Archive for January, 2009

An Accidental Light-Elizabeth Diamond

January 31, 2009

An Accidental Light

Elizabeth Diamond

Other Press,

ISBN: 9781590513019

2 Park Ave, 24th Floor, NY, NY 10016

As it was starting to get dark police officer Jack Philips is driving home when thirteen years old Laura Jenkins runs out of the blue into the road from behind a bus. He has no time to break and kills her. Although the inquest exonerates Jack, he cannot forgive himself as he goes over each second of the tragedy wondering what he could have done different; perhaps turning on his headlights. He remains traumatized as he sees Laura everywhere. He fears for his two daughters and thinks of his mom’s suicide when he was a teen. Unable to work Jack goes on medical leave and unable to talk to his wife Samantha his marriage crumbles.

Laura’s mother Lisa is as depressed as Jack is and ties her daughter’s accidental death to the heart attack that killed her father when she was about Laura’s age. Like Jack she sees Laura everywhere. She turns to psychics as she feels her daughter’s ghost is trying to reach her. Her spouse Derek ignores his wife’s pain. Instead he stalks his daughter’s killer. Jack wonders if the unhinged man is considering an eye for an eye while also pondering whether the teen’s ghost is real and trying to tell him something.

The key to the psychological ghost story is the aftermath on two families sharing an accidental tragedy. Both families deteriorate following the death of Laura although Sam and Derek are never developed beyond the roles of spouse and parent; on the other hand Jack and Lisa are full blooded grieving parents with similar past histories. Fans will wonder if Laura is actually there and if yes, why as Elizabeth Diamond provides a deep family drama that mixes the paranormal with the psychological.

Harriet Klausner

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The King’s Grace-Anne Easter Smith

January 31, 2009

The King’s Grace

Anne Easter Smith

Touchstone, Mar 10 2009, $16.99

ISBN: 9781416550457

In 1485, Richard III, having incarcerated his two nephews Edward and Richard in the London Tower a few years earlier, dies in battle. Everyone including their illegitimate half-sister and frequent visitor Grace Plantagenet assumes the young York Princes who vanished were killed by him. Thus Henry of the House of Tudor claims the crown and ends the War of the Roses.

A few years later Perkin Warbeck arrives in London insisting he is the Duke of York, the younger Prince Richard and the rightful King of England, since he also claims his older sibling was killed by their uncle. Though her half-sister is the queen of King Henry VII and she herself is on the outer fringe of the court’s retinue, Grace needs to know the truth whether Perkin is Richard or a ruse set in motion most likely by a bitter desperate Duchess Margaret to put the House of York back on the throne.

Using an ultra minor real person with links to all the major players in the late fifteenth century as an amateur sleuth, Anne Easter Smith provides the audience with a deep look at the fates of the two princes. The story line is driven by the heroine who wants to be truly accepted by her family as she figuratively swims the polluted Thames trying to determine if the claim is genuine. Fans will enjoy her efforts as Ms. Smith brings to life a court loaded down with Machiavellian-like politics and backstabbing while the major players on the English stage are given the minor treatment as support cast.

Harriet Klausner


The Scent of Sake-Joyce Lebra

January 31, 2009

The Scent of Sake

Joyce Lebra

Avon, Feb 17 2009, $13.99

ISBN: 9780061662379

In Kobe when her two year old brother Toichi died because she failed to watch him closely, Rie is filled with guilt. A few weeks later, her father Kinzaemon IX informs the grieving Rie that she is the “future of the Omura House”. Her interpretation of his simple statement defies societal beliefs. Instead of marrying the next sake brew master, as a woman entering a brewery sours the products, she decides she must save the House of Ohura. She detests her mother’s adage that a female must always live for the male by “killing the self”.

Her parents arrange her marriage to Johei in order for them to produce the next heir. However, she realizes her husband is an incompetent womanizer who will destroy the House of Ohura if left in charge. Rie vows their product White Tiger will be number one sake in Japan, which means defying the demands of her womanizing spouse to raise his children (with a geisha) and by tradition he take charge of the House of Ohura. Over the years she proves a superior business person and her diverse ideas make the House of Ohura strong; her father gives the official brewery seal to her not Johei.

This late nineteenth century Japanese tale focuses on the venerable sake brewing industry through four generations of a family. Rie is the link between her parents, her children and grandchildren as she holds the interesting story line together. What is fascinatingly is how she changes from warm and caring to cold and dominating towards family members. Only the sake eventually receives her warmth. Genre fans will appreciate this deep historical tale that provides insight into late nineteenth century Japanese culture and tradition through the eyes of someone who defies the norm.

Harriet Klausner

Murder In Four Parts-Bill Crider

January 31, 2009

Murder In Four Parts

Bill Crider

Minotaur, Feb 17 209, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312386740

In Texas the Clearview Community Barbershop Chorus musical director florist Lloyd Berry invites Sheriff Dan Rhodes to join as a baritone. Dan is shocked by the invitation as he knows he cannot sing worth saving his soul and so does everyone else including Lloyd knows that as a fact. However, he rejects the offer stating he is too busy with law enforcement.

Soon afterward while Dan searches for an apparent chicken eating gator, someone bashes in Lloyd’s head. He questions the chorus members and is taken aback by the amount of discord; the feuds are palatable leading Dan to wonder if one of the members killed Lloyd. Other incidents divide Dan’s time, but as he digs into Berry’s past, the sheriff finds several irate enemies with motives.

MURDER IN FOUR PARTS is overall a fun often amusing thriller although the prime investigation never accelerates though the trademark sidebar inquiries with the eccentric cast are humorous. Dan is his usual self as he takes his time to insure he is doing things right. Although not quite as exciting as past Rhodes tales (see OF ALL SAD WORDS and MURDER AMONG THE OWLS), the latest Sheriff Rhodes police procedural is an engaging amusing small town mystery.

Harriet Klausner

Hard to Handle-Karen Wiesner

January 31, 2009

Hard to Handle

Karen Wiesner

Whiskey Creek, Jan 2009, $14.95

ISBN: 1603134697

As part of the Network, Dez Luttino and Nova Granger have worked as part of a team that he led on several missions. However, his superior assigns Dez with a strange task as he has mentored her skills in the past. The Network leadership believes strongly that Nova can be one of their best operatives if she can gain one more skil; she must learn to trust her teammates. His seemingly impossible assignment is to get her to have faith in his being there for her.

This will prove his toughest assignment ever as Nova when she was five years old was raped by her father and his friends. Her childhood ordeal has proven doubled edged as she feels for the victims, but rejects closeness with any man even teammates on a mission. Dez begins his quest to earn the trust of a suspicious Nova. As he succeeds in reaching her heart, she reaches his too; they begin to fall in love. Sent on a mission to keep a father and daughter safe, Nova has doubts as the man they protect is pushing a law that allows marriage at any age. However she feels a strange affinity to the mute child until she learns the total truth about her mission and her beloved.

The eighth Incognito thriller is an exciting romantic suspense tale that digs deep inside the soul of an adult who suffered a childhood trauma that never left her and impacts her adult relationships. Filled with plenty of action, the story line is somewhat different than the previous magnificent seven due to Nova who brings plenty of psychological baggage with her on the mission. Karen Wiesner writes an excellent entry filled with angst and action.

Harriet Klausner

Afraid-Jack Kilborn

January 31, 2009

Afraid

Jack Kilborn

Grand Central, Apr 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780446535939

Safe Haven, Wisconsin is a somewhat isolated town of under one thousand people with only one road in and out. Everyone knows everyone and law enforcement is handled by the Ashburn County Sheriff’s Office as needed.

Everything changes when a helicopter crashes in Safe Haven. Two of the occupants are dead, but not by the crash. The survivors leave on a Red Ops mission to find “Warren”. Bernie, Taylor, Santiago and Ajax are not just special ops soldiers; they are trained killers who enjoy torture. With a chip inside their respective heads to keep them focused and “Charge” to give them super skills, they begin destroying the idyllic pastoral town with the brutal murders. The town is cut off as firefighter Josh Van Camp calls Sheriff Arnold Streng about the helicopter crash. They are torturing and killing everyone they meet demanding information as to where is Warren until only Josh, Arnold, single mom Fran Stauffer with her young son Duncan and a runaway monkey stand in their way of finishing the mission with no witnesses left alive.

Although over the top (especially the latter half), fans will be hooked from the opening scene of this one sitting gory thriller. The action-packed story line starts off with blood and guts only to accelerate with more blood and guts flowing. The trained enhanced killers are sadistic and as nasty as one can imagine; they steal the show one intense bite at a time. Jack Kilburn provides a powerful exhilarating bloody thriller as a small town is being annihilated with sadistic military precision.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Desire-Keri Arthur

January 31, 2009

Deadly Desire

Keri Arthur

Bantam, Mar 2009, $6.99

ISBN: 9780553591156

The supernaturals, especially the vampires and shapeshifters, have made themselves known to humans; and though they are not quite equal under human law, they have the Protectorate to police their kind especially if humans are in danger. Guardian Riley Jenson’s latest case involves finding a zombie killing people. She tracks the culprit to an abandoned overhang where it and two hellhounds are intently staring at a crow that is actually a shapeshifting sorceress.

While there she also meets werewolf bounty hunter Kye whose assignment is to kill the necromancer sorceress as a favor to a friend. During a fight, the crow escapes while the zombie and hellhounds are killed. Soon afterward several powerful ancient vampires are murdered with heads and feet severed; their safes are open and their contents missing. The girls they were with were killed by a zombie. Riley believes there is a link between the vampire executions and the dead girls and the sorceress. Rye stays at her side as they try to track down the crow; each step together enhances their attraction for one another. These unwanted feelings horrify both of them and distracts them enough for them to fall into a deadly trap.

Riley is a powerful hunter, but has met her equal in the as obstinate and ornery Kye. Her wolf might want him, but her heart belongs to the ancient vampire Quinn. The whodunit is cleverly developed to keep the audience guessing as to the crow’s prime identity and why zombies are killing vampires. Fans of this great urban romantic fantasy will appreciate the current tale and look forward to the next installment in Keri Arthur’s superb saga.

Harriet Klausner

Life Sentences-Laura Lippman

January 30, 2009

Life Sentences

Laura Lippman

Morrow, Mar 10 2009, $24.99

ISBN: 9780061128899

Author Cassandra Fallows’ nonfiction work received critical acclaim and was best-sellers. Her venture into novels did okay, but not near the level of her memoirs of growing up in Baltimore in the turbulent 1960s or her revelations into her relationships; two failed marriages and a zillion affairs.

She considers writing a biography of her elementary school colleague notorious African-American Calliope Jenkins who two decades ago was accused of murdering her infant son. Jenkins has not answered one question on the infanticide charge. A Caucasian Cassandra looks up three African-American former classmates of both her and Jenkins in order to obtain their memories of her subject’s childhood. However, she is taken aback as their recollections are Grand Canyonesque apart from hers.

Allowing Tess Monoghan to take a well deserved breather but remaining in Baltimore, Laura Lippman provides a deep character study that focuses on the tricks of memories. The gap between what Fallows recalls from their school days vs. the three interviewees is oceanic in size as relativity of perspective surface. Readers will enjoy this strong psychological tale that spotlights the tricks the mind employs to conceal the negative memories; especially those in which the person is more a passive observer rather than directly actively involved.

Harriet Klausner

The Laws of Harmony-Judith Ryan Hendricks

January 30, 2009

The Laws of Harmony

Judith Ryan Hendricks

Harper, Feb 10 2009, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061687365

Sunny Cooper grew up in a New Mexico commune. However, when she was eighteen, an accident killed her younger sister freaking out Sunny. Unable to remain at the commune, she fled in self-exile barely able to communicate with her mom Gwen.

Fourteen years later, Sunny lives in Albuquerque, but still has not moved past her grief and thus remains somewhat estranged from her mom; both somewhat impact her relationship with her boyfriend Michael as she hides part of her self from him. When Michael dies in a questionable accident, the cops interrogate her like she is a killer and like a zillion cockroaches creditors surface demanding payments of Michael’s enormous debt that she was ignorant existed. She flees to the commune, but mom remains the same out of touch happy hippie homemaker. Still needing escape, Sunny flees to Harmony on San Miguel Island off Washington State. However, her past follows her to the barrier island.

Sunny is the key to this intriguing character study of a person hammered by two tragedies in which she has obtained closure in neither. Whereas her mom wrote off her daughter’s death as the laws of nature have taken back her younger child, Sunny internalized it. As to Michael, no one will let her move on. Although the story line has too many sidebars that subtract from the focus of THE LAWS OF HARMONY, a deep psychological drama of a person struggling to cope with traumas in a world that will not allow her to do so.

Harriet Klausner

The Desires of Her Heart-Lyn Cote

January 30, 2009

The Desires of Her Heart

Lyn Cote

Avon, Feb 10 2009, $12.99

ISBN: 9780061373411

In 1821 twenty-five years old spinster Dorritt Mott fears her stepfather Mr. Kilbride is up to his usual no good, but this time her clenched gut expects the worst. She proves right when she learns he gambled away her family’s Belle Vista Plantation that he has lived off of while she ran it. Knowing he must flee from New Orleans, he informs his extended family they will leave for the Texas Territory where they can claim land and start over. Dorritt would like to go her own way, but knows her pampered mom and her spoiled sister Jewell whose fiancé dumped her need her.

Dorritt knows Mr. Kilbride is an amoral moron who will vanish at the first inkling of trouble; from what she knows of the trek from Louisiana to Texas it is very dangerous. She prefers to depend on wagon train half-breed scout Quinn and God than Kilbride. However, as her attraction for the half Cherokee grows, she learns once again a man cannot be trusted as he has business yes with Kilbride.

The opening Texas Star of Destiny tale is an interesting “Era of Good Feelings” Americana romance. Although Mr. Kilbride, his wife and Jewell are too stereotyped, Dorritt and Quinn are fully developed intriguing lead characters. Fans will relish this fine tale of a feisty female defying the expected role of a Louisiana aristocrat in life and in love.

Harriet Klausner