Friday, November 30, 2007

Siege of Heaven-Tom Harper

Siege of Heaven
Tom Harper
Dunne, Dec 2007, $26.95
ISBN: 9780312338725

In 1098, the surviving feel their sacrifices were worth it as the Crusaders see the end in sight with the conquest of Jerusalem coming soon. However while some remain wary and weary from all the bloodshed, the leaders of the various Christian armies show their true colors of pride and vainglory as each competes with one other to be the first inside the holy city.

Greek Demetrious Askiates is tired of the destruction, deaths, and atrocities like the spread of the plague in Antioch he has witnessed from both sides of the religious war. He wants to go home to Constantinople, but remains committed to serving the Byzantine emperor even when he is disappointed with being sent to Egypt to negotiate with the Fatimids to obtain their support against the Turks.

The final entry in Tom Harper’s excellent First Crusade trilogy (see THE MOSAIC OF SHADOWS and KNIGHTS OF THE CROSS) is an incredible eleventh century thriller as the star Demetrious is not solving a murder, but instead trying to keep from being killed. His trek from the Holy Land into Egypt brings the period of the First crusade vividly alive to his grateful audience as few if any novels in recent memory have.

Harriet Klausner

Voices from the Street-Philip K. Dick

Voices from the Street
Philip K. Dick
Tor, Nov 2007, $14.95
ISBN: 9780765318213

In 1950s Oakland, California affluent Stuart Hadley lives the American dream. He owns a nice home; has an adoring pregnant wife; and recently was promoted manager in a television and radio shop. Stuart Hadley is dissatisfied with his near perfect life as he wants more but has no idea why this is the season of his discontent. He turns to alcohol and sex to dull his anger at middle class existence but that only makes him internally rage more; and he wants to reject the respective adulation of his wife and his boss as that frightens him because once gain he does not know why.

Stuart turns to the Society of the Watchmen of Jesus for salvation. At the sect he meets Marsha Frazier, who he desperately craves. However, Stuart fails to find solace with his new religious order; instead he spirals deeper into depression and begins to destroy his life by tearing down his relationships and losing the respect of his wife and his boss.

VOICES FROM THE STREET is a complex character study of a person living and rejecting the American dream as pronounced during the Ike era. Not an easy read as the story line is somewhat murky and convoluted, but fans of Philip K. Dick will appreciate the rich look at the unhappy days of the 1950s through the increasingly psychotic mindset of the prime protagonist.

Harriet Klausner

Symphony-Jude Morgan

Jude Morgan
St. Martin's, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312369514

In 1827 twentyish Irish actress Harriet Smithson believes she can become a star without sleeping with a theatre manager or a play producer. Instead, she takes the radical approach by staying with her family’s troupe going to Paris to perform Shakespeare.

In France she takes over running the group as her father sinks deeper into alcoholism, her brother has no talent for the stage or business, and her mother feels her age and her growing waistline. Her performance as Ophelia in Hamlet is the rage of the city leading to acclaim and the demand by the adulating public to see her perform. Composer Hector Berlioz is attracted to Harriet, but she rejects his advances until her fame wanes while his soars especially when he credits her as his muse and the Symphonie Fantastique is performed.

Rotating perspective between the actress and the composer, readers obtain a fascinating biographical historical fiction that is not easy to read due shifting tense, but worth the time as fans obtain a rare deep look inside the mind of a performer while performing. Harriet and Hector come alive on and off stage as Jude Morgan provides a virtuoso performance with the entertaining SYMPHONY.

Harriet Klausner

Korea Strait-David Poyer

Korea Strait
David Poyer
St. Martin's, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312360498

U.S. Navy commander Dan Lenson rejects the strong suggestion that he leave the service on a medical retirement. He is unhappy with his treatment having just saved the Commander in Chief from an assassination attempt (see THE THREAT, not reviewed). Outraging the Congressional Medal of Honor is that the brass assigns him with duties to force him into retiring out of ennui as he no longer is given THE COMMAND assignments.

He is tasked to serve as an observer to a multinational exercise involving South Korea, Japan, Australia, and America off of Korean. Part of his duties is to escort U.S. civilians and retired military personnel and serve as liaison between them and their naval hosts on a South Korean frigate. However, the simple but boring mission turns suddenly potentially deadly when a disabled North Korean submarine is found nearby. They refuse rescue as they prefer to go down with the ship. This disturbs Lenson as he thinks they have something to hide; unaware at that moment how accurate his assessment is as other North Korean subs head to the Sea of Japan with perhaps Kim’s personally autographed nukes; Dan plans to find out though his superiors and the South Korean Navy demand he do nothing except escort duty.

Lenson is terrific as his heroic past proves a handicap when it comes to political appointees and the Naval and DOD brass, who are entrenched bureaucrats seeking their next job while insuring their current position causes no personal harm to their careers. The enemy is unknown yet known as being erratically impulsive so anything can happen. However, as Lenson has learned throughout his naval career, sometimes the real enemy is the guy patting you on the back saying good job Brownie. Contemporary military fiction fans will relish David Poyer’s exciting Korean thriller that spotlights how complex the five decade plus truce is.

Harriet Klausner

Luck Be a Lady, Don't Die-Robert J. Randisi

Luck Be a Lady, Don't Die
Robert J. Randisi
Dunne, Dec 2007, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312360436

In 1960 during the filming of Ocean’s 11, Sands casino pit boss Eddie Gianelli helped Dean Martin with a problem (see EVERYBODY KILLS SOMEBODY SOMETIME). So when the leader of the Rat Pack, Frank Sinatra tells Dino he has a problem, Dino suggests Eddie.

Frank explains to Eddie he has a female problem that has nothing to do with the two women the press connects him with. He asks Eddie to help him, but the pit boss cannot fathom what Frank is saying about the dames until finally he says the lady in question has vanished. Gianelli and his New York protector, Jerry Epstein search for the missing female as someone is bumping off people connected to the Rat Pack; Epstein assumes Mafia Don Sam Giancana is involved as money is the root of a potential gang war between the mob and the pack.

The key to the second Rat Pack crime caper is Robert J. Randisi’s adoring homage of the members while also bringing them to life especially Frank this time. The story line is fast-paced while enabling the readers to meet the Rats up front and personal even as the original Ocean’s 11 film is about to hit the big screen and an apparent mob war between a gang that uses real bullets and a group that uses Hollywood glitter seems imminent. The mystery is light but fun as it is more a mechanism for the readers to meet the rat Pack so that baby boomers and other fans of the recent Ocean’s movies will enjoy LUCK BE A LADY, DON'T DIE.

Harriet Klausner

Strange Blood-Lindsay Ashford

Strange Blood
Lindsay Ashford
Dunne, Dec 2007, $23.95
ISBN: 9780312355807

In England forensic psychologist Dr. Megan Rhys heads the Heartland University Department of Investigative Psychology as well as providing consulting services to the British police. Currently Megan has personal issues with a former Ph.D. student, which she hopes to derail before she runs into professional condemnation.

To occupy her mind and escape her troubles, Megan is profiling a serial killer who carves pentagrams on the foreheads of his victims. Looking into the background of the first victim wife and mother Tessa Ledbury, Megan learns the deceased was involved with Wiccan coven chief Sean Raven. Wolverhampton Detective Superintendent Steve Foy assumes between the Raven connection and the etching that the occult, probably one of the witches, is involved. Megan has doubts re Foy’s theory especially as the murder count rises, but struggles to offer a counterpoint even as she profiles the killer.

STRANGE BLOOD, the sequel to FROZEN, is a tense serial killer thriller starring an engaging heroine. Megan is terrific as once again she struggles with a police superintendent although Foy is nothing like West Midlands Police Detective Superintendent Martin Leverton of FROZEN fame who wanted Megan to fail. Readers will enjoy Megan’s profiling efforts as things don’t go quite smoothly as she tries to make the puzzle fit in a constantly morphing arrangement in which either she has to many pieces or lacks pieces.
Harriet Klausner

The Mortal Groove-Ellen Hart

The Mortal Groove
Ellen Hart
St. Martin's, Dec 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312349455

In Minnesota, Ray Lawless is considering a run for governor. His family, especially his daughter lesbian restaurateur Jane Lawless encourages him. As she and the rest of the relatives actively get involved, Ray realizes his chances of winning are good.

However, the media begins sniffing into the past of the Lawless brood and his key staffers. Reporter Melanie Gunderson especially looks at a cold case homicide that has ties to Ray’s prime workers. Shockingly someone viciously assaults Melanie. Knowing the journalist and concerned for the victim and that the incident and the decades old murder will derail her dad’s chances, Jane investigates. Her efforts lead to Iowa and serving in Vietnam.

THE MORTAL GROOVE is an interesting political whodunit that asks the question can someone who never served in the military claim the mantle of patriotism as so many chicken hawks do. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that an unknown thug batters Melanie and never slows down until the final confrontation. Although having Jane’s significant other and her appear more often together especially on the campaign trail would have been the perfect sweetener, Ellen Hart provides a strong mystery with a deep message that no one asks about one’s sexual preference in the foxholes.

Harriet Klausner

The Darkness-L.A. Banks

The Darkness
L.A. Banks
Griffin (St. Martin’s), Feb 2008, $14.95, 400 pp.
ISBN 9780312368746

Armageddon has begun; two seals have been broken; people are living the end of days and forty thousand demons were destroyed at the Battle of Masada. Neterus Damali and Carlos Rivera thought they destroyed Lilith’s progeny but they were very much mistaken. The future anti-Christ clearly hid himself from the Neterus and the Guardians and is now in a chrysalis state waiting to Become. Lucifer is overjoyed and he allows Lilith to give the daywalker bite to the members of the Vampire Council including Fallon Nuit, Sebastian and Yonni (Carlos’s spy).

Lucifer wants to cause confusion and turmoil that will fracture the Guardians & Neterus unity so he attacks Father Pat, a man dear to Carlos. When he tries to save the priest, some of the Dark’s poison enters Carlos and make it easier for Hell to track him. After a bloody battle in New York City, Carlos is badly injured and Damali takes him to the plane where the former Neterus live near to Heaven. If Carlos recovers, he and Damali plan to find and kill what will become the anti-Christ and stop the Armageddon attack from happening.

THE DARKNESS, the latest vampire huntress legend novel, picks up where the last book in the series left off. Combining elements of apocalyptic and supernatural horror, urban fantasy and romance, this work is refreshingly original, enthralling and totally intense. As the series progresses the characters change and grow not always as expected. As Damali and Carlos mature, they are more in love than ever. L.A. Banks has written one of the best vampire sagas of the new millennium.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chillwater Cove-Thomas Lakeman

Chillwater Cove
Thomas Lakeman
St. Martin's, Nov 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312348007

FBI Special Agent Peggy Weaver works in the Crimes Against Children Unit of the Philadelphia office. However, she received a bitter reminder of why she became a specialized agent when she receives an email containing porn photos. Over two decades ago when she was ten years old, Peggy and her best friend Samantha Stallworth were abducted. Peggy escaped, but Samantha was sexually molested and further abused by her kidnapper.

Now a college professor Samantha calls Peggy informing her she received the same email. Stunned Peggy goes to her college hometown Avalon, Tennessee where her father is police chief and racial strife is boiling over. When Samantha vanishes, Peggy vows to save her friend and catch the culprit who is toying with her.

The key to this interesting regional police procedural is how many people including her father and his department and Samantha’s relatives hinder Peggy on her desperate search to save her friend’s life. Readers will feel the pain and guilt that Peggy feels as she not only needs to save her friend’s life, but sees it as redemption for her failure to be able to provide her father with expert witnessing when Samantha was snatched as a child. Readers will appreciate this character driven investigative tale and seek out Thomas Lakeman's previous gripping FBI thriller (see THE SHADOW CATCHERS).

Harriet Klausner

Killer Riff-Sheryl J. Anderson

Killer Riff
Sheryl J. Anderson
St. Martin's, Nov 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312351410

Molly Forrester writes a highly regarded stylish advice column for chic Manhattan based Zeitgeist magazine, but wants to become an investigative journalist. She is euphoric with her latest assignment; a Features’ article on recently deceased Rock and Roll giant producer Russell Elliott, whose death was officially due to an accidental overdose.

Molly interviews Elliott's surviving extended family members as Elliot had several wives, which has left his will tied up in probate wars. As she digs deeper, Molly begins to believe that Elliot was a murder victim, but anyone cut out of his latest will apparently have an avaricious motive. This means most likely one of the ex’s or part of their retinue rejected Elliot’s final riff.

KILLER RIFF is an enjoyable lighthearted romp starring a likable heroine whose sidebars are sub-genre requirements expected of a chic lit heroine starring in an amateur sleuth whodunit. The story line is fast-paced and somewhat inane both due to the antics and barbs of the unsinkable Molly. Her struggles to complete her article and deal with her relationship with NYPD homicide detective Kyle Edwards is fun to follow. Fans who enjoy a funny but frivolous frolic will appreciate the Killer Molly series (see KILLER DEAL, KILLER HEELS, and KILLER COCKTAIL).

Harriet Klausner

Without Warning-Eugenia Lovett West

Without Warning
Eugenia Lovett West
St. Martin's, Nov 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312371135

In affluent Connecticut forty-seven years old former opera star Emma Streat, may be suffering from the empty nest syndrome with her boys at college, but believes her concern for her spouse Lewis has nothing to do with the kids being away from home. Instead she sees firsthand the recent erratic behavior of Lewis, CEO of a firm that contracts with the Department of Defense. His sudden need for incredible layers of security that the President would envy seems excessive and scary to Emma. She has asked him several times why he is so tense and frightened, but he refuses to talk to her.

On a trip to London together, Lewis tells Emma he has some problems with a new laser weapons project that his firm is working on for DOD. When they return home to New England, Lewis dies in an accident. If he had not acted paranoid, Emma would have just grieved her loss, but she suspects foul play. She travels back across the ocean where she learns two physicists associated with the project recently died in accidents. Emma knows that three in a rather short time frame is not accidental coincidence, but probable homicides. She risks her life to learn who and why.

Emma’s grief over her husband’s sudden death seems genuine and serves as a realistic motivator for her to pursue the truth. Her investigation on both sides of the pond, but especially in England is fun to follow as the attacks on her life only encourages her to dig deeper. Fans will appreciate this amateur sleuth because the heroine’s need to know why Lewis died makes for a compelling tale.

Harriet Klausner

Person of Interest-Theresa Schwegel

Person of Interest
Theresa Schwegel
St. Martin's, Nov 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312364267

Chicago police detective Craig McHugh is undercover investigating a deadly Chinese-American gang the Fuxi Spiders, who peddle illegal drugs. Craig knows he needs to get in closer with members if he is to get the proof that they sell heroine including a lethal bad batch. To do so he plays card with Moy and other Fuxi Spiders, who take gambling as a sacred pastime, losing his entire official allotment and some of his own money in the game.

While he is away from his family, they have issues. The police found his brooding teenage daughter Ivy at a party where ecstasy was being used. His wife Leslie assumes he is having some sort of early middle age affair and feels entitled to one too so she chooses her daughter’s boyfriend. However, his professional and personal lives converge forcing a good cop to take drastic measures to keep his loved ones alive from vindictive thugs.

This exciting thriller will be on the short list for police procedural of the year as the action, some quite graphic, never slows down for even a paragraph. Besides a strong undercover subplot and a close look at the underbelly of the Windy City, the key that makes this a strong tale is a deep look at a cop whose keeps him away from his family leading to a dysfunctional relationship. Readers will seek Theresa Schwegel’s previous Chicago PD tales as they come highly recommended (see PROBABLE CAUSE and OFFICER DOWN)

Harriet Klausner

My Soul To Keep-Melanie Wells

My Soul To Keep
Melanie Wells
Multnomah, Feb 2008, $12.99, 320 pp.
ISBN: 9781590524282

Professor Dylan Foster teaches psychology at Southern Methodist Universality yet she has no trouble believes in demons and devils since Peter Terry came into her life. He wants souls and he will use whatever means necessary to get them but Dylan temporally defeated him twice. He is the last thing on her mind when her friend Liz Zocci and her daughter Christine are celebrating her birthday in the park with her friend Maria and her son Nicholas.

In the blink of an eye, the party ends when a car stops and someone kidnaps Nicholas. The person tries to take Christine too but her touch burns him. Somehow, someway, Christine is psychically connected to Nicholas and she ends up in the hospital with the same illness Nicholas once had. Peter Terry is also in the picture as light bulbs pop in her home; Dylan hears snakes hissing in her home and a gas leek occurs. The demon appears in her dreams but she refuses to give into her fears. Instead she chases every clue including her sleeping subconscious ones that might lead her to Nicholas, even if it means spiritual warfare.

Christine has a guardian angel Earl who Dylan sees in the park and she and her mom come to the conclusion there is a spiritual battle taking place in which Christine is the prize. They meet another angel in the hospital who calms Christine; Dylan, a believer, is not surprised. She just wishes they would point her to the location where Nicholas is but she has to apply investigate methods instead like a mortal. Melanie Wells has written an exciting pulse pumping thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Twilight-Brendan DuBois

Brendan DuBois
St. Martin's, Nov 2007, $24.95
ISBN: 9780312361372

Canadian journalist Samuel Simpson joins as a grunt a United Nations peacekeeping force that is also investigating terrorism and war crimes. His unit seeks to find the evidence that will bring to justice those who committed the crimes against mankind before and during the recent civil war and those who continue the atrocities.

His tour of duty is New York months after a dirty bomb destroyed much of Manhattan and other attacks eliminated most of the American electric grid. The United States collapsed and a civil war further devastated the country. As Samuel and his undersized squad investigate a particular ugly atrocity in Upstate New York, he realizes as snipers kill some of his peers that anyone could be the angel of death.

This may be the thriller of the year as Brendan DuBois combines plenty of action, twists especially that initial set up in which the audience assumes some Baltic or African nation is the setting, and introspection on what is a war crime to include torture. Samuel is an interesting protagonist as he is starts out naïve and idealistic, but quickly becomes mature and caustically realistic as he helplessly sees death everywhere. Readers will ponder beyond the presidential candidates and White House sound bites to what if an even greater more concerted attack occurred to America than 9/11 once we understand who the Belgians are donating tents to.

Harriet Klausner

Being With Him-Jessica Inclan

Being With Him
Jessica Inclan
Zebra, Feb 2008, $13.00
ISBN 9781420101126

Garrick McClellan is at an art exhibit alone in the crowd because he can never let down his guard and reveal who he is and what he can do. He can read the minds of everyone around him and travel back in time. He sees a painting by Mila Adams and it stirs a memory in him. By coincidence his aunt and her mother set them up on a blind date.

Mila also feels alone as she too can read minds and move forward in time. She has memories of her as young child in a black shape escaping from somewhere with her brother, other children and adults. When Garrick and Mila meet they recognize that they are one half of a whole. They start asking questions who and what they are but their inquiry puts them in danger from a force not of this world.

Jessica Inclan has written a memorable and evocative tale of two people who are so much more together than they are apart. Readers will like both protagonists because they are open about their feelings and their need to find others since Garrick knows he was adopted and Mila learns she was too shortly after she meets him. Some books are so memorable and unique that one can’t forget them; BEING WITH HIM is one of them.

Harriet Klausner

Night Season-Eileen Wilks

Night Season
Eileen Wilks
Berkley, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425220153

Three gnomes enter the earth through a magical portal from the Edge. The FBI's Magical Crimes Unit is worried about the newcomers and is proven correct when the paranormal aliens abduct several humans and take them back through the gate to their realm. Their prime goal is Finder Cynna Weaver who they demand locate a missing crucial magical medallion.

Lupine Sorcerer Cullen Seabourne and his beloved FBI Agent Cynna Weaver are celebrating the birth of their baby, but find their gala abruptly ended when they along with FBI Unit 12 Chief Ruben Brooks and former demon Gan are yanked through the gnome gate. They know that the only way home is to locate a missing crucial magical medallion that the gnomes badly crave and will kill to possess.

Fans of the series will recognize the return of the C couple; this time as the prime stars after secondary roles supporting the Lily saga in the Wilks wonderful fantasy universe (see BLOOD LINES). The story line is fast-paced and filled with action and plenty of twists that the audience is coming to expect from Elaine Wilks. However, more critical is the cast especially Cullen and Cynna who prove more than capable of holding the story line together as they “rule” the NIGHT SEASON.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Hello, Doggy-Elaine Fox

Hello, Doggy
Elaine Fox
Avon, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061175695

Adviser to women on what men want from them, Keenan James is extremely popular; his weekly roundtable discussion show is a hit. However, he is unhappy that he must work with a co-author, some reticent idiotic shrink on his next book. Almost as bad is that his mom dumped her mutt pampered Barbra Streisand on him.

Dr. Tory Hoffstra is despondent that her publisher demands she work with Keenan James if she wants her book printed. She thinks the handsome host is a fake who takes advantage of insecure females. To determine whether she wants to work with him or forget publication, Tory gets a seat at his table. They are instantly attracted to one another, but she realizes she is the fraud while he cannot believe he has fallen in love and worse asks Barbra for advice.

Although the author is a Fox, no one does canine matchmaking romances as affectionately and amusingly as Elaine Fox does (see BEWARE OF DOUG). HELLO, DOGGY is a lighthearted romp starring a strong lead couple, and solid support cast, and Barbra. As the lead couple’s relationship changes, there interest in helping lonely females continues unabated; this serious undertone makes this overall jocular frolic into a strong contemporary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Too Pretty To Die-Susan McBride

Too Pretty To Die
Susan McBride
Avon, Feb 2008, $6.99, 322 pp.
ISBN: 9780060846015

Beautiful Miranda DuBois is an anchor on a Dallas Television Station but to improve her looks she went to cosmetic dermatologist Dr. Sonja Madhavi for work on her eyes and her mouth. The results are a drooping mouth and an eye twitch, which in turn tainted her career and caused her to be ousted by the Caviar Cliub. In a drunken rage she crashes a party at Delaney Armstrong’s house where Dr. Sonja is giving Botox injections.

She fires her gun but the bullet hits a picture frame and the weapon is taken away from her. Andy Kendricks, who avoids being a society girl even though her mother is mega-wealthy, takes Miranda home, puts her to bed on the couch and shuts off the computer. The next morning she returns to Miranda only to find her dead. The police think it is a suicide but Andy believes differently. The computer is missing, the gun that killed her was the one left behind at the party and Miranda was angry not despondent. When her mother gets involved trying to prove it was murder and her best friend, a reporter cajoles her into investigating what really happened, Andy has no choice but to figure out what occurred; unaware that she is putting herself in harm’s way.

TOO PRETTY TO DIE is a delightful Debutante Dropout mystery with a social message concerning the nation’s addiction to beauty at all cost. The protagonist of the humorous and charming cozy isn’t interested in beauty or her standing in society which makes her seem much more mature than many of the other characters. Susan McBride provides a fantastic amateur sleuth tale sprinkled with humor yet with a deep underlying question on wasting medical funds on the frivolous.

Harriet Klausner

The Black Dove-Steve Hockensmith

The Black Dove
Steve Hockensmith
St. Martin's, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312347826

In 1893 brothers Old Red and Big Red Amlingmeyer recover from their work as rail cops (see ON THE WRONG TRACK) by visiting San Francisco in order to partake of some of the city’s world renowned wickedness as well as look into a personal matter. When they worked as railroad cops, the luggage of the late Dr. Chan was tossed off the train that was their beat. Knowing their hero would investigate, the siblings emulate HOLMES ON THE RANGE; albeit this time Holmes in San Francisco to determine who killed Dr. Chan and why. Joining them is former railroad sleuth Diane Corvus, who also has a personal reason to learn the truth.

The Reds assume that hired Chinese “highbinders” killed Chan, but the clues take them everywhere in the City by the Bay not just Chinatown. With local police and Chinatown's “Napoleon of Crime” assisting them Old Red and Big Red land in whorehouses where they are a bit distracted, but with Diane and Napoleon coaxing them, their escapades lead everyone into a final confrontation in which being shanghaied appears to have a greater life expectancy.

The third Holmes on the Range historical mystery is another superb zany caper as the Red siblings land in one egg drop soup after another. The humorous story line is fast-paced especially when the heroes begin to follow clues that have more twists than Lombard St. Fans of the series will appreciate the Reds’ escapades as Gaslight San Francisco comes to life as rarely seen in a whodunit with a terrific insane ending.

Harriet Klausner

The Spymaster’s Lady-Joanna Bourne

The Spymaster’s Lady
Joanna Bourne
Berkley, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425219607

Leblanc tortures spy maestro Annique “The Fox Cub” Villiers demanding she give him the Albion plans that Vauban gave her in Bruges to take to England. Annique is the best at the espionage game especially when it comes to checkmating men so since she has no plans to die here, she must find a way out of this mess. She has outplayed every male opponent with ease and wouldn’t be in this hell hole with the devil’s spawn if her elderly associate was not so desperate; still she expects to win every time though right now she lingers in a French prison and ponders how to escape.

British spymaster Robert Grey is assigned the task of abducting the infamous Cub in order to interrogate her to learn what she really knows and who gives her orders. Thus he enters the same French prison where she is currently a resident and meets the renowned Cub. This is a case of hate at first sight in spite of an attraction. However they both conclude they need one another to escape their jail, which they do. As they flee across France they begin to fall in love, but their various enemies and some alleged allies pursue them with one thought kill the spies.

Although The Fox Cub seems very vulnerable and not quite the invincible professional that she allegedly is, THE SPYMASTER’S LADY is an exhilarating historical romantic espionage thriller starring two strong adversaries needing to team up if they are to survive those wanting them dead. The story line is action-packed, but belongs to the courageous lead couple who go from distrust to dependency to love. Joanna Bourne begins her legacy with a fine tale.

Harriet Klausner

Hush My Mouth- Cathy Pickens

Hush My Mouth
Cathy Pickens
Dunne, Feb 2008, $23.95
ISBN 9780312354428

Atlanta resident Fran French asks Dacus, South Carolina lawyer Avery Andrews to find her missing adopted “sister” Neanna Lyles who came to the small town to learn more about the Wenda Sims murder in 1985; Avery agrees. However, when the attorney finds Neanna, it is not a welcome home scenario; instead the police report the missing person committed suicide.

A stunned Fran tells Avery no way would Neanna kill herself. Fran admits that Neanna was despondent over the recent death of her grandmother and horrified to find a picture of corpse of Aunt Wenda in a family scrapbook. Not long afterward Avery finds that same photo in Neanna’s car. She believes the niece was murdered with the motive to keep her from finding out who killed her beloved aunt.

The latest Southern Fried Mystery (see HOG WILD, DONE GONE WRONG, and SOUTHERN FRIED) is a wonderful regional cozy that fans of the series will appreciate. The case is difficult enough for Avery to solve only to have comic relief (for the audience not for the heroine) caused by a ghostbusters trio interfering with the investigation as they hope to make contact with any of the late Lyles as a ticket to appearing on reality TV, paranormal style. No slim Pickens with this author as HUSH MY MOUTH is a fabulous South Carolina whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Reluctant Smuggler-Jill Elizabeth Nelson

Reluctant Smuggler
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Multnomah, Jan 2008, $12.99
ISBN: 9781590526880

In Mexico City, American security consultant Desiree Jacobs of HJ Securties has been hired to test rival Greybeck and Sons’ security measures at the internationally renowned Museo de Arte Museum. Desi sort of succeeds, but rejects the job offer to provide security because the museum did not live up to their provisional agreement. Instead she plans to fly home the next day and begin wedding plans with her beloved FBI agent, Tony Lucano.

However instead of returning home, Mexican Presidente Montoya asks Desi for a favor as he trusts her due to knowing her late maligned father personally and her display of ethics during the museum caper. He wants her to investigate stolen art treasures, which she agrees to do as long as it is understood she is not law enforcement. As she begins to unravel the truth, she finds a tie to the illegal drug trade that makes her a target of ruthless killers. Tony realizes his beloved is in trouble and defying FBI policy immediately races to Mexico to insure his Desi is safe, but fears he may be too late as a snake betrays her.

The third To Catch a Thief saga (see RELUCTANT RUNAWAY and RELUCTANT RUNAWAY) is an exhilarating inspirational suspense thriller that focuses on the antiquities black market. The story line is fast-paced from the opening segue that showcase Desiree’s talent through her ordeal with killing thieves and to the final confrontation with a shocking twist. Although the Greybeck subplot feels contrived, fans will enjoy the latest “reluctant” tale wondering if Desi will make it out of Mexico alive and in time to wed Tony.

Harriet Klausner

An Incomplete Revenge- Jacqueline Winspear

An Incomplete Revenge
Jacqueline Winspear
Holt, Feb 2008, $24.00
ISBN 9780805082159

In 1931 business tycoon James Compton considers buying property in Heronsdene, Kent but a rash of questionable fires has left him re-evaluating his selection. He asks his friend London based investigative psychologist Maisie Dobbs to look into what seems to him as obvious the work of an arsonist. She would do anything for her mentor and besides needs the money he offers as the Great Depression has hammered at consultants like her so she agrees to visit the tiny rustic village.

Maisie quickie uncovers the suspicious dealings of a landowner while wondering why the locals refuse to speak about visiting Gypsies or a WW I zeppelin raid that killed an entire family; as the behavior is way beyond the normal suspicion of strangers. A struggling Maisie begins to tie together the townsfolk, the gypsies, the Great War and what happened afterward in remote Heronsdene, but someone is on war alert watching her every step.

The latest Dobbs between the World Wars’ mystery is a terrific entry in one of the best twentieth century private investigation series. Maisie is at her best as she sleuths in a location in which no one wants her around let alone snooping. However, it is the sense of time and place that makes AN INCOMPLETE REVENGE and its four predecessors (see MESSENGER OF TRUTH, PARDONABLE LIES, MAISIE DOBBS and BIRDS OF A FEATHER) worth reading as few authors if any bring to life England in the late 1920s and early 1930s as picturesquely as Jacqueline Winspear consistently has done with the marvelous Maisie mysteries.

Harriet Klausner

Eleanor vs. Ike-Robin Gerber

Eleanor vs. Ike
Robin Gerber
Avon, Jan 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780061373213

In 1952, the Democratic Party knows it is in trouble with little hope for a surprise victory at the presidential level. Truman is unpopular and his war does not help matters. Even worse the republicans are running war hero “I like Ike”, who vows to get the troops out of Korea if elected, as expected.

Thing turns bleaker for the in party when their candidate suddenly dies. Desperate they turn to the popular widow of their most popular twentieth century president, Eleanor as her first name is as recognizable as Ike is. Two icons to battle for the White House with Eleanor pledging to run an issues only positive campaign although she takes shots at McCarthyism as practiced by Ike’s running mate Nixon and wants an end to the divisiveness and destructiveness of racism, which means she will be the first Democrat in ages to lose the Solid South and no Democrat has won the election without this support.

Robin Gerber has written several biographies on Eleanor Roosevelt, which she uses frequently in this entertaining alternate historical political thriller. The story line is fun to follow especially when the audience willingly traipses across the country with the former First Lady. A plot to assassinate her adds suspense, but is nothing else as the fun in this tale is the race between the two legends.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Just A Taste-Deirdre Martin

Just A Taste
Deirdre Martin
Berkley, Jan 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425218976

Vivi Robitaille gives up on making it as a Parisian chef after a few years of rejection. So she chooses to do what perceives is the next best thing by opening a bistro in Brooklyn’s Bensonhurst neighborhood across the street from Dante's Italian restaurant. Feeling they are not competitors as they offer different fare, Vivi introduces herself to the Dante family, who welcome her to the neighborhood.

She is immediately attracted the head chef and part owner Anthony. To his chagrin he feels the same way. However, as they compare menus and great food, Vivi knows she loves Anthony, but she cannot compete with his late wife, a police officer who died in the line of duty. For his part Anthony believes he has met his food mate, but feels as if he is betraying his deceased spouse.

This sequel to FAIR PLAY is a wonderful contemporary romance in which the puck never drops; instead pots and pans are the main course, recipes included. Vivi is a lively extrovert while Anthony is much more reserved. His efforts to keep his partner, his retired hockey player sibling Michael, out of the restaurant adds humor to an entertaining culinary romance.

Harriet Klausner

Afterimage-Kathleen George

Kathleen George
Dunne, Dec 2007, $24.95
ISBN 9780312372491

In Pittsburgh homicide squad Commander Richard Christie has some doubts with the new guy make that gal assigned to his unit. He likes rookie detective Colleen Greer’s enthusiasm, but also fears her excess zeal could prove dangerous to her and the team. Still he has no choice but to toss her into the ocean while a hurricane hits.

Richard has two homicides to investigate. The first victim is Laura McCall, who Greer knows from working for her separated husband David Hoffman at a counseling clinic. The second is a child who Greer knows once again from her time at the clinic. Like her married boss, who she is attracted to; Greer wonders if Hoffman killed his wife and the child, but has some doubts as a niggling suspicion in her gut points to someone else she knew in her clinic days.

The third Christie Pittsburgh police procedural (see TAKEN and FALLEN) is a strong tale due to the simmering relationship between the commander and the rookie. Although this is Greer’s first tale, her key appearance adds tension to the veteran homicide detective and will remind series fans more so of TAKEN in which Richard’s wife Marina Benedict requested a separation. The mystery is well done especially as David asks his former employee for favors, which make him appear even guiltier to her, but it is the newbie who steals the show on a personal front with her hero worship attraction and her on the job investigative training.

Harriet Klausner

The Poisoner of Ptah-P.C. Doherty

The Poisoner of Ptah
P.C. Doherty
St. Martin’s, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780312359621

In 1478 B.C. Pharaoh Hatusu rules Egypt with a firm but gentle hand. She feels no major internal threats to her keeping the throne in spite of her gender. Her biggest concerns come from outside her kingdom as foreign rulers assume she is weak because she is female. Still, she negotiates peace treaties with her royal peers for the betterment of her nation.

While working on a treaty with Libya, three Egyptian scribes die apparently by poison. Hatusu directs her Chief Judge in the Hall of Two Truths Lord Amerotke to uncover the identity of the killer. The prime suspect is Rekhet, who just escaped from incarceration having been sent to prison for life for royal poisonings. Amerotke finds a link between Rekhet and the Libyans that makes him wonder if the foreigners are negotiating in bad faith.

The Lord Amerotke Ancient Egypt investigations continue to be some of the best whodunits on the market. The latest tale THE POISONER OF PTAH is an excellent entry both as a mystery and as a historical thriller. Amerotke is terrific as he holds the story line together with his investigation while the support cast helps bring to life Ancient Egypt and to a degree Libya through its delegation. This series (see THE ASSASSINS OF ISIS, THE MASK OF RA, HORUS KILLING and THE SLAYERS OF SETH) remains top of the line.

Harriet Klausner

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose-Lauren Willig

The Seduction of the Crimson Rose
Lauren Willig
Dutton, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780525950332

Graduate student Eloise Kelly continues her research into the Napoleonic era Vaughn family with information on the tangential Mary Alsworthy. Mary wishes the best for her younger sister Letty who inadvertently fell in love and married her sibling’s betrothed (see THE DECEPTION OF THE EMERALD RING). Mary finds social events quite boring especially loathing those who pity her as they all point to her living off her brother-in-law’s charity. Thus when spymaster Lord Vaughn asks her to help him uncover uncover French spy the Black Tulip, she accepts as their target obsesses over dark-haired young women.

Mary hooks the interest of the Black Tulip, who sees her as more than just another flower petal to toy with. However, he wants much more from Mary, which upsets Lord Vaughn who finds he is falling in love with his agent.

The fourth Pink Carnation tale is an exciting historical espionage romance that fans of the series will enjoy as two secondary players (Lord Vaughn was in THE MASQUE OF THE BLACK TULIP) return as the stars. The story line is fast paced especially when the events focus on the nineteenth century. When Eloise intrudes with her modern day issues, the story line decelerates as she feels like an unneeded interloper. Still readers will enjoy this fine romantic suspense.

Harriet Klausner

Murder in Miniature-Margaret Grace

Murder in Miniature
Margaret Grace
Berkley, Feb 2008, $6.99, 256 pp.
ISBN: 9780425219805

Retired schoolteacher Geraldine Porter is watching her granddaughter Maddie at the same time she is the chairperson for the local Dollhouse and Miniatures Fair. She is sharing a table with her friend Linda Reed who has made a beautiful miniature Governor Winthrop desk. Gerry notices a spot of blood on one of the pieces of furniture before Linda and the desk disappear.

After watching over two tables for the day and not being able to locate Linda, Gerry is very worried. When Linda calls Gerry pick her up from a deserted area at night she refuses to tell her friend what happened. Word gets around that her son Jason, a troubled teen, might be involved in the robberies of Crane’s Jewelry store. Gerry later learns that a dead stranger was in the area when Linda made a phone call. When Mr. Crane is murdered, the Winthrop desk is found in his hand. Gerry knows that Linda and Jason are no killers so she starts her own investigative and find evidence that links the murders to the robbery. Now all she has to do is convince the police.

Margaret Grace makes creating miniature furniture and people so enticing that many readers will personally try it as a hobby. The author is a gifted storyteller who has the magic touch when it comes to flawed but endearing characters like Gerry. The heroine is just starting to live again after the death of her beloved husband; ironically solving the puzzle of the robbery and the murders brings her back to life.

Harriet Klausner

Bond of Fire-Diane Whiteside

Bond of Fire
Diane Whiteside
Berkley, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425217382

During the French Revolution, Jean-Marie St. Just met Helene d'Agelet in Paris. They fell in love, but were fated to separate as he was turning into a vampire and she was a mortal. However, he remained unaware that after he left her she was changed over too. Over the next two centuries fate seemed to intervene keeping them apart.

In the present, Helene is stunned to see a photo of her beloved Jean-Marie that indicates he is alive. She searches for him so that they can finally share eternity together. However, they still have issues between them as Jean-Marie has been assigned the task of killing the wicked vampire Queen of New Orleans Hélène's sister, Madame Celeste.

Although much of the story occurs before the first tale (see BOND OF BLOOD) the second of Diane Whiteside modern vampire trilogy is an exciting horror thriller. Readers obtain a bit of the history that led to the vampire kingdoms that carve up much of modern day America. Interestingly the lead couple spends much of the two hundred plus years (and most of the book) separated to the chagrin of romantic fantasy purists; yet the look through time strengthens the final showdown making BOND OF FIRE an entertaining read.

Harriet Klausner

The Accidental Vampire-Lynsay Sands

The Accidental Vampire
Lynsay Sands
Avon, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780061229688

New to the world of the night, THE ACCIDENTAL VAMPIRE Elvi Black struggles to adjust. She mourns her inability to get a tan, eat food especially pizza, and sleep in a bed as coffins are not particularly conducive to anything but the sleep of the dead. Her friends are worried about her adjustment so though she tried to hide her change, they know and try to hook her up with a male vampire though where to find one seems difficult as the matchmaking services don’t mention anyone with a bite. Her neighbors place a personal ad seeking a vampiric hunk as a companion to a female nightcrawler.

Taken aback with the ad that they assume is an inane joke by a mortal, the Vampire Council sends agent Victor Argeneau to investigate and if necessary kill the individual. When he meets Elvi he knows he found his soulmate and much more as shockingly she has a town filled with humans willing to die to keep her safe even as someone else who read the ad wants to teach her one particular aspect of being a vamp, a stake through the heart.

This a terrific amusing supernatural romantic suspense due to the desperate antics of the beleaguered heroine who feels like a newborn without adult supervision trying to hide what she has become. Victor is a strong courageous individual who besides mentoring the rookie risks his soul to keep his forever mate safe. The support cast enhances the overall tale especially the townsfolk who add a unique twist and the slayer. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Lynsay Sand’s enjoyable tale and seek her previous winning vampire romances (see VAMPIRES ARE FOREVER and BITE ME IF YOU CAN).

Harriet Klausner

The Mage’s Daughter-Lynn Kurland

The Mage’s Daughter
Lynn Kurland
Berkley, Jan 2008, $14.00
ISBN: 9780425219164

The archmage of the Kingdom of Neroche, Miach, knows he thought he did right when he hid his identity from Morgan (see STAR OF THE MORNING). Now he regrets his choice as he has learned the hard way that without her the Black Mage would have won. Loathing anything pertaining to magic, Morgan flees from him and the war to heal at the non magical Gobhann Castle.

Lothar continues his assault on the kingdom while Miach must decide how to prevent his imminent victory. His only hope rests with the woman he loves but betrayed. Somehow he must earn Morgan's trust as he knows he has her love, but that is not enough any longer as she feels he used her to get at her magic. Without her help Neroche will die, but the cost may be his heart.

This is a terrific romantic fantasy in which a desperate Miach tries to woo the woman he loves to help him stop the enemy. The story line is fast-paced yet the lead duo seems real as the beleaguered hero struggles to open his heart and soul to a distrusting Morgan who knows ten things she hates about him yet in spite of that loves him. Lynn Kurland provides a fabulous second tale that sets the stage for an incredible finish.

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Write It When I’m Gone-Thomas M. DeFrank

Write It When I’m Gone
Thomas M. DeFrank
Putnam, Nov 2007, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399154508

This is an interesting look at the late President Ford through his off the record discussions with reporter Thomas DeFrank over the three plus decades. The book is more anecdotal than a biography, but remains prescient as the audience obtains how Mr. Ford saw the direction of the country, Nixon and Watergate, being an unelected president, his political party, and the presidents that followed him. The latter is the most fun as Mr. Ford blames Reagan not Nixon and the pardon for his loss in 1976 when the then California governor attacked him giving Carter and the Democrats some strong ammunition; Mr. Ford bitterly pointed out that the famous Reagan eleventh commandment was created when the great communicator became the star attraction front runner. He admitted that he admired the incredible communications skills of Reagan and Clinton, especially the latter’s ability to grasp and explain complex issues; Reagan he felt was to lazy to bother beyond a sound bite. The best moments to this reviewer are his prediction that Bush II will have problems justifying the Iraq invasion on WMDs and during the Clinton presidency predicted that Hilary will be on the national ticket in 04 or 08. It is interesting to read how one president evaluated his living exclusive club members and those who failed to win entry like Perot, WRITE IT WHEN I’M GONE proves that LBJ was wrong about Mr. Ford; he obviously wore a helmet when he played center at Michigan.

Harriet Klausner

No More Angels-Ron Butlin

No More Angels
Ron Butlin
Serpent’s Tail, Feb 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 978185429546

This Scottish anthology contains fifteen short stories, five ultra short tales (each under two full pages) and a novella (“Alice Kerr Went With Older Men”). Each entry from the “Five Fantastic Fictions” (the under two pages each grouping) to the Alice Kerr novella share in common characters who seem genuine as they struggle for equilibrium following a disappointment, setback, or tragedy yet end with a bizarre twist of hope as the person takes action. The contributions appeared in various Scottish publications, the Internet or BBC radio.

This is a terrific collection starring real people doing things to uplift themselves in spite of feeling down. Whether it is Donna telling her stunned host that his open skylight is “How the Angels Fly In” or a grieving bone weary geriatric Mrs. Williams providing “Kindness” to a Grinch of a driver by puncturing his air in a way we all would love to do, readers will not just empathize; they will wear the shoes of the characters. Closing out with Alice Kerr on an optimistic note, Ron Butlin provides a strong look at people overcoming for a moment the nastiest spitballs that life has tossed at them even knowing the quagmire remains to engulf them again shortly.

Harriet Klausner

The First Patient-Michael Palmer

The First Patient
Michael Palmer
St. Martin’s, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780312343538

When the physician to President Andrew Stoddard, Dr. Jim Ferendelli, vanishes, the POTUS asks his long time friend Dr. Gabe Singleton to come to DC to take the position. Although Gabe would prefer to remain in Wyoming, he travels to Washington for his friend.

In the capital, Singleton is taken aback when Andrew acts confused as if he suffered a stroke; yet no vital signs imply a stroke or any other brain debilitating illness. Instead Gabe believes someone close to the President has caused the mysterious ailment, but he is ignorant as to whom, how and why. He needs to perform preventative medicine on President Stoddard, which means stopping whatever is causing the illness. To do that Gabe, trusting no one except Nurse Alison Cromartie, investigates those at the White House and even at Blair House trying to answer the questions that befuddle him. Gabe also knows he should suspect Alison as she has the know-how, but he can’t because he has fallen in love with her.

Although this medical political thriller is way over the top of the Washington Monument, fans will enjoy Michael Palmer’s entertaining tale. The story line contains the typical Palmer brand as the action is fast-paced, the hero is way over-matched, and real science supports the nefarious premise. Readers will savor Singleton’s amateur sleuthing.

Harriet Klausner

The Thieves of Faith-Richard Doetsch

The Thieves of Faith
Richard Doetsch
Dell, Dec 26 2007, $6.99
ISBN 9780440242895

In Geneva, Switzerland, former art thief Michael St. Pierre knows he would do anything for Genevieve, who has been there for him ever since his beloved wife Mary died last year. So when she asks a favor of him, he gives her an unequivocal yes before knowing what she needs. She explains she is being hunted by her son Julian who demands she tell him the secret of a painting by an obscure artist. She owns the work that is being sold at a black market gallery, but does not want it back; she wants it destroyed. Genevieve gives Michael a week to decide if he will perform her request.

Three days later, he calls her to tell her no as the mission is impossible only to learn she is dead. Owing her, Michael completes what turned out to be her death bed request. However, malevolent raging maniac Julian Zivera claims Michael owes him. He demands the thief break into the Kremlin to steal a gold box that allegedly contains the eternal life formula buried in the most buried vault. If he fails to accomplish the impossible mission, his biological father who he never met will die.

This exciting sequel to THE THIEVES OF HEAVEN (not reviewed) is an entertaining thriller as Michael and two buddies conduct the dangerous quest in which betrayals seem to occur on every page and close shaves that Gillette would envy even more so. The story line is over the Urals, but thriller fans will enjoy anyway because Michael Doetsch never makes his tale into the universal big crunch; instead there is a comic book like forth to the fun caper.

Harriet Klausner

Vienna Blood-Frank Tallis

Vienna Blood
Frank Tallis
Random House, Jan 2008, $14.95
ISBN: 9780812977769

In the winter of 1902, Vienna Police Detective Inspector Oskar Rheinhardt is working on the high profile case of who slaughtered the royal anaconda at the Tiergarten Zoo when his superiors yank him off that investigation. Instead he is assigned to lead the inquiry into who is killing prostitutes; as several victims have suddenly been found in the frozen city streets. The killer leaves brazen cross-like marks on his victims that lead Oskar to believe one clever diabolical person is responsible.

He knows he needs special help on this strange case witch as far as he knows has no local precedent although there is some experience in London of an apparent mentally sick yet brilliant predator. He asks Freudian adherent Dr. Max Liebermann, who collaborated with him on A DEATH IN VIENNA, to provide him insight into the culprit’s mind so that they can put together a pattern and find the killer. Max realizes that the serial homicides ties into Mozart’s classic The Magic Flute, but why and who remains unknown as more hookers are killed.

Readers will believe they are visiting Freud’s Vienna at an exciting time in the city even if the Empire is tottering on the brink of extinction as Frank Tallis through the actions of his serial killer and the collaborative team bring the turn of the century to life. Although the police procedural is fun to follow with its link to Mozart even if it is somewhat obvious to the reader, this prime plot actually enhances the vivid look at the still thriving capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1902 as historical fans will fully treasure the tour though paved with blood.

Harriet Klausner

Wild Goose Chase-Terri Thayer

Wild Goose Chase
Terri Thayer
Midnight Ink, Feb 2008, $13.95, 312 pp.
ISBN: 9780738712154

It has been six months since her mother died and Dewey Pellicano is doing her best to hold herself together. She lost her IT job, so is running the store Quilter Paradiso her mother left to her. Currently she rents a booth at the seventeenth annual Northern California Quilt Extravaganza. She is putting the store online thanks to an expensive program her mother bought a week before she died. Her sister-in-law Kym, who works at the store, sabotages her efforts wanting it done the old fashioned way and Dewey walks a way in a huff.

She runs into quilting celebrity Claire Armstrong who offers to buy the store from her. She needs time to think about it and then decides to go to Claire’s room to talk about it some more. Claire’s assistant Myra lets her in and they see Claire dead. She bled out from an accident with a yellow-handled rotary cutter. When the police arrive she is glad to see Detective Buster Healey is one of them because her friend makes he feel less like a suspect in what turns out to be a murder. A few days later, Dewey agrees to sell her store to Myra but another death occurs at a rehearsal for the Quilter’s fashion show. Again Dewey is made to look like the killer but she knows someone is setting up the evidence to make it look that way and she intends to find out who it is.

WILD GOOSE CHASE is a delightful cozy that gives readers an insider’s look at a quilting fair. The heroine is doing her best to hold it all together even before she became the prime suspect in two homicide investigations while wondering if she is doing the right thing by selling her mom’s heritage. The support cast acts realistic and the few eccentric amongst them add a touch of humor to the serious storyline. Terri Thayer creates an excellent amateur sleuth mystery in which the audience will believe a desperate Dewey follows the clues one stitch at a time.

Harriet Klausner

Thugs and Kisses-Sue Ann Jaffarian

Thugs and Kisses
Sue Ann Jaffarian
Midnight Ink, Feb 2008, $13.95, 336 pp.
ISBN: 9780738710891

Odelia Grey is a paralegal at Wallace, Boer, Brown, and Yates. Her immediate boss Michael Steele requested her and the partners thought she would be good for the hard to get along with anal-retentive obsessive attorney because she has patience and should be able to keep him grounded. They bribed her with a big pay raise and her own office.

Since her wheelchair bound lover Greg Steven is ill, she takes Detective Dev Frye as her date to her thirtieth high school reunion. While dancing with Dev, Danny Oliver is shot and killed. Everyone has a motive for killing him including Odelia and her friend Sally Kipman who lost custody of her son to him in an ugly court battle. While dealing with being a suspect, her boss Steele never returns from his mini vacation. His car is found at the airport, certain documents from a client are tampered with and he never showed up at the inn where he made reservations. Although it looks bad for Steele who some think broke the law and fled the country, Odelia knows he is too obsessed to do anything illegal. She and Sally team up to help each other locate Steele and find out who murdered Donny.

Ignoring the amateur sleuth investigating plausibility, THUGS AND KISSES is a very enjoyable reading experience. The whodunit and the missing person case are well thought out; run parallel to each other and the sequences smoothly change from one case to the other. The protagonist, a size twenty who is very comfortable with her body does what she believes is right because she has a strong sense of justice and loyalty. Obstinately she refuses to be swayed from the case by her lover, family or friends which sometime make for strained relations.

Harriet Klausner

Ghost of a Chance-Kate Marsh

Ghost of a Chance
Kate Marsh
Obsidian, Feb 2008, $6.99, 279 pp.
ISBN: 9780451223241

Karma Marx is an otherworldly being who is half polster and half human. She is faster than mortals, able to hide in the shadows, and is working off a punishment for accidentally killing her best friend as a young child because she didn’t know her own powers. She is a transmortis anomaly extermination which means she cleans the homes of otherworldly beings and usually ends up bringing them into her own home.

The Akashial League which oversees her punishment has her foster young polter child Pixie for a month; her husband Spider agrees to a divorce if she cleans up the Walsh home that night. When she arrives there she is met by her husband, his partner Meredith, Meredith’s wife Savannah who wants to make contact with the operational entities living in the house and Adam, another polter who believes the house still belongs to him. When Spider refuses to give it back, he creates a binding spell that prevents anyone from leaving the abode; he hopes to mediate the ownership of house with Spider but before he can do that, someone kills him. Adam, a Marshall in the mundane plane and an investigator in the otherworld, with the help of Karma investigates the homicide. They have twelve hours to find the culprit otherwise the case will be taken out of their hands.

Katie MacAlister writing as Kate Marsh pens a spellbinding and enchanting paranormal mystery populated by a horde of polters, a unicorn, a guardian and the imps who keeps following Karma home no matter where she puts them are hilarious. Although there are a lot of magical scenes, it is mundane investigative techniques that give the heroine a GHOST OF A CHANCE in solving this paranormal locked room whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Tales from Mistwillow- Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Tales from Mistwillow
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
RMFW Press, Sep 2007, $9.95
ISBN: 9780976022510

The theme behind this superb eleven tale anthology is the title town Mistwillow in Colorado at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The contributions vary from a ghost sending faxes to his descendents to solve a family mystery (“Jilly and the Ghost” by Sally Clark) to a ghost returning home in an urn a century after his parents died in an earthquake (“Return Me to Mistwillow” by Terry Wright) to an amusing “Mistwillow Crime Wave” by Suzanne Young in which a dedicated sheriff receives several confessions on a homicide.

Each tale is well written by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers with many being haunting such as the Iraq war vet who comes to “Amy’s World” by Cindi Myers or the serial killer who comes “Full Circle” from his childhood demons by Charlie Calloway. Others are grounded as the wife no longer accepts being a “Sparring Partner” by Jeff Shelby or the WWII home front drama of “Bingo” by Jedeane MacDonald in which a young woman leads amateurs fighting a fire on her first day as fire chief. Whether it is political rivalries Steve and Jennie opening a time capsule (“It’s About Time” by Janet Lane) or Addie learning “Death Lessons” at eight years old during WWI or Thomas adding a special ingredient to his “Kilning Spree” pottery (by Lauren Patten), all are fun to read. The anthology ranges from paranormal to suspense to mystery with no clinkers as readers will enjoy visiting the short stories that make up TALES FROM MISTWILLOW just like Amanda eventually does in “Mistwillow Day’s” by Liz Hills.

Harriet Klausner

Tales from Mistwillow- Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers

Tales from Mistwillow
Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers
RMFW Press, Sep 2007, $9.95
ISBN: 9780976022510

The theme behind this superb eleven tale anthology is the title town Mistwillow in Colorado at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. The contributions vary from a ghost sending faxes to his descendents to solve a family mystery (“Jilly and the Ghost” by Sally Clark) to a ghost returning home in an urn a century after his parents died in an earthquake (“Return Me to Mistwillow” by Terry Wright) to an amusing “Mistwillow Crime Wave” by Suzanne Young in which a dedicated sheriff receives several confessions on a homicide.

Each tale is well written by the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers with many being haunting such as the Iraq war vet who comes to “Amy’s World” by Cindi Myers or the serial killer who comes “Full Circle” from his childhood demons by Charlie Calloway. Others are grounded as the wife no longer accepts being a “Sparring Partner” by Jeff Shelby or the WWII home front drama of “Bingo” by Jedeane MacDonald in which a young woman leads amateurs fighting a fire on her first day as fire chief. Whether it is political rivalries Steve and Jennie opening a time capsule (“It’s About Time” by Janet Lane) or Addie learning “Death Lessons” at eight years old during WWI or Thomas adding a special ingredient to his “Kilning Spree” pottery (by Lauren Patten), all are fun to read. The anthology ranges from paranormal to suspense to mystery with no clinkers as readers will enjoy visiting the short stories that make up TALES FROM MISTWILLOW just like Amanda eventually does in “Mistwillow Day’s” by Liz Hills.

Harriet Klausner

Full Exposure-Diana Duncan

Full Exposure
Diana Duncan
Harlequin Mediterranean Nights, Jan 2008
ISBN: 9780373389674

After seven years working at the Pennsylvania University library, Ariana Bennett is placed on administrative furlough due to budget cuts; she knows better that her father’s fall from disgrace cost her job. As the FBI uses the Patriot Act to take everything including stories she wrote as a teen, Ariana vows to prove her dad, a Philadelphia museum curator is innocent of the charges that the Feds, media and her employer have already convicted him of; she only hopes she succeeds before he drops dead from the accusations.

She needs money, but the reason she takes a position on the cruise ship Alexandra's Dream is she hopes to find information on the smuggling of antiquities. However, her minor progress must have made someone nervous, as she is abducted. Her only hope to survive her ordeal resides with one of her kidnapers Dante Colangelo, who has kept the Philadelphian alive so far. She begins to wonder if she suffers from the Stockholm syndrome as she starts to fall in love with Dante; he hides his reciprocal feelings out of fear she could die if his allies learn the truth. However, a betrayal may cost both their lives.

FULL EXPOSURE is an exhilarating Mediterranean Nights that refreshes the series by taking much of the action off the cruise ship. The story line is action-packed and filled with twists, but owned by the lead couple whose relationship changes during the tale. Diana Duncan provides an enjoyable romantic suspense thriller that fans of the mini series and those of the sub-genre will fully appreciate.

Harriet Klausner

Moving Target-Lori A. May

Moving Target
Lori A. May
Silhouette Athena Force, Jan 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373389773

Oracle sends Richmond, Virginia based FBI profiler Athena Academy graduate Francesca “Chesca” Thorne to Boston seeking a link between Arachne and the Queen of Hearts; several people at the Athena Academy and at the FBI believe that they are the same person. Whether separate females or not, both are dangerous especially Arachne who loathes the Athena Academy and will do anything to destroy it.

Francesca makes some progress at Boston University, but finds her tires deliberately slashed. She calls in for back-up and Athena Academy Principal Christine Evans arranges for her great-nephew, Will Evans to act as her bodyguard. As Will and Chesca work together linking clues, an unknown adversary, most likely connected to either Arachne or the Queen of Hearts, seems to know much of what they are doing; making staying alive a top priority.

From the opening serial killer sequence in Baton Rouge to the final confrontation involving who is Delphi, MOVING TARGET is an exciting Athena Force tale. The story line moves the saga forward with several revelations especially a humongous one, but too many little events seemingly all over Beantown occur so that none become deeply illustrated. Still this is an entertaining entry that fans of the series will need to read as the revelations keep on coming.

Harriet Klausner

Stranger in Paradise-Robert B. Parker

Stranger in Paradise
Robert B. Parker
Putnam, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399154607

Apache hit man Wilson "Crow" Cromartie brazenly walks into the office of Paradise, Massachusetts Chief of Police Jesse Stone to ask the cop to make his latest consulting job easier. Jesse reminds Crow that a decade ago, he was part of a gang that executed a deadly heist on nearby affluent Stiles Island. Crow says he had nothing to do with the homicides as he was forced to flee on a speedboat from a dangerous shootout, which Jesse reminds him led to the death of two police officers.

Louis Francisco, reputed crime boss of South Florida, hired Crow because he knows the Paradise coast and has a reputation for success. He wants Crow to find his daughter and report back to his client for further instruction. Jesse says he will discuss an arrest with the ADA. After Crow leaves Jesse tells his staff that Crow freed the female hostages because he does not kill women, but when it comes to men, he is STONE COLD.

Crow informs Louis he found Amber living in poverty with her mother Fiona. Louis orders Crow to kill Fiona and bring Amber to him. Since he does not murder women, Crow brazenly tells Jesse to protect Fiona. The question for Jesse is whether Crow will abduct Amber to take her south; complicating matters is his ex wife TV reporter Jenn is involved as she investigates local teen gang activity.

Crow steals the show with his odd but fascinating morality that enables him to double cross clients as he did ten years ago, kill men in cold blood, steal from the dead, and not harm a woman. Jess is at his best when he reluctantly collaborates with Crow; he is at his worst when he begins to reconcile with Jenn; ignoring her sexual betrayals to further her career that turned him into an alcoholic, which in turn cost him his LAPD job. Time lines since LA and the Stiles Island caper aside, this is a solid thriller, but Robert B. Parker needs one more DEATH IN PARADISE so that Jess can stop obsessing over Jenn.

Harriet Klausner

Final Curtain-R. T. Jordan

Final Curtain
R. T. Jordan
Kensington, Feb 2008, $22.50
ISBN: 9780758212825

Not everyone can be a Hollywood legend while they are still alive, but Polly Pepper has managed to become one. The only thing missing in her long glorious career is that she never made it to Broadway, but now in her sixties the opportunity to fulfill her dream seems imminent. She is the title character in a revival of Mame at the Galaxy Theater in Glendale, California. If this proves successful the backers want to bring it to the Great White Way.

Rehearsals do not start very well when Polly arrives late on the first day. They go downhill by day two when director Karen Richards is killed with the murder weapon being the Emmy won by Mame co-star Sharon Fletcher. The police arrest Sharon, but Polly believes she is innocent even if witnesses claim Sharon was the person seen with the victim. In fact, Polly thinks Sharon’s role as a bad girl on the soap "It's Never Fair Weather" is part of the reason the cops look nowhere else as they mix up the character with the person. Polly quickly realizes that others in the production had strong motives to kill Karen. With the help of her son and her personal assistant, Polly investigates but almost joins Karen in the next life when she begins uncovering the true motive for the homicide.

In spite of Polly being a classic diva, readers will admire her spunk and adore her caring for others, which she displays all the time and leads her to make inquiries. The support cast including recurring characters from REMAINS TO BE SCENE like her homicide detective lover and her doting son turns FINAL CURTAIN into a delightful amateur sleuth tale. Although some will question why a sexagenarian with a twenty-seven room Bel Air mansion will risk her pampered life on an investigation instead of hiring a professional, fans will enjoy B.T. Jordan’s salute to the stars whodunit.

Harriet Klausner

As The World Churns-Tamar Myers

As The World Churns
Tamar Myers
Obsidian, Feb 2008, $21.95, 270 pp.
ISBN 9780451223029

The day Magdalena has always been waiting for has finally come and now she is six hours into her honeymoon with Gabe Rosen, a doctor from New York City who came to Hernia Holstein to get away from the pressure. Unfortunately, his possessive mother Ida calls them on their honeymoon. When the phone rings again Magdalena thinks it is Ida, but it turns out to the warden at the state penitentiary; he tells her a murderer escaped. He is the ex-chief of police of Hernia who targets her family.

The honeymoon ends abruptly because Magdalene wants to make sure her loved ones are protected and because she wants to make sure everything is ready for the guests who are coming in for the first Hernia Holstein competition. The originator of the contest Doctor Shador is beaten up and can’t remember who hurt him. Magdalena gets Gabe to judge the contest but soon after that he and Magdalena’s step-daughter Alison disappear. Magdalena rounds up a posse to find them.

AS THE WORLD CHURNS is as tasty as shoofly pie. This is a delightful mystery due to the characters, especially the secondary and recurring ones. Although “Monster-in-Law” is obviously not a new relationship concept, Ida as the mother in law from hell is Magdalena’s worst enemy as she came to town to find Gabe which results in keeping the storyline fresh. Tamar Myers has quite a few shocks in store for the reader. These surprises will change Magdalene’s thoughts about herself and everybody will not see the final surprise coming because the protagonist never thought it could happen.

Harriet Klausner

Resurrection: The Beginning-Patrice Michelle

Resurrection: The Beginning
Patrice Michelle
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617784

Humans believe that the vampire species became extinct when their food supply became contaminated; human blood had turned poisonous to the bloodsuckers. Thus Homo sapiens created and killed this “abomination” that no one misses.

That belief that vampires no longer exist except in literature and movies ends at least for debut author Ariel Swanson. Her vampire thriller The Vampire’s Return includes a forecasting that no human should know anything about; yet she writes about this legendary prophecy in graphic detail in her first novel as if she is an insider. Exiled vampire Jachin Black kidnaps the writer in order to use her as his ticket back out of the New York City slums and in to his group. He never expected to fall in love with his prisoner during their trek; she feels the same confusion that he does. Neither expected her fiction to be factual.

Patrice Michelle provides a wonderful vampire romantic suspense thriller. The fast-paced story line has an interesting twist that humans knew vampires once existed, but now believe they are extinct. Ariel’s novel turns out to be the impetus in what proves to be a cross species war. Fans will enjoy the RESURRECTION: THE BEGINNING as the night is filled with terror except in one home where love shines.

Harriet Klausner

Guardian's Keep-Lori Devoti

Guardian's Keep
Lori Devoti
Silhouette Nocturne, Jan 2008, $5.25
ISBN: 9780373617791

Witch Kelly Shane returns to the scene of her abduction and that of her best friend. Kelly got back because her beloved twin sister Kara risked her life and heart to help her make it back UNBOUND from the portal the hellhound shapeshifting kidnapper took her through; her pal did not. She wants answers and believes the guardian shapeshifter Kol Hildr has them as she holds him culpable for what happened to them.

Kol feels guilty that he failed to do his mission, but was caught unaware. He is attracted to the tyro witch who keeps coming around demanding answers from him that he refuses to provide. However, Kelly knows that the portal leads to species enslavement and trafficking including the sale of humans and humanoids. She wants to know why he would allow this though she kicks herself for wanting this hunk. However, as he tells her to go home every evening, this night is different when an assault on the portal occurs that he thinks she inadvertently caused. Teaming up to keep those wanting in out, they fall in love, but the Council he works for has no use for Kelly or a disobedient guardian.

This exciting romantic fantasy sequel will hook the audience from the onset as Lori Devoti enthralls her devoted fans with a terrific thriller. The action never slows down once the portal is breeched whereas the relationship between the guardian and the witch is enchanting as both know it is wrong. Although this can be read as a solo, perusing UNBOUND first enhances this experience as the whole is greater than the sum of the wonderful twin parts.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, November 23, 2007

Tempted-Megan Hart

Megan Hart
Harlequin Spice, Feb 2008, $13.95
ISBN: 9780373605194

In Sandusky six years into what outsiders believe is the perfect marriage without knowing that Anne and James Kinney still share great sex; the only negative is his mother demanding an infant for the rest of the gang to play with. Now James’ best friend from his junior high school days Alex Kennedy is coming back to the states after spending time in Singapore and elsewhere. Without a second “f”ing” thought to his wife, James invites Alex to spend the summer with them.

Anne has never met the infamous affluent Alex, but she expects not to like the world traveler. Instead to her shock and chagrin, she is attracted to her spouse’s buddy and him to her. Adding to her confusion is that James seems to encourage them. Soon an acceptable triangle forms with the thought in the back of the heads of the threesome being that Alex would soon move on to his next venture so let’s live for today. However, Anne finds herself further mixed up when she realizes she loves both her sex buddies.

The three lovers come across as genuine especially when the two males use DIRTY language with every other word spoken between them and more so with the bewildered heroine. She knows that her entire universe for moments is the hardened penis of her respective sex partner until the supernova orgasm occurs. Erotica romance fans will appreciate this complex tale as Anne is more than TEMPTED by Alex while her marriage to James is not yet BROKEN, but no longer perfect.

Harriet Klausner

Knave’s Honor-Margaret Moore

Knave’s Honor
Margaret Moore
Harlequin HQN, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373772452

In 1204 Lady Elizabeth d'Averette travels through the Midlands to her home in Kent. When her party is attacked by an organized gang, Irishman Sir Oliver de Leslille rescues her. He offers to escort Elizabeth and retinue to a nearby nunnery.

Lizette is in awe of her hero until she learns Sir Oliver is Finn, a low life thief who steals from women their jewelry and kisses. Finn knows he must rescue his brother, incarcerated by Lord Wimarc, but has no reasonable plan as to accomplishing his mission. Apparently, Lord Wimac’s men were the ones who attacked Elizabeth’s party. When she learns of the plight of Finn’s sibling, she offers her help in a dangerous ploy. They masquerade as a newly married couple to gain entrance into Wimac’s stronghold so as to free his brother and learn why the villain wants to abduct Lizette.

Medieval romance fans will not be shocked to find out that Margaret Moore’s latest historical KNAVE’S HONOR is a wonderful tale. The exciting story line contains two strong protagonists with Finn being a unique fascinating knave. The villain is over the top of meanness leading to fans rooting even more for Lady Elizabeth and Finn the thief to defeat Wimac. Their falling in love while fighting against the odds make Ms. Moore’s marvelous medieval must reading for the sub-genre audience.

Harriet Klausner

Accidentally Yours-Susan Mallory

Accidentally Yours
Susan Mallory
Harlequin HQN, Jan 2008, $6.99
ISBN: 9780373772056

In Seattle, single mom Kerri Sullivan knows she is running out of time for her nine year old son Cody is slowly dying from Gilliar’s Disease. Her only hope to save her offspring is the mercy and money of Nathan King, whose son died of that illness six years ago as researcher Dr. Abram Wallace was on the verge of a breakthrough in his lab before the fire destroyed his workplace. She has taken work at the Grill where King eats although she knows the rumors that he lost his heart when his son died. She confronts him when he comes for lunch and he tells her to leave; she is fired and escorted out with no success at obtaining his financial backing of Wallace.

Based on a tip from his chauffeur Tim, her new plan is to pretend to the media that King cares and is putting up the money. Nathan fumes as he prefers controlling his publicity, but has little choice if he does not want the wrath of motherhood that could impact business. However, though feeling trapped he has a price to charge this ferocious single mom.

This is five tissue box tear jerker that will leave the audience weeping throughout hoping for a miracle. The underlying theme is medical miracles need funding to help achieve them. Readers will admire the lead female character as she refuses to give up while much of the support cast like Abram’s long time assistant Linda and the townsfolk of Songwood believe in him. With a strong caring support cast, fans will answer Al Michaels’ “Do you believe in miracles?” in the affirmative when Susan Mallory is the inspirer.

Harriet Klausner

The Shanghai Tunnel-Sharan Newman

The Shanghai Tunnel
Sharan Newman
Forge, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN: 978-0765313003

In 1867 Horace Stratton decides to return home to Portland after a very successful business trip in Shanghai. Accompanied by his wife Emily and their teenage son Robert they reach San Francisco in January 1868; only Horace dies there. The dutiful daughter of missionaries, feeling some guilt for she knows she never lived up to her husband’s expectations, Emily and Robert bring Horace’s body home to be buried in Portland.

The surviving Strattons plan to live in Horace’s hometown; not aware of how rough and tumble of a place it is in spite of leading citizens hoping to turn it into the San Francisco of the northwest. However, the widow and her son are not welcomed by Portland’s elitists especially those who partnered with Horace. They are ignorant as to how much she really knows and understands about her late husband’s unethical and mostly illegal activities; and her plans to learn what she does not know. Still they will not take chances and plot to drive her and her son out of town; if they fail to run her out then they will bury her next to her deceased husband.

THE SHANGHAI TUNNEL (in an afterward Sharan Newman explains that the tunnels exist under Portland’s streets) is an enjoyable and riveting historical amateur sleuth tale that brings alive Reconstruction Era Portland, which obviously has come a long way from its salad days. The Oregonians are a deep support cast, but the story line totally belongs to the courageous widow as she surprises everyone including her self with her grit by refusing to leave. Horace must be turning in his grave witnessing what he never saw in his wife; as the mouse roars. Ms. Newman begins her new historical saga (see Catherine LeVenduer historical mysteries) with a winning mid nineteenth century thriller.

Harriet Klausner

L.A. Outlaws-T. Jefferson Parker

L.A. Outlaws
T. Jefferson Parker
Dutton, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780525950554

In Los Angeles a woman claims to be Allison Murrieta, a descendant of the legendary some say notorious nineteenth century robber. Allison insists her relative was Robin Hood of the Wild West while his victims over a century ago insisted he was a cold-blooded killer. Allison emulates her ancestor by wearing a mask to hide her real identity of eighth-grade history teacher and mother of three boys, Suzanne Jones, when she robs from those she dubs as avaricious; giving part of her loot to charity.

A media and public darling who doe not want her secret identity exposed; her latest caper is to steal diamonds from Bull, a known criminal. This time however, she gets more than she wants when she observes Bull’s prime killer Lupercio cold bloodedly murder gangland-style his boss’ enemies. As she tries to flee the crime scene serendipitously, L.A. sheriff's deputy Charles Hood catches her and demands she testify that she witnessed Lupercio’s murdering spree at the same time Bull wants his diamonds returned to him so he sends his top gun to retrieve them anyway he can.

This is an exciting single sitting read that grips the audience from Allison’s first heist until the final confrontation when the thug, the cop, the media, and the heroine come together. The cast is deep and powerful enhancing a strong plot that will have readers rooting for this modern day female Robin Hood as she moonlights by robbing from greedy bullheaded hoodlums while teaching American History in the daytime.

Harriet Klausner

Wash and Die-Barbara Colley

Wash and Die
Barbara Colley
Kensington, Feb 2008, $22.00
ISBN: 9780758222510

In New Orleans, Charlotte LaRue, owner of Maid for a Day, is unhappy to return home after a hard day of cleaning to see Joyce Thibodeaux waiting for her on her porch. With no place to stay, Joyce, formerly married to Charlotte's tenant Louis Thibodeaux and just out of rehab, begs her to let her stay here for a few days. Against her better judgment as Charlotte knows that Joyce is a lying con artist, she realizes she can not let the woman sleep on the street.

Their arrangement fails to work out as Joyce may be a guest but she keeps her room looking like a pig sty, lies about why a San Francisco inspector wants to speak with her, and steals the gold watch Charlotte inherited from her father. After tossing out Joyce, Charlotte tries to recover the watch that the woman hocked, but the pawn shop proprietor rejects her plea. Frustrated, Charlotte comes home to find her house trashed from an obvious search, Joyce shot to death amidst the mess, her parakeet Sweety Boy gone. Charlotte and Louis discuss possible suspects before she begins her investigation to find her missing bird and a killer. Her snooping almost gets her killed twice by different people who want the dirt to remain unclean.

Readers will admire the sexagenarian business owner who is determined to cleanse her name from the mud that it recently took as much as she also wants her beloved bird back. Yet with her cleaning enterprise, an amateur sleuth investigation and much more, Charlotte welcomes her newborn twin grandchildren with love and tenderness. She is the role model that insists the sixties today are the forties of yesterday. Readers will enjoy this fine thinking person’s cozy as Charlotte escorts the audience around New Orleans in search of cleaning up a murder.

Harriet Klausner

Renegade’s Magic-Robin Hobb

Renegade’s Magic
Robin Hobb
Eos, Feb 2008, $25.95
ISBN 9780060757649

His lover, Lisana enabled Gernian soldier Nevare Burvelle to escape incarceration when she split his soul enabling him to become a Speck mage Soldier’s Boy. However as a nasty by-product, two personalities conflict over who controls the host body.

His Soldier’s Boy’s mage skills lead Nevare to try to destroy the Gernian road that has begun to devastate the Specks’ woodlands. His failed efforts leave him near death, but Speck female Olikea uses her healing skills to save his life as is her duty. As he recovers he finds his two sides in conflict as each has a demand. Nevare knows that he must prevent the Gernia from demolishing the Specks’ forest while at the same time he also must stop the Specks from distributing their deadly plague that has slaughtered the Gernians. He begins to believe that to succeed he must unite his warring split personalities.

The final Soldier Son tale (see FOREST MAGE and SHAMAN’S CROSSING) is an entertaining fantasy that looks deep at the issue of development vs. environment. The story line is fun to follow although the pace at times is turtle like especially when the complicated Hobbs magical structure is logically but boringly elucidated (only a fool would read this entry before the previous two books). Still this is a fine trilogy that showcases the importance of finding win-win solutions to complex social issues as the two sides seem to only employ lose-lose methods.

Harriet Klausner

Inside Straight-George R.R. Martin (Editor)

Inside Straight
George R.R. Martin (Editor)
Tor, Feb 2008, $24.95
ISBN 9780765317810

Although his grandfather will never forgive him as he was part of the age of chivalry before JFK and Jetboy died; Jonathan Hive and twenty-seven extraordinary marvelous superheroes (that word is used loosely) sign onto a survivor reality TV show. In actuality, the chosen 28 have never been heroic, but each has a superhuman skill. These “aces” will initially belong to one of four “suits” while competing in staged contests as only LA-LA land could dream up with losers voted off the show until the greatest American Hero is left standing.

However, as the weeks go by those left standing are stunned by appalling sickening events in the Middle East. There inane games look pathetic when compared to those without superpowers risking their lives. Stunningly several including Jonathan whose grandfather is probably smiling, leave the set to become real American Heroes not just Hollywood Heroes even knowing they may die in their endeavor.

The latest round of the Wild Cards thrillers starts a new saga in which several authors (
Daniel Abraham, Melinda M. Snodgrass, Carrie Vaughan, Michael Cassutt, Caroline Spector, John Jos. Miller, George R. R. Martin, Ian Tregillis and S. L. Farrell) contribute. The well written tale reads smooth (a trademark of the previous entries) in spite of the numerous contributors while satirizing reality TV and world affairs. INSIDE STRAIGHT entertains the audience but also asks readers to ponder two key points. First who is a hero reminds us of Charles Barkley’s "I am not a role model. Parents should be the role models”; in this case soldiers are the heroes. Second that with great power comes greater responsibly beyond “Bring em on” bravado from a safe house or Hollywood set. This is an excellent exciting and thought provoking royal flush as the whole is greater than the individual sums.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black: And Other Stories-Nadine Gordimer

Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black: And Other Stories
Nadine Gordimer
FSG, Nov 27 2007, $21.00
ISBN: 9780374109820

This thirteen short story anthology focuses on the theme of how people identify themselves; more from a need to belong today than from heritage and family history especially if the backdrop is horrific like the Holocaust; as the past vanishes like an “etchosketch”. Each of the fascinating entries will leave the audience pondering what it means to be a third generation living in a “foreign” land that is home in every connotation; even if it is the same land your ancestors occupied. What occurred to one’s ancestors in the mother country a few generations ago only matters if the present makes it matter as roots are irrelevant unless today’s descendents make it otherwise. All the contributions are well written and adhere to the basic concept. The most mesmerizing is “Alternate Ending” in which Nadine Gordimer tells the same tale from the “First Sense”, “Second Sense” and “Third Sense”; perspective is everything. The title track is also terrific as a Londoner goes to Kimberly, South Africa pondering who he is related to as race is irrelevant. This is a thought provoking winner as never forget atrocities may be significant, but the present conditions rule.

Harriet Klausner

Memories Are Murder-Lou Allin

Memories Are Murder
Lou Allin
Napoleon & Company: Rendezvous Crime
ISBN: 9781894917339

Northern Ontario realtor Belle Palmer rents a place to her former boyfriend (from when they attended Scarborough Collegiate Institute in Toronto) field research zoologist Gary Myers, who is studying the adaptability of elk recently released in the wilderness. The Brock University professor apologizes for using her as his “beard” back in school when they dated fourteen times and he failed to kiss her until she forced the issue on event ten.

When his “secret” partner murder-mystery author Malcolm “Mutt” Malloy arrives to join Gary, he cannot find him. Mutt and Belle look for Gary only to locate him dead having apparently drowned near his research camp. Mutt and Belle organize Gary’s notes only to conclude key items are missing; the cottage he rented from Belle had been broken into and his camera and laptop stolen. Soon afterward, Mutt is almost killed by carbon monoxide poisoning and someone tries to murder Belle. After finding an article Gary had on poisoning, Belle returns to the spot where she and Mutt found his corpse only to flee into the wilderness to escape from a killer.

The latest exciting Belle Palmer amateur sleuth (see NORTHERN WINTERS ARE MURDER, BLACKFLIES ARE MURDER and MURDER, EH?) is an entertaining Northern Ontario whodunit. The heroine has no plans to interfere with the police investigation into the death of Gary, but she and Mutt become embroiled by simply trying to dot he right thing with the late professor’s notes. Readers will appreciate the wild a long way from Toronto and not just in kilometers, but the murder mystery belongs to the brave realtor and her new partner as innocence is no excuse when someone wants you dead.

Harriet Klausner

Desert Cut-Betty Webb

Desert Cut
Betty Webb
Poisoned Pen, Feb 2008,
ISBN 9781590584910

Private investigator Lena Jones and Oscar-winning documentary director Warren Quinn seek locations for the latter to film late nineteenth century Apache Wars. To their horror, they find a mutilated corpse of a small child that the Cochise County medical examiner sadly calls “Precious Doe”. Lena, who suffered child abuse from the foster homes she grew up in, takes it personally as this angel could not have been more than seven years old; she vows to find justice for the child.

Her investigation takes Lena to the nearby town of Los Perdidos where the descendents of the founders are armed for war against illegal aliens coming in from Mexico just like their ancestors were fighting Geronimo. As Lena keeps digging angering the generational locals although supported by legal immigrants working at a nearby plant, two more young girls vanish. Lena refuses to quit, but the more she learns the more confused she becomes as she starts to believe there is a conspiracy that crosses racial and religious lines to keep females subservient or worse; but the disappearances make no sense as they seem deliberate.

As Lena continues to uncover more about her infant abandonment, fans of the Desert saga (see DESERT NOIR, DESERT WIVES, DESERT SHADOWS and DESERT RUN) will enjoy her latest thriller that takes a fascinating spin on Southwest immigration. The story line is driven by the heroine who seeks to insure the young are safe unlike her own past. Interestingly, being a legal immigrant with documentation means nothing when corrupted power needs a fall guy because immigration has become tied to 9/11 (as if it was illegal Mexicans who hijacked the four planes). Betty Webb provides another strong whodunit with her usual thought provoking underlying social message that America is only as strong as our weakest.

Harriet Klausner

The Vagabond Virgins-Ken Kuhlken

The Vagabond Virgins
Ken Kuhlken
Poisoned Pen Press, Feb 2008
ISBN 9781590584613

Lupe Garcia travels to rural areas claiming to be a virgin angel in 1979 Baja Mexico. She quotes scripture and pleads with children to tell their parents to vote against the corrupt tyrannical Partido Revolucionario Institucional (PRI) in the upcoming election.

Lupe’s younger sister Lourdes fears that the PCI will kill her sibling, whom she has not seen since their father threw Lupe out of their home years ago. She needs to warn Lupe that the PRI is seeking Lupe to prevent her from causing them problems. To find her sister she hires law student and private investigator Alvaro Hickey because she heard he is not afraid to break the rules. He thinks his client is the VAGABOND VIRGIN angel and she has no sibling; he also wonders if she killed her father as the PRI suspect as she took gold bricks worth a fortune. Now the PRI, her brother and much of Mexico search for the sleuth and the younger sister while the duo searches for the older female sibling, who has been captured by the PRI.

The latest Hickey Family thriller (see The Angel Gang for one of dad’s tales and The Do-Re-Mi for the son’s first solo) is a superb look at the immigration issue circa 1979 (pre Reagan “amnesty” and no nebulous link to 9/11 to obfuscate the issue). Violence and corruption at the California-Mexico border makes for a dangerous MZ yet that stays in the background as the fast-paced story line contains deep characterizations, a trademark of Ken Kuhlken’s Hickey historicals. This powerful exciting drama will leave the audience thinking beyond the inane sound bite solutions of politicians and extremists to ponder how to realistically deal with a complex issue with ramifications hitting all aspects of society.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Mousse-Melinda Wells

Killer Mousse
Melinda Wells
Berkley, Feb 2008, $7.99
ISBN: 9780425219812

In Santa Monica, California Della Carmichael accepts the offer from the better Living Channel to host a cooking show In the Kitchen with Della so that she can pay the rent on her cooking school studio. However, one hour before she is to make her live appearance on the air debut, the previous Cooking Diva Mimi Bond verbally assaults her; accusing her of sleeping with Mickey Jordan as that would be the only reason he gave her Mimi’s show. Trying to remain calm, Della insists she only met Mickey four times and his wife was with him each time. She keeps to herself that the rumor Mimi was fired was too much 100 proof sauce in her sauce. To her chagrin Mimi takes Della’s famous KILLING MOUSSE and claims it is terrible before falling down to her death. From the audience the woman sitting next to Mimi shouts “You killed my mother”.

Police Detective Hall leads the investigation in which all the evidence points towards Della. The mousse, which had been in the nearby refrigerator for a few hours, contains two ingredients that Della claims she did not use: Intesteral the chocolate laxative and peanuts, which Mimi is deathly allergic too. Realizing at a minimum her career is ruined and at maximum face an official accusation of first degree murder, Della investigates starting with how Mimi who could not boil water became the COOKING DIVA.

This is an interesting culinary amateur sleuth as the heroine cook has a genuine reason to find the real culprit; she recognizes she is a bumbling amateur but cannot afford a professional. Della keeps the plot fresh with her inquiry as she uses her cooking process to guide the steps she takes. Readers will enjoy the recipes provided by Della, the support cast and some guests (Barbara Rush and her sister Ramona Hennessy) ranging from the title dessert to “Gangster Chicken Cacciatore”, and “Funeral Salad” (by guest Regina Cocanougher).