elderly person living alone on the family farm.

This is an exhilarating and poignant parable that showcases a canine’s love for his human companion as Toby and his three latter reincarnations never forgets his bond of love with Ethan. Well written, readers will enjoy this fine tale as a cat may have nine lives, but a dog with purpose has at least four lives.

Harriet Klausner

Tatiana and Alexander-Paullina Simons

Tatiana and Alexander
Paullina Simons
Avon, Jun 29 2010, $15.99
ISBN: 9780061987465

In 1941 eighteen year old Tatiana Metanova and Red Army Officer Alexander Belov met and fell in love (see The Bronze Horseman). She becomes pregnant while he goes off to fight Hitler’s army. Tatiana believes her beloved died so as a single mom widow manages to get to Ellis Island via Scandinavia and the across the Atlantic. Tatiana changes her name to Jane Barrington and gets a position as a nurse on Ellis Island while also raising her son Anthony, but misses her beloved Alexander

Meanwhile Stalin’s Secret Police arrests Alexander who is accused of being a traitor. He is sentenced to die. He looks back ironically to when his father, a communist believer, left a nice middle class existence in America to relocate the family in Stalin’s impoverished Russia. However, those thoughts add to his pain. Only remembering his beloved Tatiana keeps him going through the torture and the expectation of death.

The sequel to The Bronze Horseman changes perspective from Tatiana’s vivid descriptions of the horrors of war especially the Battle of Leningrad with her one light being Alexander; to his bleak tale of all’s deadly on the German front especially his only stay of execution being the lead of a suicide mission with his one light being Tatiana. The terrific story line uses the atrocities of war as the backdrop to the human spirit when love can overcome so much. Tatiana and Alexander is a love story that tugs at the heartstrings.

Harriet Klausner

The Family Plan-Susan Gable

The Family Plan
Susan Gable
Harlequin American, Jul 13 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716456

Her daughter Jordan is dying from cancer. The only thing that can save her life is the umbilical cord blood from a newborn sister. Her single mom Dr. Amelia Young finds the anonymous donor whose sperm she used thirteen years ago to birth her daughter.

Chef Finn Hawkins is stunned that he was tracked down. However, he agrees to donate again so that a full-blood sibling can be born to save Jordan’s life. Amelia accepts his donation, but vanishes. However, eight months later, Jordan searches for her biological father at a time when Amelia’s baby doctor wants her resting.

Mindful of the true story of a sister born to save her sister from leukemia, this is an engaging contemporary as The Family Plan never included a father, but Finn persuades Amelia that Jordan and their unborn need him as much as she does and he needs them. Character driven, this is a warm tale of love that comes in many ways and in various relationships.

Harriet Klausner

Charlotte’s Homecoming-Janice Kay Johnson

Charlotte’s Homecoming
Janice Kay Johnson
Harlequin American, Jul 13 2010, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373716449

After their widower father is hospitalized from a tractor accident injury and having lost her Bay Area job due to downsizing, Charlotte Russell returns to the family farm to help her twin sister divorced kindergarten teacher Faith run the place and care for their dad. Faith informs her sibling that her abusive former husband Rory Hardesty is trying to reconcile with her but only scares her with his temper further fueled by alcohol.

Charlotte and town mayor Gray Van Dusen, an architect, meet and are attracted to one another. Whereas Gray wants to pursue their feelings, Charlotte wants to ignore them. She left the farm years ago so she could be her own person and not the other half of a twin. As he points out he likes her sibling but loves her, Gray tries to persuade her that her loved ones including him know she is her own person and not a mirror image.

The cast makes for a strong family drama with the prime story line being the romance between the mayor and the prodigal sister. In some ways, the other twin’s subplot re an abusive ex spouse is the more poignant entry. However, Charlotte’s Homecoming is a family affair that readers of contemporary tales will appreciate while knowing the rest of the other Russell twin’s story is to follow.

Harriet Klausner

A Hidden Affair-Pam Jenoff

A Hidden Affair
Pam Jenoff
Atria, Jul 6 2010, $22.99
ISBN: 9781416590712

At Cambridge University Jared Short and Jordan Weiss were lovers until he accidentally drowned. At least that is what Jordan thought. When the U.S. Foreign Service diplomat learns the truth that her grief for years was for a sham, she needs to know why he faked his death. She leaves the State department to pursue the truth while someone wants her to be silenced on this matter.

Jordon follows leads that take her to Nicole Short who apparently knows Jared and where to find him, but conceals everything. She follows Nicole, which takes her to widower Ari Bruck, whom Jordon believes is an undercover Mossad field operative also interested in Jared though not revealing why. Distrusting each other in spite of their attraction, they agree to team up in search of the elusive Jared as clues taken them all over France from the Riviera to the wine country and onto the rest of the continent.

A Hidden Affair is an intriguing romantic espionage starring a brave female who seeks the truth about the only man she thought she loved until her attraction with Ari. The pair shares in common grief; hers is for her college lover who allegedly drowned in the Cam and his for his late wife and daughter. Filled with twists, fans will want to know what happened to Jared. With a tie to vanished rare wine lost in WWII that enhances the exciting story line, A Hidden Affair is a super thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Layover in Dubai-Dan Fesperman

Layover in Dubai
Dan Fesperman
Knopf, Jul 16 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780307268389

Road weary American auditor Sam Keller is in his twentieth nation as an employee of Pfluger Klaxon. He and his business companion Charlie Hatcher are in Dubai when the latter is murdered. Although Sam vomits twice at the sight of the blown away Charlie, the cops believe he is the killer so he flees rather than take his chances on Middle East justice even if Dubai is a very westernized center.

He soon finds the Russian Mafia and his own pharmaceutical company want him dead. Dubai police officer Anwar Sharaf believes the American is innocent as the alleged motive fails to hold up under minor scrutiny. However, his investigation leads to him on run from his corrupt peers, the Russians and the hired guns of Sam’s firm.

This is an exciting over the top of the Burj Khalifa as the audience gets a close up look at perhaps the most capitalist center in the world conflicted between money and religious beliefs. Fast-paced, Sharaf makes the tale work as he rejects the mainstream bias news, jealous peers and deadly others who threaten his loved ones to insure the right people are arrested. Sam pales in comparison to him during his Layover in Dubai.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases

The Murder Room: The Heirs of Sherlock Holmes Gather to Solve the World's Most Perplexing Cold Cases
Michael Capuzzo
Gotham (Dutton), Aug 10 2010, $26.00
ISBN: 9781592401420

This is a terrific look at the mysterious (pun intended) Vidocq Society pledged to solve the tundra of cold cases. Established by internet expert William Fleisher, profiling guru Richard Walter and forensic sculptor Frank Bender, the group is named after Napoleonic era Parisian detective Eugene Vidocq. They meet to brainstorm, discuss processes and solve cases as cold as five decades old and more.

The over fifty cases are fascinating in a macabre way as Michael Capuzzo graphically describes the crimes such as Marie Noe convicted as a septuagenarian in 1999 for killing eight of her kids in 1949 or John List who murdered his family to keep them religiously pure but afterward vanished for two decades before being sculptured. Well written, it is the human element accentuated by the victims such as Widow Marilyn Flax who negotiated with her husband’s kidnapper-killer that grips the audience; her story will leave readers eyes watering. Throughout the 56 entries is the underlying competitive camaraderie between the trio, bickering to the amusement of observers like us readers over glasses. Graphic (one killer cut off the visage of those murdered) yet heartfelt (all will cheer when the caught priest mutters "God damn", The Murder Room is a true crime winner.

Harriet Klausner

Entanglement-Zygmunt Miloszewski

Zygmunt Miloszewski
Bitter Lemon, Aug 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN 9781904738442

In 2005 at a Warsaw monastery, a demanding group therapy session occurs hosted by Cezary Rudski. He tells a tale to the three of his four patents (Euzebiusz Kiam, Hanna Kwiatkowska and Barbara Jarczyk) who remain at the table; Henryk Talek is not there as the therapist assumes he left unable to cope with the intensity.

The next day Henryk is found dead; a roasting spit jammed into his eye. Warsaw prosecutor Teodor Szack leads the investigation, but has no energy for the case. He is bone wearily tired as he interviews the therapist and the three surviving patients. However, he soon finds his inquiry intriguing as he uncovers a link to a cold case homicide over two decades ago when the Communists ran roughshod. Adding to his renewed vigor is meeting enthusiastic reporter Monika Grzelka whose beauty and élan revitalizes him. However, Szack also wonders why the Secret Police are following his every move.

This is a fascinating Polish police procedural in which almost two decades since the fall of the Iron Curtain mysteries remain tied to the Communist era. The investigation is cleverly devised and the ennui Szarck feels at first is powerful as is his sudden zest for life after meeting the energetic journalist. However, the key to Zygmunt Miloszewski’s engaging whodunit is Warsaw as the city comes across modern yet retains the scars of communism.

Harriet Klausner

A Spider on the Stairs-Cassandra Chan

A Spider on the Stairs
Cassandra Chan
Minotaur, Jul 20 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312369408

Amateur sleuth Phillip Betancourt knows being the family black sheep makes spending Christmas in Yorkshire at his parent’s home as gloomy as the torrent of rain outside. Adding to his family’s torrential interrogation of him is questions about his personal life as he no longer is seeing Marla Tate. When cheerful Scotland Yard Detective Sergeant Jack Gibbons calls about a murder in nearby York, Phillip sees an opportunity to escape the torture by joining his friend on the investigation.

The corpse of Deborah Seldon, found in Accessorize in Davygate Shop, might be the work of notorious serial killer Ashdon. When Jack concludes the victim was killed most likely by Ashdon, he notifies the Yard’s serial killer Detective Superintendent Brumby; though the case has anomalies. Soon afterward, the proprietor of Mittlesdon's bookshop finds the body of his former employee Jody Farraday inside on Christmas Day. Gibbons and Betancourt investigate only to find too many people had access to the store.

The latest Betancourt-Gibbons collaborative investigation (see Village Affairs, Young Widow and Trick of the Mind) is a superb Yuletide whodunit. The story line is character driven more so by the seemingly hedonistic Betancourt though his buddy the cop holds his own as each is euphoric with having the case. Ironically, a contemporary mystery, fans of the classic British “historical” social class mystery like Dorothy L. Sayers' Lord Peter Wimsey and Carola Dunn’s Lady Daisy Dalrymple Fletcher tales will want to read Cassandra Chan’s fun tale.

Harriet Klausner

Death’s Excellent Vacation-Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner

Death’s Excellent Vacation
Edited by Charlaine Harris and Toni L.P. Kelner
Ace, Aug 3 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780441018680

This is a fun thirteen fantasy collection in which the paranormal go on vacations and have holidays that make the Griswold family and Monsieur Hulot seem tame. “Two Blondes” (by Charlaine Harris) Pam and Sookie go to a not so gentleman’s club in Mississippi for the weekend. Jim the demon (see Aisling Gray) heads to Paris for a good time but runs into “The Perils of Effrijim” by Katie MacAlister. The eight immortals get together as “The Boys Go Fishing” by Sarah Smith, but conclude drinking tea is easier. In “One for the Money” by Jeaniene Frost, hitmen Cat and Bones find their vacation interrupted protecting an heiress when the former’s mom arrives. You can’t go home if you want time out as affirmed by Toni L.P. Kelner in “Pirate Dave’s Haunted Amusement Park”, “The Demon in the Dunes” by Chris Grabenstein and “Home From America” by Sharan Newman. Readers will enjoy the amusing vacations of the supernatural as whether it is Bermuda (Lilith Saintcrow’s “The Heart Is Always Right”) or Port Arthur (“Seeing is Believing” by L.A. Banks), fans will want to accompany the paranormal when they go on Death’s Excellent Vacation tours.

Harriet Klausner

Cast In Chaos-Michelle Sagara

Cast In Chaos
Michelle Sagara
Luna, Aug 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9780373803194

The City of Elantra’s influential are stunned when the powerless charlatans on Elani Street suddenly possess magical skills. Alarm spreads even by some of the new practitioners. This trepidation turns to abject fear when rains of blood come down from the sky and abnormal births become the norm.

The Oracles are confused as the leaders at the Dragon Court declare a homeland security emergency. The leadership concludes that something from outside is trying to penetrate the barriers between worlds. They also believe their response to prevent this from happening rests with Hawk elite force Private Kaylin Neya whose mysterious skin markings is postured to have the answers. Unintentionally somehow Kaylin enters a void that has been opened between worlds; here she meets the dark trying to crash through to the light of Elantra.

The sixth Cast “police procedural” fantasy continues the growth as a person of Kaylin who has a come a long way since her early days as a prejudicial cop on the Shadow beat. Although the story line is character driven by the courageous heroine, her efforts (and the prime plot) is to simply save the world. Fans of Elantra will want to soar with the heroine as her latest case takes several twists and spins.

Harriet Klausner

Total Eclipse-Rachel Caine

Total Eclipse
Rachel Caine
Roc, Aug 3 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780451463456

Weather warden Joanne Baldwin and her husband Djinn David defeated their enemy former weather warden Bad Bob (see Cape Storm), but at a price that she knows was too high. Besides her friends like Lewis becoming ill, she and David are stripped of their power, Djinn are dead in mass numbers, and the Black Corner of the planet no longer contains earth’s natural pulse. Their victory at all costs has come with an even greater price as Mother Nature is waking up from a long nap; outraged by the pollution that has destroyed much of the planet’s magic.

With the Djinn gone, no one can intercede to persuade Mother Nature to give mankind one more chance; her inclination is extinction of humanity and all other living essences. Leaving “Gilligan’s Island” (as she has no gowns anyway) to save the world, Joanne accompanied by her man David, her BFF Cherise and Cherise’s soul mate Kevin set out on a quest to prevent the end of times though they have no power beyond that of humans.

The ninth tale in the Weather Warden urban fantasy saga is a great finish that showcases why Rachel Caine is a master wizard. The story line is simple: save the world from a rightfully righteous fuming Mother Nature without any otherworldly powers. Fans of the long running series will relish the climax as Joanne and company find themselves in dire straits with no hope of success; however as she understands to hit a home run one must swing the bat and risk striking out; as not trying means out anyway.

Harriet Klausner

A Wild Light-Marjorie M. Liu

A Wild Light
Marjorie M. Liu
Ace, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019014

Every year, demon hunter Maxine Kiss kills a zombie on her birthday; the anniversary day of her mom’s murder. In Seattle, this year Maxine wakes up in bed next to Grandfather Jack Meddle’s bloody corpse. She recalls nothing about the previous evening, not even Jack wishing her happy birthday. Maxine soon finds other gaps in her memory as she has no idea who her soul mate, the Lightbringer Grant is. Adding to her trepidations, her five demons residing as tattoos on her epidermis are mute. Her worst fear is that she gone dark and killed her beloved grandpa.

Still Maxine needs to fill the holes in her head and get the “boys” communicating. She begins making inquiries and uncovers a potential calamity if not resolved yesterday; as the inner ring containing the demon horde inside is crumbling with Reaper Kings prepared to glean the harvest of souls.

The third Hunter Kiss urban fantasy (see The Iron Hunt and Darkness Calls) is a terrific entry that contains a powerful story line while also moving forward on the overarching theme. Readers will learn much about the heroine’s heritage as she investigates what happened to her and Jack. With a late great twist, fans will enjoy Marjorie M. Liu’s dark A Wild Light.

Harriet Klausner

Stuff of Legends-Ian Gibson

Stuff of Legends
Ian Gibson
Ace, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780441019304

In a world where magic exists, the leading form of entertainment comes from the traveling bards who sing about the adventures of heroes; courtesy of Central Casting. The most cherished champion throughout civilization is the incredible Jordan the Red who remains the best of the best even though he vanished two decades ago. Although no one seems to know where he is, people still love hearing his tales of daring do.

Jordon hopes to remain is hiding as he retired years ago. Unfortunately Eliot obsessively wants to meet his hero in order to join him on an adventure. His former Elfish babysitter Kess gives him a braid with strings of wishes. Jordan’s former agent sends the bard Cyral to chronicle Jordan’s comeback escapade. They all converge on Jordan who insists he is retired with no plans of a farewell tour. When an enemy of the reluctant retired hero abducts Elliot Jordan sighs because he knows he must intercede. From there his life goes catastrophic as all the enemies he defeated in his first heroic run have formed a gauntlet to kill Jordan. If he survives the horde, he next faces the dragon he once fought.

Stuff of Legends is a refreshing amusing fantasy in which the star is told to follow the script while his foes ignore the plot. However, the adventures are real so the hero can die (like John Wayne at the Alamo). Jordon was the best and has no desire to prove he still is until his agent lures him out of retirement the sleazy way. Although some of the jocularity fails to feel funny, fans of Robert Aspirin’s Myth-adventures and early Xanth will enjoy the lampooning of quest fantasies as with Bonnie Tyler’s Holding Out For A Hero comes to mind, but what happens after hours.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 26, 2010

The Temptress-Paul Spicer

The Temptress
Paul Spicer
St. Martin’s, Jul 20 210, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312379704

In 1899 Alice Silverthorne was born in Buffalo. Her father was a self made lumber baron and her mother a Chicago socialite. In 1913 the family imploded as law suits are filed to include custody of Alice. In 1920 Alice and her guardian Aunt Tattie go to Paris where she meets Count Frederic de Jantze. They marry and she gives birth to her first child in 1922. The family spends much of their time in Kenya. In 1927 Alice fails to kill herself and her lover Lord Raymund de Trafford when he dumped her. Five years later he becomes her second spouse. Meanwhile from almost her arrival in Kenya she has an affair for years with Joss Hay (Lord Erroll). In 1941 Joss is shot to death; soon after Alice commits suicide.

The cold case murder was international news in 1941 and made into a book by James Fox and movie White Mischief. Using family documents and photos as Paul Spicer’s mom was a friend of Alice; the author makes a strong argument that the apparently passionate delusional Alice killed Joss and then herself. Historical fans and biographical readers will fully enjoy “The Scandalous Life of Alice de Jantze and the Mysterious Death of Lord Erroll” as Mr. Spicer provides a deep nonfiction account in which he defends his assertion that Alice killed Erroll in her quest to be loved.

Harriet Klausner

32 Candles-Ernessa T. Carter

32 Candles
Ernessa T. Carter
Amistad, Jun 22 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061957840

African American Davidia Jones grows up on Glass, Mississippi with a mother who does nothing for her. By the time she is six she knows the smell of an alcoholic and the noise of sex. The only thing good about being especially dark skinned is that the bruises don’t readily show. As a young teen, already a victim of neglect and abuse, Davie assumes she is ugly; enhanced by the cruel comments at school where she is called Monkey Night. Her unrequited attraction to the top jock James Farrell augments her feelings of the ugliest non in Mississippi.

In 1984, fifteen years old Davie sees Sixteen Candles in the only theater in town. She cries about the ending in which a loser wins and decides to leave Glass. Davie gets a ride out of town with a long haul truck driver. In Los Angeles, Davie obtains work as a 1940s chanteuse as she reinvents herself. All is great until James arrives at the club where she performs. He fails to recognize the thirtyish Davie, which hurts her, but he clearly wants her. Davie seeks revenge for her mistreatment in Glass so she hides who she was and plans to break his heart. She failed to calculate either falling in love again or Mississippi mud returning to destroy her chance for that Molly Ringwald ending.

Tthis is an entertaining at times intense look at an abused bullied child as a thirty something adult. Davie is terrific holding the tale together with her prime desires fighting one another since James reentered her life; though in some ways for the first time as their high school spheres were as far apart as the sun (him) and relegated Pluto (her). Although the story line has no major twists, readers will enjoy 32 Candles rooting for Davie.

Harriet Klausner

I'd Know You Anywhere-Laura Lippman

I'd Know You Anywhere
Laura Lippman
Morrow, Aug 17 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780061706554

In the summer of 1985 Walter Bowman abducts fifteen years old Eliza Lerner. For the next six weeks he held her in captivity. Frightened and expecting to die as she believes he is already a serial killer, the unpredictable Walter frees her. Later he is caught and convicted of rape, murder and kidnapping after murdering another victim; he is sentenced to be executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

Years later, thirty eight years old Eliza is married to Peter Benedict and raising her two children, thirteen year old Iso and eight year old Albie when he contacts her. She assumes he wants her to forgive him for her six weeks in his hell, but prefers to ignore Walter. However, she also knows how crazy he is and fears even with him on death row and out of appeals he will find a way to harm her offspring. Eliza also is curious why he freed her when he killed the others.

Character driven to include the Billboard top 100 during her captivity in 1985, I'd Know You Anywhere looks deep into the souls of a serial killer and the sole survivor as the victim remains haunted two plus decades later. The support cast is powerful especially her spouse and older child and Barbara (read to learn who she is). However, this thriller belongs to the lead couple, a killing kidnapper and the only one he let live as readers will wonder whether Eliza will ever leave open a window at night so that would mean she finally closed the book on that chapter of her life.

Harriet Klausner

Shadow Play-Rajorshi Chakraborti

Shadow Play
Rajorshi Chakraborti
Minotaur, Jul 20 2010, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312642341

Internationally acclaimed author Raj Chakraborti vanishes at a time when the police want to question him in the murder of a journalist. His sudden disappearance turns Raj from a person of interest to a prime suspect.

He sends a package to his editor in which he explains his latest fiction starring a serial killer hired by the government as an assassin and his fear that reality is stranger than fiction as Raj believes a serial killer turned assassin stalks him. He believes this hired murderer waits for the right moment to kill him. Raj wonders if his past in India in the 1970s has come back to destroy him.

Not for everyone this is a strange Kafka like thriller that grips the reader who will wonder whether the character Raj Chakraborti has gone insane or is being hunted down. Rotating perspective between an “autobiography” and a suspense mystery, fans who relish a well written, but odd tale that appears to break the barrier between fiction and non fiction (or has it) will appreciate this convoluted twisting yet entertaining conspiracy tale of the author on the run from who he believes is a sanctioned government killer.

Harriet Klausner

First Thrills-Lee Child (editor)

First Thrills
Lee Child (editor)
Forge, Jun 22 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780765326485

This twenty-five suspense thriller collection is an interesting way for readers to meet new writers while established authors have an opportunity to thank the audience and the publishing companies by providing entries to First Thrills. “The Dead Club” by Daniel James Palmer and Michael Palmer is the best bet as wagering on death mirrors real life gambling pools. Other strong entries include “The Thief” by Greg Hurwitz and Ken Bruen’s “Wednesday’s Child”. None of the entries from the veterans or the rookies are bad, but few are excellent. Still fans will enjoy dining with Rip Gerber, Sean Michael Bailey and other newcomers and vets like Stephen Coonts, John Lescroart, Karin Slaughter and Heather Graham as each provides readers with plenty of chills and thrills.

Harriet Klausner

Crossfire-Dick Francis and Felix Francis

Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Putnam, Aug 2010, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399156816

After losing his foot in an Afghan fire fight, Captain Tom Forsythe has returned to the States to recover and learn to use his prosthesis. With no place to go, he returns to his mother’s Kauri Horse Stables in Berkshire, England. At seventeen, tired of the fights with his stepfather, he left to go to war. Now he learns his family is concealing something from him.

He soon learns someone is blackmailing his mother to the tune of 2000 pounds a week and they also lost a fortune in a sham hedge fund recommended by their accountant Roderick Ward who was found drowned; officially ruled an accident. What hurts Tom’s mom the most is that her extortionist is forcing her to make sure her horses lose races. Tom investigates, but is kidnapped and left hanging in an abandoned warehouse. He escapes, vowing to take down the killers and others involved in harming him and his mom.

This father and son team has proven to be as successful writing entertaining mystery readers as Dick Francis did when he rode solo (with his late wife as his researcher). The story line is driven by the hero who lost a limb in the Afghan war, but though depressed refuses to allow his trauma from helping his mom out of her predicament. With homage to Dick Francis who goes out a winner as he passed away a few months ago, Crossfire is a terrific character driven suspense thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Omnitopia Dawn-Diane Duane

Omnitopia Dawn
Diane Duane
Daw, Aug 3 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780756406233

By 2015, anyone who knows their name participates in multi-player on line games. The most popular of the interactive internet games is Dev Logan’s Omnitopia. There are so many players; the game has surpassed TV and movies as the number one entertainment outlet in the world. Millions not just play, but prefer the reality of Omnitopia to their “real” existence.

Dev and his crew begin a major upgrade to his game system. However, while working on the expansion, he is stunned to learn his creation is alive. Whereas he has always dueled with unscrupulous hackers, elected officials with false morals, and unprincipled industrial espionage operatives, he never lost sight that it was only a game. Now it is more than a game as he tries to keep the ruthless immoral thugs from murdering or kidnapping his “offspring”.

This is a terrific techno-thriller that uses the enthusiasm of game players to extract a near future in which on-line interactivity is the in thing. Although AI tales have starred frequently in books (Asimov) and movies (Spielberg), Omnitopia Dawn provides a fresh perspective due to a rotating 360 degree viewpoint. Fans will enjoy likable Dev’s efforts to protect his child while also seeing how players, the expansion crew, and the devious look at Omnitopia.

Harriet Klausner

The Reapers Are the Angels-Alden Bell

The Reapers Are the Angels
Alden Bell
Holt, $15.00
ISBN 978-0-8050-9243-1

Fifteen years old Temple has learned one thing in her life; either one kills the zombies and other predators or they die. She can never remember a time before the Meatskins when the globe was relatively safe, but recalls the old man and her younger sibling before she was forced to begin her trek to nowhere.

At an alleged safe house, human Abraham Todd assaults her. Following her credo, she kills him but flees before his family or allies can come after her. Outraged by the teen’s murder of his brother, Moses vows to find, torture and kill Temple. On her trek, Temple finds a dim witted mute Maury who starts tagging along with her. She cannot shake him and soon feels responsible for his safety; as he brings back memories she would prefer to forget. Meanwhile Moses stalks her and the meatskin zombies chase her and her companion.

The world of Alden Bell is a dark place, a terrible place to live but Temple refuses to die so circumstances of survival has made her one of the fittest and toughest. Temple makes the grim convergence of horror with science fiction work as she seeks redemption instead of the remorse that fills her soul. Her journey is deadly battling predators of all kind; some who would rape and then kill her; other who would eat her to death. The Reapers Are the Angeles is an exciting fast-paced thriller that grips readers from start to finish.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Unexpected Son-Shobhan Bantwal

The Unexpected Son
Shobhan Bantwal
Kensington, Aug 1 2010, $15.00
ISBN 9780758232038

Middle-aged Vinita and Girish Patil enjoy their middle class lifestyle in suburban New Jersey. Married for almost a quarter of a century, the Indian-American couple has a daughter.

However, Vinita’s perfect world shatters when she receives a shocking letter postmarked Mumbai. Inside is a letter informing her that the illegitimate son she birthed stillborn back home in Palgaum, India actually lives. Her brother Vishal admits he orchestrated the hoax for her sake and that of his nephew. Now her first born, Shivraj College chemistry Professor Rohit Barve is dying from leukemia and needs a bone marrow transplant. Vinita remembers years back when she was pregnant and Rohit's biological father Som Kori refused to marry her as their respective people from differing cultures even languages were feuding. She finds out when she arrives to meet and hopefully help her son they still are.

This excellent contemporary provides strong insight into the Indian-American culture (a trademark of talented Shobhan Bantwal; see The Sari Shop Window), a mother’s eternal love for her offspring, and a fascinating “border” war inside a small village in India. Character driven, The Unexpected Son is a super Indian-American tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Gathering Storm-Brodie and Brock Thoene

The Gathering Storm
Brodie and Brock Thoene
Summerside Press, Aug 1 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781609360337

In years, Lorelei is a youngster, but with Hitler’s rise to power, she is forced to grow up fast. She is an American citizen living in Berlin; born to a Texas mother and Austrian Protestant missionary. Her mom died a few years ago, but she and her dad reside in Germany when they are forced to see by the mysterious Ebon Golah that a shadow will soon lay across the world. She marries German Jew Varrick Kepler so can he can obtain papers to escape Germany.

Having lived through Kristallnacht, Lora and her family move to Brussels where she is reunited with her husband. Hitler doesn’t give them very much time together as his troops blitzkrieg across Belgium. Varrick dies on the front line forcing Lora, her father and her sister to flee to England. They stop at Tyne Cott where they meet Captain Judah Blood who along with other soldiers tries to get them across the Channel. Judith helps them get to England where she works with Jewish and other refugees from the continent and reunites with Eben who obviously conceals a secret that the war widow plans to uncover.

The first book in the new B&B Thoene Zion Diaries series brings readers deep into the heart of Nazi Germany as Hitler fashions the expanding nation in his image. Readers will admire the courageous heroine who grows up rather fast as she does her best to help others escape the Hitler’s insane wrath. With homage to Anne Frank and a touch of metaphysics and romance enhancing the war epic, The Gathering Storm is a terrific opening act as the Thoene tandem transports fans back to a period of horrific crimes against humanity with brave souls trying to rescue the unfortunate.

Harriet Klausner

Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme-Carole Nelson Douglas

Cat in an Ultramarine Scheme
Carole Nelson Douglas
Forge, Aug 3 2010, $24.99
ISBN 9780765318633

Public relations specialist Temple Barr is setting up a campaign for the Fontana family to take advantage of Las Vegas’ mob roots. The "Chunnel of Crime" is a monorail within a museum connecting two hotels. During a promotional event, an underground vault is opened for the first time in years. Temple and her clients hope to find buried gangster loot instead of what was found in Capone’s vault. Instead, they find something worse to accentuate the gangster past. Inside is the corpse of former magician Cosimo Sparks. Someone stabbed him and buried him. Temple accompanied by her pet owner Midnight Louie investigates; as does the Fontana family and the police.

At the same time, Temple and Louie make inquiries, her fiancé radio star Matt Devine is in Chicago. Her “dead” ex, magician/counterterrorist Max Kinsella, is in Ireland suffering from amnesia but cared for by Garry “Gandolph the Great” Randolph as he seeks information on the late orphan Kathleen “Kitty the Cutter” O'Connor.

In his twenty-second starring appearance (see Cat in a Topaz Tango), Midnight Louie remains fresh and amusing as if he was working with his human pet on their first case (see 1993’s Catnap). The twisting story line is fast-paced as Temple relies on Midnight Louie’s posse the Vegas Strip Irregulars to solve the homicides. This is a terrific entry as fans of the series will believe rascally lovable Louie has several lives left.

Harriet Klausner

Deceit-Brandilyn Collins

Brandilyn Collins
Zondervan, Jun 18 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780310276449

Six years ago in Vonita, California, Linda Jackson dies. Her fiftyish best friend skip tracer Joanne Weeks believes the husband affluent church elder Baxter Jackson killed his wife. She makes efforts to prove her assertion, but fails as everyone who knows Jackson consider him a great man.

When his second wife Cherise dies in what the corner ruled was an unfortunate accident, Joanne’s belief that Jackson is a spousal killer reasserts itself. This time she plans to find proof by seeking someone who might have information on what happened to Linda six years ago. However, Joanne feels someone is stalking her. Feeling her life is in danger already, she is further stunned when a stranger leaps in front of her car on a wet road pleading with her to seek out the teenage foster child Melissa Harkoff who lived with the Jacksons when Linda vanished.

Few, if any writers combine inspirational messages with suspense as well as Brandilyn Collins consistently does (see Exposure). She proves this once again with Deceit. Her current tale is a superb thriller in which the heroine must peel away the deceitful masks everyone wraps themselves inside of to uncover the truth of what happened to Linda. Readers will consider what is acceptable in terms of societal deceit in terms of the family, the law and religion and what is not. However, Ms. Collins also takes her theme much deeper asking the audience to consider how will the Lord judge a person’s deceits when he or she stands at the gates. The message is intertwined inside a powerful suspense thriller as the heroine peels away levels of deceit of others and the mythos she mentally spun as a psychological defense mechanism to get to the truth; if that is even truly attainable.

Harriet Klausner

The War That Came Early: West and East-Harry Turtledove

The War That Came Early: West and East
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Jul 27 2010, $27.00
ISBN 9780345491848

Following Chamberlain’s rejection of appeasement, Hitler's War continues on three fronts. He attacks France planning to take Paris soonest. His troops head east towards Soviet Russia and the oil fields. Finally his military machine heads north to Scandinavia starting with Denmark.

However, the three German fronts don’t go as well as planned. In Czechoslovakia, the tank blitzkrieg runs into some opposition from freedom fighter using antitank rifles. In France, his forces are behind schedule in his demand that Paris is burning. Finally only in the northern front are things going somewhat smoothly. In the Pacific, the Japanese are rolling all over Asia uncontested.

The second entry in the alternate history of The War That Came Early series continues to extrapolate events based on Chamberlain taking a stand in 1938. The story line is exciting and fast-paced but is at its best when Harry Turtledove takes his audience to the real fronts where those who will never make it into the history texts star. When the plot seeks the big picture of a world at war it loses some of its in depth and the personal horrors of what happens in war even at the home front away from the battlefield. Fans will root for the everyday person on both sides of the conflict as Mr. Turtledove takes his readers to the Atlantic and Pacific, to Singapore, Japan, Siberia and all over Europe as even the maniac Hitler shows some soul when he enables an American to escape Germany.

Harriet Klausner

Waking the Witch-Kelley Armstrong

Waking the Witch
Kelley Armstrong
Dutton, Jul 27 2010, $25.95
ISBN 9780525951780

The three homicides in Columbus, Washington imply that a supernatural serial killer is on the loose. Portland, Oregon twenty-something witch Savannah Levine of Cortez-Winterbourne Investigations (one bolt would change the name to Levine Investigations) and hybrid human-demon investigator Jesse Aanes make inquiries.

Savannah wants to prove that she has the mental and physical toughness to go it alone. She believes her witch powers will enable her to obtain the information needed to determine who the culprit is. However, to her chagrin when she casts a spell,her powers fail her. Meanwhile their unknown adversary continues the killing spree with no end in sight unless Savannah and Jesse find the serial killer.

This is an entertaining twist to Savannah’s saga as her traits as the tough sassy child of Stolen remain in the adult though more under control. Making matters difficult for her is when she most needs her bewitching skills they seem to vanish. Filled with wonderful spins and a horde of corpses, Waking the Witch is a wonderful Otherworld urban fantasy mystery as unlike her heroine Kelly Armstrong’s bewitching ability to entertain remains as strong as ever.

Harriet Klausner

Death Most Definite-Trent Jamieson

Death Most Definite
Trent Jamieson
Orbit, Jul 27 2010, $7.99
ISBN 9780316078009

Following his divorce, Steven de Selby becomes a Psychopomp at his family firm Mortmax Industries. His job as a Pomp requires him to send the souls of the dead to their final resting place.

At the mall for lunch, a female ghost who should not be there warns Steven to run, saving his life, but before he can pomp her she is gone. An unknown entity attacks the employees at the company’s offices in Sydney and Melbourne; everyone is killed. The ghost of a former peer warns Steven that he and the other Pomps at the Brisbane office are targeted next. Just an average guy, Steven dodges an apparent supernatural killing machine giving him no time to mourn for the loss of his family as he is a target. He also struggles with an impossible backlog of souls since the organization was downsized by the enemy. Then there are the Stirrers wearing the bodies of his loved ones: Steven knows being a Pomp is an unsafe occupation at the moment.

This is a fun tongue in cheek Australian urban fantasy whose underlying premise is soul departing has been privatized by “Mr. D”. The story line is fast-paced and filled with straightforward action as the reader will not be surprised by events, but will enjoy each soul raising escapade that Steven seems to get caught up in. Fans will appreciate his adventures to avoid pomping himself with few others around to do so as death becomes him.

Harriet Klausner

Lord of the Changing Winds-Rachel Neumeier

Lord of the Changing Winds
Rachel Neumeier
Orbit, May 2010, $7.99
ISBN: 9780316072786

In the land of Feierabiand in the woods by the small remote village of Minas Ford, teen Kes the healer gathers herbs, but stops to watch the beauty of the visiting griffins soaring through the sky before completing her chore. She rushes home to her worried sister farmer Tesme and their helper Jos as a horse River is about to give birth. With Kes’ aid, the siblings celebrate the birth of the foal when a stranger asks Kes for help.

Kes senses the man is different and somehow has ties to the griffins. Bering a healer who uses herbs she goes with him to attend to healing the griffins. As she assists them without herbs and communicates telepathically; a mage and diplomat escorted by soldiers arrive to investigate tales of griffins coming across the mountains from Casmantium.

The insight into the griffin culture owns the opening tale of the aptly titled The Griffin Mage saga; the humans even the heroic lead healer pale in comparison. The story line is an entertaining fantasy; however in spite of a map, the deployments of large forces including the griffins flying across the mountain range were difficult to envision what it took these various groups to accomplish their respective missions; that is a key reason exiting Iraq in an orderly manner takes time. Still this is the tale of the griffins soaring through the skies over Feierabiand and their healer learning their ways and more to help them to fly with the winds they brought with them.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Nights Beneath the Nation-Denis Kehoe

Nights Beneath the Nation
Denis Kehoe
Serpent's Tail, Aug 1 2010, $14.95
ISBN: 9781846686795

Decades ago in the early 1950s Daniel Ryan was a teen from a poor family when he moved to Dublin. However, he was taken aback when he realized he preferred sleeping with men. He hd grown grown up in a small town that proclaimed homosexuality is an asylum disease for the mentally insane perverts or a devil’s sin. He fell in love, but his relationship ended poorly and he fled Ireland for New York.

In 1998, wealthy septuagenarian Daniel returns to Dublin for the first time since he fled in shame in 1951. Nothing seems the same to him and he feels no one his age has anything in common with the cosmoplitan man he has become after five decades in Manhattan. In his birth land, Daniel feels like a stranger in a strange land.

This is a complex, perhaps too compicated comparative look at a man in two stages of his life; as the story line rotates between young Daniel learning with energy and elan his sexual proclivity vs. the eldery acrimonious Daniel having lived a life alone in exile. Nights Beneath the Nation is a fascinating protrait of a young and old gay male struggling to accept his sexual preference.

Harriet Klausner

The News Where You Are-Catherine O'Flynn

The News Where You Are
Catherine O'Flynn
Holt, Jul 6 2010, $15.00
ISBN: 9780805091809

In England, middle aged popular news anchor Frank Allcroft overly reflects where his life has been and where he is going. He hates his job and knows how his peers scorn his talent or lack of as they would insist. He struggles with an eternally depressed mother since his father the architect who was never around anyway died. However, the recent death of his buddy Phil shakes Frank to his core as he ponders mortality; that of his own.

Frank understands his broadcasting is inane with all the news unfit to air. He wanders the town seeing how many things change yet remains the same. A distraught Frank feels for the lonely people living and dead; visiting graves in which no one cares. He detests urban blight but loathes even more demolition as he is unable to move on unlike his mom who insists good and bad are always memories that need to be demolished so one can move away from the past and live in the present.

With a nod to the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby, this is a strong somewhat melancholy character study of someone who reflects on his life and concludes the world is terrible place to live especially when one feels alone as he does, but dying alone is the punctuation end. Yet in spite of his gloomy outlook on past, present and future, Frank never turns self-pitying as he is stoic believing that’s life and death; which ironically leaves the reader with hope. Character study fans will enjoy the story of Frank, caught between a rock and hard place inside his mind yet never quite crushed. The News Where You Are is powerful storytelling

Harriet Klausner

Burn-Neveda Barr

Nevada Barr
Minotaur, Aug 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312614560

Leaving her spouse behind at home working, National Park Ranger Anna Pigeon is visiting a friend Geneva in New Orleans. Anna is taken aback when someone places a hex on her using a dead pigeon with arcane etchings on it. She assumes Geneva’s tenant Jordan is behind the dark magic attempt, but though he is a peculiar unfriendly sort, she has done nothing to him to warrant such a spell.

Not one to lay back having solved many homicides and other crime mysteries at the parks around the country, Anna investigates who tried to hex her and why, and to learn more about Jordon. As she navigates the dark mumbo jumbo urban jungle of the Big Easy, Anna refuses to be anyone’s pigeon though she was not expecting a mundane murder to occur rather than mumbo jumbo mojo magic.

Taking Anna out of the National Park scenes of homicides in every park adds a freshness to her investigations as she is a fish out of water, especially having her hexed in New Orleans. Fast-paced as always, fans will enjoy Anna working the urban jungle rather than the parks as her inqury spins out of control. Neveda Barr is at her sparkling best with this enthralling whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

A Family Affair-Caro Peacock

A Family Affair
Caro Peacock
Avon, Jun 2010, $13.99
ISBN: 9780061447495

In 1839 Conservative MP Benjamin Disraeli asks private sleuth Liberty Lane for some assistance. He wants to hire her to investigate the claims of Lady Sophia Brinkburn. The aristocratic lady’s husband is dying while she insists the heir to the Brinkburn title Stephen is illegitimate so cannot claim the estate; if true the younger brother Miles will inherit all.

Lane goes undercover, renting a cottage near the Brinkburn estate. She meets Lady Brinkburn, but is stunned as the woman is amiable and obviously mentally competent. Thus the motive to destroy her family’s reputation including her own with this scandal remains out of reach. However, the situation takes an odd twist when someone appears to have murdered the family retainer and Lady Brinkburn.

The latest Lane historical mystery (see A Foreign Affair and A Dangerous Affair) is an enjoyable brisk thriller that starts off with a jousting between the Brinkburn siblings and never slows down. Even with the fast pace and a delightful surprising twist, readers also obtain a deep look at the early Victorian era when mass transportation changes society. However, this strong nineteenth century thriller belongs to Ms. Lane who’s in her top sleuthing form as her inquiry turns from legitimacy to homicide.

Harriet Klausner

Swimsuit-James Patterson and Maxine Paetro

James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Grand Central, Jun 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446561365

He left LAPD to become a reporter and writer while also still performing limited inquiries. Currently LA Times reporter Ben Hawkins is in Hawaii investigating the disappearance of model Kim McDaniels. He meets with Kim’s hysterical parents who offer very little in the way of leads.

The former police detective fears for Kim’s life as he believes brutal serial killing Henri Benoit has captured her for whatever fiendish ritual he will perform. Returning unsuccessfully to Southern California, Ben is stunned when Henri offers him a deal he cannot refuse. Ben will write Henri’s authorized biography in exchange for allowing the ex cop and his girlfriend to live.

Not their best collaboration (see the Women’s Murder Club series for that), the fascination with this serial killer thriller lies totally with the psychopath as he relates his murderous escapades; in some ways the plot feels like an autobiography of I am killer. Hawkins and company come across feeble and frightened in a game of chess in which the brilliant madman checkmates the hero more often than Fischer did Spassky in Iceland. Although an over the top of the Sierras abrupt too neat climax occurs, readers who enjoy something different will appreciate Swimsuit.

Harriet Klausner

Priceless-Tom Davis

Tom Davis
David C. Cook, Jun 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781589191037

Photojournalist Stuart Daniels found purpose and faith when he helped an African orphan (see Scared). Now he heads to Russia on his latest project. There his friend Katya asks him to say yes when someone calls him at his hotel room offering him a girl; she also says she will explain further.

However, Stuart soon learns that the orphan child he met on his last stay in Russia is in trouble. Human traffickers are selling Marina Smolchenko to the highest bidder in a sex slave auction. His efforts to rescue Marina lead him to freedom fighter Katya who risks her life to liberate the sex slaves. His faith in the Lord is reduced with his observation of humanity’s cruelty and he wonders how God can allow this to happen to the innocent.

Like Stuart on his latest journey, readers will be stunned with what happens to people sold like commodities by human traffickers (Mr. Davis states 27 million with 1 million under eighteen years of age). The lead protagonist and the audience will ask why God allows such atrocities to occur while readers will also wonder if Stuart will rescue Marina and the others, and regain his faith. Thought provoking yet fast-paced and loaded with action, Priceless is not an easy read as this is Marina’s profound shocking tale and the story of her “sisters” sold as sex slaves to wealthy clients around the globe (including Americans).

Harriet Klausner

In Harm’s Way-Ridley Pearson

In Harm’s Way
Ridley Pearson
Putnam, Aug 3 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156540

Fiona Kenshaw rescues a small child from drowning in the river. She asks one thing from the man she is interested in; keep her face out of the local paper, the Mountain Express. Sun Valley Sheriff Wall Fleming is also interested in Fiona, but was burned by his wife who was cheating on him with his deputy. The paper’s editor ignores the pleas the sheriff by running the story with her photo. This leads to Fiona to withdraw deep into her shell.

When the corpse of former football player and ex convict Martel Gale is found, Sergeant Lou Boldt of Seattle thinks there is a link between the deceased, his former agent residing in Sun Valley Vince Wynn and a former sport team owner and entrepreneur Marty Boatwright and the dead courtesan Caroline Vetta. Boldt is working the Vetta case and Martel’s death enables Boldt to question Wynn and Boatwright. After Lou and Walt interview the men, both conclude one of them is guilty of homicide, but lack proof. Walt seeks evidence, but discovers a tie to Fiona that leads him to wonder if she is involved with the murders.

The latest “Killer” Walt Fleming police procedural (see Killer Summer and Killer View) is an excellent thriller as he works effectively with Ridley Pearson’s other top cop Lou Boldt (from the Boldt and Matthews series). Fiona’s relationships with Walt (sweet and just beginning), and with her ward Kira (coping with a rape as the youngster knows the truth about the guardian) enhances the entertaining whodunit. There is plenty of action, but it is the interaction between the key cast members that makes this a superb mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Prospero in Hell-L. Jagi Lamplighter

Prospero in Hell
L. Jagi Lamplighter
Tor, Aug 2010, $25.99
ISBN 9780765319302

The immortal sorcerer Prospero remains missing (see Prospero Lost) ever since one of his plans backfired. He is lost in hell. He would be surprised and proud of his adult children as they have come together after years of estrangement.

However, even with this sudden sibling camaraderie, Prospero’s offspring must cope with the constant threat from the Three Shadowed Ones. These devious predators seek the magical artifacts held by Prospero’s offspring. The oldest Miranda tries to keep her brothers and sisters united, but they remain fractious while they grapple with a series of stunning shockers. Still she investigates what happened to her sire and learns somewhat of his life since the events of five centuries ago immortalized by that hack.

Following up on Prospero Lost, Miranda leads the title character’s offspring as they struggle to team up even as their immortal world seems to be heading to hell in a broken hand basket. Fast-paced throughout, fans will enjoy the sibling rivalry while wondering if Prospero will remain lost in hell forever. His centuries’ old children acting like battling little kids fail to get their act together; although Miranda is kicking butt for them to shape up now. L. Jagi Lamplighter provides another strong Tempest thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Under A Maui Moon-Robin Jones Gunn

Under A Maui Moon
Robin Jones Gunn
Howard, Jul 2010, $14.99
ISBN: 9781416583394

In Portland, Oregon, with the kids grown up and out of the house, Carissa and Richard Lathrop look forward to the empty nest together. However, she expected to spend most of her free time with her beloved husband. Instead, Carissa is fired due to the economic downturn while Richard’s counseling work as a psychologist keeps him away from home a lot while when he is at their nest he is mentally exhausted and finally his volatile clients are coming to their house.

Clarissa is disappointed with Richard as she feels he has turned to work to spend less time with her. Since he is avoiding her, she accepts a retreat on Maui where she plans to pray to God to help her with the direction her marriage is heading, but Kai distracts from her feelings of desertion by her spouse and the Lord.

This is an interesting inspirational character study as dedicated Dr. Lathrop and his wife Carissa seem to be drifting apart with different needs at a time when they should come together. Carissa is disappointed in her husband, but also fails to understand how important his need to help is. On the other hand, Richard is superb with his unstable clients, but fails to be there while his wife deals with losing her job after the kids left home. Under the Maui Moon is a profound contemporary; as Robin Jones Gunn deftly interweaves into the enjoyable plot that God holds your hand, but you still must reach out to the Lord and to your loved ones.

Harriet Klausner

Corduroy Mansions-Alexander McCall Smith

Corduroy Mansions
Alexander McCall Smith
Pantheon, Jul 13 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307379085

In London, several eccentric people reside at Corduroy Mansions. Wine merchant and connoisseur William wants his twentyish year old son Eddie to move out, but a nuclear bomb is not going to budge his offspring. He gets Freddie the vegan canine whose prime mission is to propel Eddie to move in with people his age. Restaurateur Marcia wants Eddie out of the house also so then she can make a move on empty nester William.

Another occupant Dee works at a vitamin store where she tries to help a peer who she feels needs to cleans his system of excess salt. Her flat-mate Jenny earns a difficult living working for detestable MP Oedipus Snark, who treats his employee like a low form of dog excrement. Snark’s mom Berthea is writing the definitive biography of her son while her agent Barbara wants to become Mrs. MP.

As the walls crumble around the quirky residents, their squabbles make for an enjoyable slice of London life. Low keyed and not for everyone, fans of the author will enjoy the jocularity of everyday people interrelating in a dysfunctional manner as Corduroy Mansions is sort of like an aging supercollider with the people living there as the subatomic particles being sliced and diced. More like Alexander McCall Smith’s 44 Scotland Street books, than his No. 1 Ladies' Detective Agency, this is a fun look at the foibles of human interactions.

Harriet Klausner

Unwilling Warrior-Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar

Unwilling Warrior
Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar
Realms, Jun 2010, $10.99
ISBN: 9781599799858

Although the War Between the States makes it unsafe to travel, following the death of her mother, Valerie Fontaine leaves her Virginia boarding school to come home to New Orleans. However, her father makes it clear she is unwelcome.

Her dad decides to marry Valerie off perhaps to neighbor James Ladden who she despises. She prefers his guest combat photographer Benjamin McCabe who is in town searching for his missing brother Luke who vanished during the Battle of Bull Run. He is nice to her and falls in love with her. When her dad is arrested, he sends her to his home promising he will follow her once he finds Luke. However, she finds his home unwelcoming while her beloved continues his search for his younger brother.

The first Season of Redemption, Unwilling Warriors is a strong inspirational with a message that God is there for those who are there for the Lord even at the darkest loneliest moments. The story line transports readers to the Civil War in which many people feel God abandoned them, but those who find their way back or who have never lost their way will find the Lord helping them with their grief, sorrow and remorse. With a strong cast especially the heroine and a wonderful sense of time and place, Andrea Kuhn Boeshaar provides an insightful opening tale as Valerie logically knows how untrue her feelings are yet still feels abandoned by her father, her beloved and even God.

Harriet Klausner

The Wolves of Fairmount Park-Dennis Tafoya

The Wolves of Fairmount Park
Dennis Tafoya
Minotaur, Jun 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312531164

In Philadelphia, a drive-by shooting at a dope house leads two teens rushed to an emergency room; one dies while the other is critically injured. The fathers of the victims are psychologically wounded too. Police Officer Brendan Donovan whose son Michael was severely wounded and local entrepreneur George Parkman Sr. whose son Jr. died in the incident wonder why.

Both dads believe that Brendan's half-brother, Michael’s Uncle Orlando a drug addict was the cause of the attack. PPD detectives Danny Martinez and Asa Carmody investigate the shooting that seems increasingly to affirm the theory of the fathers that Orlando was the motive for the deadly drive-by.

This is a gloom and doom deep look at the aftermath of a tragic event as seen mostly through the rotating viewpoints amongst the four males not physically hurt by the incident; though other perspectives by family members, girlfriends and the female detective enhance the dark urban Noir. The fathers are the most fascinating as the cop prays for God to save his beloved son while the tycoon who ignored his offspring when he was alive insists on vengeance. Fans who appreciate a realistic walk on the wild side of the streets will want to read The Wolves of Fairmount Park.

Harriet Klausner

Hemlock Lake-Carolyn J. Rose

Hemlock Lake
Carolyn J. Rose
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148842

In the Catskill Mountains is isolated Hemlock Lake. The locals keep developers out, but recently a long time resident took the money. Now a developer and the natives are at war with vandalism occurring.

Sheriff North sends Police Sergeant Dan Stone to Hemlock Lake to investigate the crimes as he is from the area and has a better chance of obtaining information from the closed-mouth natives. He has doubts as he has been away since the tragedy of his wife Susanna drowning, his brother Nat committing suicide and his father mentally collapsing from the tragedies. As the vandal turns to arson and murder, Stone is pulled between the past and the future as he begins to believe someone he has known for years is behind the deadly felonies.

Aptly titled Hemlock Lake is a strong regional police procedural. Because he was away, Stone is considered a traitorous outsider by the locals. He does not disagree as he never wanted to come home but his wife persuaded him that his family needed them; after she died he never wanted to come home, but his boss persuaded him that the department needed him. Duty bound but filled with guilt, Dan increasingly believes he will bring in a friend once he solves the case. Though his flashbacks become intrusive and repetitive with too much detail, Carolyn J. Rose provides an entertaining character driven thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Lucy-Laurence Gonzales

Laurence Gonzales
Knopf, Jul 13 2020, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307272607

With the death of her associate in the Congo, primate anthropologist Jenny Lowe rescues her crony’s daughter Lucy as the civil war continues to go unabated and ugly. Jenny and Lucy go to the anthropologist’s home in Chicago where the girl acts weird, but not shocking as she lived in the jungle.

Jenny begins to reconsider the child’s skills displaying abnormal strength and superhuman agility. However, it is Lucy’s seemingly instinctive preference to stay in trees rather than the ground that leads Jenny to realize that her tweener is a hybrid mix of half human and half pygmy chimpanzee. DNA testing confirms what the two females sort of knew. The kid insists she is a humanzee who reads the classics and can speak in several tongues, but has incredible senses well beyond the human range. Scientists make a bid to study her and HSD declares she doesn’t have any rights because she is not human and could be a terrorist

This deep look at what is human will have readers pondering the definition while wondering with a nod to Frankenstein although Lucy is charming how far science should go. The story line is fast-paced while introducing readers to a myriad of complex social, scientific and religious problematic convergences. Although the ending feels overly neat after how complicated the questions of Lucy’s human rights as a hybrid, fans will relish this thought provoking powerhouse.

Harriet Klausner

Labyrinth-Kat Richardson

Kat Richardson
Roc, Aug 3 2010, $24.95
ISBN 9780451463364

In Seattle, paranormal private investigator Harper Blaine seeks a way to liberate her father’s ghost from the Grey maze while concerned with the street violence caused by the vampires but which the cops suspect her. She has no time for cops and undead as she seeks the person who killed her. Also unbeknownst to Harper the Greywalker is that the ancient Egyptian god-king of the asteme Pharaohn-ankh-astet leaves London to pursue her in Washington.

While Harper struggles with her dad’s predicament and her own homicide case, vampire chief Edward Kammerling has vanished. His rival as undead boss Carlos Pires Ataide is dying unless Harper can remove a soul sucking knife from his body. Her under siege boyfriend Quinton and Chaos the ferret have her back; perhaps good intentions is a bit more accurate as truthfully she has their backs.

Harper continues her metamorphosis into a grave paranormal entity in this delightfully evolving urban fantasy. The story line is action-packed as the Greywalker gets further baptism under fire from the ancient one, being in the middle of a vampire surge and seemingly civil war, having cops watch you breathe, and her dad’s predicament. She ponders when she will find time for finding her own murderer. With the apt title, this is a complicated superb entry in an evolving series growing stronger and deeper.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hemlock Lake-Carolyn J. Rose

Hemlock Lake
Carolyn J. Rose
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148842

In the Catskill Mountains is isolated Hemlock Lake. The locals keep developers out, but recently a long time resident took the money. Now a developer and the natives are at war with vandalism occurring.

Sheriff North sends Police Sergeant Dan Stone to Hemlock Lake to investigate the crimes as he is from the area and has a better chance of obtaining information from the closed-mouth natives. He has doubts as he has been away since the tragedy of his wife Susanna drowning, his brother Nat committing suicide and his father mentally collapsing from the tragedies. As the vandal turns to arson and murder, Stone is pulled between the past and the future as he begins to believe someone he has known for years is behind the deadly felonies.

Aptly titled Hemlock Lake is a strong regional police procedural. Because he was away, Stone is considered a traitorous outsider by the locals. He does not disagree as he never wanted to come home but his wife persuaded him that his family needed them; after she died he never wanted to come home, but his boss persuaded him that the department needed him. Duty bound but filled with guilt, Dan increasingly believes he will bring in a friend once he solves the case. Though his flashbacks become intrusive and repetitive with too much detail, Carolyn J. Rose provides an entertaining character driven thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Deb on Arrival Live at Five-Laurie Moore

Deb on Arrival Live at Five
Laurie Moore
Five Star, Jul 21 2010, $25.95
ISBN: 9781594148774

Debutante and college student Dainty Prescott has circumstantial evidence that her boyfriend Drex Truett is cheating with Paislee Pfeiffer, their boss Gordon’s’ wife. Being a debutante, Dainty knows better than to make a public war, but she knows to discreetly end their relationship. She does have a problem as no Drex means she has no escort at this time to take her to her sister's coming-out ball.

Gordon believes his spouse is cheating on him. He wants Dainty to investigate. Dainty wants to say no as she does not want to get involved knowing what she knows; but her boss makes an offer she cannot refuse. Gordon promises her a full-time externship if she finds him information on Paislee’s philandering. Police Officer Jim Butt Man” Buckman almost arrests her while giving her a hard time as he outrageously flirts with her for her traffic tickets, running a red light, and overall sass.

This is a wild Texas two step as the deb and the detective make for a fun frantic frolic. The fun comes from the jocular relationship between the lead pair as the Dallas Debutante Detective Agency handles its first case while Dainty’s personal life implodes for the better. Although the plot is very thin fans will enjoy the escapades of Dainty debutant and the butt man cop who pursues her.

Harriet Klausner

Venom-Joan Brady

Joan Brady
Touchstone, Aug 3 2010, $26.99
ISBN 9780743270113

Wealthy Springfield, Illinois resident physicist Helen Freyl owns a farm in Caton, Alabama. On her farm is a special honeybee hive that produces a type of honey, which can heal people; she is hiding there grieving the death of her lover.

The pharmaceutical industry upon hearing of the unique qualities of the honey claims the patent for the honeybee venom. Helen and her cantankerous grandmother battle the giants even as she joins a London based research team working on an antitoxin for radiation poisoning. However, Helen is stunned when she learns of scientific death testing research by Follation Medical Foundation in the Mogilev Region of Belarus near where the nuclear meltdown at Chernobyl occurred almost twenty-five years ago. Grandma and granddaughter know their lives are unsafe so Helen turns to former con artist David Marion, who killed a hitman and set up his home to insure that everyone will assume he died in a house explosion.

Although lacking the consistent message of the previous Freyl-Marion teaming (see Bleedout) even with the obvious set up to do so, Venom in an exciting international thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the moment David visits the Judge who muses how freedom loving USA has more people in prison than dictatorial Communist China. Although heavy handed, fans will enjoy the connecting of the dots starting in Springfield through Caton to London and Chernobyl as David and Helen know that greed is the capitalist engine of choice with the unprotected as its fuel in a way that would make Mendele proud.

Harriet Klausner

The Capitol Game-Brian Haig

The Capitol Game
Brian Haig
Grand Central, Aug 12 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780446195614

At Caldron Security equity firm, no one has risen to the ranks of partner and senior vice president as fast as Jack Wiley has. The Wall Street guru thinks he has a great deal to set up as Arvan Chemicals is ripe for the taking. Jack approaches the Capitol Group with the opportunity to purchase Arvan to gain hold of their patent that enables the painting of polymer coating to make combat vehicles impenetrable.

The company legally owning the product will make billions as the Pentagon will save so much more by not having as much replacement buys. The Capitol Group takes over Arvan; however harvesting the return on investment in a short turnaround proves unmanageable as the Pentagon investigates in order to find a civilian to take the incoming hit.

The Capital Game will be short-listed as one of the best financial thrillers of the year. The key to this super tale is the deal as Brian Haig escorts the grateful reader through a critical path analysis leading to the project failure and the blame game as the top brass at the defense Department, Caldron Security and the Capitol Group need a fall guy to pin the tail onto the donkey. This is a winning suspense laden tale.

Harriet Klausner

The Dream Queen-Betsy Thornton

The Dream Queen
Betsy Thornton
Minotaur, Aug 3 2010, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312602055

In Topanga Canyon, California, Chloe Newcombe sat with her brother James as he was dying from AIDS. James’ lover Hal also performed the same vigil. Once James passed on, Chloe moves from Topanga Canyon to Manhattan to start over. In New York, she begins seeing a cop while working for a private investigator; but her new boyfriend has a bad alcoholic dependency problem that proved too much for Chloe to cope with so she left the Big Apple for Arizona where her other sibling lives.

Her other brother Danny meets her at the airport. He has a tendency to help troubled people. Thus his current companion is a beautiful lunatic Kristi. The trio travels to his home in Dudley, but make a stop for car repairs. The two females wait nearby, but Danny vanishes. The local cops are indifferent to their plight and that of Danny. The women reach Dudley and move into the home Hal has there that he offered them to use. Soon after they settle down, Kristi disappears. Chloe investigates only to find betrayal seems to be the ticket everyone she knows uses against her.

Chloe in her return to the desert town of Dudley (see A Song for You and Dead for the Winter) is superb as she tries to keep calm while her world seems to be imploding from duplicity. As she tries to learn the truth behind the disappearances, she uncovers homicides and dishonesty from those she trusts. Although the story line is very thin, Chloe’s reactions to her discoveries of male perfidy makes for an enjoyable character driven (by the beleaguered heroine) desert mystery.

Harriet Klausner