Archive for June, 2010

Ransome’s Crossing-Kaye Dacus

June 30, 2010

Ransome’s Crossing

Kaye Dacus

Harvest House, Jun 2010, $13.99

ISBN: 9780736927543

In 1814, her family is unaware that Charlotte Ransome has a secret fiancé Henry Winchester in Jamaica.  Although she knows she is acting rash, Charlotte dresses up as midshipman Charles Lott to sneak on board one of the vessels of a fleet captained by her brother Commander William Ransome.

However, her plan threatens to fall apart when she becomes ill.  First Lieutenant Ned Cochran knows who Charles is having met briefly Charlotte in England before setting off for the Caribbean.  He is already halfway in love with her from that brief meeting in Portsmouth and decides to conceal her true identity from his superior officer her brother the Commander.  On the journey across the sea to find her fiancé, Charlotte finds herself attracted to caring Ned; leaving her to ponder her fickleness as she falls in love with a second man.

The second Ransome historical romance (see Ramsome’s Honor for the turbulent romance between William and Julia) is a terrific early nineteenth century tale as readers will feel they are at sea crossing the Atlantic.  The lead couple is a fabulous pairing as she feels capricious while he risks his career for his beloved.  Although women disguised as men has been used many times in books and movies, Kaye Dacus makes it feel sea-breezing fresh with a strong entry that also sets up the next novel in the saga with a wonderful final twisting cliffhanger.

Harriet Klausner

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Playing With Fire-Amy Knupp

June 30, 2010

Playing With Fire

Amy Knupp

Harlequin SuperRomance, Jul 13 2010, $5.50

ISBN: 9780373716463

Macey Locke leaves the Peace Corps after two years and heads to San Amaro Island, Texas, home of her best friend Derek Severson.  She loves Derek, but knows he does not return her deepest feelings.  However, her mission is to help her BFF move passed the tragic death of his girlfriend Julie in a fire last year.

As a  firefighter Derek feels guilty that in spite of his occupation he failed to save Julie’s life.  Worse, he finds his attraction to Macey makes him think he is betraying Julie’s memory.  However, as he realizes he loves Macey, he also concludes kind-hearted Julie would want him to go on with his life.  Now to persuade Macey they can be friends and lovers.

This is a terrific contemporary tale with a romantic subplot that enhances the relationship drama between the lead couple.  The key to the well-written novel is Derek as the audience will feel his grief and commiserate with him; feelings from others he does not want.  His guilt for failing Julie and for falling in love with his BFF make for a strong emotional story line though the premise of a second chance at love with a best buddy is not new.  Amy Knupp provides a powerful novel as this Texas Firefighter learns what happens to one’s heat when Playing With Fire of the woman who loves him.

Harriet Klausner

Baked-Mark Haskell Smith

June 30, 2010

Baked

Mark Haskell Smith

Black Cat (Grove/Atlantic), Aug 6 2010, $14.00

ISBN: 9780802170767

In Los Angeles botanist Miro Basinas is shot.  One month earlier, Miro competed in the international Cannabis Cup tournament in Amsterdam.  Stunningly his Elephant Crush won the gold medal at the competition because of its wonderful flavoring that tastes like mango.

Miro thought by entering his prize specialty grown weed he would hit the big time especially after he won.  Now in a hospital as he recovers from being shot he learns his seed has been stolen by predatory capitalists who plan to sell his cannabis.  He vows revenge, but has no idea how one goes about becoming an avenger as this is comic books or a movie and he is a weed botanist; besides he has no idea who shot him and stole his seed as several predators, besides the usual suspects, surface.

This is a dark amusing crime caper starring a half baked capitalist botanist and a horde of eccentric characters who run the gamut of stereotypical free market idealists.  Although the support cast can strain the story line with too much quirkiness, readers who enjoy something different will appreciate the battle of the capitalists who want to sell legally at medical marihuana “Starbucks” and illegally on the streets, Miro blend with or without his cooperation; as competition is cutthroat.

Harriet Klausner

Did Not Survive-Ann Littlewood

June 30, 2010

Did Not Survive

Ann Littlewood

Poisoned Pen, Jul 1 2010, $24.95

ISBN: 9781590587454

At the Finley Memorial Zoo in Vancouver, Washington pregnant Iris Oakley is reassigned from her Big Cat keeper job to the birds. Iris finds administrator Kevin Wallace lying in blood and unconscious in the elephant barn.  Hovering near him is Damrey the elephant.  Iris manages to rescue Wallace, but is bewildered that gentle elderly Damrey would attack him.

Everyone assumes Damrey assaulted Kevin except Sam the elephant head keeper although no one can explain why the victim would be inside that barn or what he did to ignite Damrey’s fury.  At the same time while the humans ponder the elephant walk, Clouded Leopard gives birth.  However, the zoo turns macabre when an animal corpse is stolen and other animals kidnapped while the elephant herd seems to have drawn angry animal activists and the keepers are fighting with each other.

The second Finley memorial Zoo amateur sleuth (see Night Kill) is an enjoyable mystery with a nice twist of Iris’ “innocent” inquiries confusing the official investigation.  The sleuthing is fun to follow, but the prime pleasure with Did Not Survive is the leisurely vivid descriptions of what goes on behind the scenes at a zoo.

Harriet Klausner

Blood Men-Paul Cleave

June 30, 2010

Blood Men

Paul Cleave

Atria, Jul 20 2010, $16.00

ISBN: 9781439189610

When Edward Hunter was nine years old his life radically changed.  First a voice in his head directed him to put nails inside a steak that he fed to a dog, who died a painful death.  In that same year his father dubbed Jack the Hunter was arrested and convicted of killing at least eleven prostitutes; his older sister died from an overdose; and finally Edward’s mom committed suicide unable to cope with what Jack did.

Shocked into behaving, Edward becomes an accountant and affectionately loving towards his wife Jodie and their six-year-old daughter Sam.  During Christmas week Jodie and Edward are at a bank in Christchurch, New Zealand when six armed robbers assault the place.  Edward goes into face them, but his confrontation leads to Jodie’s death. The dormant voice is back ordering him to kill.  Shook by his wife’s death and the voice, Edward visits his father for the first since Jack was locked away.  Jack says he heard the voice too and suggests to his son to follow its call and avenge the murder of his beloved wife.

This is a fascinating character study that looks deeply at what motivates anti society activities.  The story line is at its best when the focus is inside the head of Edward who thinks he may just be a chip off the old block.  However, the story line also contains too many subplots in which none fully take charge though ultimately the myriad converge in a final clash.  Still fans of twisting psychological thrillers with a red sea of blood will want to read Edward’s lament (perhaps too much lamenting by him) as he fears his DNA imprint is serial killer not family patriarch.

Harriet Klausner

Cure-Robin Cook

June 30, 2010

Cure

Robin Cook

Putnam, Aug 10 2010, $26.95

ISBN 9780399156625

Medical examiners Laurie Montgomery and Jack Stapleton are euphoric with the birth of their first offspring.  Following medical leave, Laurie returns to work and her boss assigns to her a routine inquiry in which the preliminary indication is death by natural causes.

However, something feels off kilter to Laurie and she is positive it is not caused by postpartum blues.  She digs a bit deeper and soon realizes the victim has been poisoned.  Her investigation leads to the Mafia and Japanese gangsters competing with money laundering investments in a crooked stem-cell research firm.  When the felons kidnap her son Laurie goes lioness berserker in pursuit.

Cure in an exciting medical thriller due to the diligence of the lead protagonist whose investigation leads to a convergence of the biotechnical and mob industries aimed at her and her loved ones.  The story line is fast-paced from the moment Laurie begins her autopsy and never slows down.  Although resolutions are incredibly too obvious, easy and abrupt, fans will enjoy the latest Montgomery-Stapleton tale (see Foreign Body) as the enemy goes after them by targeting their Achilles’ Heel.

Harriet Klausner

Black Swan Rising-Lee Carroll

June 30, 2010

Black Swan Rising

Lee Carroll

Tor, Aug 3 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9780765325976

 

In her New York City neighborhood jewelry designer Garet James walks into a curio shop that she never noticed before.  Owner John Dee notices the swan design on her ring is identical to that on an antique silver box that he cannot open.  He asks her to open the box.  Shortly afterward, three men with no whites in their eyes enter ner father’s art gallery and then her apartment.  They take the box and her father is shot; he informs Garet they are demons who tried to take him over.  Garet returns to the store, but it is shut and looks like it has not been used in years. 

Garet sees a picture of billionaire Will Hughes and his home which has the same swan design on the arch as that of the ring and box.  When they meet, he explains she is a guardian watchtower standing between two worlds fighting evil.  Garet visits the Cloisters in the Bronx; where a manticore comes alive and bites her.  Will tells her he is a vampire; his bite will rid her body of the deadly manticore toxin.  He further explains he is tracking the demons Despair and Discord who came to this plane when the box was opened and are in the process of forming. Will wants to prevent them from spreading their malevolence and needs her help starting with her meeting King Oberon of the fairies.

Garet’s metamorphosis from designer to arcane warrior make for a fun urban fantasy as she sees fey on the city streets.  Garet adapts to her new world order rather too easily as the heroine meets demons, elementals, air sprite, a mermaid, a dragon, a gnome and others while falling in love with a vampire.  Fans will enjoy touring the streets of Manhattan and the Bronx with Garet as our guide.

 

Harriet Klausner

After America-John Birmingham

June 30, 2010

After America

John Birmingham

Del Rey, Aug 17 2010, $26.00

ISBN: 9780345502919

Several years have passed since the catastrophic wave of energy destroyed the United States in 2003 that came like a tsunami Without Warning.  Scientists remained baffled with what caused it, why it abruptly vanished a year later and how to prevent a return.  In the meantime the White House moved to Seattle where American President James Kipper is frustrated with no answers and as is the case with the traumatized people struggling to endure, he fears what will happen if another such wave assaults the continent.  Still he pushes forward with the greatest reconstruction project in the history of the world.

President Kipper visits the Declared Security Zone of New York where militia and pirates rule the city and the burbs, but is greeted by an assassination attempt.  At the same time in the breakaway republic of Texas, farmer Miguel Pieraro follows the path to citizenship in the New America until an ethnic cleansing campaign led by a rogue army officer destroys his family.  In England, American army officer Caitlin Monroe struggles to survive an assault on her life.  Finally, in the wasteland of the Middle East comes a major threat to what is left of the world.  Between lawlessness on the eastern seaboard and what is occurring overseas and in Texas, Kipper, a builder by heart, needs to find his warrior fortitude as he is reluctant to confront anyone with America still reeling; but ignoring the threats to local security will destroy the United States permanently.

The sequel to Without Warning is a terrific exhilarating thriller that grips the audience from start to finish.  Heroes are everywhere from every walk of life whether they are city engineers turned POTUS, a Mexican-American farmer, an overseas officer and others risking their lives against ruthless lethal fully armed adversaries.  Readers will enjoy this exhilarating post-apocalyptic tale that stands alone, but enhanced by reading what the wave caused first.

Harriet Klausner

The Good Thief’s Guide To Vegas-Chris Ewan

June 29, 2010

The Good Thief’s Guide To Vegas

Chris Ewan

Minotaur, Aug 17 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312580827

British author Charlie Howard makes more money as a sophisticated thief.  He and his writing agent Victoria visit Las Vegas.  There they meet magician Josh Masters, who is performing as the star attraction at the Fifty-Fifty casino on the Strip and apparently attracted to Victoria.

Charlie decides the obnoxious magician needs a lesson for his designs on Victoria so he plans to rob $60,000 in chips from his intended victim’s hotel safe.  Everything goes according to the good thief’s plan until he sees a corpse in Masters’ bathtub. During a performance, Masters performs a perfect disappearing act while the casino owners demand Charlie fork over the chips.

The latest Good Thief Guide thriller (see Paris and Amsterdam) is a delightful crime caper in which everything goes Murphy (wrong) for the urbane title character.  Charlie is a combo antiheroic hero whose latest escapades have as always led to him into trouble from all sides of the trapezoidal law.  Fans will enjoy Charlie’s humorous lighthearted misadventures on the Strip as he muses that last week (previous tale) he saw the Eiffel Tower in Paris and this week he sees the Eiffel Tower in Vegas; both visits having in common someone wanting to roll a snake eyes of him from the top.

Harriet Klausner

Murder at Mansfield Park-Lynn Shepherd

June 29, 2010

Murder at Mansfield Park

Lynn Shepherd

St. Martin’s Griffin, Jul 20 2010, $14.99

ISBN: 9780312638344

At Mansfield Park, usually upbeat Mary Crawford hates, like everyone else, seemingly once meek and insipid Fanny Price the former charity case who has turned nasty ever since she became an heiress; Fanny tossed away her humble pie façade of modesty since gaining wealth.  Still, though Mary loathes Fanny, she would not want anything horrific to happen to her tormentor, for the most part.  Thus when Fanny’s body is found in a nearby fairgrounds Mary wonders who else the supposed inconspicuous Fanny tortured enough to have the motive to kill her.

Mary decides to investigate who killed the mean queen of complacency.  Ever the optimist, she begins to follow the clues while joined by a thief not realizing how dangerous sleuthing at Mansfield Park can be.

Murder at Mansfield Park is an entertaining spin on the original Jane Austen classic as Lynn Shepherd modifies traits (in some cases dramatically) key Crawford-Price extended family players in her fun historical whodunit.  The story line is a fast-paced amateur sleuth that Austen aficionados will appreciate, but so will mystery fans of nineteenth century English investigations.  This is a fun refreshing Miss Austen spin.

Harriet Klausner