Archive for January, 2011

The Breath of God-Jeffrey Small

January 28, 2011

The Breath of God

Jeffrey Small

West Hills, Mar 1 2011, $15.95

ISBN 9781933512860

Emory University doctorate student Grant Matthews knows he is running out of time on submitting his thesis.  His topic focuses on the impact other cultures had on the early development of Christianity.  In particular over the objections of the school’s advisory board, he pursues a legend of an Asian boy traveling fourteen-fifteen centuries before Marco Polo went the other way.

In Asia, he learns from Buddhist monks that what he seeks might exist in one of the monasteries in Bhutan. He journeys to the Himalayan nation where his guide is a former Buddhist monk working to feed his family.  He learns more about Issa and the lad’s spiritual journey that affirms his subject loved and wrote down his travels.  Grant meets Kristin Misaki and soon finds the treasure he sought.  However, what happened to a Russian late in the nineteenth century when he made the same discovery soon proves history repeats itself.  Christian fundamentalists are willing to kill, destroy or hide to prevent anything heretical that affirms that the early founders were in touch with other cultures for some of the religion’s critical foundations coming east to west.

This is a super Brownian thriller that is at its best when the beleaguered hero is in Asia pursuing the Issa documents amidst Buddhist monks.  The Christian conspiracy to shut down the heresy feels more like a sub-genre requirement and detracts from a powerful insightful novel.  Still, based on a real Russian Notovitch was condemned as a heretic for publishing his finding of the Saint Issa scrolls in Himis, India, as those ancient documents explained the “Lost Years of Jesus”, overall The Breath of God is a terrific tale.

Harriet Klausner

Bound by Guilt-C.J. Darlington

January 27, 2011

Bound by Guilt

C.J. Darlington

Tyndale, Mar 1 2011, $12.99

ISBN: 9781414340128

She has spent her young life as a serial foster child moving from one home to another.  Roxi Gold dreams of belonging to a loving family permanently, but each new home makes her feel this will never occur though she tries too hard to belong.

Currently, Roxi travels the country with her foster parents stealing rare books in order to remain in her current home; if she refuses she will be kicked to the street though she is disturbed by her criminal activity.  Police officer Abby Dawson feels worn out by a job she once cherished as her work was used against her in the custody fight with her ex. She wishes she could turn to her dad for solace, but they are estranged.  Roxi and Abby meet when blood flows over a first edition of the Great Gatsby.

Roxi makes for a strong tale as her odyssey will reach inside to the souls of the readers.  She makes the tale seem real as her desperate need to belong leads her to criminal activity to keep her guardian pleased with her.  Bound by Guilt is a terrific Christian contemporary due to the protagonists and a powerful support cast.

Harriet Klausner

Someone’s Watching-Sharon Potts

January 26, 2011

Someone’s Watching

Sharon Potts

Oceanview, Feb 7 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9781608090136

Once a corporate suit, Robbie Ivy works as a bartender in Miami’s South Beach section.  Her estranged father arrives at the club where she works to ask Robbie for a favor.  His other daughter Kaitlin “Kate” Brooks and her BFF Joanne Sparks are missing somewhere in the concrete South Florida jungle; he wants Robbie to help find her.

Robbie is stunned to learn she has a sibling as she had no idea until her dad’s visit that she had a half-sister.  Not knowing how to start, she asks her former boyfriend, Jeremy Stroeb for advice.  He suggests she speak to Detective Judy Lieber who cautions Robbie to watch her step as coeds like Kate are targets of nasty predators especially when Joanne is found dead.  Her amateurish inquiry turns deadly as Robbie realizes time is running out on her meeting her younger half-sister alive.

Relationship damaged Robbie makes a terrific protagonist as she hopes to make it with Jeremy, reunite with her father and become friends and sister with her sibling.  Thus she has a major impetus to find Kate.  Mindful of the exhilarating mindless action movie Taken (even though the heroine is an amateur while Neeson’s character Mills is a former CIA field operative).  Filled with spins and stunning red herrings, readers will appreciate this engaging, timely but sordid tale of kidnapping teens and forcing them into prostitution (right out of the headlines).

Harriet Klausner

Heresy-S.J. Parris

January 26, 2011

Heresy

S.J. Parris

Anchor Books (Random House), Feb 1 2011, $14.95

ISBN: 9780767932523

In the late sixteenth century the Roman Catholic Church excommunicated Monk Giordano Bruno for his heretic belief in the Copernicus theory of a heliocentric system.  He has no safe haven as the Inquisition hunts him in order to burn him at the stake for daring to espouse that the sun is the center of the universe.  Still he flees his Naples monastery just before the Father Inquisitor comes for him heading to Paris and then London where he prays he will find respite in Queen Elizabeth’s anti papal reign. 

In 1583 the queen’s Secretary of State Sir Francis Walsingham asks Bruno to visit to Oxford to look for treasonous Catholic scholars.  He agrees as he wants to go to Oxford but in search of the fifteenth book of Ancient Egyptian High Priest Hermes Trismegistus who wrote in this tome his understanding of the “Divine Mind”.  However, the defrocked monk never expected to be the hub of gruesome homicides.

The real life intelligent elucidate Bruno tells the tale mostly of his time in Oxford in 1583.  He makes the story line fun as a wonderful historical thriller.  The serial murder mystery engages the reader also, but takes a back seat to the divided deadly dogma of religious loyalties during the Elizabethan Era as portrayed by the excommunicated enlightened monk.

Harriet Klausner

Devil’s Slew-Darryl Wimberley

January 25, 2011

Devil’s Slew

Darryl Wimberley

St. Martin’s, Mar 1 2011, $25.95

ISBN: 9780312649494

Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent Barrett “Bear” Raines attends a little league game when duty calls.  In the Devil’s Slew swamp, Afghan vet Quentin Hart has taken his girlfriend prisoner.  Bear and Sheriff Smoot Rawlings arrive at the scene hoping to talk down the angry former combat soldier with no body getting hurt.  Instead, Quentin races out of his home holding his automatic rifle pointed at the cops.  They kill him as each knows the veteran committed suicide by cop.

Bear feels depressed over the incident though he knows he and Smoot did the right thing.  He investigates Quentin’s last days trying to understand why he snapped.  Aided by other law enforcement officials he soon uncovers a connection to vets involved in counterfeiting and money laundering.  The FBI believes they kidnapped and beheaded one of their agents in New Orleans.  As the evidence mounts that this is a dangerous gang based in Florida but working in Mexico and Afghanistan, someone is targeting these vets for death.

Devil’s Slew is a fascinating police procedural in which the chaotic story line showcases how convoluted an investigation can become.  Fast-paced from the moment Bear and Smoot arrive in the aptly named swamp and never slowing down, readers will appreciate Darryl Wimberley connecting dots between Florida, Mexico and Afghanistan in Bear’s latest thriller (see Pepperfish Keys).

Harriet Klausner

The Road to Rome-Ben Kane

January 25, 2011

The Road to Rome

Ben Kane

St. Martin’s, Mar 29 2011, $26.99

ISBN 9780312536732

Twins Romulus and Fabiola have come a long way from their days as slaves.  He has become a legionnaire in Caesar’s army and she has become Brutus’ lover.  Whereas Romulus knows better than to display open hostility towards Caesar even though the man destroyed his family, his sister cannot hide her hatred towards the Emperor.

While Romulus and his friend Tarquinius are involved in a vicious war in North Africa, Fabiola begins a scheme to assassinate Caesar.  Having survived the deadly Egyptian campaign, Romulus and Tarquinius return to Rome where the former learns of his twin’s insane plan to kill the Emperor on the upcoming Ides of March.

The third ancient Rome Forgotten Legion thriller (see The Forgotten legion and The Silver Eagle) is a super tale that provides a vivid look at first century BC through a military unit slashing, clashing and smashing their way in the battlefield on the road to Rome.  The excellent story line is fast-paced from the first sword blow to the last, but is much more than an ancient military historical thriller as the politics of spear assassination thrives yet shakes Rome with beware the Ides of March.

Harriet Klausner

Fade to White-Wendy Clinch

January 25, 2011

Fade to White

Wendy Clinch

St. Martin’s, Jan 4 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312593278

Hollywood Harper Stone arrives at Spruce Peak, Vermont to film a mouthwash commercial.  Once a star, this is the only gig he can get though he does not hide his rage over how far his fame has fallen. 

Avid skier Stacey Curtis looks forward to a turn on the slopes before going to work at the Broken Binding bar.  However, the lift is closed due to the filming directed by Stacey’s former boyfriend Brian Russell.  Still the Ski Diva and her friend ski patrol operative Chip Walsh ski together until they run into a corpse.  Someone murdered Harper with the last person to see the actor alive being Brian, who is known for his jealousy and anger.  Stacey knows to stay out of the homicide on the slopes, but investigates anyway

The second Ski Diva amateur sleuth (see Double Black) is an engaging tale that focuses more on skiing than on the whodunit.  Stacey is a wonderful protagonist whose theme is Let it snow; let It snow; and let it snow.  Although the mystery takes the backseat on the lift, fans will enjoy going downhill with Stacey who brings enthusiasm and energy to the slopes.

Harriet Klausner

Finding Jack-Gareth Crocker

January 25, 2011

Finding Jack

Gareth Crocker

St. Martin’s, Feb 15 2011, $23.99

ISBN 9780312621728

In 1972, the family of twenty nine year old Fletcher Carson dies in a plane crash.  Distraught and filled with survivor grief, Fletcher enlists in the army.  After basic, he is sent to Vietnam. 

As the war winds down, Fletcher and his platoon complain about the uselessness of the combat, which has left so many of their comrades in arms dead and others mentally and physically destroyed.  Yet though Fletcher and the other men know the war is lost they diligently still patrol the perimeter and perform secret missions.  When they find a trained wounded scout dog, they bring the K9 back to camp.  Calling him Jack, they help him heal.  Jack joins them as a key member of the unit by locating deadly traps and ambushes.  When Fletcher is assigned to go home, he wants to take his best friend Jack with him.  Knowing he cannot do it through official channels, Fletcher deserts taking Jack on a three hundred and fifty mile trek through hostile territory hoping to reach Thailand.

Finding Jack is an interesting Vietnam War thriller starring a mentally wounded warrior who was hurt with grief before he joined the army and the canine who becomes his family while saving his life by giving Fletcher a cause and subsequently a reason to live.  Although some of the scenes the soldier and the dog get into seem over the top of Mt. Fansipan, fans who enjoy something different in their brothers of arms tales will want to accompany Fletcher and Jack as they run a deadly gauntlet.

Harriet Klausner

The Night Season-Chelsea Cain

January 25, 2011

The Night Season

Chelsea Cain

Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99

ISBN 9780312619763

Portland, Oregon police detective Archie Sheridan feels he can finally move on with his life as his nemesis serial killer Gretchen Lowell is incarcerated.  However, he also knows she has been locked away before, but escaped like a magician.

As the Willamette overflows its banks, a body is found at an amusement park.  Archie assumes it is another misfortune drowning victim until the coroner reports the cause of death being from a puncture wound.  Other corpses turn up with the same trauma.  At the same time reporter Susan Ward is writing an article on a skeleton found in the ghost-town Vanport, destroyed by the 1948 flood.  Archie allows the journalist to join his team as they search for a serial killer using a strange toxin.

The fourth Sheridan police procedural (see Heartsick; Sweetheart; Evil at Heart) is a refreshing tale though the hero deals with another serial killer but this time Gretchen is limited to a few moments when Archie agonizes over his mixed feelings towards the black widow.  The key to the superb whodunit is the real Vanport flood of over six decades ago that will remind the audience of Katrina as Chelsea Cain brings this disaster alive to readers.  Fans will enjoy Sheridan’s brisk investigation of a present day psychopath and the deep look at the Vanport Flood calamity.

Harriet Klausner

Bless the Bride-Rhys Bowen

January 24, 2011

Bless the Bride

Rhys Bowen

Minotaur, Mar 1 2011, $24.99

ISBN: 9780312628109

In 1903, the marriage between private investigator Molly Murphy and NYPD Captain Daniel Sullivan is coming soon.  He expects her to behave like a wife and not a detective; his mom also implores her to act accordingly.  Shockingly Molly seems to acquiesce.

Wealthy Chinese businessman Lee Sing Tai asks Molly to help him find a missing valuable jade.  Although she believes her client is omitting much of the story, she agrees as she rationalizes her promise to no longer sleuth begins after the marriage though she hides her activity from Daniel.  Molly thinks Lee is actually seeking his missing bride who ran away.  However, she has no idea how a Chinese female who does not speak English hides in plain sight in New York when Asian women are not allowed outside without a chaperone.  As Molly searches for the young runaway, she fears she will bring further harm to the bride Lee bought in and brought from China.

This is a strong entry in one of the best historical mystery series on the market.  The investigation is top rate as Molly goes from searching for a runaway bride that has her pondering the parallels to her own fate as a wife in which she is expected to give up her freedom to detect. As the heroine conceals her case from her fiancé while wondering whether marriage means being The Last Illusion living In a Gilded Cage, her case turns lethal.  Rhys Bowen provides a great early twentieth century Molly Murphy mystery.

Harriet Klausner