Archive for September, 2008

The Lover’s Knot-Clare O’Donahue

September 30, 2008

The Lover’s Knot

Clare O’Donahue

Plume, Sep 2008, $13.00

ISBN: 9780452289796

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner

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The Black Cloister-Melanie Dobson

September 30, 2008

The Black Cloister

Melanie Dobson

Kregel, Jun 2008, $13.99

ISBN: 9780825424434

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner

 

The Memorist-M.J. Rose

September 30, 2008

The Memorist

M.J. Rose

Mira, Nov 2008, $24.95

ISBN: 0778325849

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner

Night of the Furies-David Angsten

September 30, 2008

Night of the Furies

David Angsten

Dunne, Oct 2008, $24.95

ISBN: 9780312373702

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner


Undercover Angel-Karen Wiesner

September 30, 2008

Undercover Angel

Karen Wiesner

Whiskey Creek, Oct 2008

ISBN: 1603132740

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner

The Other Side of Silence-Bill Pronzini

September 30, 2008

The Other Side of Silence

Bill Pronzini

Walker, Oct 5 2008, $24.00

ISBN: 9780802717139

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner


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

September 30, 2008

The Knight of the Red Beard

Andre Norton and Sasha Miller

Tor, Sep 2008, $25.95

ISBN: 9780765307484

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner

The Face-Angela Hunt

September 29, 2008

The Face

Angela Hunt

Mira, Nov 2008, $6.99

ISBN: 9780778327271

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner

Open Doors-Gloria Goldreich

September 29, 2008

Open Doors

Gloria Goldreich

Mira, Nov 2008, $13.95

ISBN: 9780778325437

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner

Hearts on the Wind-Leslee Breene

September 29, 2008

Hearts on the Wind

Leslee Breene

Five Star, Oct 2008, $25.95

ISBN 9781594147166

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Harriet Klausner