Archive for January, 2010

Sherlock Holmes: The American Years-Michael Kurland (Editor)

January 30, 2010

Sherlock Holmes: The American Years

Michael Kurland (Editor)

Minotaur, Feb 2 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312378462

This is a super ten story collection that cleverly chronicles young Holmes in America and Mexico where he meets famous luminaries and solves cases before he becomes the great Baker St. sleuth.

“Inga Sigerson Weds” by Richard A. Lupoff.  In 1875 Holmes and his sister arrive in New York for a family wedding.

“My Silk Umbrella” by Darryl Brock.  Holmes and Mark Twain meet in Hartford at a baseball match.

“The Old Senator by Steve Hockensmith.  Young actor William Gillette and Holmes meet years before the former plays the latter on stage.

“The American Adventure” by Gary Lovisi.  In 1876 Holmes meets Dr. Joseph Bell before falling in love with vivacious married Diana Strickland.

“The Sacred White Elephant of Mandalay” by Michael Mallory.  In Connecticut, Holmes and P.T. Barnum discuss fooling the public.

“The Curse of Edwin Booth by Carole Bugge.  Booth the stage actor hires Holmes to help him with a “curse”.

“The Case of the Reluctant Assassin” by Peter Tremayne.  Holmes travels to an Irish town in Nebraska to solve a mystery.

“Cutting for Signs” by Rhys Bowen.  On a stagecoach in the New Mexico Territory, robbers make the mistake of holding up Holmes.

“The English Senor” by Marta Randall.  Working a case in Mexico, Holmes learns a key lesson that the cold detailed facts are critical, but as significant is the heart behind the details.

“The Stagecoach Detective” by Linda Robertson.  In Lakesport, Holmes works the case involving “The Royal family of Silverado”.

Harriet Klausner


Slow Fire-Ken Mercer

January 30, 2010

Slow Fire

Ken Mercer

Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $25.99

ISBN: 9780312558352

Knowing he needed a change in location to kick his heroin addiction, narcotics detective Will Magowan leaves LAPD to take the position of police chief in Haydenville, California.  His wife chose divorce rather than accompany him to the northern rural part of the state to reside in a trailer.

Will almost immediately needs to apply his homicide detecting skills when the corpse of Caitlyn Johnson is found near a kayak.  Soon afterward, Will gets involved in a bar shooting, other violence, and an incident with former Hell’s Angel convicted killer Frank Carver who has become a writer and philanthropist.  He also struggles with the town’s greatest growth industry, meth production; the reason Mayor Bonnie Newman hired him but threatens to fire him as instead of abating the flow, it has increased.  Will finds a meth stash at the cabin of Henry Bell, but the mark suicides rather than provide Will with information.  The police chief believes good citizen Carver is the drug king, but proving it is difficult as nothing works to catch him.

Slow Fire is a fast-paced rural police procedural that shines a spotlight on the small town meth problem that has not felt the impact of the recession; in fact is a growth industry.  Will is a fascinating hero who struggles with addiction, his wife leaving him, and the threat of losing his last chance job.  Fans will enjoy his stressed out life although some spins seem a bit over Mount Shasta.

Harriet Klausner

Let It Ride-John McFetridge

January 30, 2010

Let It Ride

John McFetridge

Minotaur, Feb 16 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312599485

Sunitha Suraiya dreams of leaving depressed Detroit, but to achieve her goal she needs money.  Working at massage parlors is petty cash; robbing them is just a little more petty cash as is holding up better spas with its white wealthy women.  So Sunitha is planning a major heist.

After spending time playing soldier in Afghanistan, Vernard “Get” McGetty is back in the Motor City selling drugs.  His contact is JT, chief of the Ontario Saints of Hell biker gang, who dreams of being the druglord of the province and eventually the Dominion.  They met in Afghanistan where a drug partnership was formed.  Sunitha realizes Get is her mechanism to leave town as he has access to JT who owns a ton of gold bullion he plans to use to buy drugs and she plans to steal from him while cops on both sides of the border salivate over dreaming of a drug war.

This is a wild crime caper starring people with a different moral take than most American-Canadian residents.  The exciting Noir story line is character driven especially by Sunitha, Get and JT.  Although there is too much going on at times, fans will appreciate this zany tour of Detroit and Toronto with everyone answering whom do you trust with the answer no one not even the person staring back at you in a mirror or worse a person you may love.

Harriet Klausner

The Last Stormlord-Glenda Larke

January 30, 2010

The Last Stormlord

Glenda Larke

Orbit, Marc2010, $7.99

ISBN: 9780316069151

In Scarcleft City in the Scarpen Quarter, her father sells his twelve year old daughter Terelle to Opal’s snuggery where she picks up dirty plates and mugs to be reused in the kitchen.  Terelle knows that if she fails to escape shortly she will become a courtesan handmaiden just like her older half-sister Vivie who counseled her to accept the inevitable.  However, the water painter gives her hope.

At the same time that Terelle considers how to escape, the Stormlord is dying and no one seems capablee of taking over his critical duties.  Shale the low life has the gift, but lacks the training and being an outcast means he will never receive the training to control being a Stormord bringing the needed rain to the desert.  As he wanders around while the current Stormlord nears death, the son of Granlon the Cloudmaster Nealrith Almondine and Kaneth Carnelian check levels at water cisterns to find each one at dangerous low drought levels.  They discuss moral options while Taquar leads the tribes to return to the Time of Random Rain; to achieve his goal he must kill anyone who displays the watergiver talent.

This is a terrific fantasy that uses a dangerous drop in water levels to set up the excellent opening act of what looks like will be a superb relevant thriller.  The ensemble cast is incredibly deep so that even secondary characters like Kaneth and the water talented female Ryka that he should marry come across as fully developed enhancing the plausibility of the story line of doom.  In fact Kaneth explains the two extreme choices between allowing everyone to die slowly and mass murder to enable a chosen few high up in the water hierarch to live.  Fans will enjoy Glenda Larke’s terrific relevant tale as the water wars seem imminent in the Quartern.

Harriet Klausner

The Folding Knife-K.J. Parker

January 30, 2010

The Folding Knife

K.J. Parker

Orbit, Feb 22 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9780316038447

Bassiamus “Basso: Severus was born to an aristocratic family in the Republic of Vesani.  His father was First Citizen, but lost his position in the next election to an offspring of a sausage worker.  He decided to buy up a bank’s outstanding shares.  When Basso grew up he married the woman his parents chose for him.  When Basso comes home one day, he sees his wife and brother-in-law having sex; he kills both of them.

His sister who Basso loved more than anyone else turned her back on him.  However, he is the First Citizen of the Vesani Republic and owns the bank so still does his best for her.  The only demand she made of him that he could not fulfill was to cut all ties with his son Bassano.  The people love Basso and the House passes all the bills he presents to them.  He knows the Republic must annex their neighbors to become an empire because he fears the Empire of the East, once it stops rebuilding, will look westward to places like Vesani.  His first invasion is mineral rich Mavortis which has no central army, but a traitor insures his plan fails to execute properly.

Based on Ancient Rome, The Folding Knife is a work of exciting speculative fiction.  The fascinating story line focuses on idealistic Basso the Magnificent who is a brilliant pragmatic strategist.  He knows his decisions will cost lives, but though he grieves what will occur, Basso feels this is only way to save his beloved Republic.  What his idealism concealed from him is that it only takes one mistake to devastate even the greatest person.THE FOLDING KNIFE is excellent because of the great storyline, well crafted characterizations and a look into a fascinating culture.

Harriet Klausner

Stephenie Meyer: The Unauthorized Biography of the Creator of the Twilight Saga

January 29, 2010

Stephenie Meyer: The Unauthorized Biography of the Creator of the Twilight Saga

Marc Shapiro

St. Martin’s Griffin, Jan 2010, $12.99

ISBN 9780312638290

With the popularity of the Twilight saga – books and movies (aside to my niece Ashley – how many times have you read and seen Twilight?), it is not surprising to find an unauthorized biography of the author Stephanie Meyer.  As he did with his J.K. Rowling bio, Marc Shapiro researches the literature and conducts interviews of peripherals associated with Stephenie Meyer.  Although well written and fun to read, no major new revelation surfaces as most fans know that for instance the Twilight concept was created during a dream and the impact of the saga on Forks, Washington.  Somewhat less known is the religious beliefs of this wife and mom writer.  Still those fans ready to travel to Forks will enjoy this bio-lite.

Harriet Klausner

Petals From The Sky-Mingmei Yip

January 29, 2010

Petals From The Sky

Mingmei Yip

Kensington, Mar 2010, $15.00

ISBN: 9780758241818

Thirteen year old Meng Ning fell into a well.  She survived her ordeal, but also had a revelation that she was fated to be a Buddhist nun.  Now an adult Meng has not yet taken her vows as her mentor encourages her to take some time and study abroad, which she does in Paris while her mother is horrified with her daughter’s decision.

At the Summer Buddhist Retreat, a fire places Meng in jeopardy until American Dr. Michael Fuller, who rescued her when her black-market monetary exchange proved counterfeit, carries her to safety.  They become friends and companions.  However, that ends when he proposes and she refuses as her dream is to be a nun not a wife.  Although she changes her mind and accepts, she still wonders if she is making a mistake until a car accident opens her eyes.

This is an intriguing look at Buddhism in mostly Paris and Hong Kong; so there is a western flavoring.  The story line is profound as Meng must choose between spiritual and mortal loves; while coping with pressure from others trying to influence her selection.  Although Michael seems more like a stereotype of a westerner involved with an Asian woman whose belief system differs from his, fans will enjoy Petals From the Sky as Meng must determine the path her devotion leads her to.

Harriet Klausner

The Endless Forest-Sara Donati

January 29, 2010

The Endless Forest

Sara Donati

Delacorte, Jan 2010, $27.00

ISBN: 9780553805260

In 1824 the Sacandaga River overflows its banks flooding what had been Paradise, New York.  The devastation is everywhere with no family immune from what is described as the hundred year flood.  However, after the storm comes calm as people go about the business of surviving, caring for one another and hopefully rebuilding.

Elizabeth and Nathaniel Bonner are sad about the destruction but euphoric that their thirty years old daughter Lily accompanied by her husband Simon has come home from Italy.  Also adding to their elation is their adopted daughter Martha is back in town too.  However, following Martha to Paradise is her biological mother Jemima, who abandoned her daughter over a decade ago.  A cruel woman, she apparently caused the end of her daughter’s engagement to Peyton.  Lily’s twin brother Daniel offers to marry Martha, but though she no longer sees him as a sibling but much more she does not want a pity marriage.  He does not either as he sees her as a wife not a sister.  Neither does his brother Ethan who proposes to family friend Callie.

The final Bonner family historical saga is an interesting tale that provides readers with a glimpse of Upstate New York around the time James Fennimore Cooper was writing the Leatherstocking classics.  The story line ties up major loose ends, but the key cast next generation pale next to the villainess who steals the show from the Bonner brood who seem two dimensional in comparison.  Still fans will enjoy The Endless Forest.

Harriet Klausner

The Weight of Heaven-Thrity Umrigar

January 29, 2010

The Weight of Heaven

Thrity Umrigar

Harper, Feb 2 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9780061472558

Following the death of their seven years old son from meningitis, psychologist Ellie Benton persuades her spouse Frank that he should accept a position to run a HerbalSolutions factory in Girbaug, India as it will be easier to move past their grief if they leave Ann Arbor.  He agrees.

In the small village, Ellie adapts rather easily working at a clinic while Frank remains filled with grief and drifts away from his wife.  His only solace is tutoring his housekeeper’s son Ramesh, which is resented by the lad’s father Prakesh.  Meanwhile Ellie and Frank are on different sides of the issue of the trees as she defends the locals’ use and he claims his company owns them under a lease agreement with the government.  Investigative reporter Nandita meets Ellie and they become friends, which further alienates the American woman from her mate.  Tragedy seems imminent as hostilities in the village over the trees grow.

This is an entertaining tale of two kindhearted caring people whose outlook is different; as one adjusts while the other turns into the Ugly American who can only buy friendship with a replacement local child.  The story line is fast-paced for the most part although a flashback to the Benton courtship feels like unnecessary padding as it adds nothing since the audience knows the couple is educated and liberal until a year or so passes in India.  Still readers will appreciate this fine tale as the Benton couple serve as a microcosm of capitalist interests with opposite directions in how each adapts to residing in Girbaug.

Harriet Klausner

Crazy Heart-Thomas Cobb

January 29, 2010

Crazy Heart

Thomas Cobb

Harper, Feb 2 2010, $13.99

ISBN: 9780060915193

At one time Bad Blake was a country-and-western superstar, but years of alcohol have taken its toll.  In his late fifties, his best has long passed.  Even his personal life has been a failure with four broken marriages and a son he has not seen in decades.

Bad once got Tommy Sweet gigs, but now the roles have reversed with the young superstar having Blake open for him.  Reporter Jean Craddock meets Bad Black for an interview and they are attracted to one another.  As they fall in love, her young son Buddy is the impetus for Bad to look up his son.  That reunion like his entire life goes bad, but Bad moves on.  Alone with Buddy, he loses his girlfriend’s son when he stops for a drink, which will cost him much more.

With a nod to A Star Is Born, this is a character study of a self-destructive person who failed to cope with fame and fortune.  The slight story line focuses on Bad, whose irresponsible behavior adversely impacts those who care about him, but learn quickly the cost is too high as he drives them away with his out of control actions.  Fans will enjoy Thomas Cobb’s bittersweet look into a Crazy Heart.

Harriet Klausner