Kneading To Die-Liz Mugavero

May 18, 2013

Kneading To Die
Liz Mugavero
Kensington, May 7 2013, $7.99
ISBN: 9780758284785

When Warner Insurance downsized her public relations position, Kristan “Stan” Connor, accompanied by her significant other Nutty the Maine Coon cat, left West Hartford for a simpler life in Frog Ledge, Connecticut. While her boyfriend Richard wonders if she lost her mind by leaving the big city for Sleepy Hollow, Stan hears the neighbors brawl while she moves into her Victorian.

Stan likes her new neighbors; especially Char Mackey, homeopathic animal nurturer Amara Leonard and “Pet’s Last Chance” director Nikki Manning while they seem to welcome her and her special food that she makes for Nutty and soon the other town pets. Town veterinarian, Dr. Carole Morganwick visits Stan demanding she bring Nutty in as a patient before office hours. Though her stomach churns and her mind tells her not to, Stan and Nutty arrive for the early appointment only to find unpopular Morganwick buried dead in kibble. State trooper Jessica Pasquale and the locals look at the newcomer as the suspect when their pets become poisoned; so Stan seeks answers especially the source of what is harming the animals.

The first Pawsitively Organic Gourmet Pet Food amateur sleuth is an engaging whodunit with two mysteries for the heroine to resolve. Although the love of pets feels like a hammer used to frequently to even a cat and dog lover like me, readers will enjoy Stan’s investigative asides into the poisoning of pets and as a byproduct the vet’s homicide.

Harriet Klausner

Deadly Harvest-Michael Stanley

May 10, 2013

Deadly Harvest
Michael Stanley
Bourbon Street/Harper, Apr 30 2013, $14.99
ISBN: 9780062221520

Botswana Criminal Investigation Department assigns Police Detective Samantha Khama to work a four-month old cold case; the disappearance of ten year old orphan Lesego Betse. The first CID female detective Samantha concludes a witch doctor killed the female to harvest her human remains as key ingredients in Muti medicine.

When another young girl vanishes, CID Assistant Superintendent David “Kubu” Bengu joins Samantha on her investigation as the cold case has become hot. As two cops investigate serial killings tied to Muti, an irate father of one of the victims plans a vengeance murder of a politician who may be using a witch doctor’s Muti.

The fourth Detective Kubu police procedural (see Death of the Mantis) is a great gritty investigative thriller that contrasts modern Botswana with its long standing heritage of witch doctors. Adding depth to the storyline is introducing the first female detective who expects to face sexism in spite of her deft handling of the case. Readers will relish this tense suspense as team Michael Stanley provides a super Botswana investigation.

Harriet Klausner

The Jericho Deception-Jeffrey Small

May 10, 2013

The Jericho Deception
Jeffrey Small
West Hills Press, Apr 30 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9781933512440

Dr. Ethan Lightman and Professor Elijah Schiff hypothesize that the brain’s left temporal lobe creates religious phenomena. The Yale University pair builds Logos to test their theory. The
“God Machine” as they call Logos emits electrical pulses into the part of the brain that Lightman and Schiff believe control religious thought especially extremist behavior. The Neurological Advancement Foundation’s Dr. Allen Wolfe funds the project.

Not long after Wolfe provides the money, someone murders Schiff and kidnaps grad student Rachel Riley. Ethan ends up in Egypt where he learns that a Dr. Wolfe, working for the CIA, has deployed Project Jericho using a Logos “clone” to convert Muslims into Christians and end seemingly eternal religious conflict.

The Jericho Deception is a super thriller in which the real scientific research is so compelling, at times overwhelms the action scenes. The cast is solid but it is the references to real experiments that bring a sense of genuineness to this exhilarating tale. Readers will enjoy this taut religious suspense while looking up those factual entities that make Jeffrey Small’s saga superbly fresh.

Harriet Klausner

Heart Of Iron-Bec McMaster

May 10, 2013

Heart Of Iron
Bec McMaster
Sourcebooks, May 7 2013, $6.99
ISBN: 9781402270307

In 1879 London, verwolfen Will “Beast of Whitechapel” Carver diligently continues to risk his life, especially with his being wanted, to protect the Blade ruler of the rookeries. However, danger from the Blade’s enemies is insignificant compared with Will’s unwanted feelings for Lena Todd that have grown almost out of control over the last three years. Perhaps Lena’s turning to the feral Echelon’s blue-blood Leo Barrons after Will rejected her offer of love hurts the verwolfen most of all.

Will learns his beloved Lena works undercover delivering coded messages for the Humanists in Whitechapel. He fears she is in danger as war seems imminent between the ruling Echelon and the rebellious Humanists. As Will vows to keep Lena safe, he remains unaware of the insidious threats demanding she betray him and others. Meanwhile the Prince Consort and four members of the council of Dukes seek an his assistance to forge an alliance with the verwolfen Scandinavian clans,

The second paranormal steampunk Victorian romance (see Kiss of Steel) is a fabulous thriller that cleverly uses political intrigue to keep the hero and readers wondering who to trust. Fast-paced, readers will appreciate this masterful historical urban fantasy suspense as falling in love requires a heart of Iron if the couple is to survive the dangerous world of Bec McMaster.

Harriet Klausner

A Beastly Scandal-Shereen Vedam

May 10, 2013

A Beastly Scandal
Shereen Vedam
ImaJinn, April 15 2013, $14.00
ISBN: 9781610261241

In 1812 England, Lady Annabelle Marchant enjoyed the balls until she used her psychic powers to save a life, but failed. The man died and she became a pariah.

Lady Terrance pleads with Annabelle to help the ghost of her murdered late husband. Her son Lord Rufus demands Annabelle leave his family manor in Cheshire and preferably the village too as he has no time for frivolous females trying to trap him in marriage. The monarch warned Rufus he will explain his activity to the House of Lords as he is the only suspect in his father’s homicide. As Rufus investigates, additional killings occur and an angry ghost is running amuck. Reluctantly, Annabelle and Rufus team up to identify the real killer and enable the late Lord Terrance to obtain some peace before the new lord becomes a victim.

A Beastly Scandal is an entertaining paranormal Victorian amateur sleuth romance. The storyline is fast-paced while also enabling the audience to believe in the heroine’s psychic skills and ghosts exist. Although the protagonists’ attraction feels intrusive especially early in the otherwise engaging storyline, sub-genre fans will enjoy the exploits of the ghost whisperer and the murder suspect uniting in love to end a killer’s reign of terror.

Harriet Klausner

Northern Rebel-Jennifer LaBrecque

May 6, 2013

Northern Rebel
Jennifer LaBrecque
Harlequin Blaze, May 1 2013, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373797523

“Northern Rebel.” Nurse Delphi Reynolds is professionally blackballed in Atlanta in disbelief after her employer married Dr. DeWitt Zellers makes a move on her that his wife blamed on her. Her friend Dr. Skye Shanahan persuades her to move to Good Riddance, Alaska to work for her. U.S. Marine Lars Reinhardt comes to town to attend his twin brother Liam’s wedding (see Northern Renegade). Though attracted to Lars, Delphi wants no relationships especially one night trysts as she fears no place to go if her rep is destroyed again.

“Daring in the Dark.” Tawny Edwards and Elliott are engaged, but she has the hots for his BFF Simon Thackeray. Elliot has fallen in love with someone else and plans to end his relationship with Tawny by telling her the truth. He asks Simon to be there when he tells her. However, a blackout strands Elliot in another building so asks Simon to end his engagement to Tawny by telling her he is gay and in love with someone else. Simon decides to tell Tawny the whole truth to include that he loves her.

Though the plots are thin, the Northern Heat Reinhardt sequel is an enjoyable baked Alaskan romance; while Daring in the Dark is a reprint of a 2005 over the top blazer.

Harriet Klausner

Waking Up To You-Leslie Kelly

May 6, 2013

Waking Up To You
Leslie Kelly
Harlequin Blaze, May 1 2013, $5.50
ISBN: 9780373797516

“Waking Up To You.” Costume designer Candace Reid agrees to a five-year marriage to her friend Tommy Shane the actor so he can remain in the closet as coming out or being exposed as gay would end his film career. Before they announce their engagement, she heads to wine country when her Grandpa breaks his hip. Candace meets whistleblowing former prosecutor Oliver McKean the winery groundskeeper. As they fall in love, her promise to Tommy lingers in the way.

“Overexposed.” In Chicago, ex-marine Nick Santori knew Isabella Natale when she was little “Izzy” growing up in Little Italy. When he sees her in her family’s bakery, Nick thinks she is beautiful and wants her. When she sees Nick in the bakery, her feelings of wanting him as a teen remains as strong as an adult. Nick works as a bodyguard at a night club that some might say is a strip joint. Though confused and wondering how shallow he feels as he desires Izzy, Nick also has the hots for exotic dancer Crimson Rose, whose velvet mask is almost as enticing as her exotic G-string. Crimson Rose knows the new bodyguard as she has desired him since they grew up in Little Italy together. Although as Izzy she does not have the guts to seduce Nick, as her alter-ego Rose she does.

Both romances are entertaining torrid “triangle” contemporaries starring likable protagonists though the premise of each feels over the top. Note that Overexposed is a reprint of a 2007 release.

Harriet Klausner

Inferno-Sherrilyn Kenyon

May 6, 2013

Inferno
Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin’s Griffin, Apr 9 2013, $18.99
ISBN: 9781250002839

The Cajun-demon Nick Gautier turned sixteen with concerns that seemingly everyone wants him dead. He has no friends as he learned firsthand to trust no one. The nearest individual to an ally Death wants him dead but warns him even his loved ones will betray him. Stunned Nick confronts his girlfriend Nekoda Kennedy, who confesses she must prevent a future Nick from becoming the Malachai who ended the world by stopping him now. Dumping Nekoda, being a teen Nick turns to Casey the cheerleader.

Enemies attack Nick and his Malachai father with no regard to collateral damage as they rationalize all will die otherwise. However, as their adversaries deploy increasingly deadlier assaults without success, they desperately turn to an ancient they cannot control. Nick soon concludes he must risk his life to stop the abomination threatening the world and also keep the future Nick from ending the world from happening while dating.

The latest Chronicles of Nick (see Infamous, Invisible and Infinity) is an action-packed twisting fantasy as the protagonist struggles to survive, save the world and find a date who does not want to kill him. Action-packed, fans will enjoy this entry although feel frustrated with the abrupt cliffhanger climax requiring a wait for book five.

Harriet Klausner

The Apple Orchard-Susan Wiggs

May 4, 2013

The Apple Orchard
Susan Wiggs
Mira, Apr 30 2013, $24.95
ISBN: 9780778314936

Hard working Sheffield Auction House provenance specialist Tess Delaney uses her job as an escape from her lonely life. She has no idea who her dad is and rarely sees her wanderlust mother; so she precariously lives through her clients like Annelise Winther who she gave back a WWII precious item or the Krakow Museum in Poland whom she returned Nazi stolen art.

The latter brought her fifteen minutes of fame and a comatose apple orchard owning grandfather Magnus Johansen in Sonoma she never knew existed. Even more shocking to a stunned Tess is when the messenger banker-vintner Dominic Rossi tells her she has been added to Magnus’ will to inherit half his Bella Vista orchard along with s with someone else she never heard of, her half-sister Isabel Johansen. Tess and Isabel investigate what happened to the family going back to their grandfather’s childhood in Denmark during WWII; while the newcomer and Dominic begin to fall in love though his family stands in their way.

The Apple Orchard is an insightful family drama with a powerful undying moral message of the value of family and memories should supersede material items. Tess now knows to seek true loved ones and make new memories with them. Readers will appreciate learning alongside Tess her ancestry.

Harriet Klausner

A Spear of Summer Grass-

May 4, 2013

A Spear of Summer Grass
Deanna Raybourn
Mira, Apr 30 2013, $15.95
ISBN: 9780778314394

In 1923 Paris, affluent American Delilah Drummond sends divorce papers to her third husband. Upon receiving them he kills himself. The reaction from the Parisian upper crust makes Delilah a pariah. Her advisors demand she leave France until some other scandal replaces hers. Thus, accompanied by her cousin Dora, a chagrined Delilah reluctantly travels to her stepfather’s Fairlight Plantation in Kenya.

She finds a hedonistic expatriate population in which orgies set to jazz is the only matter. The only exception is Ryder White who takes her on an exhilarating tour of Africa beyond the European-American drunks. Delilah also finds a purpose as she provides nursing skills to the Kikuyu. However, when blood flows, Delilah must choose whose side she is on.

With a nod to Isak Dinesen’s Out of Africa though without spanning the decades between the world wars, A Spear of Summer Grass is an enjoyable historical that brings to life the 1920s mostly in Africa. Though the romance feels like a forced requirement, the African adventures are superb as the audience obtain a taste of the White Man’s Burden from the licentious perspective of the Génération au Feu.

Harriet Klausner