Saturday, October 24, 2015

Harriet's Death

I am Harriet's son, Eric Klausner. On October 15, 2015, my mother Harriet Klausner passed away in her sleep. She was an excellent and loving mother who will be missed by myself and by my father, Stan Klausner. My mother was a savant reader who enjoyed novels. She was a very intelligent woman and was a fighter nicknamed spunky. Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Adrenaline - John Benedict

John Benedict
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Nov 22 2013, $10.95
ISBN: 9781484897522

The support staff prepares patient Mr. Rakovic for a routine arthroscopy of his right knee by orthopedic surgeon Dr. Sanders.  However, anesthesiologist Dr. Mike Carlucci panics when his patient suddenly suffers from a potentially lethal V-tach, something he never encountered in his six years at Our Lady of Mercy Hospital.  He and others in the operating room frantically try to save Mr. Rakovic’s life.  With tears, Mike informs Mr. Rakovic’s sobbing wife that her husband died from a massive heart attack. 

Keystone Anesthesia provides the hospital with its professional anesthesia staff; who recently begun to doubt their competency as several other egregious errors by anesthesiologists occurred.  Filled with remorse and wondering whether they are the cause of these terrible mistakes, these dedicated employees also fear downsizing due to a merger with nearby General and a potential hostile takeover of their work by rival Pinnacle Anesthesia.  Increasingly Carlucci and his BFF Dr. Doug Landry wonder if a cold-blooded maniac wants to destroy the reputation of the anesthesiologists regardless of the cost to innocent patients. 

Using surgery that seems authentic (though my credentials are on the receiving end), this superb medical thriller showcases the criticality of anesthesiologists beyond just administering pain relief.  The opening Rakovic case, another involving a woman who feels the excruciating scalpel but unable to tell anyone and several others come across very frightening.  Though the final confrontation is over the top of Mount Davis, readers will feel an Adrenaline surge throughout Dr. John Benedict’s twisting and at times shocking hospital suspense; while also looking forward to the sequel (see The Edge of Death).

Harriet Klausner

Onward Drake! - Mark L. Van Name (Editor)

Onward Drake!
Mark L. Van Name (Editor)
Baen, Oct 6 2015, $25.00
ISBN 9781476780962

Fourteen of the sixteen short stories and four personal essays (by Mark L. Van Name, S.M. Stirling, Toni Weisskopf and Tom Doherty) that make up this anthology pay homage to David Drake; the other two entries were fictional works written by Mr. Drake.  Included with all the fictional entries are short afterwards in which each author explains how their respective tale links to the renowned military science fiction author. 

Fittingly the collection starts and ends with Mr. Drake’s two contributions.  Near the Viminal Gate, the bronzesmith’s widow wants to hire Hesperus the wizard to melt the bones of Tychos the bully and Murmilla; while his twelve years old nephew “The Great Wizard, Cabbage” (by Mr. Drake) listens intently.  Sergeant Krotcha assigns Hammer’s Slammers’ officer Raney at her temporary new post with the First while her jeep gets repaired, but the Bessies attack may make her vehicle someone else’s as she knows from combat experience to “Save What she Can” by Mr. Drake.  Others also use the Hammer’s Slammers universe like Larry Correia’s “The Losing Side” that explores the enemy’s morale as they faced their seemingly invincible foe.  Capricious King Bertrand of Wollend demands a special celebration to honor the birth of antiquities General Chefferax, but the bards have a different message to sing in Eric Flint’s “A Flat Affect”.  Perhaps the most direct accolade comes from Eric S. Brown whose “The One That Got Away” is a sequel to an early Mr. Drake’s horror short “Something Had To Be Done” to that damn vampire.  Onward Drake! achieves its lofty objective of honoring the great author; but also reminds readers that he wrote in other genres besides his acclaimed military science fiction bibliography.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Belshangles - Susan Altstatt

Susan Altstatt
Fithian Press/Daniel & Daniel Publishers, Oct 12 2015, $15.95
ISBN: 9781564745781

In 1983, superstar Tommi Rhymer and his band the Belshangles complete a tour at Bill-Graham-Presents Oakland Day-on-the-Green concert.  After the show the twenty-nine years old rocker and his mates expect the usual sex with groupies and the affluent, and plenty of drugs at the hotel.  Fifteen year old Miranda Falconer loves the Belshangles and worships Tommi as she has since she was a tweener.  She and her BFF Skye Milligan attend the concert.

When the police raid the hotel, band member Harlan Parr pushes Tommi to get his underage friends out of there.  Tommi, Miranda and Skye leave the party before he passes out.  Miranda bullies a scared Skye to drive them to the former’s family’s cabin in the Sierras with an unconscious Tommi.  Frightened, Skye drops them off, but heads back to Stanford. 

His next waking moment finds a confused Tommi wondering where he is and how he got there.  As Miranda dreams of having her God to herself, Tommi begins to suffer cold turkey withdrawal and proves dangerous to his underage companion.

Capturing the essence of the pre-digital instant YouTube legend-making era, Belshangles is a fascinating drama that looks back to the near end of three decades in which sex, drugs and rock and roll converged.  Character-driven by the lead couple and a strong support cast, armchair rockers (figuratively though some of us geriatrics might be literally) will enjoy Susan Altstatt’s homage to a different musical period.

Harriet Klausner

Rising Tide - Rajan Khanna

Rising Tide
Rajan Khanna
Pyr, Oct 6 2015, $17.00
ISBN: 9781633881006

In North America though he knows he did the right thing by saving the hidden city of Tamoanchan from raiders, airship captain Ben Gold hurts over the loss of his vessel Cherub that was destroyed when he did his first ever heroic deed (see Falling Sky).  Instead of a hero’s welcome, Ben awakens from his myriad of injuries amazed to find his close friend Malik alive; as he thought his buddy died.  Irate with his former BFF for abandonment during a crisis, Malik holds him prisoner while also incarcerating Ben’s beloved Miranda

Using Miranda as a pawn, Malik demands Ben do his bidding in the wasteland or else his scientist girlfriend dies.  Miranda has been working on a cure to the pandemic plague that turned much of mankind into the Feral beasts.  She wants to test her elixir; but needs Ben to rescue her team.  To do that, they must escape from Malik at a time when a new deadly disease followed by invaders attack Tamoanchan occurs.

The second Ben Gold futuristic post-apocalyptic thriller continues the escapades of an anti-hero who prefers flight over fight though his love for Miranda has him continually breaking the family Golden Rule of save yourself at all times.  The stark Khanna realm is filled with Feral zombies, mad friends, terrible diseases that made the planet’s desolate surface deadly and the air outside of fortresses treacherous, and horrific marauders as if The Walking Dead raced into a steampunk world.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Guise Of Another - Allen Eskens

The Guise Of Another
Allen Eskens
Prometheus/Seventh Street Books, Oct 6 2015, $15.95
ISBN: 9781633880764

Minneapolis Police Detective Alexander Rupert wonders how much deeper into the cesspool he can fall.  Once a highly regarded and decorated cop, Rupert faces potential corruption charges as a Grand Jury looks into whether he stole confiscated drug money.  Transferred to the Frauds Unit while waiting for the outcome of the investigation, his peers treat him as a pariah who may taint them.  Even his personal life seems flushed down the toilet as Rupert believes his wife, instead of commiserating and supporting him, has turned to someone else.

Rupert comes across the recent vehicular death of James Putnam on a Minneapolis highway.  He knows people die in car accidents, but Putnam officially died fifteen years ago in a boating accident off the Coney Island spit.  As he ponders who the second coming of Putnam really is and why he stole a dead man’s identity, Rupert struggles with his wife’s abandonment and the apparent end of his career.  To make matters exponentially worse for him, Rupert is attracted to the deceased’s non grieving girlfriend and worse has the attention of ruthless soulless killer Drago Basta.  While he works the case to resurrect his career and reputation that instead may bury him, Rupert’s well-regarded detective older brother tries to help him.

This exhilarating police procedural for the most stays focused on the imploding world of a cop facing corruption charges while working an investigation he believes is his Hail Mary redemption.  The storyline engages the audience whether looking at Rupert’s devastated marriage, the Grand Jury corruption probe or the case.  Only caricature Basta feels out of place in this stark storyline; as he belongs in the Big Hit as the fifth wheel.

Harriet Klausner

A Call to Arms - David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope

A Call to Arms
David Weber, Timothy Zahn, and Thomas Pope
Baen, Oct 6 2015, $26.00
ISBN 9781476780856

The impoverished Star Kingdom of Manticore parliament debate continues over whether the isolated in a remote area of the galaxy nation needs a defenseless naval fleet loaded with obsolete in terrible shape ships and corrupt lazy officers.  Those in favor insist on modernization though know budgeting remains an issue; those opposed insist no one out there gives a crap about this out of the way orb.  Changing the pros and cons is the discovery of a strategic wormhole that the external superpowers want to control.  The parliamentary members mostly ignore the impact except to consider leasing the rights to control of the wormhole to one of the coveting outside powerhouses.

However, not everyone watching Manticore remains patient with the minor Star Kingdom’s internal argument.  Hostile takeover comes to Manticore, but the underfunded obsolete Royal Navy led by courageous in corrigible officers like Lieutenant Travis Long defends their nation while the Parliament deliberates over going to war or less costly (and personally profitable) surrender.

The storyline starts leisurely as the plot builds a solid foundation that leads to an exciting military science fiction.  Once again loyal Long thinks outside the crypt while preparing for war at a time when the Manticore Parliament seems to mirror our Congress (take credit for success and blame others for failure; but mostly do nothing except claim exceptionalism and patriotism).  In spite of a sameness to the overarching premise to the previous Manticore Ascendant thriller (see A Call To Duty), this is an interesting space opera that Harrington fans will enjoy; especially how ancient history differs from what future generations and historians, and the “books” believe happened.

Harriet Klausner

Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror - Christopher Golden (editor)

Seize the Night: New Tales of Vampiric Terror
Christopher Golden (editor)
Gallery, Oct 6 2015, $18.00
ISBN 9781476783093

This fabulous collection contains 20 biting short stories that focus on the throwback terror in the night (and in some cases 24/7) vampire.  Each tale is unique thus keeping the compilation fresh with no bad entries; as the majority of contributions are excellent.  “Something Lost, Something Gained” by Seanan McGuire stars teenager Louise coming home drenched carrying a jar of fireflies while knowing what her wicked stepfather will try do to her.  Laird Barron’s “In a Cavern, in a Canyon” in Alaska, a woman facing hell looks back to her past for her lost courage.  Believing her teacher is an energy sucking vampire, Susan rationalizes “Miss Fondevant” (by Charlaine Harris) must die before this evil drains the students of their respective essences.  The Normans conquer England, but some of William’s more violent soldiers rape the losers, but eat them too; while helpless Winfred the monk prays for guidance.  In Brian Keene’s angst “The Last Supper”, the lonely vampire mentally struggles with to be or not to be following a pandemic eliminated his food source.  Following a deadly typhoon that hammered the Philippines, the Canadian developer evicts an elderly woman from her tree house to the abject terror of the locals.  She is the willing sacrifice to the Gods, but when the child fails to complete her mission she learns what the deities in this “Blue Hell” (by David Wellington) truly are.  These “…New (more apropos descriptor: return to ye old) Tales of Vampiric Terror” will be on the short lists of best anthology of the year.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Second Chance Colton - Marie Ferrarella

Second Chance Colton
Marie Ferrarella
Harlequin Romantic Suspense, Oct 1 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373279371

After a stint with the Marines, Ryan Colton returned home to become a homicide detective with the Tulsa Police Department.  He becomes very concerned when a vandal commits several acts at his family’s Lucky C Ranch that recently escalated to dangerous levels with a fire and a house invasion that led to the beating of his still in a coma mom. 

TPD Forensic Lab Chief Susie Howard informs Ryan that a stable break-in contained DNA evidence that points to his sister Greta as the culprit.  Angry and disbelieving of Susie’s assertion, Ryan challenges her contention, but retesting affirms her initial finding.  Recalling a decade ago to when he and Susie were in love, but Ryan abandoned her when he deployed.  Still believing he did the honorable thing by the woman he will always love, Ryan and Susie were stunned when she joined TPD four years ago.  Forensics at the bunkhouse murder scene of ranch hand Kurt Rodgers also names Greta as the only suspect.  As the former lovers investigate the homicide and vandalism that increasingly means arresting Greta; each realizes they remain in love with the other.

The fifth Coltons of Oklahoma (see The Temptation of Dr. Colton by Karen Whiddon and Protecting the Colton Bride by Elle James) is a gripping second chance at love police procedural.  Although Ryan’s failure to recuse himself from a case involving his sibling seems unlikely especially in a big city police department and readers will suspect early on what truly happened; Marie Ferrarella provides a tense romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Falling For Her Fake Fiancé - Sarah M. Anderson

Falling For Her Fake Fiancé
Sarah M. Anderson
Harlequin Desire, Oct 1 2015, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373734184

In Denver, Ethan Logan takes over modernizing the over century and a half old Beaumont Brewery starting with bringing interoffice communications out of the 1970s.  However, Ethan never expected the pushback from the frightened staff who overtly opposes the needed reengineering changes to save the business and their jobs.

Ethan realizes he needs a family member to help him win over the employees.  Thus he turns to the fifth heir Frances Beaumont for assistance with a whacky concept of a marriage of convenience between them.  Frances agrees to marry him if he meets her stipulations.  Neither the businessman nor the first daughter debutant expected to fall in love; but who will risk their heart first to renegotiate a permanent deal.

The fifth Beaumont Heirs romance (see His Son, Her Secret) is an enjoyable boardroom contemporary that ironically uses the overused, typically historical marriage of convenience premise to modernize a Colorado brewery.  The protagonists are a nice pairing of a married couple preparing for their divorce even before they exchange I do; until each wants to modify the contract, but fears confessing how they feel. 

Harriet Klausner

The Immortal’s Redemption - Kelli Ireland

The Immortal’s Redemption
Kelli Ireland
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780263917994

In 1718 Scotland, as he waits in ambush for the fat genocidal Laird of Clan McKay, Dylan knows he lacks a key trait that successful assassins require: patience.  Still he somewhat controls his anxiety to kill the abomination for mass murdering of Druids.  However, before he can complete his task, Danu the Mother of All visits him with a vision of a beautiful woman who along with mankind will need his help three centuries in the future when a Shadow Realm god escapes bondage.

Three hundred years later Danu returns; she informs Dylan the time is now for him to find the woman who will lead him to the truth or his death as he must kill this Kennedy Jefferson to prevent the end of the world.  When she awakens in a hospital, Kennedy has amnesia and fears she suffers from mental illness apparently common in her family.  Only her best friend Ethan keeps her stable.  When Dylan and Kennedy meet, they are attracted to each other, but his mission must come before his heart. 

The Immortal’s Redemption is an entertaining romantic urban fantasy with an intriguing dilemma faced by the lead male.  The support cast and Dylan are fully developed, but Kennedy acts irresponsibly foolish and feels for the most part incomplete as perhaps more insight on her memory loss and sudden moments of recall would have helped readers to understand her better. 

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

An American Duchess - Sharon Page

An American Duchess
Sharon Page
Harlequin HQN, Sep 29 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373789382

In 1922, accompanied by her Mother, twentyish Zoe Gifford drives her car on the Brideswell Abbey Estate in Hertforshire to visit the aristocrat she plans to marry in haste Lord Sebastian Hazelton.  The marriage will enable Zoe to use her trust fund to pay off Mother’s disastrous debts and also her husband for cooperating before they divorce.  A blown tire forces the two women to start walking.

When Zoe and Sebastian's older brother Nigel, Duke of Langford, meet, both are attracted to one another.  However, Nigel suffers from war-related PTSD and hates the monstrous changes wrought by the Roaring Twenties as epitomized by the upstart American female who does not know her proper place.  She, in turn, rejects his antiquated beliefs.  Love has blossomed in Hertforshire, but seems unable to overcome the vastly different philosophies.

An American Duchess is a pleasant post World War I romance starring a Thoroughly Modern Millie and a Brontosaurus in love.  Though the angst loses its edge in the last quarter of the historical, Sharon Page captures the essence of a radically changing world (see the early episodes of the People’s Century) as epitomized by this lead couple, Mother and other family members and servants.

Harriet Klausner

If Not For A Bee - Carol Ross

If Not For A Bee
Carol Ross
Harlequin Heartwarming, Oct 1 2015, $6.50
ISBN: 9780373367436

In the bakery in Rankins, Alaska, thirteen year old Gareth Everett holds the specially made birthday cake when a bee lands on the box, panicking the teen.  His widow mom Janie rolls up a newspaper to swat the insect, but a beach bum interferes protecting the bumblebee.  Gareth drops the box.  She realizes the bee patrol protector is renowned scientist Dr. Aidan Hollings AKA as brother-in-law to her sister Emily (see Mountains Apart).  The baker Lilah cannot make a timely replacement because another of Janie’s four children Reagan is lactose intolerant.  Gareth watches mother and son walk away as if part of a funeral march.

Aidan uses the small town as his temporary home base while leading the state study of bumblebees.  However, he likes the feisty Janie the journalist and enjoys the enthusiasm of her two oldest sons (Gareth and Reagan) who still struggle with the death of their dad; though he admits he is not very comfortable with their two year old twin brothers.   As the two adults fall in love, she must overcome her doubts that a famous hunk would want a ready-made family of five; and he must overcome his doubts that a widow with four children would believe a globetrotting scientist would want a ready-made family in the middle of nowhere.

Deftly combining jocularity with anxiety, the latest Seasons of Alaska (see A Case for Forgiveness) contemporary is a delightful family drama romance in which the two oldest boys play significant roles in this love fest.  Readers will relish the tale of the matchmaking bumblebee as love thrives in Rankins, Alaska.

Harriet Klausner

Enchanted by the Wolf - Michele Hauf

Enchanted by the Wolf
Michele Hauf
Harlequin Nocturne, Oct 1 2015, $5.75
ISBN: 9780263917987

In Paris Valoir Pack Principal Etienne Montfort negotiates with an emissary from the Unseelie Fairy that as part of the deal allow the werewolves to hunt in the latter’s kingdom.  To seal the deal, Valoir werewolf Kirnan Savauterre and Fairy Princess Beatrice the undesirable half-breed will wed. 

Whereas Kir has enormous doubts but even stronger loyalty to his pack; Bea welcomes a chance to leave her always disappointed in her father in search of her mother.  Neither the purebred werewolf nor the hybrid princess expected to fall in love.  Still both must come together based on mutual trust to deal with prejudicial prenotions, interspecies interference and animosity especially towards Bea living with his pack.  To prove his love, Kir seeks the truth re his wife’s maternal DNA.

Readers will feel Enchanted by the Wolf and Unseelie Princess as the mixed couple navigates the issues caused by their mutual races’ distrust and misconceptions of each other.  The protagonists are terrific as Michele Hauf uses real world problems a society causes (though radically changing in the last few decades) towards a mixed race couple as the springboard to a magnificent urban fantasy romance.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Baby Who Saved Christmas - Alison Roberts

The Baby Who Saved Christmas
Alison Roberts
Harlequin Romance, Oct 1 2015, $5.99
ISBN: 9780373743582

Though knowing her late mom Jeannette would be horrified by what she was doing, twenty-eight years old Scotswoman Alice McMillan’s search for her family takes her from Edinburgh to Nice and by bus to Villefranche-sur-Mer.  The Kindercare Nursery School teacher walks along a beach to St Jean Cap Ferat where she plans to meet for the first time her famous racing car father André Laurent.

When she arrives at her destination, a stunned Alice observes paparazzi and security guards stationed at a luxurious chateau.  A guard notifies celebrity chef Julien Dubois that Alice claims André is her father and seems unware that he just died.  Expecting a con artist, Julien invites Alice inside where he challenges her contention that she did not know Lauren crashed his car three days ago and was buried today; three months ago his wife (Julien’s sister) Colette died in childbirth.  Alice meets her half-brother Jacques who suffers from the measles.  Julien explains his sister named him guardian while Jacques paternal grandmother files a lawsuit in Paris to claim the baby belongs with her.  When the local doctor quarantines everyone inside the chateau, Alice and Julien spend time together and fall in love; but each distrusts the other and besides Jacques comes first.

More an extended family drama as the romance arrives late and never quite gels; The Baby Who Saved Christmas is a fresh endearing Joyeaux Noel European contemporary.  Character-driven, fans will enjoy this warm holiday story.

Harriet Klausner

Streams of Mercy - Lauraine Snelling

Streams of Mercy
Lauraine Snelling
Bethany House Publishers, Oct 6 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9780764211065

In 1907 accompanied by her children (Melissa, Joseph and Gilbert), Widow Anji Baard Moen visits her kind in-laws in Norway, who beg her to stay with them.  Instead Anji and her kids return to Blessing, North Dakota.  Anji balances being a supermom with teaching Norwegian history once a week to high school students and writing articles for the Blessing Gazette.

The circus comes to town by train, but proves not to be a joy when they bring diphtheria with them.  Dr. Bjorklund and Dr. Jeffers invoke strict health measures to keep the disease from turning into an epidemic.  When the paper’s publisher Thorliff becomes ill, Anji takes over running it.  Newcomer Minister Thomas Devlin provides carpentry services to the townsfolk and courts the widow; while healing Thorliff wishes he acted first.

The third Song of Blessing historical (see A Harvest Of Hope and To Everything A Season) is a tremendous early twentieth century Northern Great Plains inspirational drama that once again transports readers to a different bygone era (a trademark of Lauraine Snelling).  Life in small-town North Dakota during a terrible disease outbreak grips the audience, but it is Anji and several other caring folks who bring a personal touch to the captivating storyline; she in particular wonders what God prefers she choose between two caring men who both want her and her children in their respective lives.

Harriet Klausner

Raising Caine - Charles E. Gannon

Raising Caine
Charles E. Gannon
Baen, Oct 6 2015, $17.00
ISBN 9781476780931

After successfully preventing the Arat Kur and Hkh’Rkh alliance from conquering his home world Earth and stopping his angry retribution-seeking Consolidated Terran Republic Terrans from committing genocide against their enemies, Caine Riordan anticipates a respite.  Observing what happened in the recent war, another Arat Kur ally the Ktor believes the Terrans are very weak when they failed to eradicate their defeated opponents.

Instead of R&R, a diplomacy opportunity arises when the much more advanced Slaasriithi, impressed by the Terran’s display of controlling the urge of retaliatory mass executions, request Caine to come to their planet to discuss a pact.  As Caine and his entourage journey to the meeting, Ktor operatives plan to destroy the Terrans’ first diplomat and his retinue to prevent their adversary from obtaining a powerful though peaceful ally; unaware how deadly first contact with the Slaasriithi can be.

The third Caine Riordan Tales of the Terran Republic military science fiction (see Fire With Fire) is a superb first contact entry, but this time with a friendly yet deadly species rather than a belligerent adversary; though there is plenty of the latter too.  Less of a political statement than Trial By Fire, the keys to this enjoyable outer space adventure are the various species that make up the Gannon universe seem real and the protagonist’s wise ability to recognize that each race requires different means of customized diplomacy as one size fits one sentient people only.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Devil of Delphi: A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery - Jeffrey Siger

Devil of Delphi: A Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Mystery
Jeffrey Siger
Poisoned Pen, Oct 6 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781464204326

Some containing poisons like bleach, counterfeit booze with perfect labels of name brand liquors overwhelm Greece and end up threatening the lives of people and the legitimate of the industry.  While Greek Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis and his team confiscate a lot of the illegal alcohol, places as far away as Russia and Britain does likewise; but the police know they barely skimmed the surface. 

When a Greek dies from drinking the bad booze, Kaldis and his team investigate the homicide hoping to prevent more, but fearing an epidemic of poisoned alcoholic deaths.  At the same time, the Teacher employs hitman Kharon to add needed muscle to insure her hostile takeover of the lucrative wine smuggling industry.

The seventh Chief Inspector Andreas Kaldis Greek police procedural (see Sons of Sparta and Mykonos after Midnight) is an engaging cautionary whodunit due almost entirely to the macabrely captivating lead villains; their vastly different moral code makes for a tenuous relationship.  Only the hero matches them in depth as his unit members comes across somewhat interchangeable. 

Harriet Klausner

Murder in Megara: A John the Lord Chamberlain Mystery - Mary Reed and Eric Mayer

Murder in Megara: A John the Lord Chamberlain Mystery
Mary Reed and Eric Mayer
Poisoned Pen, Oct 6 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781464204081

Following his banishment from Constantinople by Emperor Justinian, former Lord Chamberlain John the Eunuch, accompanied by his beloved Cornelia and their two loyal servants Peter and Hypatia, return to his family estate near Megara, Greece.  In the agora, fears of the once mighty government bigwig’s return and enhanced by an oracular fowl lead to almost all wanting John to leave before his enemies cause havoc on the villagers.  In the marketplace, a coward emphasizes that contention by throwing a rock that hits Hypatia.

John quickly realizes his estate overseer Diocles and others have been stealing from him.  Upset he fires Diocles; who shows no remorse but instead tells his former employer that he will be here long after John is exiled from his home or worse.  Not long after John’s confrontation with Diocles, City Defender Georgios accuses him of murdering his stepfather Theophilus as a “sacrifice” in the nearby temple; John loathed Theophilus.  Soon after that, the homicide of Diocles also points to John as the killer.

The eleventh (and first unnumbered) refreshing John the (former) Lord Chamberlain murder mystery (see Ten for Dying) is an excellent transitional whodunit.  The investigative storyline captures the essence of mid sixth-century Greece; while providing insight into the protagonist’s estranged relationships with family and neighbors. 

Harriet Klausner

Lincoln’s Wizard - Tracy Hickman & Dan Willis

Lincoln’s Wizard
Tracy Hickman & Dan Willis
WordFire Press, Oct 1 2015, $14.99
ISBN: 9781614753377

The Confederacy continues to win each battle due to its ability to reanimate fallen comrades and a special unit of Southern Knights riding dragons like intrepid and very confident Lieutenant Marcus Burnside.  This Gray army cannot be stopped as it marches north; forcing Lincoln and the Union leaders to relocate to New York.

Lieutenant Braxton Wright designs an iron clad ship the Monitor that stealthily navigates waterways while also rises on a tripod to fire down on the slower enemy vessels.  These Tall Guns bring hope to the despondent President and the Northern Army, and make Wright a hero he knows he does not deserve.  With no time to grieve the death that he caused of his best friend Dr. Lawrence Hancock in Ohio, Wright promoted to captain, receives orders from Union Intelligence Chief Allan Pinkerton.  With a chosen few including top espionage agent Hattie Lawton, the mission of the very reluctant warrior is to lead a top secret desperate gamut behind enemy lines to end the Dead Gray Army. 

The first Dragons of the Confederacy steampunk is a fast-paced Civil War fantasy that starts at hyperspeed and accelerates without ever slowing down; yet also contains a diverse and three-dimensional prime cast.  The wizard (Warlock) in Spite of Himself (by Christopher Stasheff) prefers pencil, eraser and paper to battles; Hattie appears to have quite a history and is very comfortable behind enemy lines; Hancock remains an enigma; while cocky Southern Knight Lieutenant Marcus Burnside is a swashbuckling dragon rider.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Mistletoe Rodeo - Amanda Renee

Mistletoe Rodeo
Amanda Renee
Harlequin American Romance, Oct 1 2015, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373755899

In Las Vegas at the National Rodeo Championship, bull rider Chase Langtry feels depressed for failing to win his event even if a shoulder injury cost him the title.  As he slinks home to the Bridle Dance Ranch feeling sick; Chase knows he let down everyone at the Ride 'Em High! Rodeo School and in his hometown of Ramblewood, Texas especially his brother; they relied on him taking the gold for a needed PR boost. 

Reporter Nola West wants to interview Chase for an article on someone who lost though she finds him a difficult elusive subject even tougher to cover than Kuwait.  Though attracted to her beauty and feistiness, Chase persistently declines.  Obstinate Nola refuses to accept his refusal.  Acquiescing if she also writes an article on the Mistletoe Rodeo; he soon wants even more from the journalist.  She feels the same, but accepts they have nothing else in common as their differences are wider than Texas.

The fifth Welcome to Ramblewood (see Back to Texas and Home to the Cowboy) is an enjoyable small-town romance starring opposites in love.  Although a third party adds unneeded tension, the storyline is tremendous when the protagonists struggle with unwanted feelings both distrust.

Harriet Klausner

The Hidden - Heather Graham

The Hidden
Heather Graham
Mira, Sep 29 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778317586

Just outside Estes Park, Colorado, historian Scarlet Barlow is the Conway Ranch Museum curator.  She is organizing and renovating the historical site; a place where a married couple was murdered just after the Civil War ended.  Finding corpses places Scarlet’s work on hold as the police investigation supersedes her project even while she is the only suspect. 

When her camera shows photos of the dead that Scarlet did not take and quickly vanished without a trace, and statues talk to her; the historian knows she needs specialized help to bring down a recreationist serial killer.  Scarlet contacts her former husband FBI Krewe of Hunters Agent Diego McCullough.  Dropping everything Diego heads to the Rockies.

The latest Krewe of Hunters urban fantasy romantic police procedural (see The Betrayed and The Forgotten) is a marvelous mystical mystery starring a recurring support player and his ex in the lead roles.  The locale contains an interesting history that enhances the paranormal plot; as Heather Graham authors her best Krewe entry in quite a while

Harriet Klausner

Return to Dust: A Rick Van Lam Mystery - Andrew Lanh

Return to Dust: A Rick Van Lam Mystery
Andrew Lanh
Poisoned Pen, Oct 6 2015, $26.95
ISBN 9781464204289

In Farmington, Connecticut, house cleaner Marta Kowalski tumbles off the Farmington River Bridge to her death.  The FPD quickly concludes she committed suicide.  Though he detested Marta’s inability to silently clean his home, Amerasian insurance fraud investigator Rick Van Lam sends flowers but feels he has no reason to attend the funeral of an acquaintance he employed.

Marta’s niece Karen Corcoran disagrees with the official cause of death.  She pleads with Rick to investigate.  Even though he knows Karen has a powerful monetary incentive to get the ruling changed as Marta’s beneficiary, Rick agrees to look into her aunt’s death.  Inside Marta’s home, Rick finds no evidence of a depressed person, but instead learns the deceased was a devout Catholic; which makes killing herself less likely.  As he interviews people who knew Marta, Rick finds many adored and cherished her; while others like her nephew and a gardener loathed her; but a motive for murder remains elusive.

The second Rick Van Lam investigation (see Caught Dead) is an excellent Vietnamese-American whodunit in which the sleuthing provides a fabulous look at the subculture.  The strong cast starting with the late housecleaner turns this into a terrific mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, October 2, 2015

Forgiving Mariela Camacho - A.J. Sidransky

Forgiving Mariela Camacho
A.J. Sidransky
Berwick Court, Sep 30 2015, $16.95
ISBN 9780990951568

In 2010, while waiting for his nine-month pregnant wife Karin’s call that the time is now, NYPD Detective Tolya Kurchenko and his partner Pete Gonzalvez head to a luxurious apartment building in Washington Heights where the super called in a concern.  The two cops break down the apartment door of a single woman.  The overwhelming smell leads them to a female’s posed corpse.  Pete collapses when he recognizes the victim, as Mariela Camacho who remains the love of his life though he married someone else.

In spite of a suicide note and the medical examiner’s contention; Pete adamantly insists Mariela would never slice her throat; other evidence surfaces that supports his assertion.  Grieving Pete thinks back to the Dominican Republic when he was a teen whose parents died. Tio Polito took Pete in and raised him along with Mariela and two other girls.  However Pete also knows Polito’s business interests are deadly illegal, but when he and Tolya find evidence of an international serial killer both fear for Karin as the Jewish Heritage Museum chief curator seems lost likely next.

A. J. Sidransky refreshes his overarching Forgiving Maximo Rothman premise of connecting a current Washington Heights police investigation with Judaism thriving and welcomed in the 1940s Dominican Republic compared with ugly suppression by Soviet Russia.  The main characters are three-dimensional and the rotating subplots superb.  We fans will never forgive Mr. Sidransky if he fails to bring back Kurchenko and Gonzalvez for a third Upper Manhattan investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Every Second - Rick Mofina

Every Second
Rick Mofina
Mira, Sep 29 2015, $9.99
ISBN: 9780778317517

The Fulton family resides in the upper class Roseoak Park neighborhood of Queens.  Dan manages a nearby bank; while his wife Lori stays at home raising their son Billy.  Their idyllic lifestyle ends when intruders invade their home.  They place bombs on Lori and Billy before ordering Dan to “withdraw $250,000 from his bank or his wife and child will die with him soon afterward. 

While the FBI investigates, Newslead reporter Kate Page also makes inquiries.  As the truth unfolds with ties to Lori’s employment before her son was born, a threat too many more people than just the Fulton trio seems increasingly likely.

Even with the premise frequently used, Rick Mofina shows why he is a top gun thriller author as he hooks his audience from the opening house invasion scene and never slows down until the final climatic confrontation.  Faster than the speed of light, the third Kate Page investigation (see Full Tilt and Whirlwind) is an adrenaline pumping, gender-bending (don’t mess with a momma grizzly protecting her cub or an intrepid journalist snooping the story) chiller.

Harriet Klausner

Willow Brook Road - Sherryl Woods

Willow Brook Road
Sherryl Woods
Mira, Sep 29 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780778317661

With her fashion career comatose and her relationship with her boyfriend dead, Carrie Winters leaves Paris for her home in Chesapeake Shores, Maryland to attend the Christmas wedding of her twin sister Caitlyn (see The Christmas Bouquet) and regroup.  Her family welcomes her back into the fold which feels nice and warm; but led by her well-meaning grandfather Mark O’Brien; her relatives also intrude into her life.  Observing how good Carrie is with her nephew, her cousin Luke O’Brien (see The Summer Garden) suggests she open up a daycare center; which she does. 

Two weeks ago, as he was about to move into his new home in Chesapeake Shores, Sam Winslow learns his sister and brother-in-law died in a horrible accident.  He has no time to grieve his loss since he became his hurting bewildered six year old nephew Bobbie’s guardian.  Lacking parental skills and aware that Bobbie’s needs gives him no time for trial and error, Sam turns to Carrie for help.  Neither Carrie nor Sam expected to fall in love, but besides their respective relationship phobias holding them back; both accept Bobbie comes first.

The thirteenth Chesapeake Shores contemporary (see Dogwood Hill) is a pleasant holiday family drama due to three-dimensional leads (especially the frightened child) supported by the usual extended O’Brien meddling “suspects”.  Though the romance takes an obvious backseat to Bobbie but also impacted by the adults’ hesitations, Sherryl Woods reminds her fans "Life moves pretty fast. If you don't slow down and look around, you might miss it" (Ferris Buehler's Day Off).

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Dances Under The Harvest Moon - Joanne Rock

Dances Under The Harvest Moon
Joanne Rock
Harlequin SuperRomance, Oct 1 2015, $6.75
ISBN: 9780373609307

In Heartache, Tennessee, twenty-eight year old “good girl” (for staying home to care for her bipolar mom) Heather Finley and her brother Mack (see Promises under the Peach Tree) attend the wedding of their sister Erin (see Nights under the Tennessee Stars).  Their youngest sibling Ashley refuses to return to a place she fled as a teen.  After the wedding Heather plans to go for her dream of becoming a country singer by competing in America’s Voice in Charlotte.

Filled with remorse for failing his sister after their father went to prison, Mayor Zach Chance asks Heather questions about her late father that disturbs the soon to leave town woman.  Concealing his other motive of being attracted to her, his query upsets Heather.  She ponders to be a country star or not by doing what she always has done: protect her family.  However Zach offers a third option while a stalker plots a fourth outcome.

The third Finleys of Heartache romance is a winning contemporary that looks closely at the impact of a chronic condition on the sufferer, her family (especially how different her four children reacted to their mom after their dad died) and the townsfolk.  Although the suspense comes late and feels unnecessary, once again Joanne Rock authors a profound Volunteer State family drama.

Harriet Klausner

A Knights Bridge Christmas - Carla Neggers

A Knights Bridge Christmas
Carla Neggers
MIRA, Sep 29 2015, $17.99
ISBN: 9780778317593

To start over, Widow Claire Morgan and her six year old son Owen move to Knights Bridge, Massachusetts where she begins her new job as the library director.  At the same time that the Morgan family relocates; sadly and filled with guilt Boston ER Dr. Logan Farrell believes he is doing what is best for his feisty grandmother Daisy by placing her in a senior’s assisted living facility.

Daisy accepts her grandson’s contention she needs eldercare, but makes one request of Logan in return.  She wants a last Christmas gala including a candle in the window in her now empty home.  Unable to say no, Logan acquiesces to his beloved grandma’s wish.  He persuades Claire to help him provide Daisy with a Christmas to remember.  Working together, neither of the sandwich generation adults anticipated falling in love.

The fifth Swift River Valley contemporary (see Echo Lake and Cider Brook) is a charming New England holiday romance.  The protagonists are a nice pairing of a workaholic and a traumatized person, but upstaged by his grandmother (especially the glimpses into her past) and her son.  Readers will relish visiting Knights Bridge for the holidays.

Harriet Klausner

Menagerie - Rachel Vincent

Rachel Vincent
MIRA, Sep 29 2015, $26.99
ISBN: 9780778316053

Over two decades ago purebred Homo sapiens slaughtered most of the Cryptid hybrids; even parents tortured and murdered their children in the genocidal frenzy.  Survivors were enslaved, but a few escaped notice because they were “passing” as “normal”.

In present day Oklahoma, Delilah Morrow always assumed she is 100% human and never gave a first thought about the Cryptid.  On her twenty-fifth birthday she enters Metzger’s Menagerie to watch in horror a several-thousand plus mob taunting a werewolf.  Claws suddenly appear without warning as her three friends watch in horror and ask what Delilah is.  Quickly incarcerated, Delilah is relocated in a menagerie, but unable to make her claws reappear even if that means a worse fate for her.  Her handler Gallagher explains to Delilah her importance to her new community while encouraging her to help save her race.

The Menagerie opening act is a tremendous extremely dark urban fantasy due to Rachel Vincent’s awesome world-building erected from genocide, slavery and other human rights violations.  Intrepid Delilah’s plight since she no longer passes as human and her newly found reason to live through her ordeal make for a magnificent coming of age and species awareness thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Trading Christmas - Debbie Macomber

Trading Christmas
Debbie Macomber
Mira, Sep 29 2015, $9.99
ISBN: 9780778318293

Trading Christmas.”  Since her Harvard student daughter Heather is unable to visit her, widow schoolteacher Emily Springer decides to cross the country to see her in Boston although she is concerned over costs.  She arranges over the internet to swap houses with Harvard History Professor Charles Brewster who hates the Yuletide holidays.  To Charles' bah humbug chagrin Leavenworth, Washington including Emily's home comes out of a Christmas catalogue.  Meanwhile, Emily's friend Faith Kerrigan travels to Leavenworth to spend time with her while Charles' brother Ray travels from New York to Boston to spend time with him.  Adding to the mix-up is that Emily's daughter is in Florida.  As the two couples (Emily and Ray, and Charles and Faith) fall in love, each learns the real meaning of the holiday that miracles occur. 

“The Forgetful Bride.”  Even though they have not seen each other in two decades, Joseph tells everyone that Caitlin is his wife.  When she was eight and he ten, her older brother “witnessed” his sister and his best friend “marrying”.  Upset with Joe, Cait insists to him (and herself) she loves her boss Paul.  Joe says she loves him and on Christmas Day, he plans to kiss his bride.

With a plot similar to the 2006 movie The Holiday, though released earlier (in 2004), Trading Christmas is an uplifting holiday tale that uses coincidences to make the point that miracles exist when love blossoms.  The reprint of the 1991 Forgetful Bride is a “second chance” holiday romance, but Joe’s constant contention grows cold and Cait’s irritated reaction seems over the top of the Space Needle.

Harriet Klausner

Call Me Mrs. Miracle - Debbie Macomber

Call Me Mrs. Miracle
Debbie Macomber
Mira, Sep 29 2015, $15.99
ISBN: 9780778318484

Call Me Mrs. Miracle.”  Finley's Department Store heir Jake Finley and his owner dad Jacob never celebrate Christmas.  Unlike the jolly New York shoppers, father and son never forgot the tragedy that occurred two decades ago on Christmas Eve when Jake’s mom and sis died.  In Brooklyn, Holly Larson struggles with having her eight year old nephew Gabe living with her while her widower brother serves in Afghanistan and their parents provide medical assistance in Haiti.  Finley Department Store seasonal employee Emily "Mrs. Miracle" Merkle thinks Jake and Holly are a perfect match; she plans to live up to her nickname using a toy that Gabe wants as the matchmaker. 

“The Christmas Basket.”  Ten years ago, Noelle McDowell left her hometown of Rose, Oregon to go off to college, but secretly vowed never to return.  Noelle loved Thom Sutton, but as high school seniors, he failed to show up when they planned to elope.  She concluded that he wanted to humiliate her as part of the long running feud between their mothers.  The only thing that could bring Noelle back to Rose is her sister's wedding.  When Noelle and Thom meet at the town holiday dance, they realize the attraction remains between them and finally talk about that day. 

Even as the storyline goes as expected, the reprint of Call Me Mrs. Miracle (made into a movie) remains a lighthearted inspirational Miracle on 34th Street.  The reprint of The Christmas Basket is a warm second chance though the reason the leads failed to meet lacks needed depth.  Still these are two enjoyable holiday romances.

Harriet Klausner

The Beautiful Ashes - Jeanine Frost

The Beautiful Ashes
Jeanine Frost
Harlequin HQN, Sep 29 2015, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373779529

In heavy rain in Bennington, Vermont, Ivy, following her late parents’ trail that ended here in their accidental deaths, continues the search for her missing sister Jasmine and her sibling’s boyfriend Tommy.  She stops at an antique store where the proprietor Mrs. Paulson denies having seen the couple in the photo that Ivy shows her.  Just as Ivy envisions her latest weird hallucination of Jasmine, Mrs. Paulson hits her in the head with a picture frame.  Ivy escapes.

Back at her motel room, a stranger waiting for her warns Ivy she is going to have a bad night; not that her week has been good when Police Detective Kroger disrupts their discussion.  Instead of arresting the intruder, Kroger assaults him before attacking Ivy.  The trespasser Adrian rescues Ivy. 

The first Broken Destiny urban fantasy starts with the pedal to the metal and never slows down as Adrian escorts the beleaguered, brave and obstinate heroine into a world she never imagined existed while her sisterly quest expands exponentially.  Although Adrian’s “support” or lack of needs much more explanation as we wonder about his allegiance; Jeanine Frost’s opening act grips her fans from the fast-paced start to the climatic confrontation.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Santa Klaus Murder - Mavis Doriel Hay

The Santa Klaus Murder
Mavis Doriel Hay
Poisoned Pen British Library Crime Classics, Oct 6 2015, $12.95
ISBN 9781464204951

In Haulmshire County, three generations of the Melbury family, their professional staff and their servants arrive at Flaxmere to spend Christmas together.  However, the annual gathering proves fatal to the family patriarch Sir Osmond when someone shoots him in his study on Christmas Day.

Chief Constable Colonel Halstock leads the homicide investigation into the death of his overbearing, obnoxious neighbor.  As he considers every adult at the gathering a suspect, Halstock muses over what took so long for someone to kill Osmond.  After interviewing everyone and looking for clues at the crime scene, the only individual with opportunity is Santa Klaus who lacked a motive for murdering the victim.  As he continues to grill the family and seeks why, each interviewee keeps modifying their story.

An entertaining English Golden Age manor house police procedural, The Santa Klaus Murder is a wonderful whodunit due to a rigidly adhered to SOP-oriented lead constable who personally knows many of the suspects and the victim.  Character-driven, subgenre fans will appreciate this “historical” holiday homicide and want to read Mavis Doriel Hay’s other 1930s mysteries (see Murder Underground and Death on the Cherwell).

Harriet Klausner

Trouble on the Thames - Victor Bridges

Trouble on the Thames
Victor Bridges
Poisoned Pen British Library Crime Classics, Oct 6 2015, $12.95
ISBN 9781464204937

Depressed British Navy Lieutenant Commander Owen Bradwell returns to London believing his military career ended after the Admiralty brass sent him home on medical leave due to his recently occurred color blindness affliction.  The assigned doctor informs him his chance of recovery is 1 in a thousand; thus his career sunk. 

With the rise of the Nazis and their thirst for war, and checking with Bradwell’s former superior officer Captain Carmichael, British Naval Intelligence Captain Greystoke feels the LTC can be a valuable needed asset.  Because his new recruit personally knew the late treasonous Lieutenant A. G. Medlicot when both were stationed in China, Greystoke assigns him to infiltrate a German spy ring tied to the traitor.  American expatriate and Mayflower Club owner Mark Craig heads the espionage cell working along the Thames.  At the same time interior decorator Sally Deane tries to deal with Granville Sutton, who is blackmailing her sister Sheila and Craig.  After being hit on the head, Bradwell regains consciousness to find Sutton’s murdered corpse lying next to him.  He next meets Deane when she saves his life.

This reprint of a fine 1945 published spy vs. spy thriller is a likable pre-WWII drama.  Though a bit fluffy at times due to lighthearted banter that feels out of place, but also somewhat mindful of Agent Carter; Trouble on the Thames entertains the audience.

Harriet Klausner