Archive for August, 2010

Blue Lightning-Ann Cleeves

August 31, 2010

Blue Lightning

Ann Cleeves

Minotaur, Sep 28 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312384357

Police Detective Jimmy Perez brings his English fiancée Fran Hunter to his home on Fair Isle to meet his parents and the other residents.  A welcoming fete is thrown, but at a bird observatory, someone stabs a woman with a knife to her back and leaving feathers in her hair.

The deceased is a famous BBC ornithologist Angela, alleged guardian of the island’s bird sanctuary.  Perez realizes the victim was universally disliked by those who knew her; even perhaps her husband Maurice.  Suspects are numerous ranging from a myriad of lovers, her stepdaughter, her employee and the bird lovers’ crowd.  Perez struggles on his own due to a hurricane cutting off the island from the mainland.  At the same time just before the storm hit, there is an influx of bird watchers due to a rare avian finding.  As Perez digs deeper and Fran tries to help her beloved though he pleads with her not to get involved, he fears a tie to his family.

The final Shetland Island police procedural (see Red Bones, Raven Black and White Nights) is a super whodunit.  The story line focuses beyond just Jimmy’s investigation and relationship with his fiancée, as the murder haunts the small community although the victim is loathed by anyone who met her.  Jimmy is great as he is cut off from professional help, but though he detests what he is finding, he resolutely stays the course.  With a final twist that will stun fans, The Shetland Island saga is a terrific series and hopefully will have more colorful Fair Isle mysteries.

Harriet Klausner


Par for the Course-Jennifer Vido

August 31, 2010

Par for the Course

Jennifer Vido

Top Publications, Jun 2010, $14.00

12221 Merit Dr, Suite 950

Dallas, Texas 75251

ISBN: 9781929976720

In Woodlawn Ohio, when her older womanizing wealthy husband Charles is murdered, Piper O’Donnell is the prime suspect as Par for the Course the cops always look at the family.  The townsfolk especially those snooty society ladies at the Woodlawn Golf & Country Club assume she killed her spouse for his money or perhaps another one of his affairs; or more likely both.  For her part, she wished they remained in Manhattan.

Piper and Rusty O’Brien meet and are attracted to one another.  They, accompanied by her sister and her friend, investigate the homicide before the cops replace Piper’s clubs with a murder rap.  However, none of the quartet are prepared for a killer who plans to make a hole in one with their respective heads if they come close to his or her identity.

Lighthearted, this is an enjoyable nineteen holes of golf amateur sleuth.  The story line is breezy as the quartet of tyro detectives follow the sexual escapes of the late Charles as they believe one of his women finally gave him the permanent hook.  Fans who enjoy a facetious sports mystery will want to play the Woodlawn course alongside of Piper and friends.

Harriet Klausner

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End: The Story of a Crime-Leif GW Persson

August 31, 2010

Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End: The Story of a Crime

Leif GW Persson

Pantheon, Sep 14 2010, $27.95

ISBN: 9780307377456

American John Krassner is in Stockholm writing a biography on his uncle, OSS agent Colonel John Buchanan just after WW II.  Krassner has found evidence that ties Buchanan to a Swedish politician known as “Pilgrim”, but he is unsure who that is though he has an idea.

Meanwhile the Swedish secret police have become concerned with threats to their Prime Minister Olaf Palme.  They link the noise to the American Krassner, who almost immediately is under suspicion. He apparently commits suicide by jumping from a student dorm window.  He almost kills an elderly pedestrian walking his Pomeranian, but Charlie the dog saves his owner’s life only to have the leaper’s shoe kill the dog.  Soon afterward someone assassinates Palme, but the Swedish manhunt fails to find a killer or a valid group claiming the hit.  However, police superintendent Lars Johansson finds a tie between the dead American, his uncle and the murdered PM.

Constructed around the unsolved cold case murder of PM Palme, Between Summer’s Longing and Winter’s End: The Story of a Crime is an interesting first act of a fictionalized account of the assassination.  The story line has too much going on especially in the first sections of the novel making it difficult to follow.  However, once Johansson takes control of the plot, the whodunit becomes more focused and enjoyable.  Though Lars (so far at least) is no Falck or Wallender, fans of Camilla Lackberg and Henning Mankell will enjoy this opening police procedural that delves deep into the Swedish identity haunted by the homicide a quarter of a century ago.

Harriet Klausner

Me, Myself, and Why?-MaryJanice Davidson

August 31, 2010

Me, Myself, and Why?

MaryJanice Davidson

St. Martin’s, Sep 28 2010, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312531171

In Minneapolis, the FBI Bureau of False Flags Ops (BOFFO) Agent Cadence Jones suffers from multiple personality disorder, which is an asset for the mission of this unit filled with psychotics and an occasional functional neurotic.  She and her partner sociopath George Pinkham are assigned to ending the reign of terror of Threefer Killer, who murders people in groups of three leaving behind newspaper articles and nothing else.

The serial killer begins sending messages to Cadence and her two sisters Shiro and Adrienne.  Depending on which MPD is working determines whether Cadence is concerned or not.  However, anyone who is from the Twin Cities knows better than to mess with the Jones.  More concerned to Cadence as she switches from one personality to another is she falls in love with her best friend’s visiting brother.

Clearly over the top of the Prospect Park Water Tower and Deming Heights Park combined, Me, Myself and Why? Is a zany dark humorous police procedural.  Not for all of MaryJanice Davidson’s fans especially the paranormal shoe lovers, this tale lampoons how easily society conveniently catalogues people to make them fit inside a file drawer.  The strong radically offbeat edgy cast make for a madcap Minnesota mystery, in which ironically MPD sufferer holds the plot together as readers will wonder whether to label her as the main character or characters.

Harriet Klausner

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe- Charles Yu

August 31, 2010

How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe

Charles Yu

Pantheon, Sep 7 2010, $25.00

ISBN: 9780307379207

In Minor Universe 31, time travel is a way of life as is paradoxes caused by someone tinkering with the past.  Time technician Charles Yu fixes the stupid actions of those wanting change without comprehending the consequences.  He councils these idiots, but does so calmly even when he tries to pacify his harried boss Phil.

Yu visits his mother, who is trapped in a life of one-hour in which she prepares dinner infinitely.  He still seeks his father who invented the machines that enable time travel, but vanished while testing his gizmos.  Accompanied by TAMMY the operating system with Yu’s personality (to include a lack of self-worth) and Ed the imaginary ontological canine, he continues his personal quest to meet and talk with his dad; having gained hope by a book he will one day author, How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe.

This is an intriguing time travel science fiction tale starring a stay out of trouble extremist (think of Columbus in most of the movie Zombieland) who as a bureaucrat quietly rectifies the mistakes of others while searching for his lost dad to have a father-son chat.  The story line feels like a Moebius series of loops so is difficult to follow yet quite fun to do so.  Although the climax is abrupt and seemingly out of character for the safety only lead protagonist, SF fans who enjoy something radically different will want to read Charles Yu’s escapades in time and space.

Harriet Klausner

Tome of the Undergates-Sam Sykes

August 31, 2010

Tome of the Undergates

Sam Sykes

PYR, Sep 1 2010, $17.00

ISBN 9781616142421

They are a band loathed and feared by everyone else.  They take only jobs that no one else even considers as that is the only work they can get.  These mercenaries are not a band of brothers (and sisters) in arms as they detest one another.  Their leader by default is Lenk the swordsman whose prime job is to prevent Denaos the thug, Asper the priestess, Dreadaelon the wizard, Gariath the dragonman, and Kataria the shict from killing each other especially when they are on the job.

Their current assignment is to protect a Priest while searching for the stolen by an oceanic malevolence Tome of the Undergates as they sail on the Riptide.  Cragsmen of the vessel Linkmaster attack their vessel, but the six defeat the pirates though thy are incredibly outnumbered.  However that is a forerunner as soon the sextet will learn what their greed means as they are caught in the crosshairs of a war in which the hell beneath the sea wants to dominate the world.

This is an entertaining seafaring fantasy filled with plenty of adventures.  The story line is loaded with action as the six fight adversaries including each other.  The back stories of each are well written and interesting though their tales slow down the pace of the oceanic fantasy and in spite of their diversity reads somewhat interchangeable.  Still fans will enjoy the opening Tome of the Undergates.

Harriet Klausner

Intrigues-Mercedes Lackey

August 31, 2010


Mercedes Lackey

Daw, Oct 5 2010, $25.95

ISBN: 9780756406394

Once Magpie was a slave for a sadistic mine owner, but the young teen became free when the Valdemar Companion Sentient Horse like magical being, who communicates telepathically, Chose him.  Mags is ensconced in Haven training at the Herald Collegium to become a herald.  Although the curriculum is hard, Mages believes he is paradise with a comfortable place to sleep and plenty of food to eat.

However, Mags does not feel a part of the group and prefers to sleep in a bedroom in the barn where his Companion is boarded.  In the records, he learns the names of his parents who were foreigners.  He comes under suspicion when those who foresee have a vision of the king with blood on him and the sense the person with him is a foreigner.  His peers at school especially suspect Mags, but his true friends band together and make him feel as if he belongs.  One day when he is in Haven, Mags sees the phony tradesman and his bodyguards who say they are from Seejay.  After Mags and his buddies exposed their fake identities they pretended to leave.  Mags sees the phony person again and knows they are dangerous to Hven.  With his Companion injured and he being isolated, Mags must prevent the foreigner from performing the dastardly deed he plans on doing.

Once again Mercedes Lackey brings her fantasy Kingdom of Valdemar to life; a place where magic and Psi power are considered natural skills though most citizens lack either.  This entry is a brilliant coming of age story in a realm with a distinguished culture especially a deep rooted belief structure and a thriving political system.  Mags brings the energy and excitement to the entertaining plot as he learns he is the son of foreigners growing up as a stranger in a strange land who suddenly observes foreigners seemingly following him.

Harriet Klausner

Weight Of Stone-Laura Anne Gilman

August 30, 2010

Weight Of Stone

Laura Anne Gilman

Gallery, Oct 2010, $24.99

ISBN 9781439101452

In the Vin Lands, the powerful Sin Washers sect accuses Vineart wine mage apprentice and former slave Jerzy of heresy dealing with their ruling Commandment involving magic users and rulers. He knows their condemnation is an open invitation to kill him, so he flees.  Joining him on the lam are former aristocratic Lady Mahault the warrior, Ao the trader, and Kainam the Prince of Atakus an island kingdom that has disappeared.

Jerzy and his friends continue their tracing of the taint of the vines.  They begin to believe an incredulous conspiracy is behind the destruction.  Following the clues by sea, Jerzy and company elude the Washers who demand he face trial and punishment and danger from under and on the water and on board their vessel.

The second Vineart War fantasy (see Flesh and Fire) continues the escapades of Jerzy in a fast-paced tale that also provides deeper focus and understanding of the complicated refreshing Gilman science of magic based on winemaking.  Jerzy is a terrific protagonist though he and his three traveling companions seem to whine a lot over wine.  Filled with tension throughout, readers will toast the quartet as they trek through the dangerous Vin Lands where the washers want to drink to their deaths.

Harriet Klausner

Lodestone: The Sea of Storms-Mark Whiteway

August 30, 2010

Lodestone: The Sea of Storms

Mark Whiteway

VBW Publishing, May 2010, 14.95

ISBN: 9781602645462

On Kelanni, people are disposable with their solo mission to mine “Lodestone” for use by the planet’s great dictator.  The Prophet who rules the orb is the grandmaster of using the lodestone resource that comes to Kelanni in meteor showers.  His powerful extremely loyal Keltar Knights insure no one tries to rebel.

Lyall vehemently rejects the Prophet and the concept of slavery.  He vows with his best friend Alondo to overthrow the violent despot.  When he meets Shann, who wants the Prophet’s reign of terror to end , he teaches her his knowledge of lodestone.  The prophet learns of the growing unrest and he sends Keris the Keltar to brutally destroy the rebels using them as an example for others to obey.  She has doubts about her vocation and her current mission.  When a giant bird attacks her, a Chandara saves her life. Boxx the Chandara informs Keris of her leader’s evil plans so she joins Lyall and his insurgents.

Once author Mark Whiteway establishes relativity laws of physics (and astrophysics) in his universe, the first Lodestone tale is a terrific science fiction thriller that in many ways reads like a fantasy.  The world of Kelanni is what makes this a strong opening entry as readers will feel they are there along side of Keris as she begins to doubt what she believed all her life was gospel.  Fans who enjoy something different yet exciting in their outer space novels will want to read Mr. Whiteway’s entertaining take on despots, rebels and negative matter.

Harriet Klausner

Grave Witch-Kalayna Price

August 30, 2010

Grave Witch

Kalayna Price

Roc, Oct 5 2010, $6.99

ISBN: 9780451463807

Having met Death when she was five years old, Grave Witch Magic Eye Alex Craft makes a living by raising ghosts for living clients.  The Nekros City police department consults with Alex on some recent homicide cases.  However, she is stunned when one of the shades she brings back, that of a murder victim, attacks her.  That has never happened before and she thought it was impossible.

Following a call from her frantic sister Casey, Alex probes the corpse of assassinated Governor Theodore Coleman, which made their father George Caine governor.  Alex finds someone cast odd but dangerous spells.  Homicide detective Falin Andrews makes it clear that he is unhappy with Alex intruding on the official investigation.  When Alex learns from the ghost of Roy Pearson that the late governor’s body is actually his, the witch fears a powerful spellcaster is operating in the area.

This is a terrific private investigator urban fantasy with a noir feel to the story line; not so much by the heroine, but more so by the uneasy dysfunctional relationship between the normal, the paranormal, and the practitioners that bring the two uncomfortable groups together.  Fast-paced from the moment Alex leaves an unhappy customer to answer her sibling’s call pleading with Alexis to help her, fans will be hooked and demand more Alex Craft cases.

Harriet Klausner