Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday-Danielle Steel

Happy Birthday
Danielle Steel
Delacorte, Jul 19 2011, $28.00
ISBN: 9780385340304

Valerie Wyatt is the leader of home decoration. She has a popular television show and several bestselling books. Everyone in the media wants her as a guest or interviewee.

Her daughter April works as diligently as her mom. April is a master chef and owner of a popular trendy Manhattan restaurant. She is pregnant carrying Mike Steinman’s child, but is unsure whether to tell her lover or not. Besides the successful pair working extremely hard, they share in common the encroachment of an undesirable milestone birthday.

Jack Adams is a former NFL quarterback but retired a dozen years ago to become a diligent successful TV sports analyst. Women still want him, but as he turns fifty he feels his age after a night like none before leaves him in pain as if blindsided by a middle linebacker. He and Valerie meet and are attracted to one another.

Happy Birthday is an entertaining contemporary romance that fans of Danielle Steele will enjoy due to the two couples who garner reader empathy especially aging boomers. Although the story line is thin, readers will relish the birthday presents as two pairs of relationships are forged, but surviving in tact for the next milestone birthday remains to be seen as each person’s idiosyncrasies places some doubts on this occurring.

Harriet Klausner

The Traitor's Emblem-Juan Gomez-Jurado

The Traitor's Emblem
Juan Gomez-Jurado
Atria, Jul 19 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9781439198780

In 1919 Munich, fifteen years old Alys Tannenbaum is the daughter of a wealthy Jewish businessman. Her parents keep a close watch over her. At a birthday party for insufferable aristocratic Jurgen von Schroeder, Alys meets Paul Reiner, the poor cousin of the guest of honor; Paul is working as a waiter at the gala. Repugnant Jurgen makes Alys dance with him, but when she asks him to let her go he refuses. Paul, who is Aly’s age, rescues her.

Raging at the pauper’s affront, Jurgen and several punks assault Paul. This brawl encourages Paul, who already wanted to know what happened to his naval captain father whose death is allegedly tied to Jurgen’s family, to seek the truth. As Jurgen joins the Nazis, he remains steadfast with his obsession to break his relative while Paul remains obsessed with learning what happened to his dad even at the cost of losing his beloved Alys.

This is an enjoyable between the World Wars in Germany romantic thriller though the story line follows a seemingly inevitable path of destructions. The cousins loathe each other so much that nothing else matters; their perspective over the Brandenburg Gate obsessive compulsive disorder will have readers wondering about nature over nurture. Although the story line is very thin and obvious, fans will enjoy the epic look at an expanded family who during a time of relative peace in Europe are at war with each other.

Harriet Klausner

Inspector Singh Investigates: Bali Conspiracy Most Foul-Shamini Flint

Inspector Singh Investigates: Bali Conspiracy Most Foul
Shamini Flint
Minotaur, Jul 19 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780312596989

A bomb explodes in Bali. Singapore police supervisors see this as an opportunity to get Inspector Singh a Sikh out of their hair as they did with A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder case; though he has a strong record of solving cases. This time they ship him to Bali to assist the locals with their antiterrorism efforts.

Though he wonders if it is because he is a Sikh, Singh is confused by his being assigned to antiterrorism as his expertise is homicide. Richard Crouch’s corpse with a bullet is found amongst the ruins. Singh and Australian Detective Bronwyn Taylor, also being stonewalled by her superiors, team up on the case in which he brings his homicide investigation skills and she her Indonesian language and cultural awareness expertise.

Although conceptually similar to Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder, as the detective is “exiled” to another country, the freshness comes with the new set of cultural clashes. The protagonist, the Australian sidekick cop, the locals and the expatriates bring diverse backgrounds that Shamini Flint explores without fingering any as inferior. The whodunit is entertaining with a stunning climax and coda as Singh takes Bali just like he did Malaysia.

Harriet Klausner

The Herring In The Library-L. C. Tyler

The Herring In The Library
L. C. Tyler
Felony & Mayhem, Jun 16 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781934609767

In Findon, West Sussex, England third level list mystery writer (under two aliases) and romance author under another name) Ethelred Tressider runs into university pal Sir Rob "Shagger" Muntham. After a brief chat, Shagger invites Ethelred and his agent Elsie Thirkettle to a dinner party at Muntham Court. They agree to attend the gala.

As soon as they arrive, Elise makes it clear to her client that they are to sit near the exit so they can gracefully leave. From the moment they step inside Shagger’s young wife tense Annabelle outrageously flirts with Ethelred in front of everyone. However before they can flee into the night, someone strangles Shagger inside the locked library. Annabelle demands Ethelred investigate. Being chivalrous, he agrees but Elsie refuses to leave alone with the not so grieving widow and the snooty crowd he investigates.

The latest ET to the second power amateur sleuth (see The Herring Seller's Apprentice and Ten Little Herrings) is a wonderful locked-room mystery that has a throwback feel to the Agatha Christie country house whodunits (see Endless Night, And Then There Was None and Peril at End House) though in a contemporary time. The fun is the interplay between the perfect English gentleman and his in your face agent who insists if he worked diligently and applied his talent he could attain a level two. Readers will enjoy the antics of this pair has they investigate the murder of Sir Shagger.

Harriet Klausner

Flowers for Her Grave-Judy Clemens

Flowers for Her Grave
Judy Clemens
Poisoned Pen, Aug 2 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781590589205

Casey Maldonado struggles with the deaths of her husband and son but has no time to grieve as she fled Ohio where her family died to avoid a murder charge. She is back on lam with her companion L'Ankou the Grim Reaper as they flee Kansas by box car after a fight left her with injuries.

She changes her identity to Daisy Gray, fitness trainer in Raceda, Florida. However a change in name and location fails to keep Casey out of trouble. She finds a woman, who was obviously assaulted and bleeding to death in the locker area. Casey tries to save the woman’s life but fails. Death tells her is time to flee, but feeling guilt for being too slow, Casey as Daisy decides to investigate; ignoring L'Ankou’s warning to run before the cops look into who she is.

The third Grim Reaper thriller (see Embrace the Grim Reaper and The Grim Reaper’s Dance) is a whimsical whodunit as readers will agree with death that is time to get out of Dodge, but Casey knows there are moments when you cannot run away from your problems. Filled with humor mostly due to the relationship between Death and Casey as most people think she is a lunatic arguing with herself since they cannot see or hear the grim Reaper. Series fans will enjoy Flowers for Her Grave as Judy Clemens showcases human travesties as seen through the eyes of Death.

Harriet Klausner

My Lunatic Life-Sharon Sala

My Lunatic Life
Sharon Sala
Bell Bridge, Jul 25 2011
ISBN: 9781461087717

In their latest move, high school senior Tara Luna and her Uncle Pat move to Stillwater, Oklahoma. They are accompanied as always by two ghosts (Millicent and Henry) that she sees and talks with but her only living relative cannot. Although she would prefer settling in one place Tara loves her eccentric uncle who took her in before her first birthday when her parents died in an accident.

At school Tara is called the “Lunatic” by everyone but Flynn O’Mara who calls her “Moon Girl”. They start dating. While in a classroom, Tara’s psychic skills erupt as a boy is dying in the bathroom. She leads the teachers and coach to the spot where Corey Palmer suffers a seizure and dies. When Corey’s spirit asks her if he is dead, she says yes, but tells him to return to his body if he desires, which he does. His GF Nikki makes Lunatic one of her BFFs. Someone abducts head cheerleader Bethany Fanning who was one of the trio that treated Tara with disdain. While a ghost buried in the backyard of their new home pleads with her to find her body and her killer, Tara and Flynn try to rescue Bethany.

OMG, Book one of the Lunatic Life young adult series is a fun teenage Ghost Whisper (and more psychic skills) amateur sleuth. Tara is a wonderful lead character who holds the entertaining story line together. The cast is solid (that is figuratively as there are two prime ghosts and other hauntings) although the cheerleaders trio and the jock are too stereotypical. My Lunatic Life is a delightful tale that combines the heroine’s adjustment as the newbie at the high school with her investigating paranormal scenarios.

Harriet Klausner

The Light of Epertase-Douglas R. Brown

The Light of Epertase
Douglas R. Brown
Rhemalda, Aug 1 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9781936850105

In Matthew 1012, Epertase warrior Rasi is filled with regret and sorrow for the atrocities he committed under the guise of war though he tries to rationalize he was only following orders of his commander Prince Elijah. Epertase desperately conceals from his pregnant wife his despair and guilt he feels from his combat experience.

Rasi joins a celebration honoring Prince Elijah as the Light of Epertase shines on him. When he feels he can properly leave the coronation, Rasi heads home. He intercedes in an attempted rape but the hooligans kill the women. Authorities blame Rasi for the homicide and cut out his tongue and dump him into a pit to fight the rashta; shockingly he kills the beast. However the tentacles from the rashta discharge into his back. Over the next seven years he hides in the shadows until five years ago a woman began traveling with him.

The Teks invade Epertase and Lithia to take the oil they need to run their machines. Their superior firepower leads to many massacres. Although few know it in beleaguered Epertase, Rasi is the only hope but that is contingent on Princess Alina replacing her corrupt father King Elijah on the throne. Others prefer sacrificing the royal daughter to the Light of Epertase.

This action-packed military fantasy is a strong tale that hooks the audience from the onset and never loosens that grip until the final confrontation. The Epertase world is established on solid footing in the first few chapters; once the foundation is anchored, the story line turns into an extremely fast-paced read. Though the plot goes down the path readers will expect Douglas R. Brown provides an entertaining gripping thriller that is difficult to put down.

Harriet Klausner

Water to Burn-Katherine Kerr

Water to Burn
Katherine Kerr
Daw, Aug 2 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780756406912

In San Francisco psychic Nola O’Grady works for a top secret government agency so secret the CIA never heard of them. She runs the Apocalypse squad whose mission is to support Harmony in the combat with Chaos across the multi-earths. Her staff consists of two stringers and a bodyguard spying for the Israelis. Having been successful in her last endeavor against the Chaos Masters (see License to Ensorcell), Nola and her bodyguard Israeli and Interpol agent Ari Nathan understand that was just one battle in a great war that crosses dimensions.

She is proven right starting with a strange wave coming out of nowhere that drowns a tweener child. The Prophet Reb Ezekiel, who ran the Kibbutz where Nola grew up, has been seen stalking the city; the problem with the sightings is Reb Zeke is supposed to be dead. On top of this on the personal front someone seems to be blackmailing Nola’s brother-in-law. To Nola none of these events connect until she finds the core is the enigmatic Peacock Angel cult.

With a nod to DC comics Infinite Earths (before the “Crisis” and subsequent reinventions) Water to Burn is a terrific urban science fiction with fantasy and police procedural elements. The story line is loaded with action as Nola and Ari investigate strange phenomena in a world where other worlds collide and cultural anthology is the most important socials science (wonder what personality type some of these others would turn up under Myers-Briggs). Nola is a great protagonist holding the story line focused. However, the key is the Katherine Kerr universe that readers will enjoy exploring as long as the heroine and her bodyguard provide protection.

Harriet Klausner

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou -Steve Duno

Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou
Steve Duno
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jun 22 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312600495

In 1989 in Mendocino County, California, Steve Duno and Nancy Banks saw the wild Rottweiler puppies who were obviously the offspring of marijuana farm guard dogs. Out of the pack of feral canines came one dog who decided to change his life. Steve was prepared to leave the pup at the side of the road, but Nancy interceded. They took Lou as they named him with them. However, on that day in 1989 Steve was unprepared for how much Lou changed his life and that of so many others, dogs and humans alike. Starting with the Alzheimer’s elderly woman and next the yarn of the thread, Lou quickly won over the senior citizens. For sixteen years Steve and Lou were BFFs. With a nod to John Grogan's Marley and Me, Last Dog on the Hill: The Extraordinary Life of Lou is a fascinating memoir that explores the special bond between a dog and their owner. Well written and filled with pathos and humor, as Steve understands he was Indian Jones’ sidekick; who leaves animal lovers musing that Lou’s writing his memoir First Human Chosen: The Extraordinary Life of My Pet Steve.

Harriet Klausner

Burnt Mountain-Anne Rivers Siddons

Burnt Mountain
Anne Rivers Siddons
Grand Central, Jul 19 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780446527897

In Atlanta, seventeen year old Thayer Wentworth is pregnant, but prenatal tests show that her unborn is severely malformed. Though she is heartbroken, she chooses an abortion. Thayer goes on to college where she meets and is attracted to extroverted storyteller Dr. Aengus O'Neill. They marry.

When Thayer's affluent grandmother dies, she inherits her incredible Atlanta home not far from Burnt Mountain’s Camp Edgewood where her father died in a car accident. She and Aengus take up residence in the luxurious mansion. However, he begins to recall upsetting memories from his childhood in Ireland that disturbs Thayer who fears her husband is losing his mind. At the same time she looks into has past at her mom and her first love Nick Abrams who broke her heart at Camp Sherwood Forest in North Carolina.

Burnt Mountain is an entertaining southern drama that fans of the author will enjoy. Thayer is an intriguing individual facing relationship issues. The story line is at its best when the focus is entirely on the heroine’s inner turmoil although too many subplots are left dangling. Still she has decisions to make even if happenchance assists her on the most critical. Although not Anne Rivers Siddons’s best work, readers will still appreciate touring the North Carolina Mountains with Thayer as their guide.

Harriet Klausner

Redeeming Love-Francine Rivers

Redeeming Love
Francine Rivers
Multnomah, May 9 2005, $14.99
ISBN: 9781590525135

In 1835 eight year old Sarah became an orphan when mama died; she was sold into sexual slavery to an affluent citizen the Big Man who preferred little girls. He changed her name to Angel, but by the time she could escape she only know how to use her body to make a living.

In 1850 the prostitute arrives in California where she joins the stable of the infamous Duchess. Each night she is auctioned to the highest bidder as the most popular Cyprian. Michael Hosea the farmer heeds God’s words to redeem the whore. He spends his money to talk to Angel in hopes of persuading her to give up hooking. At first he fails on his mission, but Angel begins to slowly find self esteem and basks in God’s unconditional love that has her believing she can be more than a hooker.

This is reprint of a groundbreaking inspirational historical romance that uses real issues of pedophile, other depravities and prostitution to tell the heroine’s story of redemption. Angel makes the tale work as she is sold into prostitution but at the first opportunity becomes her own woman so she sets the foundation for her later belief in God and the love of Hosea. Although her repetitive running to and from Hosea makes sense for this doubting Thomasina soiled dove, these reiterations slow down the pace. Still, based on the Prophet Hosea’s relationship with Gomer the prostitute who God had him marry and show unconditional love for her even if she sleeps with other men, Redeeming Love remains an entertaining tale of the healing power of the Lord encouraging love.

Harriet Klausner

Killed at the Whim of a Hat-Colin Cotterill

Killed at the Whim of a Hat
Colin Cotterill
Minotaur, Jul 19 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312564537

Thirtyish Jimm Juree feels euphoric that the Chiang Mai Daily Mail is about to make her the second female senior crime reporter in Thailand. However, her mother destroys her professional dreams when she sells the family home and business without warning. The matriarch moves the extended family which includes Jimm’s retired cop Granddad, her body builder younger brother and her transgendered beauty pageant queen former older brother from the north to the south to Chumphon Province none of them has heard of. The journalist fears her mom might be going senile.

All is not lost when two skeletons of hippies are found buried inside an interred Volkswagen van. Soon after the farmer Mel Phumihan found the gruesome remains, someone brutally kills a Buddhist abbot with a monk and a nun the only viable suspects. Granddad mentors Jimm on investigations as she learns to dig beyond the surface layer of dirt.

Though he switches generations and locale from Laotian coroner Dr. Siri Paiboun (one could argue Granddad is the equivalent to Paiboun) to thirtyish Juree in Thailand, Colin Cotterill provides an engaging investigative tale that shines an intelligent spotlight on the country. Jimm and Granddad are a wonderful team as he teaches her how to conduct a proper inquiry. Readers will enjoy Mr. Cotterill’s exciting investigation that is a family affair.

Harriet Klausner

Ringer-Brian M Wiprud

Brian M Wiprud
Minotaur, Jul 19 2011, $26.99
ISBN: 9780312601898

In La Paz, Baja California Sur, Mexico Father Gomez Entropica shows wealthy womanizer Morty Martinez the finger of his ancestor de Salvaterra who lost it in defense of the monastery; the finger and a ring on it were saved, but the jewelry was stolen. The Father, seeing a picture in Forbes magazine of the ring, asks a favor that he believes the former Brooklyn resident can achieve. He wants Morty to visit sexagenarian Robert Tyson Grant in New York City to ask the billionaire to return a holy gold ring he wears to its rightful owner an orphanage in La Paz.

In New York, Martinez learns a lesson that he already knew that no good deed goes unpunished for a Good Samaritan. He muses about how he is one night from execution in Mexico after being caught in the crosshairs of several wannabe killers wanting Grant dead.

This is a zany jocular thriller over the top of Picacho del Diablo as told by the antihero while he waits execution in a Mexican prison. The support cast is certifiably loco as nothing goes right with Morty’s quest. Part of the amusement is when Morty muses on irrelevant topics as his time counts down. This sequel to Feelers continues the misadventures of Morty the modern day Conquistador who is on the verge of losing more than a ring finger.

Harriet Klausner

Killer Move-Michael Marshall

Killer Move
Michael Marshall
Morrow, Jun 28 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780061434426

Bill Moore has a successful realty business selling condos in South Florida. He has a great marriage with a wonderful wife Steph who he loves. They live in a beautiful house in Sarasota.

However, Bill is more ambitious than Lady Macbeth and is upset that he is behind on achieving his BHAGs. He begins taking shortcuts. One morning Bill arrives at his office to find an odd black-colored card on his desk. On the card’s surface is printed in white lettering: “modified.” His perfect life begins to unravel slowly at first but picking up momentum as purchases he never made arrive against his credit card and an e-mail sent from his address though not by him leads to major trouble with his wife as the filed Modified contain pictures he never took. While Bill tries to find a way to fight back against the unknown Modified, John Hunter is paroled after spending time for a homicide. He seeks vengeance.

This is a gripping suspense thriller as the American dream turns into a nightmare for Bill. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene in which the reader learns convicted murderer John did not do the crime and never slows down as his life is destroyed and Bill’s is subtly going down the cesspool too. With innuendoes of the Straw Men involved (see The Straw Men, The Upright Man, and Blood of Angels) and with with Bill’s nuked life spinning out of control just like John’s did, Michael Marshall writes a taut tale.

Harriet Klausner

Bloodline-Mark Billingham

Mark Billingham
Mulholland/Little Brown, Jul 14 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780316126663

When his significant other Detective Inspector. Louise Porter suffered a miscarriage; London Police Department Murder Squad Detective Tom Thorne is depressed though he tries to hide his feelings. Thus when someone battered pregnant Emily Anne Walker in her home in Finchley before killing her with a plastic bag over her face, Tom, unable to cope with his tragedy, is guiltily happy for the distraction. Tom arrests the victim’s husband George as the evidence overwhelming points to a crime of passion domestic dispute.

However Thorne changes his mind about the case he solved when he learns from DI Paul Brewer that twenty-three year old nurse Catherine Burke was murdered in the same way three weeks ago in Leicester City. The connection between the two deceased females is their mothers were murdered fifteen years ago earlier by psychopathic serial killer Raymond Garvey. This predator killed five other women in four months before being caught. Garvey died in prison. An unknown maniac is targeting the children of Garvey’s victims.

The latest Thorne British police procedural (see Death Message) is an excellent entry that works on three levels that superbly tie cohesively together. First there is the super investigation; second there is the hero using the inquiry to run from his grief; finally there is just the right amount on insight into the lives of the victim. Readers will appreciate this strong suspenseful serial killer thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Wolfsbane-Andrea Cremer

Andrea Cremer
Philomel, Jul 26 2011, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399254833

Seventeen year old alpha girl-wolf Calla Tor struggles with her love for Shay, who she changed into a man-wolf (see Nightshade) and her need for her soul mate Ren. Calla worries about Ren as the Keepers who control the wolves were torturing him back in Vail. She concludes the Keepers will destroy her Colorado pack unless she can intervene somehow.

She knows she cannot save her pack alone so she makes a deal with her enemy the Searchers who agree to assist her destroy her former handlers. However, the Searchers have a price expected of her, Ren and the pack for her freedom.

The second Calla enjoyable high school age urban fantasy is a direct sequel to the first entry (see Nightshade) so it behooves the audience to read that tale to understand how the heroine got to this point of making a deal with her life long enemy. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with non stop action as the reader joins Ren and others on a raid that fails to deploy as planned. There are some heated sex and another cliffhanger that enhance the wonderful saga.

Harriet Klausner

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Last Letter from Your Lover-Jojo Moyes

The Last Letter from Your Lover
Jojo Moyes
Viking, Jul 7 2011, $26.95
ISBN: 9780670022809

In 1960, following a car accident that hospitalized her in a comatose sate, twenty-seven years old Jennifer Stirling wakes up. However, her injury leaves her with amnesia; she does not recall the accident that left her in her current condition or anything else.

Her Husband visits her almost every night and Jennifer knows in her heart she does not love this wealthy man who has made a fortune exploiting mining operations in the war ravaged Congo. When she finds a passionate haunting love letter from a "B" Jennifer knows the unknown author is her beloved. Still, she also struggles with what is acceptable behavior amongst her English social class in London.

In 2003, English journalist Ellie Haworth researches a story in her newspaper’s morgue when she finds a B letter to Jennifer. Feeling the love “B” had for his Jennifer, Ellie looks deep inside her heart to her grand passion as she tries to learn whether “B” and “J” had a happy ever after.

This is a charming relationship drama starring an incredible cast especially the two letter writers and the reporter who investigates their tale. Character driven, fans will relish this bittersweet romance as love proves not enough yet lasts forever in spite of time and place separation. Jojo Moyes provides a wonderful story that romanticists will relish.

Harriet Klausner

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb-Melanie Benjamin

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb
Melanie Benjamin
Delacorte, Jul 26 2011, $25.00
ISBN: 9780385344159

Her family encouraged dwarf Mercy Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump to stay out of the public’s eye so as to avoid the stares and other rude behavior. Unlike her beloved also dwarf sister Minnie who preferred to a reclusive life, Vinnie decided to prove an adult woman in a body under three feet tall could thrive. She joined P. T. Barnum’s freak show and married her dwarf peer General Tom Thumb in the wedding of the nineteenth century so covered that the Civil War took a back seat to the gala. This enable both to leave the troupe as the celebrity power couple toured the world meeting monarchs and presidents and other leaders. However, the cost of her being extroverted is the impact on her introverted sister.

This is an enjoyable biographical fiction tale that focuses on the "perfect woman in miniature" who becomes a superstar while belonging to the elite of New York high society. The best aspects of the tale are the triangle relationships between the General, Vinnie and Barnum although that limits insight into the title character’s global escapades and ignores her last four decades of life even with Vinnie’s superego being stratospheric. Still Vinnie’s lust for life makes for an engaging historical story as she tells her story with the world as her oyster.

Harriet Klausner

How to Seduce a Scoundrel-Vicky Dreiling

How to Seduce a Scoundrel
Vicky Dreiling
Forever, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780446565387

In 1817 a rake of the first order the Earl of Hawkfield is shocked when his best friend the Duke of Shelbourne Tristan Gatewick asks a favor of him. Marc Darcett would do almost anything for Tristan, but he feels put out when requested to serve as guardian to the Duke’s sister for the season. Tristan explains that his mother will be with him while caring for his bed-ridden pregnant wife Tessa (see How to Marry a Duke) and the females in Marc’s family are with his Grandmamma who suffers from heart palpitations.

Lady Julianne Gatewick is attracted to Hawk, but assumes her regard is unrequited until he dances a waltz with her during the opening ball of the season. However, he busted her bubble when he simply walked away from her; making her the target of the whisperers. Julianne abetted by bodacious Lady Hester writes the outrageous A Lady’s Guide to Enticing Unrepentant Rakes. She heeds her own advice to trap Hawk who arrogantly tells the rookies to stay away from her. As her temporary guardian he escorts her around town and sets the rules for her season’s behavior, but she laughs at him except when he kisses her. SAs hawk falls in love but one dark secret keeps him from handing in his guardian hat to replace it with adoring husband hat.

This is a fun How To … Regency romance as a scoundrel’s code of conduct is broken once he dances a waltz with his friend’s sister. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Shelbourne asks Hawk for a favor and never looks back. A subplot involving a young lad adds poignancy to an entertaining historical.

Harriet Klausner

The Secret Mistress-Mary Balogh

The Secret Mistress
Mary Balogh
Delacorte, Jul 12 2011, $24.00
ISBN: 9780385343312

Sister to the Duke of Tresham Jocelyn, Lady Angeline Dudley wants a prim and proper gentleman as her husband after being surrounded by rakes. As she waits impatiently for Jocelyn to arrive, fiendish rake Lord Windrow assaults her; Earl Edward Ailsbury rescues her. His family thinks Lady Angeline is the perfect match for him; she agrees with their assessment.

No one asked Edward for his opinion. If they did he would reveal his secret love for Eunice Goddard. However Hurricane Angeline refuses to back away from her choice although she hides her doubts. He proposes but she demands passion and feels once she jumps his bones he will not be able to resist. As Angeline brings out the love and beast in her man, Edward brings out the need and desire in his woman.

The latest marvelous Mistress Regency romance (see A Secret Affair) is an amusing coupling of a rationalist with a romanticist. Edward cannot understand why logic fails to work in his dealings with emotional women while ardent Angeline cannot understand why her beloved remains prim with her. His behavior amplifies her insecurities. Fans will enjoy this comedy of errors as the proper noble and the spirited lady fall in love.

Harriet Klausner

Hainted Love-Maureen Hardegree

Hainted Love
Maureen Hardegree
Bell Bridge, Mar 21 2011, $12.95
ISBN: 9781611940145

In suburban Atlanta fourteen year old Heather Tildy knows summer vacation will give her more time to help those who died but unable to move on to do so although she prefers her paranormal gift to go away as it is a burdensome curse. However, the teenage Ghost Handler has set several resolutions involving her family while school is out. Though her motive is for a smooth entry into high school Heather hopes to connect with her grumpy older sister Audrey in spite of her sibling’s BFF nasty Karen. Second she wants to keep her younger sister Claire from turning into a clone of their nasty older sibling by spending time with her.

Heather makes progress on the sisters’ mission until Jack the ghost arrives. He died a few weeks ago though no body was found. Jack insists he is comatose not dead and proves it to Heather with a soul searing kiss. At the same time Aunt Geneva believes Heather is the next generation Ghost Handler, her sibling’s scheme has no ghost of a chance of succeeding as she is preoccupied.

Although the plot is similar to Hainted Misbehavin’, the second Ghost Handlers middle school urban fantasy. Heather is a great character who remains abashed by her new paranormal skill as everyone who matters to her believes she is fruitcake except for her aunt who everyone knows is a fruitcake; ergo Heather a chip off the nutty block. Young adult readers will enjoy the opening Ghost Handler thriller due to the heroine who remains in deep trouble with her parents, sisters and others, and has a crush on an apparent dead guy.

Harriet Klausner

In the Heat of the Bite-Lydia Dare

In the Heat of the Bite
Lydia Dare
Sourcebooks, Jun 26 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402245107

In 1817 the vampiric Earl of Blodswell Matthew Halket takes a stroll near Hyde Park when he meets Rhiannon Sinclair during a thunderstorm that appeared out of nowhere. Though centuries since he was a chivalrous knight he offers her assistance until he realizes that she is the source of the storm.

Weather witch Rhiannon wants Matthew to leave her alone as she wants nothing to do with vampires. She is also abashed that he caught her causing the storm. When they next meet her weather control abilities go haywire and his supernatural skills act crazy. To make matters worse, they are falling love with each other.

This amusing paranormal Regency romance is a fun lighthearted frolic between two star-crossed lovers whose powers go awry when they are in close proximity to one another. The fascinating theme grips readers as the vampire and the witch may have to choose between love and their respective powers; both are used to having these skills so if they could survive giving them up (that is if they can) would that prove enough for them to become soulmates? Leaving the world of werewolves, Lydia Dare provides a warm romantic historical urban fantasy.

Harriet Klausner

Touch If You Dare-Stephanie Rowe

Touch If You Dare
Stephanie Rowe
Sourcebooks, Jul 1 2011, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402241963

The Guardian of Hate Jarvis Swain fears for his brother who wants Death to take him after his woman rejected him with a stake to the heart. Although he thinks Rocco is insane as Jarvis spent an undesirable tortuous century and a half incarcerated at Angelica’s Den of Womanly Pursuits, he is obsessesed with saving his sibling’s life.

After eight years of failed prevention, D-Day has arrived for Death’s Assistant Reina Fleming who remains obsessed with saving the life of her sister. However, she has no earthly idea how to do so until she meets Jarvis. She believes he possesses the skills she needed to rescue her sibling. His agenda to beat Death fits hers. They team up to try to save their siblings while falling in love, but though she soothes the savage beast she has doubts he is the right person for her even as Death has an appointment at Fenway Park.

The latest Soulfire jocular romantic urban fantasy (see Kiss at Your Own Risk) is an over top of the Green Monster satire that continues the lampooning of the sub-genre. Jarvis and Reina are fascinating characters while the support cast (to include their siblings, Nigel, Napoleon, Death and a horde of other odd paranormal like Reap) enhance the romance between Hate and the Reaper in training. Fast-paced from start to finish, readers will enjoy the affirmation of basic algebra in which two negatives make a positive

Harriet Klausner

Dragon’s Oath-P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast

Dragon’s Oath
P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast
St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 12 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781250000231

Dragon Lankford is the Sword Master of the Oklahoma House of Night in St. Louis. He is also a vampire wrapped up in enigmas and aloofness, but he was not always that way. In 1830 England, he was called Bryan, the third son of the Earl of Lankford. Tired of his misbehaving and bailing Bryan out of trouble, his father exiled his teenage son to America. Before he went on the shop a vampire Marked him. He has to go to school for four years and if the fledgling survives the Change he will be a full fledged vampire.

Dragon attends the school at the Tower Grove House of Night where several of his student peers have crushes on him. In 1833 twenty-two years old Professor of Spells and Rituals Anastasia casts a spell to enable those fledglings who are attracted to the nobleman to see him as he really is. He is interested in her and surprises her when he helps her with the spell focused on him. They fall in love, but the human Sheriff Biddle and a dark magical creature want to destroy him and they believe killing Anastasia will do that. He comes at his enemies with vengeance though he promised an oath of mercy to his perfect love Anastasia the former Quaker who was and still is his soul mate.

The fencing master in the young adult House of Night series, Dragon has always been a riddle to readers and fledglings. This is the beginning of his “biography” mostly in St. Louis during the Jacksonian Era. The paranormal historical story line is exciting as the unlikely pair of Dragon the sword master (even as a student) and Anastasia the pacifist Quaker of spells fall in love, but are Destined for trouble. This is as enthralling and as spellbinding as the main series.

Harriet Klausner

Monday, June 27, 2011

Mistress of the Storm-Terri Brisbin

Mistress of the Storm
Terri Brisbin
Kensington Brava, Jul 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780758235206

In Scotland, Sigurd covets power; there is nothing this avaricouse individual would not do to gain more affluence. He even sells his stepdaughter Isabel to lairds or with connections willing to buy. She acquiesces to Sigurd’s pimping her in return keeping her sister Thora safe from this abomination and his family business.

Sigurd’s latest mark is Duncan a healer with ties to the king. Isabel stuns Duncan with her touch as he can feel it, which goes contrary to his otherworldly skills that always have diminished his senses. Duncan takes the whore to his holding to learn about the woman. She fears his kindness as men are nice when they want something. Watching him tenderly heal and seeing the aftermath of how much is taken out of her host, Isabel feels trapped as she is falling in love but must protect Thora even at the cost of her heart.

The fourth Storm paranormal medieval romance (see A Storm of Pleasure) is a terrific tale of good and evil; yet the key is the impact on innocent pawns. Action-packed in and out of the boudoir, fans will enjoy the war for Isabel’s heart soul between the kind healer who she loves and the malevolent stepfather who she loathes as her sibling is the bait.

Harriet Klausner

Dead Dolls Don’t Talk/Hunt the Killer/Too Hot to Hold-Day Keene

Dead Dolls Don’t Talk/Hunt the Killer/Too Hot to Hold
Day Keene
Stark House, Aug 31 2011, $23.95
ISBN: 9781933586335

Dead Dolls Don t Talk. In 1958 Harry and Bonnie meet in a bar on Sunset Strip for a New Year weekend of sex. She asks him if he thinks he can handle her wealthy husband John. As the months go by one murder leads to another; Police Inspector Kelly investigates while Hart is the fall guy.

Hunt the Killer. Fishing boat captain Charlie White is released from a Florida prison after serving four years. The Warden and lifer plus Swede warn him to make an adjustment from self pity by returning to the water. Zo welcomes Charlie back to civilian life while the latter’s wife Beth does not. Zo and Charlie make love when someone attacks them; killing Zo and leaving White to die. However, White survives only to learn the cops hunt him for killing Zo.

Too Hot to Hold. Although taxi driver Mike Scaffidi was unaware of his pending death in two days, his demise begins with picking up Linda Lou Larson at Grand Central Station in 1958. The model from Chicago abruptly jumps from Mike’s cab only to be hit by a truck. The accident report filed by the traffic cop leads to one less cabbie.

The three reprints of 1950s crime thrillers are entertaining tales that focus on an innocent person trapped in deadly webs not of their making; as one thing leads to another. Although contemporary when written, the five plus decades turn the entries into enjoyable character driven historical noir pulp fiction. In the introduction, David Laurence Wilson called the author one of the “Great Trio” (along with Whittington and Brewer) in 1950s crime fiction; this entry affirms Mr. Wilson assertion.

Harriet Klausner

The Brink of Fame-Irene Fleming

The Brink of Fame
Irene Fleming
Minotaur, Aug 16 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312575441

In 1914, Adam and Emily Daggett Weiss own Melpomene Moving Picture Studios in the film capital of the world Fort Lee, New Jersey. Adam is on location in Flagstaff, Arizona filming a desert extravaganza while his wife rides the rails a week after he left to join him.

However instead of a hug and kiss to greet her, Emily arrives in Flagstaff to learn Adam lost Melpomene to their bitter nasty rival Howie Kazanow. Additionally rather than face the beating Emily would have given to her husband, he vanished with actress Agnes Gelert. Emily meets private detective Howie Kazanow, who obtains a job for her with movie businessman Carl Laemmle in Hollywood. He offers Emily a director’s gig if she find missing star Ross McHenry. When she does, she is thankful Mr. Laemmle never mentioned alive.

The second pioneering film-making Emily Daggett Weiss amateur sleuth mystery (see The Edge of Ruin) is an engaging historical mystery. The story line is at its best when the focus is on pre- WWI Hollywood and its Eastern bigger counterpart Fort Lee. The whodunit is entertaining though the massive cast of suspects never allow any of the cast to move beyond the stereotypical Peter Lorre’s spinster characterizations. Still fans of early Hollywood will enjoy Emily finds her groove on the other coast.

Harriet Klausner

A Murder in Tuscany-Christobel Kent

A Murder in Tuscany
Christobel Kent
Minotaur, Aug 2 2011, $24.99
ISBN 9780312621025

The body of the Director of the Orfeo Trust's Creative Arts Program retreat Leona Meadows-Mascarello is found near her wrecked car in a ravine. Apparently her car went off an icy road near Florence in what is obviously a horrible accident.

Private investigator Sandro Cellini recalls doing a background check on the ruthless Leona. Although struggling to make a living and having marital problems since his wife’s slow recovery from breast cancer, Sandro sees discrepancies in what he knows. Over the objections of the program’s board, the Orfeo family, employees, and current residents at the castle where the retreat is hosted, he investigates. His wife asks why he is looking into this.

The second Sandro Cellini Italian mystery (see The Drowning River) is a fabulous whodunit in which the sleuth finds a zillion suspects residing in or near the Creative Arts Program castle as just about everyone had the means, the motive and the opportunity. At the same time his personal life appears broken as his marriage nears collapse with neither Cellini knowing how to prevent what looks inevitable. Both subplots converge on the beleaguered Colombo like sleuth in this engaging investigative thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Death and the Maiden-Gerald Elias

Death and the Maiden
Gerald Elias
Minotaur, Aug 16 2011, $25.99
ISBN 9780312678340

Due to inner bickering and a potentially devastating law suit filed by fired second violinist Crispin Short, the internationally acclaimed New Magini String Quartet seems on the brink of disbanding. Although the group has become dysfunctional outside the stage, they still perform well together while new second violinist Yumi Shinagawa has blended in nicely in performances.

The Quartet is booked to perform Schubert's Death and the Maiden at Carnegie Hall once they return from vacation. However, first violinist Aaron Kortovsky fails to return from vacation and the others learn that if Short wins they are liable to him for millions with their reputations shattered; Short demands reinstatement in three days so he can perform the Shubert concert. Blind teacher Daniel Jacobus investigates but becomes concerned when he realizes his former student Yumi is the slated maiden Death targets.

The third Jacobus amateur sleuth (see The Devil’s Trill and Danse Macabre) is an entertaining whodunit with a surprising final coda. The inquiry is intriguing, but the story line is at its best when the focus is on the classical music scene. Although at times the plot slows down even with time running out in terms of the lawsuit, fans will enjoy wondering who plays first and second violin in the Death and the Maiden.

Harriet Klausner

Ephemera-Jeffery M. Anderson

Jeffery M. Anderson
CreateSpace, May 4 2011, $15.99
ISBN: 9781453870815

As the Memorial Weekend beckons, the employees at The Reviewers Review magazine scramble to leave. Thirty-eight years old writer Nester Cab is chosen as the designated lock up for the holiday driver. Nester feels like he belongs in a different as his life is filled with ennui at home and at work. He hides behind cynical facades as only those disenchanted with the sham of the American nightmare can; even his cuckoo clock does not chant. His boss Aida knows him as the city’s biggest recluse while his excuse for not getting a drink outside the office with her is his review of Amblin’s review.

Cab finds a note left behind by an intruder addressed to him including his serial number to locate AWOL Corporal Forsythe who “knows where they are.” Although everyone except Aida and him are gone from the office, he assumes this is an inane prank. However, with nothing better to do after a few drinks, he begins a search for the missing soldier. His inquiry leads him to the violent Neo-Luddite Army whose leader Stillman holds Cab prisoner for indoctrination into the government-corporate conspiracies led by the real power in DC the Secretary of Commerce.

This extremely dark thriller is character driven by Cab’s disillusionment. Ironically it is easier to understand Stillman in spite of his irrational moments than it is the numbed indifferent Cab. Though not fast-paced, Ephemera is a thought provoking tale as readers will see the outcome of the Reagan legacy is the Eisenhower warning to beware of the government industrial military complex. To conceal reality, politicians use the mantra of Ephemera to assume the brain numbed public will quickly forget the hypocrisy and lies.

The 34th Degree: A Thriller-Thomas Greanias

The 34th Degree: A Thriller
Thomas Greanias
Atria, Jun 28 2011, $24.00
ISBN: 9781451612394

In 1943 at the Monastery of the Taborian Light in Meteora, Greece, British and Nazi agents seek the Templar Globe, which contains the Maranatha text written by Paul, which predicts the return of Christ. The text apparently was used by the Byzantine Empire to develop the Greek Fire that ended the spread of Islam and centuries later when Constantinople fell, the Muslims looked everywhere for this scroll.

In the present Sam Deker struggles with civilian life in Los Angeles after being dishonorably discharged from the military (see The Promised War). He suffers from such severe nightmares that a sleep disorder clinic tests him. He learns the light wave torture he underwent as a prisoner changed him. Applying the Patriot Act, the Pentagon finds out about the condition of the disgraced former Ranger. They decide he is the only viable candidate to undergo the experimental the 34th Degree Neurosimulation of having brain cells implanted in his brain. In 1943 Chris Andros and Nazi General Ludwig von Berg competed in a deadly forum to gain the Maranatha text and the hand of beautiful Greek Aphrodite Vasilis. Now Deker is injected with tissues from long deceased von Berg and recently dead Andros; his mission, if he survives, is to discover what happened to the Maranatha text. The Alignment seeks the same text using the identical methodology.

This is an action-packed thriller that will remind readers of Trevor Hoyle’s Professor Q novels (seek Seeking the Mythical Future). The cast is stereotyped, including the heroes of 1943 and 2011, between the good, the bad and the evil. Still faster than the speed of light and filled with lethal competition in both eras, fans will enjoy Thomas Greanias’ exciting tale.

Harriet Klausner

Never Cry Wolf-Cynthia Eden

Never Cry Wolf
Cynthia Eden
Kensington/Brava, Jul 1 2011, $14.00
ISBN 9780758242150

A charmer reads the thoughts of animals, Sarah King flees vicious werewolf Rafe Santiago. She was undercover for the Feds as Rafe’s lover but he uncovered her identity.

Knowing Rafe and his pack seek her out and distrusting her agency the FBI as she does not know who she can rely on, Sarah turns to the man who killed her ex-lover’s father, the Alpha of the Los Angeles werewolf pack Lucas Simone, for safety though he lingers in jail on murder charges. Her theory is her enemy’s enemy is her friend. She gets him out of jail on bail, but Lucas distrusts her motives as he believes she has an agenda beyond just asking for his protection though to his chagrin he is attracted to her. Rafe has waited a long time to avenge his father’s death and with a betrayal inside his adversary’s pack, the time is now to kill Lucas and maybe Sarah.

The latest Cynthia Eden romantic urban fantasy is an exhilarating thriller filled with lust, lies, and traitors. Readers will understand why the lead triangle trusts no one as perfidy is the norm, leading to a wonderful twisting plot as fans will ponder whose side Sarah is on?

Harriet Klausner

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Bells-Richard Harvell

The Bells
Richard Harvell
Broadway, Jun 28 2011, $14.00
ISBN: 9780307590534

In the Uri Valley in the Swiss Alps, Moses Froben was born in the belfry of a church. His deaf mom Adelheid rang the three loud bells that she could not hear. He was raised in that belfry with love and learned to listen to people by the sounds they make. The heartbeat of his mute mom would rise when she was excited. Moses listens while he wandered the village but all thought he was as crazy, deaf and mute as his mom. When Moses saves a life but reveals he can hear, Father Karl Victor assaults him and tosses the child into the River Russ.

Monks Nicolai and Remus rescue Moses and take him to the Abbey of St. Gaul. The choirmaster Ulrich realizes the lad has extraordinary talents and nurtures the voice by castrating the lad. The castrato meets heiress Amalia Duft. They fall in love, but though she remains his life inspiration, they have little hope of being together. His two monk friends enable Moses to become the toast of Vienna and the rest of Europe as a musico soprano Lo Suizzero.

This is an engaging historical “biographical” fiction as told by Moses’ “son” that life in late eighteenth century is a cruel place for the less fortunate. Though much darker the first act of the Bells reminds me of the modern day Oliver Twist movie August Rush; while the other two acts remain grim yet inspirational as Moses’ magically makes music. Although at times especially in act one the story line seems an overly emoting melodrama, readers will ring accolades to Richard Harvell who captures the tone of the good, the bad and the ugly of Europe.

Harriet Klausner

Incognito-Gregory Murphy

Gregory Murphy
Berkley, Jul 5 2011, $15.00
ISBN: 9781101516560

In 1911 Manhattan, wealthy widow Lydia Billings hires affluent lawyer William Dysart to purchase five acres that abut her large estate on Long Island. He drives across the Queensboro but is delayed by a horse-car accident. When he arrives at his destination, William expects to see a farmer’s elderly widow but meets beautiful enigmatic Sybil Curtis. She informs him she will never sell.

Attracted to Sybil, William also admires her stand though wonders why his client and pressured non seller seem to loathe each other especially in light of his law firm ready to use political connection trickery and the ignorant press to further the cause of the bereaved widow of the infamous Henry Billings. As he investigates what happened to cause this animosity, his marriage to social climbing beauty Arabella unravels. He wants to make it on his salary while she prefers upper class status as offered with strings by his martinet father.

Incognito is a timely entertaining pre-WWI drama that focuses on the upper class manipulating the corrupt political, legal and financial institutions to better their lives at the cost to others. William as the only seemingly ethical person in his elite circle until he meets Sybil struggles with the expectations of others like the law firm partners, his father and his wife. Gregory Murphy fascinatingly implies with parallels from a century ago that the recent excesses of America’s elite may in the twenty-second century be labeled the neo Gilded Age.

Harriet Klausner

Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa-Melanie Dobson

Love Finds You in Amana, Iowa
Melanie Dobson
Summerside, Jun 1 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9781609361358

As the Civil War devastates the nation, the seven Amana Colonies villages constructed less than a decade ago in Iowa remain out of the deadly fray for the most part. Twenty-four year old hard working Amalie Wiese arrives from the Inspirationists' original Kolony, Ebenezer, New York at the Amana village to meet her betrothed Friedrich Vinzenz who has joined the Union Army after meeting an escaped slave.

Being a great cook; Mr. Faust believes the best ever on the trail; Amalie opens up a communal kitchen to keep her mind off her concerns over Friedrich’s safety. While waiting and praying for his return, she turns to Friedrich’s friends who she knew back in Ebenezer. However, her fiancé’s most trusted confidante Matthias is cold to her though she knows not why. He conceals behind his icy demeanor his love for his best friend’s woman.

Melanie Dobson escorts her readers back to the Amana Colonies (see Love Finds You In Homestead, Iowa) with an engaging Civil War drama. The story line digs deep into the personal conflict facing conscientious objectors opposed to the war on religious grounds as being “unholy” yet the Union argument of eliminating the evil of slavery is powerful and surely supported by God. Amalie and Matthias are strong antagonists who fall in love while the man in each of their hearts risks his life at the front. Friedrich knew his commune would buy him from serving after he was conscripted by the Union Army draft, but he felt slavery is unholier than the war. He brings the moral conscience to a powerful romantic triangle as love and war finds you in Amana.

Harriet Klausner

Vintage Connor: The Blonde in the Lotus Elite-Robert Baty

Vintage Connor: The Blonde in the Lotus Elite
Robert Baty
R. J. Buckley, May 7 2011, $19.00
ISBN: 9780981965475

Connor was an Oakland cop for twenty years. Retired from the force, he enjoys locating rare classic cars and attending shows especially the big one in Monterey.

Evie, a former girl friend from his early days at Oakland PD, arrives at his hose one night. She left him when she could not cope with the concept of marriage to a cop. Pleading with Connor, Evie begs him to look into the officially determined suicide of her daughter Janey in a motel during the annual Monterey classic car weekend. Grieving Evie rejects the coroner’s finding; instead she insists Janey was murdered. Connor and his former partner Vince Hendrix investigate what he assumes is denial. However, he begins to change his mind when evidence surfaces that makes Janey’s death more likely a homicide, but also that the mourning mom hides something critical from him.

This first super Vintage Connor investigative thriller is a throwback classic Noir containing a touch sleuth, a dame, classic cars and a corpse. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Little Evie arrives to rev up Connor’s “locomotion”; as once a cop always a cop. Action-packed, sub-genre fans will enjoy touring the vintage car world with Connor as our guide.

Harriet Klausner

Under Fire-Margaret McLean

Under Fire
Margaret McLean
Forge, Jun 21 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765328144

Boston firefighters Jack and Andy charge through the black smoke as flames engulf the Senegalese market. They manage to get the owner, Amina and her fifteen years old son Diallo out of the inferno. However, someone shoots Jack.

The Boston Police Department arrest Amina as an arson-murderer. The detectives claim her motive was to collect insurance money since she was unable to make her mortgages. She shot and killed the first responder Jack to cover her torching of her store. Defense attorney Buddy Clancy convinces his niece, Sarah Lynch, who quit as a prosecutor after the fatal shooting of her lover, to defend Amina. Sarah has not been inside a courtroom in the four years since she left the prosecutor’s office. The media and the politicians including the governor hang Amina, which leads to mobs wanting to lynch her. However, as the uncle and niece team begin to find counter evidence, someone needs to insure a conviction even if that means assaulting witnesses for the defense.

This is an exiting legal thriller in which racism plays a significant role in the story line; in fact the jury is purposely hyperbole so that from the left and right are accentuated; perhaps too much. Although implausible incidents occur too frequently detracting from the tale, readers will enjoy Under Fire as justice is not blind or black and white, it is gray as agendas, prejudices and baggage play key roles.

Harriet Klausner

As The Crow Dies-Jason Starr

As The Crow Dies
Jason Starr
Bell Bridge, May 10 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781611940084

He lost both legs in Vietnam and realized during his first visit home to Coyote Springs, Texas over the 1968 Memorial Day weekend, he would never be treated the same. His neighbors greet him with pity, guilt and avoidance except for his dad and his friend Zach Merchant. The doctors at the Air Force Medical Center in San Antonio decide Jason’s stumps are too short to use prosthesis. His dad Theodore insists he can walk though starting as quarterback for the Cowboys is no longer a reality.

After completing therapy at “Willy”, he clumsily walks on his newly fitted prostheses. Theodore’s partner George Elspeth tells Jason his dad is dead. Police Detective Clyde Burker, who Jason played football with in high school, states his father committed suicide. Though kick butting is no longer an activity Jason can do, he knows his dad did not kill himself as Theodore was his biggest cheerleader and would not desert him at this time. Jason’s religious mom and his sister Debbie struggle with the police ruling. Jason tells his twin Leon who ran from the draft; his brother rejects suicide based on a chat with their dad last week. As Jason looks into why his dad killed himself, a second death occurs.

Jason is a great character as his struggles to make it as a double amputee in a world built for the norm so it is filled with obstacles for him. The amateur sleuthing is clever as Jason does not suddenly become a superhero but instead a walking with a hitch hero adjusting while investigating. He and the support cast who pity and avoid him or truly marvel at his walking make for a powerful timely historical thriller.

Harriet Klausner

Feast: Harvest of Dreams-Merrie Destefano

Feast: Harvest of Dreams
Merrie Destefano
Harper Voyager, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780061990823

Highly regarded horror-fantasy author magical “Mad Mac” Madeline MacFaddin suffers from a severe case of writer’s block. Needing to regenerate her brain cells, she and her nine year old son Tucker travel to Ticonderoga Falls based on her memories of a good time when she and her parents rented a cabin there.

However, Maddie has forgotten the dark side of that childhood adventure in which the enigmatic Ash saved her life. Ticonderoga Falls celebrates the Harvest on Halloween night. However, it is not the humans who host the gala as the Others feast on the Harvest of Dreams of these foolish mortals. New and returned blood excite the Darkling as Maddie begins to grasp the connotation of the dreams she had as a child, but may be too late to save Tucker without a sacrifice; her only hope once again is with Ash the fallen bringer of the town’s curse.

Feast is an engaging romantic urban fantasy that grips the audience from the moment Ash welcomes back Maddie and never releases its’ hold until the final confrontation. The story line is loaded with action, but several concepts are not developed, which hopefully will occur in future Harvest of Dreams thrillers. Maddie is a wonderful human in peril while Ash remains somewhat mysterious though he feels an obsessive need to keep Maddie and Tucker safe. Readers will Feast on this fine harvest but expect more insight into the Destefano realm.

Harriet Klausner

What A Goddess Wants-Stephanie Julian

What A Goddess Wants
Stephanie Julian
Sourcebooks, Jul 1 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781402251474

Charun was given no choice except to guard the Underworld. He must never leave his post but over two thousand years of ennui has left him deranged with an obsessed need to free himself from his eternal yoke. To break his chains of duty that bind him to Aitas he needs incredible power with the only easy source being the ignored Forgotten Goddesses.

Charun orders his demons to bring him Thesan the Etruscan Goddess of the Dawn of the Golden Light. Ignored by almost everyone, Tessa flees for Reading, Pennsylvania where she asks her Etruscan friend with the New York accent Salvatorus for help after telling him she believes Charun consumed the missing Mlukukh. He sends her to mercenary Cimmerian warrior Caligo to protect her. She breaks his wards and falls asleep waiting for him. When he arrives he thinks she is Goldilocks who became dinner in the real story. He also distrusts Goddesses since Venus conned him into challenging Vulcan. Unable to resist Sleeping Beauty, he wakes her with his sexual touches. They make love. As she brings warmth to the frozen tundra mercury and brings her a sense of safety, they fall in love while Charun’s demons keep coming for her.

The freshness to this exciting erotic romantic urban fantasy is the intermingling of various pantheons with an emphasis obviously on the Etruscan into a cohesive Julian universe. The lead couple is a terrific combo of an Etruscan Goddess and an immortal unfeeling Cimmerian warrior who loathes that SOB fame seeker Homer the muckraker for outing his race. Tongue in cheek, readers will enjoy What A Goddess Wants, a Goddess gets and she wants Cal.

Harriet Klausner

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Heiress in Love-Christina Brooke

Heiress in Love
Christina Brooke
St. Martin’s, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312534127

In 1814 Lord Fredrick Roxdale died leaving behind his grieving widow Lady Jane and her husband’s six years old nephew Luke. Jane inherited much of the wealth while Fredrick’s cousin Constantine "blackest of the Black” the title and the estate. However, what bothers Jane is he instead of her was named Luke’s guardian.

Jane obeyed the Ministry of Marriage’s order she marry Fredrick but though she cared for her late husband she vows not to marry again. Ironically Constantine has made the same pledge to never marry. However he arrives at the estate to offer her a marriage of convenience deal in which she gets to stay and raise her nephew while he obtains funds. Reluctantly she agrees, but he soon wants more emotionally from her.. As they fall in love, Jane and Constantine dream separately of a real marriage but fear trusting their heart with the other.

The first Ministry of Marriage Regency romance is a wonderful gender war as the lead couple fight, fuss and fall in love. Luke is a matchmaker in this marriage of convenience historical while Ministry marvelously muddles the muck with their intrusions. Readers will enjoy the battling Roxdale duet as they argue, lust and love.

Harriet Klausner

Sizzle and Burn-Alexis Grant

Sizzle and Burn
Alexis Grant
St. Martin’s, Jun 28 2011, $7.99
ISBN: 9780312943035

A decade ago, Ryan Mason attended West Point while Mia Santiago went to Vassar. They met and fell in love, but each remained focus on their respective careers as they felt they were too young for anything serious.

Rising in esteem from her colleagues, seismologist Dr. Mia Santiago encounters Special Forces Captain Grant Mason at a scientific symposium. Terrorists want her to use her work in their deadly schemes. His job is to go undercover as an academic in order to protect scientists studying plate tectonics. He wants to tell her the truth that he is a soldier not a researcher because he loathes lying to his beloved, but her safety supersedes his needs.

This Men of Delta romantic suspense is an exciting thriller though the prime subplots don’t converge together until very late in the action. When the story line focuses on tectonic disasters or the second chance at love, Sizzle and Burn is great; when the terrorists take the stage the plot feels off kilter. Still with a deep look at a minority female from Spanish Harlem making it in the science world and the hero who wants to be at her side celebrating her triumphs with her, fans will enjoy Alexis Grant’s engaging tale.

Harriet Klausner

Betrayal of Trust-J. A. Jance

Betrayal of Trust
J. A. Jance
Morrow, Jul 5 2011, $25.99
ISBN: 9780061731150

Married couple J.P. “Beau” Beaumont and Mel Soames work for the for the Washington State Attorney General's Special Homicide Investigation Team in the burbs of Seattle. A video stars a smiling teen girl with a scarf around her neck; however, her smile is gone when the clip shows two males pulling the scarf strangulating her. S.H.I.T gets the investigation because the snuff film was found on a cell phone belonging to the fifteen years old Josh Deeson, grandson of Governor Marsha Longmire's husband Gerald Willis who has custody of the lad. Beau gets the lead because he went to high school with Governor “Old Mother Hubbard”.

The two cops know Deeson has a troubled past with his mom dead from an OD and his father an addict. The teen denies knowledge of the snuff film, but the murder weapon is found under his mattress in his “Prisoner of Zenda” room in the Governor’s mansions. Like his comments re the film, he denies knowing how the scarf ended in his school locker where he insists he found it. Beau and Mel as good cop bad cop put the pressure on him to tell them who the three other people besides the victim are. Deeson remains the prime suspect.

This is a terrific Beaumont whodunit (see Fire and Ice) that contains a strong police procedural while also focusing on troubled teen bullying, and related adult excuses and platitudes. Long time fans will relish the subplot involving Hank and Hannah (no giveaways as to who they are). However, it is the trademark homage to cops who try their best risking their lives to protect us that makes this a fabulous entry in a great series.

Harriet Klausner

The Ideal Man-Julie Garwood

The Ideal Man
Julie Garwood
Dutton, Aug 9 2011, $26.95
ISBN 9780525952251

In St. Louis, trauma surgeon Dr. Ellie Sullivan works at St. Vincent’s ER while also training residents; however, she leaves the hospital in a few days though the administration would agree to anything for her to stay. She begins her run in Cambridge Park thinking about her facing the ordeal of going home to Winston Falls, South Carolina to attend her sister’s wedding to Ellie’s former fiancé and the possibility that Evan the maniac will be in town. Shots are fired and FBI Agent Sean Goodman is hit. Ellie stops the bleeding so the victim can be rushed to St. Vincent ER to finish saving his life. Agents Tom Bradley and Max Daniels thank her and question her,

Ellie and Max are attracted to one another from the moment he learned she was the trauma expert and not a high school soccer player and she when she realized he had a self-deprecating sense of humor. Cal and Erika Landry are the gun dealers who escaped the Feds; they try to kill Ellie as she saw their faces while Evan the psycho stalker is free from prison planning a return engagement with Ellie. Max arrives at the Magnolia State wedding to protect witness Ellie so she can testify against the recently captured Landry duet, known for killing or frightening away anyone who fingers them.

Although the suspense is over the top of Sassafras Mountain with two stalkings, readers will enjoy this entertaining contemporary romance due to the sassy observant Ellie. The fast-paced story line grips the audience with Ellie’s trauma life saving work while also appreciating Max’s dedication to duty and his smile. This is a wonderful tale of two delightful heroes in love.

Harriet Klausner

Pampered to Death-Laura Levine

Pampered to Death
Laura Levine
Kensington, Aug 1 2011, $22.00
ISBN 9780758238474

To thank his next door neighbor for proving he did not commit a murder (see Death of a Trophy Wife), Lance Venerable pays for copywriter Jaine Austen and her cat Prozac to stay at the luxurious The Haven spa north of Los Angeles. However, the description of fancy does not quire fit as it is much smaller than Jaine expected and the towels showcase a bit of wear. The worst is a 900 calories a day starvation diet rigidly adhered to by spa owner Nazi Olga though Jaine bribes Delphine the maid into bringing her a pastrami.

The other guests include loquacious Cathy Kane who horded chump change for years to come here; spoiled B-level film star Mallory Francis who drives everyone including the storm-trooper and her staff crazy with her demands; and her unhappy retinue (Mallory's sister Kendra, her hairstylist Harvey, her former costar Clint, and her acrimonious Pekingese Armani) who want to return to civilization. Mango Mallory’s perpetual orders end when someone strangles her with seaweed. However, the homicide police quarantines everyone at the Haven. Going broke at thirty bucks a sandwich and tired of the so-called pampering (not), Jaine who has solved cases (see Killing Bridezilla) investigates before she dies of malnutrition.

The tenth Jaine Austen amateur sleuth is an engaging tongue in cheek (no food in the way) whodunit in which the clues to the homicide are spread like a buffer throughout the story line. The characters are entertainingly eccentric (that is to the armchair reader, but not to starving despondent Jaine). Although the inquisition lacks the subtly of previous cases with it’s in your face technique, fans will enjoy Pampered to Death.

Harriet Klausner

The Sauvignon Secret-Ellen Crosby

The Sauvignon Secret
Ellen Crosby
Scribner, Aug 16 2011, $24.00
ISBN 9781439163887

In Loudon County, Virginia wine importer and distributor Paul Noble hangs himself in the converted barn he owned. Vineyard owner Lucie Montgomery who just argued price with Noble over her Sauvignon Blanc and Cabaret Sauvignon is stunned to find Paul’s body hanging from a beam as she thinks how often she along with others in the wine industry wanted him dead figuratively not literally. Lucie calls 911 and County Sheriff Deputy Mathis, who has worked cases involving Lucie, arrives at the scene.

Lucie’s French grandfather Pépé arrives for a short visit before going on to Sonoma, California. Pépé’s friend Charles Thiessman pleads with and persuades Lucie to go to California to investigate whether Noble’s death was linked to his activities in the Bohemian Club during the Nixon Era. In Napa and Sonoma, Lucie joined by her former lover winemaker Quinn Santori make inquiries that lead to the Mandrake Society biochemists also from the Nixon period in which others like Noble have died; some four decades ago.

The latest wine country amateur sleuth mystery (see The Riesling Retribution and Viognier Vendetta) changes coastlines in a fresh Sauvignon story. Lucie and her support cast in Virginia and California are aged properly as they bring insight into winemaking and selling. The mystery is entertaining, but contains less suspense than usual. Still fans will toast Ellen Crosby for a fine tale.

Harriet Klausner

Sucker Punch-Jeremy Brown

Sucker Punch
Jeremy Brown
Medallion, Aug 1 2011, $14.95
ISBN 9781605422251

Warrior Incorporated President Banzai Eddie Takanori offers Aaron "Woodshed" Wallace a rematch on television against Junior Burbank, who he has defeated him once, his rival’s only loss. Wallace accepts the offer to fight Burbank again in two days as this is his chance to make it to star status.

Wallace’s trainer and mentor Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Gil Hobbes and Eddie warn the champ to take it easy as he trains with Jairo, one of the Arcoverde brothers, from Rio. However Wallace owes a friend Lance for saving his life so he agrees to do it as a favor. He goes with Lance to meet a loan shark, but all hell breaks lose as if a no-holds barred unsanctioned brawl occurred. Now Woodshed is fighting for his life with Jairo’s Cousin Marcella having his back.

Round one is a super action-packed noir starring a charismatic MMA fighter and a strong retinue in his corner. Marcella is more than just a potential female throw in for Wallace; as she can fight with the skills of the better MMA warriors. Between the sanctioned fights, the training for the boys and the mob, readers will enjoy Wallace taking opponents to the woodshed.

Harriet Klausner

Original Sin-Lisa Desrochers

Original Sin
Lisa Desrochers
Tor, Jul 5 2011, $9.99
ISBN: 9780765328090

Luc Cain came from hell to collect Frannie Cavanaugh’s soul while Gabe came from heaven to do likewise. Neither expected Frannie to have her own guardian angel Matt who was her twin brother before dying in childhood; or that Luc would fall in love with Frannie and shockingly give up brimstone for shaving cuts when her Magical Sway had him obsessed with being become human (see Personnel Demons).

As Gabe returns to heaven to avoid Frannie temptation, raging King Lucifer exhales fire over the traitor Luc. He sends a demon horde to bring him the betrayer on a platter. More important to the ruler of Hell is to capture the essence that turned his former loyal follower into a mortal. While Matt has lost concentration because of his attraction to Luc’s sexy next door neighbor Lili, the demons attack Frannie and her friends.

Rotating perspectives between the wins and the former demon, Original Sin is a delightful teen paranormal romantic suspense. Frannie is a terrific character whose magical sway has Heaven and Hell wondering what is going on. However Luc steals the show as he struggles with adjusting to human hygiene. Fans will enjoy encounters of the first kind between mortals and heavenly and hellish guests and hosts.

Harriet Klausner

Friday, June 24, 2011

Off The Chain-Candice Dow

Off The Chain
Candice Dow
Grand Central, Jun 30 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9780446179539

As an undergraduate at Georgetown, London Reed developed her theory of relationships that is based on men like petting and praise as much as dogs do. London planned to attend veterinary school after graduation, but that failed to happen. Instead she becomes a dog walker with a college debt rivaling the Feds. Her mother believing being a canine companion is beneath her daughter and arranges for London to obtain a position working for Quinn Forester Senior Investment Banker William Thorne.

However, her admin position at Quinn Forester ends due to budget cuts. Instead Thorne offers a chance to make real money in the high end call-girl service that he and his wife have run lucratively for a decade and a half. He trains her and she makes quite a bit of cash for two hours with her first client the “King”. As London becomes a woman of choice, Thorne selects her to keep the business running when his spouse becomes deathly ill. Someone sells the sex story to a magazine that leads the FBI to the DC Madam London who has a choice tell all for five years of probation or plead client confidentiality and go to jail. Until her kennel burns, London is unaware of the second order effect of confession as an adversary wants her dead.

This is an entertaining look at the high priced DC call girl business. London is a terrific protagonist who along with her Johns keeps the story line focused on the activities of a woman of pleasure. Although a late happening feels contrite but thankfully dangling (like some of the protagonist’s customers), readers will appreciate the dog walker servicing the affluent on and Off the Chain.

Harriet Klausner

A Kingdom Divided-Alex Rutherford

A Kingdom Divided
Alex Rutherford
Dunne, Jul 5 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780312597016

In 1530 the Moghul Empire creator Emperor Babur dies. His twenty-three years old son Humayun is crowned the new Emperor. However, unlike his sire who was considered formidable by all, Humayun is considered weak by many in the inner circle because he is an opium addict and is a sex fiend with a vast harem though married to Hamida, and obsesses with an astrological dependency sated by his key advisor Sharaff the astrologer.

His three half-brothers (Kamrun, Askari and Hindal) unite to oppose him. Dishonoring his late father, Humayan and his army retreat from the wrath of the stronger forces of Bengal humble origin Sher Shah abetted by Kamrun the traitor. He remains in exile for years trying to regain his throne for himself and his heir Akbar until he realizes the Moghul Empire his father created for a thousand miles below Punjab is in peril.

The second Empire of the Moghul is an exciting historical thriller that continues the action from the first tale (see Raiders from the North). The story line is loaded with action especially the battle scenes and filled with a taste of life in the sixteenth century India subcontinent. Although one must wonder whether the opium warped his brain as Humayan meets the classic definition of insanity when he consistently forgives his siblings for their betrayal expecting their loyalty until the cycle repeats itself. Still fans of historical tales will enjoy team Alex Rutherford guiding readers through turbulent sixteenth century Asia.

Harriet Klausner

The Protector-Shelley Shepard Gray

The Protector
Shelley Shepard Gray
Harper, Jun 28 2011, $12.99
ISBN: 9780062020628

At school very tall Ella Hostetler dreamed that one day cute Loyal Weaver would court her though he never looked twice at the girl with glasses. When Ella’s father died, she took over running the farm as her mom was too ill to do so. None of the neighbors offered to help the mother and daughter and they never asked anyone. When her mom died, Ella decided to rid herself of her other beloved burden though she loved her mom and their farm.

Her friend Dorothy obtains a library position for Ella while Loyal buys her family farm. Loyal invites Ella to visit the farm to see what he has been doing to it. She wonders if he might be interested in her the Amish gangly wallflower who spent her youth helping her parents, which increases her self esteem even as Dorothy offers counter arguments.

The second Family of Honor tale is an engaging Amish community novel that Ella keeps focused as a unique intriguing protagonist who struggles with a lack of confidence when it comes to relationships and social interactions. The support cast is three dimensional especially the leads of The Caregiver return (with the health issue), Loyal supported by his extended family, and fascinating Dorothy; the latter is some ways steals the show (no giveaways). Readers will enjoy Ella finds her groove, maybe.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Cove-Brendan DuBois

Deadly Cove
Brendan DuBois
Minotaur, Jul 5 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312566340

Following on the heels of the Kursk nuclear power plant in East Europe, the owners of Falconer nuclear power station on coastal New Hampshire announce they will begin construction on unit 2. Thousands of anti nuclear energy protesters gather near the Falconer nuclear power station. Covering the demonstrations are various media including Shoreline reporter Lewis Cole who used to work as a research analyst for the Department of Defense. Someone shoots and kills the “face” of the demonstrators, local activist Bronson Toles.

Having learned the truth about his employment as a monthly columnist by the new bottom line editor affirming his distrust of government officials, Cole assumes a cover-up will occur. He investigates starting with a look into the life of Curt Chesuk who heads both the Nuclear Freedom Front and the pro-nuclear New England Trade Union Council. Cole also takes a deep look at the victim’s family and other famous anti nuke protestors. As the demonstrations intensify in honor of Toles, Cole meets with Chesuk; unaware of the danger he places himself and his best friend Police Detective Sergeant Diane Woods in.

This is a great timely Cole investigative tale that grips readers from the moment Toles is assassinated and never slows with a cliffhanger that has excited readers waiting for round two wondering how Brendan DuBois will sustain the quality level. The story line is fast-paced but belongs to the hero who is pulled in two directions by a killer threatening the people he cares about if he fails to end his inquiry. Mr. DuBois is at his best, which says a lot as the Lewis Cole mysteries (see Primary Storm and Twilight) are consistently excellent.

Harriet Klausner

One Dog Night-David Rosenfelt

One Dog Night
David Rosenfelt
Minotaur, Jul 5 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312647995

For six years, three months and twenty-one days, Noah Galloway waited in anguish for this moment. The FBI arrests Galloway for an arson fire that killed twenty-six people. He will miss his beloved Becky and their nursery school child Adam, but in some ways is glad the end is in sight.

A recovered drug addict, Noah asks Patterson, New Jersey defense attorney Andy Carpenter to defend him. Andy says no as he does not take many cases on and besides Noah attempted to break into his home sometime before the deadly inferno. However Noah uses the Tara card to retain Andy as his lawyer; before the attorney rescued his golden retriever Tara, Noah had saved the dog and arranged for Andy to adopt the canine. Although Noah believes he is guilty of the arson mass homicides, he insists he remembers nothing about the blaze due to his drug haze. As Andy plays the court to buy time for his client, his ‘team” investigates what happened over six years ago.

This is a great legal thriller starring New Jersey’s least enthused lawyer and his team of likable eccentrics who are crazier than usual. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the arrest is announced and never slows down until the final unlikely but endearing header. Series fans will relish one degree of Tara as the Retriever’s first rescuer is legally defended by the canine’s second rescuer.

Harriet Klausner

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles-Esri Allbritten

Chihuahua of the Baskervilles
Esri Allbritten
Minotaur, Jul 5 2011, $24.99
ISBN: 9780312569150

In Manitou Springs, Colorado, Charlotte Baskerville owns the successful dapper dog attire catalogue business, Petey’s Closet. Charlotte is stunned when she sees the late Petey her beloved Chihuahua. Needing confirmation that she is not going mad, Charlotte contacts failing Tripping Magazine who write about the paranormal.

Hoping to save the periodical that is nearing bankruptcy, the three person team arrives in Manitou Springs, home of a macabre coffin race, to allegedly investigate the ghost of Petey. Angus MacGregor the chief warns his two new hires, photographer Suki Oota and writer Michael Abernathy that regardless they are covering a “real” ghost story. However, none of the somewhat skeptical trio anticipates paw warning as they see Petey too. They also begin to find proof that someone wants Charlotte dead. While encouraging keeping their potentially paying “patron” alive, Angus reminds his team not to lose sight of the money, which is Petey’s ghost real or not is irrelevant.

With a nod to Scooby Doo Mystery, Inc. this amusing Colorado canine cozy caper is a fun frolic. The cast including the residents of Manitou Springs are an eccentric group whose antics add amusement and at times over the top of Pikes Peak to the story line. Readers who appreciate a dog-gone jocular mystery will enjoy the first Tripper Magazine investigation.

Harriet Klausner

Misterioso-Arne Dahl

Arne Dahl
Pantheon, Jul 12 2011, $25.95
ISBN: 9780375425356

Swedish Police Detective Paul Hjelm knows he would do nothing different as he expedited successfully a hostage situation that Internal Affairs is investigating. However, instead of being fired as he expects, Hjelm is reassigned to what is called the A Team, a new unit of the best of the best. Their mission is to find a serial killer who executes targeted businessmen in their respective homes with two bullets through the head before removing the shells from a wall while listening to Thelonius Monk’s Misterioso.

With the psychopath on a two day cycle, the A Team needs to find this predator. They connect dots between the victims and start focusing in on secret societies that seem to be the link of those “The Power Killer” assassinates. Hjelm, whose family life is shaky even before he worked 24/7 on this case, admires his colleagues like Jorge Chavez and pretty Kerstin Holm.

This exciting Swedish police procedural is fun to follow starting with the IA interrogation over shooting the Albanian immigrant from Kosovo holding hostages to avoid deportation and never slows down as Hjelm joins the A Team to capture the Power Killer. Readers will be fascinated by the serial killer who plays Monk’s Misterioso while committing the execution style homicides. Still Hjelm holds the story line together as a dedicated cop who has family so that readers find him realistic and appealing. .

Harriet Klausner

Acceptable Loss-Anne Perry

Acceptable Loss
Anne Perry
Ballantine, Aug 9 2011, $26.00
ISBN: 9780345510600

After years as an inquiry agent, William Monk is once again a police officer in charge of the Thames River Police at Wapping on the London docks. At night, boats containing children as cargo sail the river to satisfy the perversion of the affluent. Unknown to the pedophiles is that they are being photographed so that their supplier can blackmail them.

Monk believes that the pimp of one of the boats that is found floating in the river was murdered due to a disagreement; as was another one a few months earlier. A nothing crook Mickey Parfitt was strangled to death by an expensive silk cravat used as a garrote. The scarf belongs toPolire Society member Rupert Cardew who denies murdering Parfitt even though he admits to participating in activities on the boat. The cop believes the man lacks the brains to run this operation. He follows clues that lead to an arrest of a highly regarded member of society. Monk’s friend attorney Oliver Rathbone, believes the suspect might be guilty though he defends him to the best of his ability.

Though the protagonist is back on the force, the latest Monk historical mystery once again affirms the Victorian Era class distinctions between the classes when it comes to crime and punishment; as the law is sold when it comes to the wealthy aristocracy and brutal to the middle class and the poor. Anne Perry uses strong characterizations to make her late nineteenth century argument that justice is for sale. However, this is Monk’s case as he is a hound on the scent of the killer allowing nothing to intrude, not even his wife, until the case is closed.

Harriet Klausner

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Conquistadora-Esmeralda Santiago

Esmeralda Santiago
Knopf, Jul 12 2011, $27.50
ISBN: 9780307268327

In Spain, Ana Cubillas dreams of living in Puerto Rico after reading the diaries of her sixteenth century ancestor who accompanied de Leon in the New World. Ana finds a means to cross the Atlantic when she meets twins Ramón and Inocente who inherit jointly a sugar plantation in Puerto Rico. The brothers fall in love with her, but she marries Ramon in 1844. Soon afterward, she persuades the siblings the good life is at their Hacienda Los Gemelos plantation.

However, the island is not the tropical paradise of her dreams. As the American ideological divide heats up and threatens to boil into the Caribbean, she finds the oppressive heat unbearable and the feral land just outside the hacienda dangerously unwelcoming. Finally Ana is disturbed by the slave labor employed on her Hacienda. Still a romantic at heart, she sacrifices everything for her first and only love Hacienda Los Gemelos.

The underlying theme of this super mainstream story is similar to Esmeralda Santiago’s autobiography When I Was Puerto Rican, which focused on having a foot on the island and one in NYC; this enjoyable tale likewise has a foot in real Puerto Rico and whimsically in Ana’s romanticized Puerto Rico. Well written and very insightful, readers will relish this engaging mid ninetieth century look at Puerto Rico (and initially Spain).

Harriet Klausner

Canary Island Song-Robin Jones Gunn

Canary Island Song
Robin Jones Gunn
Howard (Simon and Schuster), Jul 5 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781416583417

Her husband Jeff died seven years ago, but Carolyn remains in the early phases of grief even as she has taken care of her sister and her nieces. Now with her aunt married and worried about her mom, twentyish Tikki lectures Carolyn to take care of her gracious self. Heeding her daughter’s advice, Carolyn decides to leave San Francisco to surprise her mother Abuela Teresa on her seventieth birthday with a visit to see her in the Canary Islands.

It has been years since Carolyn has set foot in the Canary Islands. Once there after a warm welcome by her mom, she meets her one time summer fling from high school Brian Spencer. Still attracted to him, she wonders if he ever outgrew his beach bum lifestyle and at her age she also ponders if not whether that is such a bad thing anyway.

This entertaining islands romance (see Maui Moon) is owned by Carolyn who comes home to rejuvenate her life. The support cast including the Canary Islands enhance the theme of grief may be customized to the individual, but loved ones must be there to help the anguished one remember never wait for tomorrow what you can do today. Although the story line is thin following an expected route, readers will enjoy visiting the Canary Islands guided by Carolyn, Brian and Abuela.

Harriet Klausner
Howard (Simon and Schuster), Jul 5 2011, $14.99
ISBN: 9781416583417

Her husband Jeff died seven years ago, but Carolyn remains in the early phases of grief even as she has taken care of her sister and her nieces. Now with her aunt married and worried about her mom, twentyish Tikki lectures Carolyn to take care of her gracious self. Heeding her daughter’s advice, Carolyn decides to leave San Francisco to surprise her mother Abuela Teresa on her seventieth birthday with a visit to see her in the Canary Islands.

It has been years since Carolyn has set foot in the Canary Islands. Once there after a warm welcome by her mom, she meets her one time summer fling from high school Brian Spencer. Still attracted to him, she wonders if he ever outgrew his beach bum lifestyle and at her age she also ponders if not whether that is such a bad thing anyway.

This entertaining islands romance (see Maui Moon) is owned by Carolyn who comes home to rejuvenate her life. The support cast including the Canary Islands enhance the theme of grief may be customized to the individual, but loved ones must be there to help the anguished one remember never wait for tomorrow what you can do today. Although the story line is thin following an expected route, readers will enjoy visiting the Canary Islands guided by Carolyn, Brian and Abuela.

Harriet Klausner

Saved by her Embrace-Wayne Jordan

Saved by her Embrace
Wayne Jordan
Harlequin Kimani Romance, Jun 21 2011, $6.25
ISBN: 9780373862191

Sandra Walters distrusts men after she learns her boyfriend cheated on her. She dumped the rat and vowed never again to be romantically involved especially with a doctor.

In Barbados, Sandra attends the wedding of her BFF (see One Gentle Knight) and is attracted to another guest Dr. Troy Whitehall, but has vowed off physicians especially those like her ex and her father. The surgeon wants her. They share a night of lovemaking that neither will forget. He tries to persuade her to join him in round two, but she rejects another tryst. Her opinion on medical professionals remains intact that they cannot commit to anyone except their work. Troy has to find the cure to her heart, but first must break a physician rule of do not practice on yourself if he is to succeed.

This engaging Barbados romance (see Embracing the Moonlight) stars two likable lead protagonists who are attracted to one another but each has reasons that repel them from coming together. Troy likes the single life while Sandra has obsessive issues with white coats that symbolize men who don’t commit. Although Sandra’s anti doctor soliloquy is too frequent a refrain, fans will enjoy Troy breaking down her barriers (and his own) with love and impatience.

Harriet Klausner

Goodie One Shoes-Roz Siegel

Goodie One Shoes
Roz Siegel
Hilliard and Harris, May 18 2011, $18.95
ISBN 9781591333113

Following the breakup of her “perfect” marriage to Larry the lawyer following his tryst with the Russian, Emily puts aside her Ph.D. to return to her roots sort of by opening an exclusive shoe store in Manhattan’s 'elite Upper West Side; her dad had a shoe store for twenty-five years in Brooklyn. Emily’s Place on 98th and Broadway becomes a hangout for shoe aficionados that run the social economic spectrum as the coffee is quality, the chats charming, and the merchandise spans the luxurious and the bargain.

However, someone kicks Emily’s perfect world when her sweet assistant Kim Chang is murdered; the weapon is a Jimmy Choo stiletto whose matching pair is missing. NYPD suspects Emily as a potential killer as she had means and opportunity though a viable motive fails to surface. The lead police detective Paul Murphy worries that the footwear fetish fiend will target Emily next. Soon after the homicide, the culprit threatens Emily through snail and email. Finally the other Choo arrives followed by the murder of Emily’s maid.

This is a fun Manhattan murder mystery starring a beleaguered woman who is under all sorts of pressure from the cops, family members, customers, a former fired employee and her late worker. The story line is lighthearted and fast-paced as Emily’s still hippie sister and her still married spouse make demands of her. However, it is her demands of herself to find Kim’s Choo killer that make for a lighthearted entertaining New York frolic.

Harriet Klausner

We All Fall Down-Michael Harvey

We All Fall Down
Michael Harvey
Knopf, Jul 12 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307272515

Two scientists inform the Chicago Mayor Wilson and Homeland Security agent Danielson that the “Canary” bio-warning device in a subway tunnel has detected a pathogen. Danielson uses the death of FBI Agent Lawson to force private investigator Michael Kelly to cooperate. He is blackmailed into serving as security by accompanying biologists Dr. Ellen Brazile and Dr. Molly Carrolton to the locale of the alarm to test and hopefully prove a false positive reading occurred.

Kelly has issues why HSD especially the FBI is not in the tunnels instead of a mercenary. However, they prove to late when a pathogen is released from a light bulb into the subway city leaving the potential to turn Chicago into a gigantic wasteland morgue. People begin to die while the Feds, state and city officials argue over what to do beyond quarantining Chicago. On his own initiative Kelly investigates which leads him to gangs and top secret labs where superbugs are created.

This is a great complex yet action-packed thriller with an incredibly dynamic last twist that never slows down as time is running out on the city. The story line grips the reader who appreciatively (from an armchair) accompanies Michael as he heroically tries to prevent a disaster from turning pandemic. The least Kelly investigation (see The Third Rail, The Chicago Way and The Fifth Floor) is a great tale.

Harriet Klausner

We All Fall Down-Michael Harvey

We All Fall Down
Michael Harvey
Knopf, Jul 12 2011, $24.95
ISBN: 9780307272515

Two scientists inform the Chicago Mayor Wilson and Homeland Security agent Danielson that the “Canary” bio-warning device in a subway tunnel has detected a pathogen. Danielson uses the death of FBI Agent Lawson to force private investigator Michael Kelly to cooperate. He is blackmailed into serving as security by accompanying biologists Dr. Ellen Brazile and Dr. Molly Carrolton to the locale of the alarm to test and hopefully prove a false positive reading occurred.

Kelly has issues why HSD especially the FBI is not in the tunnels instead of a mercenary. However, they prove to late when a pathogen is released from a light bulb into the subway city leaving the potential to turn Chicago into a gigantic wasteland morgue. People begin to die while the Feds, state and city officials argue over what to do beyond quarantining Chicago. On his own initiative Kelly investigates which leads him to gangs and top secret labs where superbugs are created.

This is a great complex yet action-packed thriller with an incredibly dynamic last twist that never slows down as time is running out on the city. The story line grips the reader who appreciatively (from an armchair) accompanies Michael as he heroically tries to prevent a disaster from turning pandemic. The least Kelly investigation (see The Third Rail, The Chicago Way and The Fifth Floor) is a great tale.

Harriet Klausner

Eyewall-H.W. “Buzz” Bernard

H.W. “Buzz” Bernard
BelleBooks, May 15 2011, $14.95
ISBN: 9781611940015

Hurricane Janet is predicted to be a category one when it hits the Georgia coast and barrier islands like St. Simons Island over the Labor Day weekend. Still though St. Simons has not felt the fury of a major hurricane in ages, officials suggest people leave for the mainland though many remain on the island.

Trish and Alan Grant decide to leave when the weather begins to turn ugly. However, one of their two children fifteen years old Sandy is missing; apparently meeting a boy she met on the internet. With their eight years old son Lee they search for their daughter. At the same time Air Force Hurricane Hunters Major Arlen Walker and Captain Karlyn Hill send back data from the Eyewall of the storm while they and the rest of the crew feel like The Charge of the Light Brigade; the Hurricane Center believes Janet is a category one. However, the new information may be too late to prevent a Katrina like disaster.

With a nod to Karen Harper’s Hurricane and 1992’s Andrew, retired Weather Channel meteorologist H.W. "Buzz" Bernard provides a tense thriller as a Catastrophic storm assaults the Georgia coast. Hurricane Janet is seen though the eyes of the Grant family battered and trapped on a resort island though the daughter angle is a bit overly melodramatic and the air force crew caught inside the Eyewall. Exciting from the moment the cast realizes this is not the predicted Minimal Category 1, readers will root for the heroic men and women (and hiss at Walker’s incredulous cartoonish spouse), but the story line is owned by Janet.

Harriet Klausner