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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 7, Number 10 October 2008 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Cowper's Bookshelf Dunford's Bookshelf Greenspan's Bookshelf
Klausner's Bookshelf Laurel's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf Taylor's Bookshelf Vogel's Bookshelf

Cowper's Bookshelf

Thinking of Miller Place
Ethel Lee-Miller
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595691289, $25.95,

"Thinking of Miller Place: A Memoir of Summer Comfort" is a memoir reflecting on the better times of life and the lessons people learn. Poignant, reflective, and educational all at the same time, it is a reminder that even the most peaceful and enjoyable times make us grow as people. "Thinking of Miller Place" is fine and warm reading, sure to give readers a remembrance of a better time.

A Letter That Will Come Tomorrow
Naomi O'Hara
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595478835, $13.95,

Being proud of one's country is fine, but what point does it trump humanity? "A Letter That Will Come Tomorrow" follows Naomi O'Hara, psychiatrist, as she journeys the country and meets a strange and intriguing array of characters ranging from Vietnam vets to the Amish. Facing her own mortality, her journey offers her much philosophy, which the reader will experience as well. "A Letter That Will Come Tomorrow" is highly recommended to readers seeking a book that blends good writing with spirituality.

Tapping Your Way Through Life
Marie H. Stocker
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1604745711, $19.95,

Love is blind, and the blind still love. "Tapping Your Way Through Life: I Married a Blind Man" Is Marie H. Stocker's recollection of her life married to a blind man. Her husband was rejected by her friends or family, but her love won out and she offers an intriguing story of love where visual appearance played very little in uniting two people for a lifetime. "Tapping Your Way Through Life" is a unique and endearing memoir, a top pick.

The Girl From Over There
Geo O'Connor
International Plaza 2, Suite 410, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
Irwin Zucker (publicity)
6464 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood, CA 90028
1413494153, $31.99,

What price can one put on love? "The Girl From Over There" follows a New Caledonian girl who is swept away to the United States in a failed relationship. Left in Los Angeles with nothing, she's left with no option but to make the most of her life and abilities to make herself a successful business woman. But love comes again -- only her love is dead set on moving away from everything she has established. A story of a life changing choice, "The Girl From Over There" is a highly recommended tale of conflict and a welcome addition to community library American Biography collections.

Are You Famous?
Ken Waldman
Catalyst Book Press
9780980208108, $15.00,

Life in the business of music is not all about groupies flocking around. "Are You Famous?: Touring America With Alaska's Fiddling Poet" is the story of Ken Waldman and his times touring the country known as Alaska's Fiddling Poet. A memoir of an accomplished and known musician who doesn't have girls throwing their underwear at him on stage, Highly recommended for personal, academic, and community library collections, "Are You Famous?" is an honest and candid perspective on the music industry from the inside.

Mary Cowper

Dunford's Bookshelf

A Full House – But Empty
Angus Munro
2021 Pine Lake Road, Suite 100, Lincoln, NE 68512
9780595437191, $20.95,

The Great Depression was a devastating event for many families, both economically and emotionally. "A Full House – But Empty: A Memoir with a Message" Is Angus Munro's recollection of his life growing up in the swing of the Great Depression. Raised by a single father when his mother left the household, he sings his father's praises for doing what few men ever face. The lessons learned from his father set him on the right track in life, making "A Full House – But Empty" an inspiring tale for many a reader.

Looking for Jimmy
K.P. Santos
Trafford Publishing
2657 Wilfert Road, Victoria, BC, Canada V9B 5Z3
1425155456, $16.95,

Civil Liberties are not something you can hold in your hand, that you could smell, or even see. "Looking for Jimmy" tells a cynical story of Ms. Santos who has served as a public defender who has faced federal courts and the FBI. She tells the story that none of the values America holds dear are worth anything without those who defend them and uphold them. A thought provoking and inspiring story, "Looking for Jimmy" is a must read for those seeking something to make them think.

Maurice A. Williams
1663 Liberty Drive, Bloomington, IN 47403
9780595484294, $18.95,

Have the events outlined in the book of Revelations already occurred? "Revelation: Fall of Judea, Rise of the Church" is an examination of that claim, explaining that all of those events have occurred in ancient and more biblical times, hence why the world is so engulfed in religious turmoil today. Looking at the early fall of Judea, the naming the Messiah, and the thousand years that followed, "Revelation" is a different look at Christianity, refreshing and highly recommended.

Unity Without Uniformity
Ben J. Nargi
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1413789978, $12.95,

Methodist, Lutheran, Anglican -- what's with all the factions? "Unity Without Uniformity" is a novel with a strong message to many Christians. When Pauline becomes an Episcopal reverend, she tries to heal and reconcile the theological and ideological divisions that separate so many Christians from one another. Her goal is to persuade disputing Christians to remember the most important aspect of Christ's teachings is love for their neighbors in homage to the love of God for themselves. "Unity Without Uniformity" is entertaining and inspiring reading -- especially for any church leader or parishioner who feels Christian factional enmity must be ended in the universal brotherhood of the Christian community.

Michael Dunford

Greenspan's Bookshelf

Elusive Things
Steven B. Golub
PO Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705-0151
1604415371, $19.95

Elusive Things is a novel about confronting the darker side of life. Every human being must come to terms with emptiness, gnawing fears, doubts, and depression, to discover what in life has meaning to them. An introspective and sometimes fragmented narrative of the difficult journey to find that meaning, whether through personal, physical, or spiritual searching, Elusive Things explores the dark side of the human psyche in mankind's struggle to make sense of it all. An introspective yet profoundly engrossing narrative, to the very last page.

Miles of Heart
Wynn A. Sherman
Publish America
P.O. Box 151, Frederick, MD 21705
1604741392, $19.95,

The simplest of things can keep bonds strong for decades. "Miles of Heart: The Story of the Dan DeAngelo Invitational Hearts Tournament" is a collection of stories following a group of friends, who at first met up more than thirty years ago simply to competitively decide who was the best hearts player on their street. As they age, they still relive their boyhood activities of Hearts playing, which brings them back to times that have passed. Tales of remembering what makes one happy and how life can change that, "Miles of Heart" is warm and touching, highly recommended.

The Sword & The Star
Daymon Andrews
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
9781602472976, $15.99,

Religion affects people strangely, to the point of self-destruction. "The Sword & The Star: Temple Mount" is a political thriller set in the near future. NATO is gone, Europe is at odds with the United States, and Israel has attacked Iran. With all this grim events, it is shocking that peace could be the result. An aide to the president also hopes for this, but what lies beneath the secrets and motives of these players could create World War III yet. "The Sword & The Star" is an awesome political thriller, sure to keep readers glued as they read from the first page to the last.

The Fallen
John Evans
Tate Publishing
127 E Trade Center Terrace, Mustang, OK 73064-4421
1598864874, $16.99,

Reality is what our mind makes of it – and our minds can lie to us. "The Fallen" is a science fiction thriller following Striker Carleson as he faces off against an alien intelligence only known as "The Fallen". He must overcome the strange mind tricks and falsehoods in front of him to find the truth – and only then will he be able to stand up to the alien invasion. "The Fallen" is a philosophical yet entertaining and humorous science fiction novel, sure to please any Sci-Fi reader and a few who wouldn't traditionally read the genre.

Betrayed By Informant
Erick L. Daniels
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Road, #515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432719975, $13.95,

Knowledge is power, and obtaining knowledge is obtaining those who would give it to you. "Betrayed by Informant" is FBI Agent Audrey Davis's quest to rid the streets of a ruthless and violent gang known as Eli & Styles. She considers her best weapon her network of informants, but soon finds that she may have put too much reliance on it. "Betrayed by Informant" is a novel of trust gone wrong, sure to please mystery and detective novel fans everywhere.

Thai Law for Foreigners
Benjawan Poomsan Becker
Paiboon Publishing
9781887521574, $21.95,

Every country has its own laws and knowing them is key to staying out of trouble and becoming a success. "Thai Law for Foreigners" is a book seeking to explain all aspects of Thai Law that an outsider would need or want to know in regards to living in Thailand. Written in a dual language of English and Thai, it helps readers become familiar with the Thai form of documentation. "Thai Law for Foreigners" is required reading for any visiting or pondering a move to Thailand.

Able Greenspan

Klausner's Bookshelf

Blinded by the Light
Morgan Hunt
Alyson Books
245 West 17th St., Ste. 1200,New York, NY 10011
1593500858, $14.95

After battling cancer, nothing bothers Tess Camillo because she realizes the only thing that matters is the cliche of living life to the fullest. Of course she would like a job since the firm she worked for downsized her. When her friend Beth Butler offers her work refining software for her company in New Mexico Tess grabs it.

After Tess is through working at the Bryce Corporation she and Beth decide to visit the Lightning Field; conceptual art that at dawn and dusk turns into a masterpiece and during a storm is incredibly beautiful. They stay at a cabin shared with four other people; they begin to bond after witnessing the Lightning Field at night. However, the next morning Tess sees a body of one of the other guests in the field. The medical examiner decides it is a homicide from an electrical gadget like the taser of a cattle prod. Beth has a taser and her fingerprints are the only ones on it. When Beth is arrested, Tess investigates because she knows her friend is innocent.

Morgan Hunt has written an excellent amateur sleuth tale filled with plenty of red herrings and surprising plausible twists. A subplot involving a bit of romance eases some of the tension, but the methodical investigation by Tess is what the tale is all about; in fact the kind hearted woman should consider going professional as she does a great job seeking the real culprit. Ms. Hunt is a great mystery writer

The Appearing
Kristen Wisen
Credo House
3148 Plainfield Ave NE, Suite 111,Grand Rapids, MI 49525
9780978762087, $24.99

Not to far in the future Homeland Security establishes the Domestic Investigations Unit to spy on churches and close them down if they break any of the anti-intolerance laws. In Russia, Russian Preident Alexander Magorum has formed the Federation of World Powers and gets the Arabs to let the Jews build a new Temple. He is working towards a a one currency and one religion in his new world order; taking advantage of corruption to bring all nations under his command. At the midpoint of what some call the Great Tribulation, Alexander holds a news conference in his Jerusalem Temple; he reveals himself to be Hitler who was rescued by Lucifer after being in Hell for 666 months.

He wants the people who believe in him to wear his mark and those that refuse will die. At Gracee Church, the elders who studied the end of times know the world is entering a period of extreme violence and injustice. They move to caves in the North Carolina Mountains hidden by God's angels so that the authorities cannot kill them. They are all true believers except for one who spies on them; this modern day Judas gives photos and other incriminating evidence to the authorities. Only God can protect them if he sends his son again.

With some overall nods to obviously the bible and to the Tom LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins Left Behind saga, this is a fascinating tale of the rise of the Anti-Christ with billions joining him; as few recall what he did in WWII and will again because he has pandemic plans to eradicate non-believers. The Rapture comes at the beginning of the Great Tribulation but differs from Left Behind in several key ways; this refreshes the religious thriller. There is plenty of action and no wisely preaching yet Kristen Wisen makes her beliefs known.

Karen Kingsbury
Tyndale House Publishers
351 Executive Drive, Carol Stream, IL 60188
0842387587, $13.99, 1-800-323-9400

Dayne and Katy Matthews leave the bright lights of Hollywood to begin anew their life in Bloomington, Indiana where they plan to raise a family and to run the local Christian Kid's Theater; their first production is coming soon. While Cody Coleman fights in Iraq, Bailey Flanagan tries out for a role at the CKT while struggling with her feelings for the deployed soldier.

The family patriarch widower John Baxter and Elaine Denning are getting married. He knows he must sell the family home that has meant so much to everyone. However as endings occur with new beginnings, faith, love and friendship guide everyone through the dramatic upheavals of radical change.

As with the previous books in the Baxter family saga (see SOMEDAY, SUMMER and SUNRISE), redemption and faith are recurring themes inside an engaging character driven tale. The Baxters are moving on but it is not easy to leave behind the evidence of their memories though they each know the time is right to do so. Sub-genre fans will want to read Karen Kingsbury's Baxter family tales as love and faith are powerful twin engines in the hands of this superb author.

Lucinda's Web
Dorothy Morrison
WillowTree Press
PO Box142414, St Louis, MO 63114
0979453321, $16.95,

When High Priestess Tess Logan moves into a house near a cemetery she experiences visitors; she later learns in a former life as Lucinda she was wife to Jonah. They lived on a plantation which would be passed down to Lucinda's daughter by her first husband. Her first husband Emmer took slave Belle though Lucinda's second husband Jonah would marry her and in a jealous rage she creates a trick spell that is not completed. Another slave Mattie conjures up a trick that binds Lucinda and Jonah together for eternity.

In the present Luke and Tess fall in love, but she refuses to give in to her feelings until the trick is broken. Only then will she know whether she truly loves Luke or is tricked into believing she loves him. Tess' best friend Chloe, an apprentice witch, tries to break the spell with the help of a ghostly assistant; at the same time the spirit of Belle possesses Luke's sister Liza. She kidnaps Tess with plans to kill her as Luke belongs to her. Luke and Chloe's police officer husband search for Tess while a ghost, who cares for Lucinda, watches over Tess while hoping to free her from Liza's grip.

Though the cast can be a bit confusing in terms of who's who past and present, fans will enjoy this entertaining reincarnation ghost tale wondering whether Tess will be freed of the curse and if yes will love turn bitter or remain sweet. Mindful of the Branagh-Thompson film Dead Again, the premise of a love triangle in a reincarnation scenario is cleverly executed by Dorothy Morrison as the audience will not know how LUCINDA'S WEB will play out.

Blood Moon
M.R. Sellars
WillowTree Press
PO Box142414, St Louis, MO 63114
9780979453335, $14.95,

Pagan witch Rowan Gant and his wife Felicity are there when their special friend FBI agent Constance Mendility is shot by Felicity's half sister Annalise Devereaux. She was the host for the evil spirit Miranda and taking advantage of the fact she and Felicity look so much alike she made it seem like her sibling was the killer and the one into BDSM. Miranda wants to leave Annalise to ride Felicity, but Rowen prevents the switch from happening. In fact both witches need a holiday from all the trauma they have been intertwined in lately. Rowan, a medium who communicates with the dead, vows not to listen to them anymore because his efforts only lead to trouble for him and his wife.

Unfortunately Rowen misunderstands communication is two way and the deceased refuse to honor his wishes. One particularly insistent spirit wants to talk to Rowan. Detective Ben Storm thinks it is a young woman who wears a puncture mark on her neck and the blood from her body drained. Rowan reluctantly acquiesces and learns another body with the same markings is waiting to be found. When a third woman vanishes, the niece of Christian fundamentalist Captain Barbara Albright, who insists Rowan is a devil worshipper, she pulls strings to get him to search for her relative. Rowan places himself in danger in an attempt to end the serial killings.

As usual, the Rowan Gant paranormal mystery is a thrill to read as psychic and magical powers play key roles in police investigations. Rowan wants to walk away from his responsibilities which physically shows up with blinding headaches and bleeding, but knows he cannot as he is needed. With a bit of humor mostly to ease the stress levels of readers, , BLOOD MOON is another superb paranormal whodunit. This great Gant novel is a must read.

The Glass of Time
Michael Cox
W. W. Norton & Company
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
0393067734, $24.95,

In 1876, her Parisian guardian Madame de L'Orme directs nineteen years old orphan Esperanza Gorst to obtain work as a lady's maid at the home of widow Baroness Tansor. The teen succeeds though she remains ignorant of what the "Great Task" is all about. Still she tries to masquerade as a maid at Evenwood.

However, everyone can see through her disguise as she has all the qualities of a lady and none of a servant. The two Tansor sons, Perseus and Randolph court her while Esperanza becomes closer to her employer. Shockingly Esperanza realizes the Baroness still grieves the death of her fiance Phoebus Daunt murdered by Edward Glyver over 20 years ago. While still putting on a pretense though all know otherwise, Esperanza still wonders why Madame sent her undercover inside of Evenwood.

The irony of the well written exciting Victorian thriller is those who read the first tale (see THE MEANING OF NIGHT) will know a lot more of what is happening than the bewildered Esperanza as that previous tale serves as a key to the GLASS OF TIME. Michael Cox displays his skills with that clever spin, but newcomers will enjoy THE GLASS OF TIME too because of how the author intertwines the previous plot into this story line. Readers will enjoy a great historical brilliantly enacted.

Hungry for More
Diana Holquist
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780446197045, $6.99,

Amy Burns loves her skill of being able to tell someone the name of their true love. She also knows the stipulation she must adhere to if she wants to keep her precious paranormal gift; the gypsy must never fall in love.

However, she is stunned when the voice in her head turns silent. Amy knows she has not fallen in love so wants her voice back. She tracks her missing muse to Chef James LaChance's restaurant. James knows his inspiration comes from women so when Amy kisses him, he believes he will create a masterpiece. Whereas he wants her in bed and in his head, she wants her voice back; neither want love, but the voice has a mind of its own when it comes to one's true live.

This is an engaging contemporary romance with a whimsical thread of fantasy as the heroine seeks her "voice" and the hero finds his "muse". Fans will enjoy the third Burns' sister tale (see MAKE ME A MATCH and THE SEXIEST MAN ALIVE) as Diana Holquist continues her fabulously jocular spin on the twisted paths of true love in which fate causes detours, wrong turns, and tsunamis of the heart.

Insatiable Desire
Rita Herron
0446199478, $6.99

In Eerie, Tennessee psychic Clarissa King is desperate to end the screams she hears and the bloody graphic visions she sees every time the brutal killer murders a woman; two dead and counting. The police assume a serial killer has begun a reign of terror. The police use Clarissa to assist them. She knows the killer is a demon Zion of hell.

Since the besieged town is his birthplace, FBI agent Vincent Valtrez is sent to investigate the serial killings. He knows Clarissa from childhood and scorns her so called psychic gift. However, two decades ago Vincent understood beasts as his father was one while his mother was an angel of the light; all changed when dad killed mom. Dad needs his offspring by his side while Clarissa knows exactly what Vincent and his father are; she prays her love for him keeps him from turning to the dark side of his dad.

This is an exciting dark horror thriller filled with characters who personify good and evil. The story line is graphic as readers through Clarissa see and hear the dying thoughts and actions of the victims. Inappropriate title aside, as the romance rightfully so takes a back seat to the killing malevolence as Rita Herron provides an exhilarating horror tale with a sequel coming.

Border Lass
Amanda Scott
9780446197991, $6.99

In 1389 at pre-wedding festivities celebrated by about a thousand revelers at Dunfermline Abbey in Scotland, Amalie Murray senses Sir Garth Napier watching her. She assumes he wants her, but though attracted to him she vows to never wed as marriage is servitude for a woman.

In 1390 on Cornonation Day to anoint John Stewart as High King, Garth becomes concerned with Amalie's safety as he believes she overheard seditious discussions to assassinate the new monarch. Garth is working undercover to expose and capture all the conspirators. He grabs Amalie and kisses her with a passion like he has never tasted before; she melts deeper into his arms. He claims her as his wife over her objections and rationalizes his actions as keeping her safe; however his heart knows otherwise as does hers.

The sequel to BORDER WEDDING is an excellent fourteenth century Scottish romance starring two strong individuals. The support cast includes real persona which enhances the sense of time and place, a trademark of an Amanda Scott historical. The romance and the investigation subplots cleverly intertwine together so that the audience obtains another terrific tale from one of the best Scottish historical romance authors writing today.

Hometown Favorite
Bill Barton and Henry O. Arnold
c/o Baker Publishing Group
PO Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287
9780800719142, $19.99,

Although their team lost the Mississippi state championship game, the three stars remain heroes in Springdale as they go off to college. Wide receiver and linebacker Dewayne Jobe gores to USC; quarterback Sly Adams to Miami; and linebacker Jesse Webb to Mississippi. Dewayne and Sly become superstars contending for the Heisman while Jesse's career ends with an injury. At school Dewayne meets affluent Rosella Caldwell; they fall in love and marry.

Dewayne and Sly go to the NFL as stars while Jesse dies in a drunken driving incident. Dewayne, Rosella and her parents rescue her nephew Bruce and her niece Sabrina from their addicted mom Bonita. Rosella gives birth to their child. Dewayne is on top of the world and thankful to the Lord, his widowed mom, and his wife until a tragedy, a personal life threatening health issue and betrayals by loved ones leave him to understand how Job felt.

Using football as a mechanism Bill Barton and Henry O. Arnold modernize the story of Job as several traumatic incidents in a short time leave Dewayne in all sorts of anguish. Will he blame the Lord for deserting him or will he seek solace in the Lord while going through incredible layers of traumas? Young adult fans will appreciate this inspirational tale of the football star sacked several times until his life seems fumbled away.

The Secret's in the Sauce
Linda Evans Shepherd and Marie Everson
9780800732080, $13.99

In Summit View, Colorado following the wedding of Evangeline and Vernon catered by the Potluck Club members, the women believe they have proven how good they are as everyone enjoyed the food. They decide to open up a catering business.

They find success preparing meals for galas. However, while their cooking and catering are proving triumphant, each has personal issues to face. One of the members turns to alcohol; another's torrid ancient history affair surfaces; a third just lost her beloved parent; and finally a fourth must choose between two lovers. They turn to one another for solace.

The Potluck Club crowd decides to become professional caterers at a time when each of the members have personal issues. The rotating lead never gets deep into anyone's particular woes so their problems are minimized; almost trivialized. Still fans of the series will enjoy the latest optimistic entry as the Potluck Club turns professional.

The Outsider
Ann H. Gabhart
0800732391 , $13.99

In 1812 twenty-year-old Shaker Sister Gabrielle Hope has visions that enable her to see the future. Still she is steadfast to her commitment she and mom made in 1807 when they moved to Harmony Hill and adheres to her religious beliefs.

However, a kiss from visiting widower Dr. Brice Scott makes her wonder if the Shaker life of celibacy that she and her mother have vowed to follow is for her. As Brice's kind gentle words stir a passion of forbidden love inside her, she begins to reconsider her vows especially since the community separates moms and daughters leaving her no one to consult with about her feelings.

Using a potential taboo romance more as a mechanism than as the prime plot theme, Ann H. Gabhart provides a deep look at the Shaker Movement during the War of 1812. Well written, historical fans learn about the impact of celibacy on the Shakers including some who fail to adapt and commit suicide. Although none of the characters including Gabrielle display any deep passion about anything even death, which in fairness fits in some ways the Shaker society expectations of the flock, fans will enjoy this interesting War of 1812 tale.

Daniel Clay
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061561045, $13.95,, 1-800-242-7737

In Southampton eleven year old Skunk Cunningham lives with her father, brother and au pair. Skunk watches bully Bob Oswald batter teenager Rick Buckley; a few minutes after beating Rick up badly, Bob reports to the cops that the nineteen years old Buckley raped his thirteen year old daughter Susan. No one messes with one of Oswald's five daughters as the patriarch is not concerned with the truth; in this case the police Dr. Mortimer affirms Susan is a virgin. Charges were dropped.

Skunk avoids the Oswald girls like they have the plague as they are as insane and violent as their dad. Meanwhile Rick is afraid to go outside because he knows Oswald is not through with pummeling him. Finally unable to remain self incarcerated as he is going crazy, Rick reenters society looking for someone to beat up.

Although the plot is skeletal, this is a dark bleak character study. The Oswald brood is a fascinating family as Bob's argument that Rick harmed his daughter is based on fear she overtly displays; he is unable to take responsibility that her fear is of him. However, it is the metamorphosis of Rick from frightened shadow to avenger against those he feels affronted him like the female his age who told him his pecker was microscopic as well as the Oswalds. Not for everyone as the desolation and hopelessness oozes throughout, fans who appreciate the dark side of human interactivity will want to read aptly titled BROKEN.

Field of Blood
Eric Wilson
Thomas Nelson Publishers
PO Box 141000, Nashville, TN 37214
9781595544582, $14.99, 1-800-251-4000

After the death of Judas Iscariot in 30 AD, his blood soaked through to the Necropolis just below. In 1989, work crews are performing construction in this Field of Blood when they break though to what lies beneath. The Collector of Souls is drawn to the spot and enters; there the Collector finds boxes of bones in the unholy ground. He calls his cluster who come immediately. They reunite the bones and make them human looking before entering them; thus ending a period in which they had no bodies.

They are free to wreck havoc on mankind; especially eager to begin the Final Days. Keeping them in check and preventing the countdown is thirty-eight men known as the Nistorim who pray for the souls of man so they can be Those Who Resist. There are other people that keep hope alive. One is an innocent Romanian woman Gina Lazarescu who knows nothing of the spiritual battle, but she will play a major role in the war between the Nistorim and the Collectors.

Although the word demon is never used, the essence is lucid as the reader learns that the Collectors occupied the bodies of the damned. Eric Wilson's supernatural thriller is all about redemption by placing one's life on the line to save humanity. In some ways a coming of age saga as Gina grows while learning who she is and how she relates to the supernatural battle being fought.

Let Them Eat Fruitcake
Melody Carlson
David C. Cook
c/o Cook Communications
4050 Lee Vance View, Colorado Springs, CO 80918
9781589191068, $13.99, 1-800-323-7543

The four young women of 86 Bloomberg Place are not feeling joyous even as the holiday season approaches. Kendall is having an affair with a married actor in spite of knowing she should not. Megan fears she will soon lose her job while seeing no opportunities. Leilani feels she is not just in a rut; she is glued in place and has no earthly idea how to get moving. Finally Anna's boyfriend has returned, but she is not sure she wants him back.

With everyone despondent, the quartet of twenty something roommates know they are spiraling deeper into depression and instead of lifting each other up they seem to be increasing the downward spiral. They debate throwing a party but are unsure that will bring cheer into their lives.

The sequel to 86 BLOOMBERG PLACE continues the deep look at twentyish year old single females. Each of the members of the quartet is unique and fully developed with a bit more maturity although they make mistakes in relationships. Fans who appreciate an ensemble character study, sort of an all female Friends, will enjoy Melody Carlson's fine contemporary, but those who like action need to find a different address.

The Brass Verdict
Michael Connelly
Little, Brown & Company
c/o Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780316166294, $26.99, 1-800-759-0190

In Los Angeles ironically, they were rivals on a double homicide case that the rising star of the prosecutor's office Jerry Vincent lost to the "LINCOLN LAWYER" Mickey Haller; the former's career as an ADA died that day so he went private as a defense attorney. Thus when Jerry is killed, Judge Holder asks Mickey to take over his late peer's workload, but to especially focus on a particular high visibility case. Jerry was defending Hollywood producer Walter Elliot against the charges of killing his wife and her alleged lover.

Haller struggles with mounting a defense in a short time. Meanwhile LAPD Detective Harry Bosch investigates the Vincent homicide. Each feels the other is in the way of performing their job. Haller concludes that the Elliot double murder is much more than a jealous spouse murdering his cheating wife and her lover in a crime of passion. He offers a truce to Bosch so they can work together; Bosch reluctantly agrees.

THE BRASS VERDICT is a great combo legal thriller and police procedural starring two terrific adversaries reluctantly teaming up. The story line is exciting and fast-paced from the onset, but turns stupendous when the cop and lawyer collide. Michael Connelly provides a great crime thriller starring his superstar and one of his best other lead characters.

Lost Girls
George D. Shuman
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416553010, $25.00, 1-800-223-2336

Retired US Navy Admiral Garland Brigham asks his friend blind psychic Sherry Moore to use her gift to help SEALs make a dangerous rescue on Mount McKinley, Alaska, she agrees. Sherry "sees" the LAST BREATH final moments of life; her skill saves the stranded mountain climbers in Denali National Park.

However, Sherry also saw something else that shakes her soul. Her vision included a glimpse of sexual slave trade victims; tortured females of all ages. Although she would prefer not to, Sherry feels an obligation to help so she travels to the Caribbean seeking justice for these LOST GIRLS including an American teen, Jill Bishop missing since last year.

Her talent makes her unique, but Sherry is much more than just a psychic as she is dedicated to helping others. This LAST BREATH has upset her leading to her feeling obligated to try to end the flourishing sex trade. The story line is exciting, action-packed and horrifying as Sherry and dedicated cops like Jamaican DI Rolly King George struggle to rescue some Lost Girls and shit down an operation or two. Although a great thriller, George D. Shuman makes it lucid that he condemns the world leaders for ignoring this horrific societal travesty.

Hardly Knew Her
Laura Lippman
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061584992, $23.95, 1-800-242-7737

This seventeen short story collection is divided into four major headings. Part I "Girls Gone Wild" consists of seven entries all previously published over the last six years. The title of the first tale, "The Crack Cocaine Diet", sets the tone of this Maryland based section which also includes the book title story "Hardly Knew Her". Part II "Other Cities, Not My Own" includes four previously published tales located outside of the Baltmore area; "A Good Fuck Spoiled" affirms the theory that coitus interuptus by homicde can occur anywhere. Part III "My Baby Walks the Streets of Baltimore" contains five entries; including a new Tess Monaghan tale ("The Accidental Detective" as well as a recently published Tess thriller ("The Shoeshine Man's Regrets"). Both Tess tales are excellent. Finally wrapping the strong anthology is Part IV the short novella "Scratch a Woman" starring self employed Helois,e an elementary school mom who makes living as a high priced prositite in DC and Baltimore (she also is the star of the entry "One True Love") and her estrange sister Meghan as neighbors in Turner's Grove. This is a strong compilation that includes taking the criminal mind beyond the author's beloved Baltimore noirs.

Blackbird, Farewell
Robert Greer
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9781583942505, $25.95, 1-800-726-0600

Denver based bail bondsman CJ Floyd is in Hawaii on his honeymoon when he learns that Shandell Bird, the friend of his godson reporter Damion Madrid, was shot and killed at center court. The two friends had led Colorado State University's basketball team to the NCAA basketball championship game losing to UCLA. Bird was the NBA's second overall draftee.

With a desperate need to know why especially when rumors sprout that the late superstar tanked the UCLA game and the murder was obviously a professional hit, Madrid begins to investigate after receiving the investigator's point spread from CJ's partner Flora Jean Benson. From the islands CJ also arranges special protection of Damion by some cronies. Another former teammate insists Bird was dealing in their Five Points neighborhood, which seems illogical to Madrid as Shandell was worth millions once he went NBA. However, as he begins to uncover a side of his friend he never knew especially the roles of the superstar's retinue Madrid begins to learn the full truth including the secret that Bird tried to hide from everyone even in death.

Whereas CJ takes a breather (see THE MONGOOSE DECEPTION), Madrid cuts his teeth on an investigation that at times is amateur sleuth because he fumbles and bumbles his way until he realizes what Benson warned of; this is no game with preset rules as his adversaries will make them as needed including killing nosy former teammates. The story line is driven by Madrid's obsessive need to know but along the way his naive innocence turns to hardball reality that in the game of life, your teammates better not be shaving the score.

Midnight's Daughter
Karen Chance
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451412621, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

There is a war going on between the Vampire Senate and the dark mages of the Black Circle; the hostilities have made arms dealers very wealthy as they sell magical armaments to both camps. Five hundred years old dhampir Dorina Basarab is unlike her peers as she can somewhat control her berserker rages so is uninterested in the war. She worries when her best friend Claire the null witch, who could be a valuable weapon of mass destruction, has gone missing for a month. Dory has been directing all her energy into finding her buddy when a family member asks for her help.

Her father, first level vampire Mircea informs hat her Uncle Dracula escaped his confinement. He needs her help to capture and re-incarcerate the craziest deadliest family member. Dory has had one horrific fight with her uncle and does not want a rematch. Her father makes a deal with his daughter; if she catches Dracula, he will get the Vampire Senate to search for Claire. Knowing Dracula will be coming for her and her Uncle Rudu, Dory accepts her dad's terms. Gathering allies, Dory is stunned to learn her adversary has captured Claire.

Dory is an interesting lead character, a dhampire who has survived for five centuries on her dysfunctional family by controlling her rages and killing only when necessary those deserving to die. She is a unique dhampir as most cannot control their berserker tendencies or show love towards another person like she does towards Claire as a sister would. There is plenty of action, a bit of romance, and a fascinating look at the Dracula brood. Urban fantasy readers will want to take a chance on this tale as well as the author's backlist (see CLAIMED BY SHADOWS). Karen Chance is by far one of the best authors writing urban fantasies today.

Small Crimes
Dave Zeltserman
Serpent Tail
c/o Meryl Zegarek Public Relations
255 West 108th Street, Suite 901, New York, NY 10025
9781852429713, $14.95,

Bradley County police officer Joe Denton moonlighted for local mafia chief Manny Vassey doing all sorts of mostly SMALL CRIMES to pay off his gambling debts and to insure no harm came to his wife Elaine or their two preadolescent daughters. District Attorney Phil Coakley caught Joe breaking into his office; panicked into a berserker rage the crooked cop stabs the DA thirteen times in the face with a screwdriver. He scarred the DA for life. Joe confessed, is convicted and goes to the county prison.

Seven years later Joe is paroled and moves in with his parents who do not want him there. His wife left town with the kids with a new name and no forwarding address. Vengeful Phil wants to hang Joe and feels he has a reliable source if he can crack the dying Manny who fears he is going to hell if he fails to confess his sins. Crooked county Sheriff Dan Pleasant, who took care of Joe while he was in prison, reminds him of the Ferguson homicide and warns him he either kills Vassey or Coakley if he does not want Plan B implemented because the lawman knows he faces twenty years hard time otherwise.

This crime Noir stars a former crooked cop unable to overcome his past as the key players from back then seem to converge on him now that he is "free" though he would argue otherwise. Readers will appreciate Dave Zeltserman's character driven tale as Joe's options are limited obviously by the triangulation that he feels is strangling him and by his own amoral outlook; not having his three beloved females nearby increases his anti-societal tendencies. Fans will appreciate this deep Noir-lit as Phil and Dan put the pressure on Joe while Manny is the one who can send him up for life.

The Telltale Turtle
Joyce & Jim Lavene
Midnight Ink
2143 Wooddale Drive, Woodbury, MN, 55125-2989
9780738712260, $6.99, 1-800-843-6666

Mary Catherine Roberts is a pet psychic who can communicate with all types of creatures. She is world famous and has her own talk show on Lite 102 5 WRSC in Wilmington, Delaware. She has converted the building she owns into an animals shelter, which depends on donations to supplement the large amount of money she contributes.

One day when Mary Catherine was driving home she hears a noise as if a creature is in distress. She zeroes in on the anguished sounds until she finds a house. Inside is a woman whose throat is slashed. She takes Tommy the Turtle with her to her home, but is shocked to learn the victim was Ferndelle Jamison, her station manager Colin's aunt. He immediately becomes a suspect because he is expected to inherit her fortune. Mary Catherine rejects the notion that Colin killed his aunt, but someone threatens her by injuring her beloved cat Balor and makes nasty calls to her show. When she gets injured after someone breaks in her home, former cop Charlie, now a private eye is hired to protect her. He is like a guardian angel after someone cuts her brake lines. However in spite of him, an unknown adversary plans to make Mary Catherine deceased number two,

Joyce & Jim Lavene always write a charming cozy that immerses the reader deep into the story line. THE TELLTALE TURTLE is no exception as the audience will enjoy middle aged Mary Catherine's antics as the heroine does not slow down for a breather especially since her menagerie includes new guest Tommy, her cat Balor, a horde of canines, and some sly squirrels, etc. Plus she has a case to work as the cops focus on Colin while she looks elsewhere. The audience will enjoy this fine lighthearted tale and look forward to more capers in this delightful series.

The 731 Legacy
Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore
Midnight Ink
9780738713175, $15.95

A very ill man bleeding from many orifices goes to SNN Television network to talk to Nephilim Cotton Stone. With his last dying breath he mutters " Black Needles". His body disappears before an autopsy occurs; the mortuary that picked his corpse up is nowhere to be found.

A woman in West Virginia dies from the same virus and her body also goes missing. In the Brazilian Rain Forest a woman of the Yanomomo tribe contacts the virus.

Cotton begins to notice the pattern, but is diverted from pursuing the story when the man she loves is kidnapped in an Eastern European country. With the help of former KGB agents, Stone rescues Priest Father John Tyler. During the return she overhears the Father and the Nephilim discuss the abduction as a diversion because Cotton was getting to close to the truth. In North Korea a scientist has found a way to activate a dormant retrovirus that harms humans. She and the country's "Dear Leader" plan to spread this lethal virus around the world; decimating the globe and leaving North Korea as the superpower. When Father John gets the disease, the Son of the Morning gives Cotton a choice. To save him she must surrender to the darkness.

THE 731 LEGACY is an enthralling thriller in which a woman with the blood of angels must decide whether to fall to the Nephilim to save her beloved Father John. Cotton knows anyone can be trapped by the darkness, but is prepared to do so willingly by joining the "Old Man" to save the priest. The plague seems plausible which adds to the tension that the readers feel. The protagonist is strong willed chip off of her fallen angelic father's DNA. Lynn Sholes and Joe Moore provide another entertaining, enthralling and creative Stone thriller (see THE HADES PROJECT, THE LAST SECRET and THE GRAIL CONSPIRACY).

Slow Train to Arcturus
Eric Flint and Dave Freer
Baen Books
PO Box 1403, Riverdale, NY 10471
9781416555858, $24.00, 1-800-223-2336

When the humongous weird looking vessel entered their system, leaders of planet Miren become concerned. They send a ship filled with scientists and other researchers to investigate the encroaching craft with its strange massive bubble-like habitats.

Upon entering an orb, humans inside attack the alien visitors from Miren. Most of the outsiders are killed as they are not soldiers and the ship's residents are insane berserkers. Miren xenobiologist Kretz escapes the slaughter by entering a different biosphere containing other humans, friendlier but unhelpful as they do not have the means to get him to his vessel. Kretz realizes quickly to get back to his ship and eventually Miren, he must pass through several of these contained circular environments filled with humans at different stages of development; many hostile towards his species.

This is a fun often humorous outer space opera. The story line is hyper fast and filled with non stop action, but that is a two edged sword because the plot never goes deep into the various groups that the Miren meet or the purpose of the multi habitat spacecraft. Still this is an engaging tale with the neat twist of the humans entering the alien specie sector with hostility that pulp space opera fans will enjoy.

Belisarius I Thunder at Dawn
David Drake & Eric Flint
Baen Books
9781416555681, $24.00

"An Oblique Approach". Byzantium Emperor Justinian selected his Thracian bodyguard to lead his army. On the way to assume his command role, Monk Michael of Macedonia and Bishop Anthony Cassian meet with him. They give him a crystal that he grasps; he sees Northern India's Malwa Empire conquering the world, leaving a path of destruction and death no one could envision. He and trusted allies begin a top secret project to insure his vision of the future never occurs even as he begins rebuilding the army at Daras. However they lack solid Intel about their future foe; or they would know something beyond human understanding is guiding the deadly treacherous Malwa.

"In the Heart of Darkness". In India seeking intelligence on the enemy and assisted by the futuristic Aide though that intelligence makes little sense to the Byzantium general, Belisarius meets with Lord Venandakatra insisting he will switch sides for the right price. However, he also sets up a ploy to liberate Princess Shakuntala, the last survivor of the Satavahana dynasty over run by the Malwa. He tries to hide his duplicity; he succeeds until he meets his archenemy Link the future supercomputer who possesses the body of a Malwa. Realizing Link can "read" him; Belisarius and his comrades are forced to flee.

These two reprints are the opening acts of the Belisarius alternate history saga as two opposing groups from the future intervene in Justinian's "present" era. The tales are well written especially the first fascinating one. However, "In the Heart of Darkness" is a mixed bag as readers fully grasp the differences between the methodologies employed by the futurists with their respective intervention, but the era does not come alive as much as it should (as the plot especially early does in "An Oblique Approach"). Still sub-genre fans will enjoy this reprint of a fine saga that blends real historical fifth century persona with fictional intruders from the future.

Freezing Point
Karen Dionne
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
051514536X, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

Fresh water has become an increasingly scarce luxury for many people around the globe. Environmentalist Ben Maki believes he can fix the supply and demand issue by melting the Antarctic ice. However, many doubters think it can't be done and skeptics feel the unregulated corporate world, which Maki, belongs to, will keep supply low in order to insure the price is exorbitant and water trickles down at the rate the market place deems profitable.

Maki and the world's leading scientists and technocrats begin a trial run of his model. However, disease attacks the researchers killing several and Antarctic rat packs swarm all over the human bases. Maki's dream is shattered as he and his peers struggle to escape the deadly continent.

When this well written engaging thriller focuses on the science and the related scientific ethics, FREEZING POINT is a great tale. When the plot switches to killing rodents, the sensationalism increases the excitement level at the cost of losing its prime focus point on humanity's inhuman bottom line failures by turning into an inane horror tale. Still this is a fascinating and thought provoking work as the next great global war is not oil but over water.

The Keepsake
Tess Gerritsen
Ballantine Books
c/o The Random House Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345497628, $26.00, 1-800-726-0600

Boston-based medical examiner Maura Isles has examined a lot of corpses while on the job, but this one is special. The Crispin Museum invited the ME to attend a CAT scan of Madame X; the perfectly preserved mummy found in their basement who the curator believes will save their financially troubled facility.

However, instead of an ancient Egyptian royal, the modern medical test proves the mummy is a recent homicide victim. They also find a cryptic note inside. Boston Police Department Detectives Jane Rizzoli and Barry Frost lead the investigation. The message leads the cops to archeologist Josephine Pulcillo, who along with her mom has been on the run from an obsessed serial killer. Soon more modern day mummies are found, but the culprit remains elusively hidden in spite of Egyptian embalming knowledge.

The latest Rizzoli-Isles police procedural is a superb thriller that needs a graphic warning label not to read on a full stomach. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the mummy goes from ancient historical to contemporary and never slows down as obsession keeps a mother and daughter in fear of revealing secrets to the cops. Tess Gerritsen is at her best with this gruesome horrific murder mystery.

Bound by Light
Anna Windsor
Ballantine Books
9780345498557, $6.99

While his two brothers seem ecstatic over meeting their soul mates (see BOUND BY SHADOW and BOUND BY FLAME) Astaroth demon Jake Lowell feels alone as he just wants to regain his humanity. However, he knows that his fantasy will remain just a dream as the mage experts insist that is impossible. Still in spite of his depression and being manipulated by a malevolent using him as a stalker, he feels good for his brothers and follows the orders to protect the only non-pregnant Sybil triad sister air Sybil Merilee Alexander.

Meanwhile the Old One is leading his Legion on a quest to destroy humanity. This powerful demon knows the time is right as two of the Sybils are in delicate conditions. All he and his minion must do is kill the third one, Melanie. Jake finds his human side surface at the wrong time as he needs to keep the Sybil he is falling in love with safe, but to do that he requires the full power of the demon inside him.

The third Dark Crescent Sisterhood is urban romantic fantasy at its best as part of a stupendous saga. The story line is action-packed as the audience follows the latest confrontation between the Sybils and the Legion. This time the odds are more overwhelming than ever as the good guys are somewhat weakened while the evil ones have their top gun strengthens the darkness. This is a great miniseries that sub-genre fans will relish.

Family Sold Separately
Kate Long
Ballantine Books
9780345479679, $14.00

She has heard her entire life about the family curse that haunts the Millers. Katherine knows when she turns eighteen tomorrow she will meet the doom that destroys every generation when they turn adult.

Not that Kat has had much of life anyway In Bank Top, England. Her dreams will never be answered even the simplest ones like social acceptance by her peers, a lithe body, leaving the hamlet forever and two parents; her dad died when the curse struck in an accident and her mom fled the village leaving her with Poll, her legally blind grandma known for verbally ripping skin, and Poll's companion garbage dump scavenger Dickie the Dogman. Kat knows Poll needs her so she has no hope except to become as acerbic as her grandma is while watching afternoon television shows that require no brain power. Everything changes when Collum arrives at Bank Top, claiming he is Kat's cousin.

This is a fascinating look at a teen on the brink of independence adulthood struggling between her desires and her family responsibilities even as she anticipates the expected disaster to strike any moment. Kate better understands now why her mom left but feels guilt over considering doing the same because she believes her caustic grandma needs her. The local dialogue is a two edge sword as its usage brings a sense of location, but can be distracting. Still FAMILY SOLD SEPARATELY is a strong character study starring a dreamer who fears her flights of fancy will prove either futile or nightmarish.

My Prerogative
Sasha White
Berkley Heat
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780425223406, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

In Vancouver thirty years old Kelsey Howard enjoys her life as a "footloose and fancy free" single. She prides herself that she answers only to her self though recently has felt slightly disjointed. She knows why as she has completed her entire "life's to-do list" and has no goals left to achieve. Kelsey realizes she would love to have a mate who can match her desire for desire, sex for sex, and love for love. However, she also assumes no man can stay hard enough to fulfill her sexual cravings.

However, she soon realizes that a voyeur is watching her prancing in the nude in her apartment. Instead of fear, Kelsey finds she wants to meet her peeping Tom. She knows only one way to do so; go after him. Harlan Shaw has become a voyeur after seeing his "muse", the naked woman with the breasts at the window; he wants her because he holds her culpable for no blood flowing to his brain.

Lust, lust and more lust to the infinite degree when sex machine Kelsey meets the one who has a permanent hard on for her. The heroine makes this erotic romance work because she offers no apologies for her loose behavior yet in site of hopping from man to man, Kelsey still dreams of meeting a man who will love her. Sub-genre fans will enjoy the sexploits of Kelsey unbound, full of trouble and sexually wicked.

The Blessed
Lisa T. Bergren
9780425223420, $24.95

The Gifted are a group of thirteen men, women and children from all walks of life; each endowed with a gift from God who sends them on a mission. According to a glass map they must travel to Avignon where the papacy is headquartered. They have a message to deliver to Pope Cornelius, but the evil men endowed with the Dark One's powers try to prevent them from reaching him. Vincenzo de Bruce and his mentor Abramo fail n their attempt to kill them.

Daria D'Angelo who was betrayed by her Uncle Vincenzo is a healer who when demonstrated God's powers she seems to convert most who observe her. The defection of her uncle hurts her badly and she hates Abramo who held her prisoner doing horrific things to her. She and the other Gifted know what awaits them in Avignon; corruption of the Cardinals by their enemies and influencing the pope by the Gifted who now have a loyal following from believers. A showdown is coming with the Gifted praying they are victorious.

The third tale in the Gifted trilogy (see BETRAYED and BEGOTTEN) comes to a glorious finish. The de facto leader of the group is Daria, a strong independent woman who willingly suffers for God, but remains steadfast in her love and worship of Him. Besides wanting to clean out the depraved at the papal Court, the Gifted believe that the Word needs to be spoken in the native dialect and a worshipper do not a middle man priest to pray to God. This religious thriller is enthralling, filled with action and fascinating characters, and many messages, not all subtle, for the reader to ponder.

Heart Fate
Robin D. Owens
9780425223673, $14.00

In Druida City Lahsin Yew and Tinne Holly belong together, but both know that will not happen. When she was fourteen years old, she was forced to marry an abusive older GrandLord T'Yew; Tinne knowing he cannot wed his heartmate marries Genista.

However, to his shock and that of the nobility as there is no precedent, Genista is going to divorce Tinne. Three years into her marriage from hell, Lashin is entering her second Flair passage that will proclaim her as an adult; that is if she lives. She plans to divorce her odious mate, but first hides from him knowing he will kill her before she completes the passage. Tinne risks what is left of his reputation by vowing to keep his heartmate safe; though he fears once she survives passage she will be upset to learn he is her heartmate.

Although somewhat similar in tone to the previous Heart tale, the tangled relationships of the heartmates to others make for a much deeper compassionate and fresh entry. Readers will feel for the star crossed heartmates but fate in terms of her dictatorial father and her abusive husband make their mating impossible. Although T-Yew has no seemingly redeeming qualities, Robin D. Owens provides a suburb romantic fantasy filled with heart.

The Storm
Jean Johnson
9780425222171, $14.00

Rydan, the Guardian of the Nightfall Fountain, is a loner. He hates crowds, which to him is more than one other person near his space. Thus he is unhappy when the twins Arora and Amara are shipwrecked on Nightfall Island even as he is attracted to the former while his brother Trevan desires the latter (see THE CAT).

He rejects the concept that Rora is his destined mate. However she sees inside his soul and knows why he runs from emotions; feelings are painful to her beloved. She plans to heal him, but first must deal with the trouble that followed her and her sister to Nightfall Island.

Although readers know much of the events having read them in THE CAT, Jean Johnson keeps the tale fresh as the perspective of the other twins are different from those of Trevan and Amara. The story line maintains the fast pace, but new revelations occur as Rydan keeping with his overall loner persona meets his fate as one of the Sons of Destiny in the aptly titled THE STORM. Ms. Johnson keeps her romantic fantasy saga at the top bar of excellence.

Servant: The Acceptance
L.L. Foster
9780515145328, $7.99

The AWAKENING of Gabrielle Cody as God's "servant" warrior fighting evil has not been easy, but the ACCEPTANCE has occurred. She did not realize when she accepted her mantle was the bipolar lifestyle swings between extreme boredom and extreme adrenaline. She especially misses Detective Luther Cross, who she pushed out of her life although he is who makes her feel like a human female and not some modern day Joan of Arc or Buffy.

Something malevolent is torturing and killing prostitutes. Gabby vows to protect the women from their predator. She makes friends with some of the hookers, which makes her godly mission of divine retribution more difficult to accomplish as it hurts to see them harmed. Worse Luther is on the case too; he knows she is his worst nightmare as he wants her but distrusts this vigilante.

The latest "Servant" horror thriller is an exciting tale as the vile villain is as nasty as they come. To defeat the evil one, Gabby and Luther need to team up, but neither trusts the other fully; in some ways they do not trust themselves to perform their duty properly when they are together because of the distraction of the attraction. Fans will read this in one scary sitting as L.L. Foster turns on the lights.

His Captive Lady
Anne Gracie
9780425223246, $7.99

In 1817 after spending eight years as a Devil Rider during the war, Harry Morant says to himself he no longer cares whether he is accepted by the Ton or not; he knows his acceptance has been limited to the bedroom in spite of his biological father being an Earl. Still he buys a run down estate with plans of turning it into a horse breeding operation. He also plans to find some shallow person to marry.

On his trek in heavy rain, he meets Nell Freymore who is traveling to her family's estate. Being a gentleman, albeit an illegitimate one, he gives her his hat and gloves to protect her from the inclement weather. They meet again at his estate as Nell learns that with her father's death, her family sold the property to Harry. As she searches for her missing child, Harry wants her by his side so he holds her as his prisoner. As they fall in love, he vows to find her daughter Torie.

The story line has been told a zillion times, yet Ann Gracie makes it seem as if this is the first time as HIS CAPTIVE LADY is a fresh Regency romance. Harry and Nell are fascinating protagonists as both are brave, obstinate, and disgusted to be in love. Fans will enjoy the second Devil Rider historical romance (see THE STOLEN PRINCESS) as she may be HIS CAPTIVE LADY but he is her captive lord if he has any say in the matter.

The Dangerous Duke
Christine Wells
9780425223260, $6.99

In 1817 the fires devastated the Duke of Lyle family killing almost all of them and leading to Maxwell Brooke inheriting the title he never expected. He vows to find the arsonists who murdered his family.

Clues lead him to Reverend Stephen Holt, who knows the identities of the arsonists, but refuses to reveal them; he locks Holt up and decides to use the man's sister widow Lady Kate Fairchild as bait to make him talk; that is after he learns why a stalker is in her garden. As a reaction to her loveless marriage, Kate kept a fantasy diary that highlighted her desires. Max assumes it contains scandalous information that will damage reputations so he steals it. When he reads it, he vows to pleasure Kate in every way she vividly described. However, an unknown adversary tries to harm Kate leading to a desperate Max kidnapping her to keep her safe and for him to show her reality beats fantasy when love is involved.

This is an exciting Regency romantic suspense as Maxwell has two mysteries to solve; that of who killed his family and why someone stalks the hostage he loves. The story line is action-packed yet filled with passionate romance as neither Max nor Kate welcome love. The dual detecting mysteries are entertaining and enhance a fine tale starring THE DANGEROUS DUKE and courageous Kate.

Jenesi Ash
9780451224941, $14.00

When her best friend adventurous Jamie informs cautious Mia that she is moving on from Clover Bud, the latter's lover Aiden demands he move in with her. However, Mia has some doubts that she wants their relationship to go in that direction as she is not fully satisfied with their sex life although she has no one else to compare him to; he is her first and only lover.

Jamie knows she will miss her lover Caleb and her best friend Mia when she leaves town, but believes it is time for her to move on to try something new. On her last weekend in town, the two pairs of lovers try something daring; they swap lovers shocking the quartet with their reactions as their deepest darkest desires surface and are satiated for now.

Although erotic from almost the onset, SWAP is a deep character study as the quartet begins to understand their selves and especially their companions. Each of the fearsome foursome seems genuine and unique. That weekend, which contains an "A" through "Z" repertoire of sex (anal to zoo menage a quatre), also enables each couple to appreciate what they have and have not. Erotic romance fans will enjoy this wild sex SWAP.

The Tale of Briar Bank
Susan Wittig Albert
9780425223611, $23.95

Her reception from her disapproving parents is so icy; Beatrix Potter decides to cut off her visit and leave London immediately. She returns to her home Hill Top Farm in the Lake District. Ironically she gets trapped in a blizzard that reminds her of the frozen welcome of her family.

Beatrix learns that neighbor Hugh Wickstead was killed in an accident when a tree limb fell on him. Some locals believe he died due to the curse of an ancient treasure trove he found. Beatrix knows humans are inane allowing their imagination to come up with ridiculous stories. She turns to the more honest animals to help her investigate how Hugh died.

The latest Potter Cottage Tale (see THE TALE OF CUCKOO BROW WOOD and THE TALE OF HAWTHORN HOUSE) is an engaging historical mystery that uses personification to combine fact and fantasy into a fine mystery. The fun in the TALE OF BRIAR BANK lies with that convergence as Beatrix talks to the late Hugh's fox terrier Pickles; co-star as a store owner in THE TALE OF GINGER AND PICKLES. This is a fun entry in a delightfully charming series.

Espresso Shot
Cleo Coyle
9780425221778, $22.95

Her ex-husband Matteo Allegro is getting married and Clare Cosi, head barista of The Village Blend coffeehouse, is responsible for the desserts and coffee bar. Clare dislikes Matteo's soon to be bride, Trend magazine editor Breanne Summour because the woman is mean and nasty; lacking any kindness in her personality.

A car almost hits Breanne; Matteo pulls her to safety. At his bachelor party a stripper who looks like the bride to be is murdered by a sniper while she walked on the street with Matteo and Clare. Matteo asks Clare, who has conducted several successful investigations, to look into the stripper's death; he believes someone wants Breanne dead. Clare knows Breanne has many enemies and few if any friends; however she doubts anyone would loath the woman enough to kill her even the wedding help dealing with this odious Bridezilla. Her opinion changes after spending a day with Breanne; besides Clare wanting to kill Ms. Mean, Clare overhears Monica, a worker, talking suspiciously on a phone and not much later Monica is found dead in her office. Although the world wants Breanne dead, Clare has to figure out who is willing to actually kill her.

ESPRESSO SHOT is one of the best whodunits in the Coffeehouse Mysteries. Matteo comes across as a caring person who has given up his hope that one day soon Clare will remarry him; he has found another woman to love. His feelings for both women affirm he is a tender compassionate man with a big heart even if his request places his beloved in danger as he is confident of her skills. The mystery is a wonderful amateur sleuth tale filled with chilling incidents (besides spending a day with Bridezilla); Clare is almost robbed, shot at and attacked. Cleo Coyle creates mysteries that fans will appreciate while drinking coffee.

Fleece Navidad
Maggie Sefton
9780425223604, $23.95

The holiday season has come to Fort Connor, Colorado. Kelly Flynn and her friends befriend the newcomer who has come to the House of Lamb craft shop to socialize. Claudia Miller has moved from Florida to look for husband number four and she thinks she has found her man in Jeremy. Claudia is unaware that he was seeing librarian Juliet Renfrow before she arrived in town; Juliet remains heartbroken.

Another stranger arrives in town, the daughter of Claudia's third husband; she starts spreading rumors that her "stepmother" killed her three husbands. She did her own investigation and found that Claudia took the car and the credit card of the woman living in the same retirement home complex with her. Claudia insists the woman gave them to her; Sheila claims she stole them and the family is considering pressing charges. They cannot ask the woman as she died of natural causes. Jeremy proposes to Juliet who says yes. However, Claudia is in deeper criminal trouble when someone deliberately kills Juliet in a hit and run and the police think she did it. Everyone condemns her except Kelly who believes someone has woven quite a yarn that she plans to unravel one thread at a time.

Maggie Sefton has written a charming Colorado cozy with an eccentric cast who's off beat humor has the audience chuckling for the most part. Readers are unsure if Claudia is black widow killing a rival or the victim of a clever person; the evidence mounts increasingly towards the former. In fact most fans and the House of Lamb group will believe Claudia is a killer; her only doubter Kelly begins to agree as everything she finds affirms that theory. Fall in the Rockies sounds like fun when Ms. Sefton is the hostess as her latest amateur sleuth FLEECE NAVIDAD is an engaging Rocky Mountain High.

Dark Curse
Christine Feehan
9780425223437, $24.95

Carpathian Nicolas De La Cruz has come home to report bad news to his prince. However, he also plans to commit suicide ending his centuries of loneliness.

Lara Calladine has finally escaped the ice prison of her abusive father and even eviler grandfather. A half-breed she spent her childhood tortured by the pair in odious experiments to understand the dilution of her dragonkeeper bloodline with human DNA. She knows they are coming for her although that might be the nightmares that frighten her. When she and Nicholas meet, Lara knows she has found her soulmate; so has Nicholas, but trust of another person is something she has learned first hand to never do. Still the time to confront her nightmares is now as she has a persistent champion demanding to be at her side.

The latest Dark novel is a superb entry that can stand by itself as a powerful romantic fantasy yet also augments the super saga plot. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action; both trademarks of Christine Feehan. Lara makes the tale excellent as a unique individual who has suffered torment and torture her entire life. Nicholas realizes rather quickly that he has her love, but gaining her trust seems impossible even as he risks his life to help her. Ms. Feehan provides a terrific thriller to the delight of the Carpathian crowd.

Jennifer Estep
9780425220627, $7.99

Bella Bulluci detests her superpower as luck can fortunately be good, but the odds are just as strong it can be bad. Her current concern is the upcoming museum exhibit, Whimsical Wonders; as she is in charge, but fears her luck could turn sour and hurt the show.

Bella feels like she jinxed herself and the exhibit when someone tries to steal the show-stopping piece, the magnificent star sapphire. Soon after that the teleporting art thief Debonair kidnaps Bella. As they become acquainted she believes her luck has turned good as they begin to fall in love and she persuades him to help her prevent the supervillains from succeeding when they attempt to steal the star sapphire again.

The latest satirical superhero romantic fantasy (see KARMA GIRL and HOT MAMA) is an amusing tale that will remind readers of the movies Pure Luck and Just My Luck. The story line is fast-paced with a strong cast especially the cynical lead female who laments her life as being bad luck to have such a lame power that can go in either direction. Fans who appreciate a lighthearted whimsical spoof will enjoy being jinxed by Jennifer Estep.

Hostage to Pleasure
Nalini Singh
9780425223253, $7.99

The Psy Council orders scientist Ashaya Aleine to conduct research that she finds is an abomination. However she feels cornered with no options as the Council has abducted her son Keenan and she knows how nasty their torture can be.

Ashaya assists the Changelings who rescue several kidnapped children. In return she pleads with the Changelings to liberate her child. Changeling sniper Dorian Christensen hates all Psy who he holds culpable for the murder of his sister. However, to his chagrin he and his inner leopard essence are attracted to Dorian. When she risks her life to defy the Council, he knows he must help her and her son although he expects to die in the effort.

HOSTAGE TO PLEASURE, the fifth Psy-Changeling, is an excellent urban fantasy romance that stars two terrific lead antagonists who have reasons to distrust one another; making love unwelcome. The story line is cleverly devised so that this exciting tale can be read by as a stand alone, but for saga fans adds depth to the overall "super" plot. The sub-genre audience will enjoy this entire wonderful series (see MINE TO POSSESS, SLAVE TO SENSATION, VISIONS OF HEAT and CARESSED BY ICE).

Allyson Roy
9780425223239, $7.99

They are both shocked when they learn their close friend Gwen Applebee committed suicide. In fact neither sex therapist Saylor Oz nor her buddy Benita believes it especially since the fashionista would never be caught dead with a fanny pack. Instead they decide to investigate Gwen's death as the police are writing it off as self inflicted.

Their theory is Gwen was murdered due to her work on a new perfume that made women irresistible. The pair begins to sniff around the perfume industry, but find too many suspects. However, the case turns odd and dangerous when thugs demand Saylor produce the perfume or else they will batter the two families of the amateur sleuths; one joint at a time. Saylor's lover boxer Eldridge refuses to take a dive even though the two women tell him to stay out of their fight.

Chick lit mystery fans will enjoy this amusing New York City amateur sleuth as Saylor and Benita take over Brooklyn and Manhattan in their quest to prove Gwen would never go to her grave willingly holding a fanny pack. The story line is fast-paced with plenty of laugh out loud escapades, but also has too many subplots going on. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy this fun urban frolic.

The Diva Runs Out of Thyme
Krista Davis
9780425224267, $6.99

Sophie Winston and Natasha Smith have known each other for years as friendly acquaintances who seemed to always compete against each other. Both write food columns for differing newspapers. Sophie's is down to earth with simplicity as the idea while Natasha's are sophisticated almost works of art. While going to a grocer, a man asks Sophie if she wants a cat; she says no but changes her mind.

She sees the cat by a dumpster. When she goes over to look she sees inside a corpse. The police find her name and number on the victim so coupled with her reporting the body she becomes a person of interest. At the Stupendous Stuffing Shakedown Contest, the sponsor Simon Greer asks her for a date and when she goes to find him after she turned him down, she sees him dead bashed in by the Turkey trophy. The same detective catches both cases; he thinks Sophie is a killer using the ploy of finding corpses to throw off the scent; or she is a bad luck innocent. Sophie wants her record cleared so she is helped by her family and friends on her investigation before she ends up reviewing prison cuisine.

"Sugar and spice" is not as Sophie should know the omen for the week that begins with the ingredients for her entry turn up missing. Two murders later, one peeping Tom, and the police make for a harrowing week except Sophie has one thing going for her: she is alive although at a breaking point. She suspects everyone and can't relax for a moment out of fear of dining on jailhouse food or being the third victim. Although a food reporter going sleuthing is hard to swallow even if circumstantially she fears the cops will give her the FBI anthrax treatment; Krista Davis provides an enjoyable whodunit starring THE DIVA RUNS OUT OF THYME.

Sweet Life
Mia King
9780425221679, $14.00

Paul's promotion is too good to pass up; so he, his wife Marissa and their daughter Pansy relocate. They leave New York for Hawaii. The whole family has adjustments to make, but especially Marissa who has gone from Manhattan working mom to Islander stay at home mom.

However, Paul reacts the strangest as demands a trial separation so that he can "find himself"; as he feels he lost his identity to being provider, husband and father. To economically survive, Marissa takes in renters that lead to friendships; however, she also knows it is a time of reckoning. She has to decide Hawaii with a chance of Paul returning or New York where employment exists for her.

This entertaining tale focuses on what is a SWEET LIFE as the lead couple relocates to what each assumes will prove to be paradise only to find location is important, but people make their own "Eden". The story line is character driven especially by Marissa who is unsure what she must do for her and their kids. Although Paul is appallingly simplified to the point of stereotypical born again slacker, fans will enjoy this fine tale of a woman rediscovering just who she is.

Melina Morel
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
9780451225412, $6.99, 1-800-847-5515

In New York City, werecat siblings Vivian and Marc Roussel own a successful Russian artifact import business. However, when someone breaks into their warehouse and steals a valuable icon, the Roussels know they need outside expert help in protection and security.

They hire Russian Blue werecat Pavel Federov to provide the security to their firm and their persons. Pavel is shocked by how deep his attraction is for Vivian; his brain keeps insisting she is just another client, but the rest of his body argues much more eloquently. Assailants abduct Vivian, but she manages to escape compounding their belief this is bigger than a break and entry. As the trio search for the icon and Vivian and Pavel fall in love werecat style, adversarial killers make deadly concerted efforts to obtain the priceless artifact and Vivian.

Romantic urban fantasy suspense readers will relish Melina Morel's werecats in Manhattan thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the first moment that Pavel meets his new clients and never slows down as predators are everywhere. As with the fabulous paranormal horror thriller DEVOUR, PREY keeps the romance in line as foremost this tale is an excellent paranormal mystery.

Speak of the Devil
Shari Shattuck
0451224809, $7.99

In the national forest town of Shadow Hills just above Los Angeles, Greer Sands has always hid her psychic skills until her friend Whitney's stepdaughter Joy was endangered and local bank manager Leah Falconer too. She came out into open to save the girl and Leah; shockingly her seventeen year old son Joshua displayed the same abilities for the first time, but he remains uncomfortable so they hide his skill to see the future through visions from everyone else (see EYE OF THE BEHOLDER).

At a baby shower for her pregnant friend Jenny, Greer sees a devastating fire threaten her friends and their family. Meanwhile when Joshua meets Simon, he envisions danger and feels a deep need to keep the teen safe. As the community is divided between development and status quo, Greer fears for her friends especially Jnny.

The background serves as a contrast to the feeling that doom is coming to Shadow Hills and the mother and son psychic team who know it is coming feel helpless to prevent it although they hope to keep everyone safe. The relationship between Greer and Joshua augments the strong story line as his newly discovered psychic abilities add tension between them since he still has not come to grips with the gift he does not want; the responsibility is overwhelming. Although the heroine's female friends overwhelm at times the plot, each is fully developed and unique while adding to the sense that a wildfire will destroy the town and much more. Readers will taste the fear of wildfires (see HELL ON EARTH by David L. Porter to understand how gripping in reality this is and how much Shari Shattuck captures this fear factor) in a deep paranormal thriller.

JoAnn Ross
9780451224798, $7.99

In Somersett, South Carolina, the sniper needed one shot to assassinate Brigadier General John Jacob. Because of the high visibility of an Army field grade officer murdered in the States, the FBI claims terrorist act means their jurisdiction. FBI agent Caitlin Cavanaugh leads the task force that includes state and local law enforcement.

The team quickly concludes they are dealing with a serial killer whose accuracy denotes military precision of a trained sniper. Former Navy SEAL Quinn McKade is added to the investigative team because of his former military experience as a sniper. The killer sends messages to local TV reporter Valentine Snow that insists the list of victims has just begun. As Cait and her team struggle with the motive that would link the killer's targets, she and Quinn are attracted to one another; but first there is a deadly apparently military trained killer on the loose they have to catch.

The latest High Risk romantic suspense is a terrific serial killer police procedural with the tie to FREEFALL being a harrowing incident during the Afghan War. Cait is excellent as a woman who prefers to be in charge while Quinn is used to going solo and not taking field orders. They make a fine coupling, but the strength of this superb thriller is the deep look at the sufferer of post-traumatic stress disorder and those emotionally connected to the disturbed person.

The Unit: Seek and Destroy
Patrick Andrews
0451225392, $6.99

At Fort Griffith, Missouri, Commanding officer Tom Ryan orders the "Unit" to report to the Cave immediately. The five operatives (Sergeant Major Blane, Master Sergeant Gerhardt, Staff Sergeant Brown, and Sergeants Grey and Matoskah) arrive immediately because they understand whatever the assignment is they will deploy immediately.

Ryan introduces his team to CIA Controller Munger, who the guys know as a desk jockey interfering with missions, State department Booker Cartwright who acts like Munger's lackey, and Congolese National Army Captain Edward Tshobutu. The mission is to work with Tshobutu to prevent a mercenary group headquartered in Italy from taking over the Democratic Republic of Congo. The mission is difficult enough, but Munger demands they also attempt to win the hearts and minds of those locals who joined the European mercenary force.

The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action as the Unit due to the competence of Tshobutu and his strategic planning and his squad's execution battle the enemy. Readers will enjoy the split between those back in DC ready to whine to Congress and those in the field risking their lives to achieve the mission. The lack of a CIA operative in country or even a State Department suit appears unreal and the mercenaries lacking a strategic on site leader to run their operation seems counter intuitive to how well they set it up. Still although everything goes too smooth, fans will enjoy Patrick Andrews' fine military operations battle in the Democratic Republic of Congo but especially between the soldiers in the field and the suits back home.

Broken Pieces
Carla Cassidy
9780451224897, $6.99

The assault from an unknown person frightened teenager Mariah Sayers as she expected to die; instead the man he zipped his pants back up and claimed he broke her and owned her before leaving. Frightened she ran from her hometown of Plains Point, Missouri. She vowed never to return and for almost sixteen years she avoided the place.

However with the death of her father, Mariah accompanied by her teenage daughter Kelsey has come home with plans to sell the family house. However, Mariah and Kelsey feel as if they finally came home as each enjoys living here and the mom is seeing Jack. Still, the shadow of the monster lingers in the background until a girl is murdered; Mariah believes her assailant is the killer just from the little she knows. This time she plans not to run as she decides instead to uncover the identity of her fiend.

Using the topics of teen rape and child abuse, Carla Cassidy provides a strong romantic suspense thriller starring a brave flawed woman and a deep support cast especially her daughter and her boyfriend, but especially the villain who for the most part is off page yet his few words emphasize the terror he causes. Years after her harrowing incident Mariah still suffers from nightmares as in his way the predator truly owns her. However, this time she refuses to run. Lights will be left on long after the reader finishes BROKEN PIECES.

Always Look Twice
Geralyn Dawson
9780451224880, $6.99

Former Military Intelligence officer Mark Callahan believes someone is killing off the members of his covert ops unit one at a time. He knows the danger he faces from this unknown adversary but has no idea what the motive could be; however, he is more concerned for his ex-wife private investigator Annabelle Monroe; in his mind the most dangerous member of their military squad.

Although both are wary to team up after their disastrous short lived marriage, Mark and Annabelle agree they must act to stop the killer. As they begin to follow clues that they hope leads to the killer soonest, their attraction remains as hot as ever especially in the bedroom. As they realize they remain in love and Mark begins to understand his past keeps them apart, they remain focused on bringing down a covert serial killer.

Mark and Annabelle heat the sheets in this exciting romantic suspense mystery. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Mark believes someone is killing their former brothers and sisters in arms. Although the confrontational climax will be anticipated early on, fans will enjoy this fast-paced second chance at love whodunit (except perhaps rooters of the Kansas Jayhawks).

Your Magic or Mine?
Ann Macella
Medallion Press, Inc.
1020 Cedar Lane, No. 2N, St. Charles, IL 60174
9781933836324, $7.95,

Marcus Forscher and Gloriana Morgan are on opposite spectrums of the magic theory. Whereas the male mathematician believes magic can be quantified into equations; the female botanist believes it is more of an art form than a precise branch of math. He insists his formulas are the modern way to perform magic while she believes the old methods are best.

As they debate which is the safest way to cast a spell, neither considered the ancient soulmate phenomena compulsion. This pair is stunned to find they are soulmates as they detest one another. However, each is horrified when their supporters turn violent with one irate practitioner blaming these soulmates for causing magical chaos and plans to rectify the problem by eliminating both of them.

The third magical Macela romantic fantasy (see THE OLDEST KIND OF MAGIC and DO YOU BELIEVE IN MAGIC?) is a terrific tale of two total opposites arguing over theory, teaming up to prevent a killer from murdering them, and falling in love. The story line is fast-paced even when Marcus presents mathematical equations in support of his magic premise. Their argument somewhat parallels faith in intelligent design and scientific evidence supporting natural selection (Darwinism). Fans will relish this fine entry that in many ways goes to the dogs; hers is Delilah and his is Samson.

Dark Harvest
Lynda Hilburn
Medallion Press
193383661X, $15.95

Dr. Kismet Knight is on Denver's WOW talk radio billed as the vampire psychologist though most listeners assume this is a gimmick. Actually this is the bloody truth in her case. Six months ago she became THE VAMPIRE SHRINK when a serial killing vampire almost murdered her. During her biting ordeal, Kismet met her lover eight hundred year old Master Vampire Devereux; he wants her to be his mate, but she hesitates.

On the air, the most ancient known vampire Hallow calls her and over the phone melts her bones turning her into a shrink in heat. Hallow wants to make Kismet his slave; Devereux vows to protect his beloved from the most evil bloodsucker walking the earth. The malevolent bloodsucker easily circumvents Devereux's protective efforts; Kismet makes it easier for the wicked one by refusing to lose her independence. Neither is aware that those close to them could become pawns in Hallows game.

This Mile High chick lit urban fantasy will appeal to fans of Laurel K. Hamilton and Lilith Saintcrow as the heroine's courage and mouth will remind the audience of their respective stars. Kismet is an independent soul who begins to lose her free will as Hallow works his magic to break her. The love between the vampire and the psychologist is beautiful to behold as he painted her portrait before they met. That link and why Hallow obsesses over Kismet are critical to the story line as Lynda Hilburn writes a unique and bewitching vampire in Denver thriller.

Johnny Gruesome
Gregory Lamberson
Medallion Press
9781934755457, $7.95

Although they are polar opposites Red Hill high school students John "Johnny Gruesome" Grissom and Eric Carter are best friends; at least the latter thinks they are. Also clinging to Gruesome as if they are groupies to a rock star are his girlfriend Karen Slatter and dealer Gary Belter. Whereas Gruesome is angry at the world and recently at God since his mom died, Carter is making plans to go to college.

In icy Willow Creek, Johnny is found dead inside his Death Mobile car. The townsfolk assume he drove too fast on the wintry night. However, soon after his corpse is recovered, gruesome murders by a particular vicious avenging serial killer haunts the town. With the sounds of a car engine revving and a laugh from hell, those who hurt Johnny Gruesome are being mutilated. Eric, Karen and Gary have reasons to worry that their late leader is coming for them too as they believe he knows what they did.

JOHNNY GRUESOME is a vivid horror thriller that hooks the audience from the moment John's mom waits for him with open arms at the top of a heavenly light, but the angry teen says no and with determination returns to his autopsy body. He becomes a sort of thinking doing zombie ghost who as his body rots continue his terror quest. It is the details that make Gregory Lamberson's thriller exciting and fun to read in a gruesome way.

Institutional Memory
Gary Frank
Medallion Press
9781933836409, $7.95

In the Howard Phillips building, Osprey Publishing employee Sharon Walters hums a Bacharach song as she heads to the basement to retrieve some boxes to store files inside. She hears soft metallic noises moving in the ceiling above her. Sensing danger she heads for the elevator when metal cables imprison her and begin to hurt her. A coworker Marcy Browne becomes concerned when Sharon fails to return from the short trip so in spite of her fear of the basement she persuades Bernie Thompson to go downstairs with her to see if her friend is all right. They find nothing except creepy maintenance man Leo and a call to the cops say they will do nothing over a disappearance without foul play.

They hear strange metallic noises and cables begin going after the staff. One of the employees mentions alien pure energy possession of the five story Phillips building has occurred. This energy essence feeds on the fears of the people trapped by it. Workers are dying one at a time. However, mousy Marcy, Jon Simpson, and Bettie Winters unite to battle the evil before there is none.

INSTITUTIONAL MEMORY is sort of placing Christie's And Then There Were None inside a slasher-horror thriller. The assault starts from the opening pages and never slows down as the building's evil entity keeps the attacks coming and the audience spellbound with reading what happens next. Although character development is minimized except to a degree mousy Marcy, readers will enjoy this spellbinding supernatural tale while wondering if the boss would accept fear of the office building as an excused absence.

Snow Blind
Lori Armstrong
Medallion Press
9781933836591, $7.95

In Bear Butte County South Dakota, private investigator partners Julie "Jules" Collins and Kevin Wells know the winter months are extremely slow. So when Amery Grayson hires Wells/Collins Investigations to investigate the Prairie Gardens Assisted Living Facility where her grandfather Vernon Sloane lives, the pair jumps at the case. They quickly find the facility has almost no security system in place and unlicensed and unskilled staff dispensing health care. Even the elderly volunteer program looks suspicious though the sleuths know they must dig deeper to confirm their theory.

Soon after their initial evaluation, Julie is stuck on her family's ranch sharing a cattle shelter with her estranged father while a blizzard unmercifully strikes. As the snow reminds her of her unhappy past, a ranch hand is found dead. As more bodies are found, Julie investigates the serial killings as much as she looks back to her past while her relationship with Tony Martinez falters. At the same time, Kevin continues to work the assisted living case, but breaks a PI taboo of becoming involved with the all leg and all blond client.

The latest Bear Butte County private investigative tale is an enjoyable entry though not quite as powerful as the previous novels (see HOLLOWED GROUND, SHALLOW GRAVE and BLOOD TIES) that goes down two prime paths. First there is the assisted living case with Wells crossing taboo lines as Jules has done in the past as Tony's "Blondie". Second there is Collins stuck with her father and a murder mystery on the ranch. With Hombres business seemingly interfering with Jules' relationship with Tony, readers will wonder what next is going to happen in South Dakota.

Shoot the Lawyer Twice
Michael Bowen
Poisoned Pen Press
6962 E. First Ave., #103, Scottsdale, AZ 85251
1590585291, $24.95, 1-800-421-3976

Married couple, Milwaukee based copyright attorney Rep and University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee Professor Melissa Pennyworth wonder how they got involved in this entangled fiasco that makes the DNA helix look like Lego construction. The mess apparently started at sea on Lake Michigan when undergraduate student Jimmy Clevenger arrives at Carolyn Hoeckstra's boat and blithely gives her a choice between sex and swimming. She chose the water. Later she filed attempted rape charges that ended in a hang jury; she followed that up with a piracy suit in federal court.

At about the same time, thriller writer Taylor Gates plans to write a novel based on a WWII document that might be a fake but paints the Vatican as the good guys. Meanwhile Professor Harold Angstrom wants out of a contract he signed to write a centennial history of the Goettinger Corporation, who's CEO happened to be Carolyn's father and just died suspiciously. The situation spins further out of control when an avaricious extortionist professor is apparently murdered and an amoral reporter seeks the scoop while Rep struggles with a stuffed nose and his spouse is caught up the middle of a politically uncorrected scenario.

Total satirical chaos as the above and much more occur with no or limited connections between the events except for driving the Pennyworth couple into wanting to dive into the Great Lakes. The story line is fast-paced and humorous as the eccentric cast sends even the amiable lead pair seeking shelter. Rep and Melissa are learning that sometimes good and honorable intentions leave the Samaritan trapped in hell although still might prove safer than PUTTING LIPSTICK ON A PIG.

The King of Ragtime
Larry Karp
Poisoned Pen Press
9781590585269, $24.95

In 1916 in Manhattan a dying Scott Joplin knows he is running out of time to insure his wife Lottie is financially set and to gain his place in the music pantheon. It deeply disturbs him that he believes Irving Berlin cheated him from credit for some work stolen from him; still he has written a musical that he hopes Waterson, Berlin, and Snyder Music Publishers will want to use. Piano student Martin Niederhoffer offers to bring the two men together as he takes lessons from Joplin and works for Berlin.

The meeting proves futile as Joplin accuses Berlin of stealing his work. Soon afterward Martin finds Joplin holding a straight razor while standing over the murdered body of Martin's peer Sid Altman. Joplin claims his innocence and Martin needs to believe him. Nell Stanley, daughter of a former Joplin publisher, hides him while the cops want him for questioning. Martin hires hit man Footsie Vinny to pressure Berlin into giving up the musical play Joplin says he left with him, but Berlin denies it. Things turn uglier when thugs kidnap Martin's girlfriend.

The second Joplin historical mystery (see THE RAGTIME KID) is a fascinating look at the Manhattan music world during WWI. The story line is a bit loose, but readers will enjoy the wild ride anyway as real figures like Joplin and Berlin come to life beyond the legend. The amateur sleuthing is fun to follow but it is the obsessed with insuring for Lottie's future and how history recalls him Joplin who turns this whodunit into a concerto performance.

James David Jordan
B&H Publishing Group
127 Ninth Avenue North, Nashville, TN 37234-0143
9780805447491, $14.99, 1-800-251-3225

Her father raised Taylor Pisbury after her mother deserted both of them. He trained his tall daughter to protect herself. However when two associates threaten to rape her and they actually murder her father, she kills both of them; but feels guilt that she originally ran from the scene.

In Dallas eleven years later, the FBI informs renowned televangelist widower Simon Mason that a plausible threat from Muslim terrorists has been intercepted. He hires former Secret Service Agent Taylor to provide him and his twenty year old daughter Kacey, an SMU student, security. Filled with importance and pride, as the best known Christian on the planet hired her; perhaps that is why she fails to ask him why her. Simon hides from her that he knows much about her including things she don't know. He hopes one day he will be able to confess the full truth to Taylor and prays if he can his revelation becomes SOMETHING THAT LASTS forever for her. Soon after being hired, Taylor's euphoria abruptly ends when the terrorists abduct Kacey; their demand is simply to make Simon turn his back on his religion with a betrayal to rival Judas or never ever see the tortured corpse of his beloved offspring again.

Although the opening chapters provide insight into the heroine, they feel unnecessary although quite exhilarating as fans will relish this engaging Christian thriller especially once Simon is put into a Hobson's Choice dilemma. He and Taylor are fully developed protagonists while the support cast either enhances understanding the quandary he faces, the lead duo, or his ministry. Fans will enjoy the FORSAKEN as to be human is to feel that way sometimes; but to be divine is to know no one is fully FORSAKEN.

Magic and the Modern Girl
Mindy Klasky
Red Dress Ink
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373895779, $13.95,

In Washington, D.C. reference librarian Jane Madison left the coven because she was unhappy with the attitudes of many of her witch peers. She also decides to take a hiatus from spell-casting.

Six months later, Jane tries her bewitching power only to be shocked as she has none. Adding to her dismay is someone destroyed her witching accouterments. Jane questions her feline familiar openly gay Neko and her best friend Melissa White, but learns nothing new except she is under a witch assault. Desperate she turns to David Montrose, her protector and astral bodyguard before summoning Ariel to restore her magical powers. Instead nothing goes right with the enchantment as Ariel has become an artsy celebrity with a little more than fifteen of almost famous. Soon Jane, her grandma and Neko are in trouble by an unknown assailant who wants her magically deboned while she goes out with archtiect Will Becker but wants instead her astral defender.

The sequel to SORCERY AND THE SINGLE GIRL continues the misadventures of the chick lit witch librarian as this time she loses her power. The story line is lighthearted fun as readers, her familiar, her grandma and her astral bodygaurd wonder what happened to Jane. Althouhg the plot is thin, fans and jane will want to know the answer to that key magical question.

Baby Needs a New Pair of Shoes
Lauren Baratz-Logsted
Red Dress
0373895763, $13.95

Delilah Sampson knows she suffers from obsessive compulsive behavior; just ask William Shakespeare when you meet him in the after life. She cannot help herself when her mind fixates on something. Her current desire is to buy a pair of Jimmy Choo shoes having first read about them in some chick lit tale. However, she does not have the money or the prospects as window washing pays so much to purchase the expensive name brand at, $450 per shoe.

Still never one to throw in the towel or in this case the shoes, Delilah begs her father to teach her the tricks of his trade, professional gambling. Her plan is simple earn enough to buy the shoes and quit gambling as she would never be consumed on something like betting, that's daddy's preoccupation. However, though she believes her plan is a shoe in, nothing goes according to Hoyle or at least by her bible Blackjack Winning Basics by Tony Casino; as she meets someone she likes and her father withdraws his help just when she needs him the most. Still Delilah can taste the shoes on her feet so she keeps playing while obsessing over Chris and wondering if it is all or nothing for her

Delilah makes for a refreshing chick lit tale as readers obtain a deep but humorous look at someone suffering from OCB; once she fixates on something, she cannot let go. The support cast is eccentric as they are her posse ready to rescue her when they cannot save themselves while Chris is a perfect foil to the heroine and her female horde. Fans will applaud Lauren Baratz-Logsted for her intelligent use of the sub-genre to inform readers on a psychological problem while enjoying the insightful character driven "Sin City debacle". Meanwhile the audience will wonder whether Delilah will become addicted to name brand shoes or become "The Old Woman in a Shoe".

Cast in Fury
Michelle Sagara
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373802692, $14.95,

The abnormal size and intensity of the tidal wave that almost destroyed the city has ignited racial tension. Many in Elantra assume the Tha'alani deliberately caused the disaster as they were seen going to the water and almost immediately the water rose in what appeared to be a cause and effect. Though the Emperor wants to ease the tension before a race war explodes, the Swords have replaced the Tha'alani at key security posts and are stationed near the Tha'alani sector albeit to keep mobs out yet also to contain the accused.

To calm things down the Emperor commissioned royal playwright Richard Rennick to scribe a play about the Tha'alani. Lord Sanabalis orders Private Kaylin Neya and Corporal Handred to insure Rennick remembers his mission is to ease tension not inflame it. At about the same time Hawks Leontine Sergeant Marcus is arrested on the charge of murder. Kaylin is told to ignore her "Pridelea" superior officer's plight and stay focused on the bigger issue; she believes in Marcus so she investigates not realizing the dark terror that awaits her and the Elantra Empire.

The fourth Cast in … fantasy (see SHADOW, COURTLIGHT and SECRET) is a superb investigative thriller as the heroine uses her special magic to prove her military mentor his innocent and to help abate the racial divide that looks almost certain to turn deadly. The story line is fast-paced yet focuses on the destructive nature of de facto (and to a lesser degree de jure racism) in a Rovian way of abusing the strengths of the Tha'alani and using them as a negative to emphasize their differences. Kaylin is at her best in this thought provoking cautionary tale.

Hands of Flame
C.E. Murphy
0373802706, $14.95

Five Old Races negotiator Margrit Knight has macro and micro worries. The big issue is war is imminent between the five Old Races and in spite of her vocation she feels helpless to prevent it. Making matters more complex for the lawyer is the micro concerns that are personal to her though not on the grand scale of the war. Her lover Alban Korund the gargoyle is incarcerated and her family and friends, so innocently human, are expendable pawns.

As she tries to negotiate a peaceful settlement, obtain Alban's release and keep the troubles from harming her loved ones, she feels all alone. However, she has met three questionable associates who on the one hand want to help her, but also two of them seem to have hidden agendas that might prove deadly to Margrit. Janx the dragon is angry and acrimonious as he wants return to the soaring highest of his species running a major underworld criminal activity not live in a hovel underground and Eliseo Daisani the billionaire vampire feels slighted as he dreams of biting respect. Finally the NYPD detective thinks gang warfare on the streets of the city is out of control. Adding to Margrit's woes the paranormal pair appears to look forward to the war.

The third Negotiator urban fantasy is a fast-paced, action-packed tale with spins and twists that make Broadway look like Lombard St. Margrit is courageous, perhaps too much so, as she dives head first into one dangerous mess after another with three goals to fuel her adrenaline: prevent the war, liberate her daytime HEART OF STONE lover, and keep her family safe even as she sees her world collapsing like a HOUSE OF CARDS. HANDS OF FLAME is an engaging tale that sub-genre fans will enjoy.

The Night Serpent
Anna Leonard
Silhouette Nocturne
c/o Harlequin Books
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780373617951, $5.25,

The nightmares that have never allowed her to properly sleep have become more frequent and intense lately. Bank teller Lily Malkin has always been disturbed by them, but since she never remembers detail of what frightens her, she does her best to ignore them though lingering odd memories remain of what feels like someone else's ancient life haunt her.

FBI special agent Jon T. Patrick has followed a vicious serial cat killer to town where he meets Lily, a volunteer at a feline shelter. Jon fears his target will soon switch victims to humans; Lily wonders if her nightmares are because she hears the Cat Whisperers' death meows just before the shadowy Night Serpent brutal ritual killing of male cats.

With Egyptian feline mythology serving as an underlying basis, Anna Leonard provides readers with a gripping paranormal suspense thriller. Lily is the key to the tale (no pun intended) as her nightmares are so vivid they seem real; that element adds to the belief that what is happening is genuine. Perhaps as important is the romantic subplot plays a support role to the prime taut horror story line.

Courting Disaster
Kathleen O'Reilly
Silhouette Special Edition
9780373199235, $4.99

Formula Gold driver Demetri Lucas and country singer Elizabeth Innis meet due to a minor car accident when both are parking at the Preston-owned Quest Stables and she backs into his car. They are attracted to one another but he is wild while she is sedate so she reluctantly rejects his come-on.

However, he is unable brake his desire so he tries to persuade her to go for a fling. To get Elizabeth interested he offers her a wager that she cannot ignore. As they begin to fall in love, he knows he is betting on love, but the public through the media's intrusiveness, watches their every move; leaving both relationship shy.

Elizabeth, who is related to the Prestons, and Demetri are a fascinating pairing of opposites though her to sleep or not to sleep with him may be her question but readers will tire of her lament and tell her get it on already. Still this is an interesting Thoroughbred Legacy tale, somewhat tangential to the overall theme of the series, as the lead couple fall in love but both fears the potential of permanent relationship.

Who's Cheatin' Who?
Maggie Price
Silhouette Special Edition
9780373199242, $4.99

Quest Stables hired Marcus Vasquez to be the head trainer. The entire Preston family is pleased with him except jockey Melanie Preston. She has avoided him as if Marcus has the plague; in fact she shunned him because she hides her attraction, which she assumes is unrequited.

However Melanie is stunned when Marcus informs the family he is leaving. Melanie wonders if she made a mistake not taking a chance. A kiss affirms her error, but she believes she can correct it by taking a job at the Preston Stable Marcus is moving to run. Marcus wants his top jockey, however harbors a secret that he believes he must tell her, but fears once he does her love will turn to hate because what he conceals impacts the shaky Preston Stables.

This terrific Silhouette Thoroughbred Legacy entry works on several levels starting with the powerful pull between the trainer and the jockey. Besides the obvious tale of love between two reluctant individuals, the story line also moves forward the overarching plot of the Quest Stables scandal. Fans of the saga will relish this fine tale of M&Ms falling in love.

A Lady's Luck
Ken Casper
Silhouette Special Edition
9780373199259 , $4.99

Quest Stables still reels from the breeding scandal involving their Kentucky Derby champion. Widower head trainer Brent Preston wonders who is trying to destroy his family's thoroughbred operations. When he finds a tentative clue, he decides to go sleuthing.

After he informs everyone he is going on vacation to get away from the pressure of the sandal, Brent flies to England. However, his clue fails to pan out until he meets schoolteacher Lady Devon Hunter. He courts her hoping she will be the avenue to her brother Nolan, who is somehow involved in the States' racing disgrace. To his shock, Brent falls in love and Nolan reciprocates. However her former spouse refuses to believe they are finished and her sibling wants the Yank to go home before he learns more about his role in the scandal.

This Silhouette Thoroughbred Legacy entry moves the overarching plot forward as Brent investigates by following a lead to England only to find love with the sister of his suspect. The story line is fast-paced with an amateur sleuth feel to it; however that also leads to asking why Brent did not hire a local professional private investigator; his reasoning seems off kilter. Fans will enjoy this fun love crossing the Atlantic even as Devon does not come across as a villainess; the romantic suspense crowd will insist Ken Casper missed an opportunity while the purebred romance reader will say tally ho well done Mr. Casper.

Millions to Spare
Barbara Dunlop
Silhouette Special Edition
9780373199228, $4.99

Equine Earth Magazine reporter Julia Nash is in Dubai doing a nothing piece on her friend Melanie Preston when she sees a horse who looks like the twin of Leopold's Legacy, the Kentucky derby winning horse in the middle of the Quest Stables' breeding scandal. Julia tries to obtain a DNA sample from Millions to Spare, but ends up in deep trouble when she is caught. Her problems multiply when the horse in question becomes ill from poisoning.

Lord Harrison Rochester, who owns the sick horse, initially believes Julia was up to no good. However, he changes his mind about the journalist, which means someone else tried to harm his horse. The Dubai authorities still believe Julia is a felon so Harrison offers to marry her to help her leave the country.

Barbara Dunlop provides an excellent Silhouette Thoroughbred Legacy tale that combines humor and suspense in Dubai while moving forward the overarching saga plot with the trip to the Middle East where much of what happened in the Quest Stables scandal started. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing of a suspicious duet in which neither trusts the other especially as each believes their attraction is causing their brains to see prejudicially through rose colored glasses. This is a strong entry in the series.

The Daddy Verdict
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Special Edition
9780373249251, $4.99

Albuquerque Assistant District Attorney Ben Barclay and jewelry designer Sierra Girard met six weeks ago and fell into bed. The next morning he woke to the fact she was gone. He was disappointed, but understanding while she was embarrassed as she never did that before; for that matter neither did he especially without a condom.

Six weeks later, Sierra arrives at his office with the announcement she is pregnant. She explains she wants nothing from him, but felt he should know because she plans to raise the child as a single mom; if he wants to be part of their offspring's life he should call her. Ben wants to insure Sierra and his unborn are safe, but a case he works on leaves him and them in jeopardy.

The third Dads in Progress contemporary romance (see THE DADDY DILEMMA and THE DADDY PLAN) is a wonderful tale as the lead couple's differences of opinion make for a fun appealing story. They agree on two things: keeping the baby and their attraction for one another; they disagree on all else. Some late suspense caused by his work enhances the plot as it adds an additional realistic problem to their relationship. Karen Rose Smith provides another strong character driven tale.

Deadly Redemption
Kathleen Korbel
Silhouette Nocturne
9780373617944, $5.25

Queen of the Faeries Mab remains outraged by her daughter Orla's efforts to seize the throne from her. To punish her upstart offspring, Mab orders Orla to marry the Dubhlainn Sidhe dark faery.

Orla knows before she arrives that the dark faeries are brutally chauvinistic as they believe men must rule with an iron fist. However, she is pleased with her mother's choice of a spouse when she meets him; as she is attracted to Prince Liam the Avenger. He reciprocates but hides his feelings as he does not trust her to not cause a revolt amongst the Dubhlainn Sidhe. Instead he is aloof and short with her even while she tries to repair the problems she brought to the Kingdom of the Faeries when she tried to displace her mom.

The third daughter of Queen Man romantic fantasy (see DANGEROUS TEMPTATION and DARK SEDUCTION) is an engaging thriller as Orla feels remorse and guilt for the trouble she has wrought to the land of Faerie. Liam is a superb alpha male who hides his desire, attraction, and love behind a chauvinistic bravado. Fans will appreciate Kathleen Korbel's fine tale as Orla peels away his facade with her courage and obsessive need to save the world.

8 Sandpiper Way
Debbie Macomber
Mira Books
c/o Harlequin
225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, ON, Canada, M3B 3K9
9780778325789, $7.99,

In Cedar Groove, Washington, Emily fears her husband Pastor Dave Flemming is having an affair. She is not sure who, but has found proof; Dave's jacket pocket contained another woman's earring and he comes home late at night, but will not tell her where he has been.

If he is not committing adultery, Emily fears he is grave robbing. He spent a lot time with a dying congregation member giving solace; after the person past away her relatives claim her jewelry was stolen. Dave had access to the woman's home and that damaging earring in his pocket. Emily prays to God for guidance to help her decide what to.

The latest Cedar Cove contemporary tale is an engaging story due to Emily's quandary as to what she should do. As always the support cast is solid and the audience receives updates on what is happening to the prime players from previous novels (see 74 SEASIDE AVENUE) and new neighbors are introduced (Like Sheriff Troy Davis' former love Faith Beckwith). Readers will enjoy the latest trek to Washington State as Emily wonders whether her moral kind husband has gone to the dark side.

Angel's Pain
Maggie Shayne
Mira Books
0778324982, $7.99

Briar the Vampiress vows to never forget the cruelty of her former instructor in the ways of their species. She initially accepted his brutality as drinking blood is not an herbivore lifestyle. However when Gregor betrayed her she pledged to get even; when he tortured her she became preoccupied with the need of vengeance flowing through her blood starting with her odious stepfather Martin and then Gregor.

However, she is realistic that she cannot defeat Gregor and his minion by herself. Brian reluctantly joins Reaper and his warriors (vampires, Chosen and humans) based on the theory that Gregor's enemies are her friends. Once Gregor and Rose are dead, Brian plans to leave though she is attracted to her charismatic leader who shares a blood bond to child vampiress Crisa. When Gregor captures Crisa, Briar knows she must save her little "sister". Reaper risks all to help her succeed.

The latest Maggie Shayne vampiric thriller (see LOVER'S BITE and DEMON'S KISS) is a superb paranormal romantic suspense tale. Briar appears more thorn than Rose, but Reaper sees past her pain and her bravado to the inner person he desires even if she keeps singing the refrain from "I'm not in love". The story line is fast-paced from the onset and never slows down as Briar needs to be the one to kill Gregor until Crisa is taken; her priorities change. Sub-genre fans will enjoy Ms. Shayne's fine vampire tale especially those who soar with the author's "Wings in the Night" saga as several players take a bite or two in ANGEL'S PAIN.

The Private Concierge
Suzanne Forster
Mira Books
0778325458, $6.99

In Los Angeles, the rich and famous go to Lane Chandler to discreetly handle their whims and desires. Lane's firm THE PRIVATE CONCIERGE has earned a superior reputation for subtly and tastefully taking care of the legal needs of the elite.

However someone must have either hacked into her client database or is a TPC employee because in a short time customers have been exposed to scandal and one is murdered in a scandalous way. LAPD investigates the homicide suspecting another TPC client Ned Talbert. His friend former cop Rick Bayless thinks otherwise and begins to investigate starting with TPC and its owner whom he recognizes as arresting back in 1993 when she was the juvenile Lucy Cox. She was innocent then and innocent now, but being innocent means nothing when it comes to the criminal system where money and power enable Lady Justice to look away. Although she loathes cooperating with the man who forced her to change her name, Lane has no choice as Rick is her only hope to end the reign of terror.

This is a fascinating investigative romantic suspense as the beleaguered heroine knows her options are limited to working with a man she detests though to her chagrin is attracted to him. The story line is action-packed from the opening salvo and never slows down as the predator assaults TPC with insider knowledge. Nick is a unique protagonist who regrets what he did fifteen years ago as he falls in love with Lane; however what makes him refreshing (pun intended) is he a slob who leaves dirty plates on the floor for a mouse to clean. Fans will enjoy Suzanne Forster entertaining tale.

The House Of Allerbrook
Valerie Anand
Mira Books
0778326012, $13.95

In 1535 unmarried Sybil Sweetwater is unable to take her post at court because she is carrying the child of married tenant farmer Andrew Shearer. Her parents send Sybil into family exile and their sixteen year old daughter pragmatic Jane is to serve at the court of King Henry VIII. Jane enjoys her time there especially as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Anne of Cleves but, her monarch's persistent sexual assaults frighten her so she flees the court for Allerbrook assisted by Peter Carew.

Jane's brother Francis, now the family patriarch, is irate with his sibling's failure to appease the appetite of the king and bring acclaim not disdain on the Sweetwater family. Additionally, a witness at the court fabricates what occurred. To punish Jane and appease King Henry, Francis forces Jane to marry much older farmer Harry Hudd. Although not used to the hard working of the land, Jane adjusts in part because of their son Tobias. When her brother suddenly dies, Allerbrook becomes Jane's; she plans changes in the lifestyles of her and her child.

This engaging sixteenth century historical tale pulls no punches when it comes to the plight of women of all walks of life in England as females are less valuable than cattle except in terms of bearing an heir. Told over five decades, fans who enjoy a sweeping saga will appreciate the impact of royal intrigue on the HOUSE OF ALLERBROOK.

Alex Kava
Mira Books
0778325571, $24.95

In Quantico, Virginia FBI special agent Maggie O'Dell and her boss Assistant Director Cunningham receive a note from "God" telling them not to miss a crash at 13949 Elk Grove. They race to the site where they find a dying woman from what appears to be a deadly contagion; also there is a frightened young girl Mary Louise who vomits all over them. They quickly take the pair to the secret U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Ft Detrick. Maggie and Cunningham are quarantined there to insure they were not exposed to hemorrhagic fever virus.

Maggie's partner, Agent R.J. Tully investigates the case based on the little information the frustrated O'Dell provides while she remains in a secure area. The culprit seems to be working randomly across the United States using the murderous signatures of infamous serial killers, but no pattern has emerged linking the victims even as the body count rises.

This is a terrific entry in the O'Dell FBI cases as the heroine, probably EXPOSED, is forced to help from the sidelines while her partner works the field. The story line is fast-paced but as always character driven from the moment Maggie fears she ate a poisoned donut and never slows down as "God" threatens the children. Although the scenario with taunting bragging serial killers has been done before; merging it with possible biological terrorism refreshes the theme. Alex Kava writes a winning thriller.

A Cedar Cove Christmas
Debbie Macomber
Mira Books
0778325911, $16.95

On Christmas Eve, pregnant Mary Jo Wyse comes to Cedar Cove, Washington seeking the father of her unborn David Rhodes. There are no commercial accommodations available in town, but Grace and Cliff Harding allow Mary Jo to sleep in the loft of their stable.

When Mary Jo goes into labor, paramedic Mack McAfee attends to her. The three Wyse men, her bumbling brothers (Linc, Mel and Ned) arrive to help their sister. Meanwhile Mary Jo has decided that instead of confronting David, who she has not found, she would prefer to be held by kindhearted Mack. However she doubts even this nice EMT would want to get involved with a woman who has just given birth.

A CEDAR COVE CHRISTMAS is an amusing and angst account of the Christmas saga with Puget Sound serving as the locale instead of Bethlehem; as a stable is still a stable when it comes to hospitality for a pregnant woman. The cast is solid but it is the visitor Mary Jo who provides the anxiety, focus and equilibrium to the plot. Fans will relish Debbie Macomber's latest very Merry Christmas romp.

J.T. Ellison
Mira Books
9780778325567, $6.99

In the 1980s in Nashville, the Snow White Killer murdered ten women who looked similar with their dark hair and the red lipstick painted haphazardly all over their lips. The serial killer was never caught, but taunted the police with a note claiming mission accomplished. At the time of the murders, preadolescent Taylor Jackson was fascinated by them; she hoped, if the predator was not caught then, to one day have the opportunity to catch the psychopath when she became an adult police detective.

Two decades later, the case remains unsolved, but Taylor knows that was the impetus that turned her to law enforcement. The homicide lieutenant is stunned when the Snow White type murders begin again. She and her fiance FBI profiler John Baldwin investigate planning to bring the killer, whether he is the original or a copycat, to justice.

The second Taylor Jackson police procedural (see ALL THE PRETTY GIRLS) is a gritty urban serial killing thriller with strong plausible twists. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as Taylor got her tweener wish as she goes after the deadly effective and efficient psychopath. 14 is a tense and intense thriller throughout.

Dark Embrace
Brenda Joyce
9780373773343, $7.99

In the fifteenth century in Loch Awe, Scotland, being a Master of Time, Aidan the Wolf of Awe had pledged his life to keep people safe, but six plus decades have past since he saved an innocent. He had adhered strictly to his vow until he faced the worst dilemma of his life. Vicious Moray blackmailed him into breaking his oath or else Aidan's son would die brutally. Aidan committed the murder demanded by Moray, but the evil one took the child anyway. A distraught Aidan has since become an emotionally crippled hermit.

In 2008 New York City, empathic Brianna Rose's pleads for someone to help her. Heeding the call, his first since Moray destroyed him, Aidan leaps to her. She has had visions and dreams involving Aidan and his son. Brie vows to help this tormented kind soul move on by finding a way to reunite father and son even as Moray has plans for the intruder.

The latest Masters of Time romantic fantasy (see DARK SEDUCTION and DARK RIVAL) is a superb thriller starring a wonderful wounded warrior, a courageous modern woman with a psychic gift, and an odious villain who uses others' love as a weapon to destroy them. In some ways Moray the malevolent steals the show with his twisted usage of love, but his opponents this time include a modern day woman prepared to kick butt whose bravery moves the hero to action. Brenda Joyce provides a strong dark thriller that her fans will relish.

Come The Night
Susan Krinard
0373773153, $6.99

In 1927 Ethan Warbrick comes from England to New York City to warn fired and disgraced former NYPD cop Ross Kavanaugh of a visitor he will soon receive. During the war, Ross met and fell in love with English werewolf Gillian Maitland, but though she reciprocated her prejudicial dictatorial father declared him unfit as only a purebred was acceptable. Fearing her abusive dad would harm or kill her beloved Yank, Gillian ended their relationship and she became Mrs. Delvaux to insure the family line remained purebred.

However, she was too late and now her son Tobias who assumes Ross is his sire is coming to meet him. Gillian, whose husband died in the war, follows her offspring to New York to bring him back to Cambria before his paternal grandfather does something despicable to them; which means mother and son must be home to attend the upcoming werewolf convocation. When his preadolescent son followed by Gilliam arrives, Ross, a quarter-werewolf, knows he wants both of them as his beloved family. He follows them to England in time for a serial killer to begin a murderous campaign that leaves the ex American cop as the prime suspect.

This cross Atlantic paranormal romantic historical suspense works on all levels because the audience will believe that in 1927 Anglo-America the werewolf hierarchy is based on racism depending on the amount of "impurities" in one's blood. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Ross has the visitor followed by his police pal calling him to tell him an eleven year old English lad claims him as his father. The tale never slows down from there even as the lead trio (and readers) crosses the ocean. Susan Krinard provides a strong paranormal private investigative 1920s thriller.

Lucky Charm
Carly Phillips
0373773315, $7.99

In Stewart, Massachusetts, they were in love with one another through high school. However, upon graduation, Derek ended his relationship with Gabrielle though he still believed she was his soul mate. He dropped her out of fear of the Corwin Curse that has haunted all his male ancestors since witch Mary Perkins cursed the family in the nineteenth century when a member eloped with the fiancee of her son; Mary declared the Corwin males would lose their beloved and their fortune.

Derek did marry, but not to Gabrielle. His marriage and his business failed even though he ran from love; however, he also has a tweener daughter, Holly, who he loves very much. Gabrielle never mended her broken heart; instead as a psychological defense mechanism she turned to writing and avoided any relationships. She debunks myths and curses, but has returned to Stewart to use her skills to prove the Corwin Curse is a sham.

This is a charming lighthearted romantic romp starring two likable protagonists; some might say antagonists. The second chance story line is fast-paced and filled with humor and angst due to deep characters, but although the plot is slim. Carly Phillips fans will enjoy visiting the town 1.5 miles west of Salem.

Risking Her Heart
Liz Allison & Wendy Etherington
0373773196, $6.99

Parker Huntington is attracted to Rachel Garrison and believes she reciprocates. Thus the sponsor of her family's Garrison Racing NASCAR team cannot understand why she rejects his advances.

Rachel is attracted to Parker and believes he reciprocates. However, she refuses to have anything to do with him outside of racing as he is known for his love them leave them attitude; besides she firmly believes in not mixing pleasure with business. Instead she begins dating someone else; although when she believes someone is stealing from her family's business she asks Parker to help her determine who.

The second Garrison sibling NASCAR romance (see NO HOLDING BACK) stays off the track for the most part focusing more on the business aspects of racing. The story line can stand alone, but is clearly enhanced by reading the first tale as the overarching plot moves forward. Those who read both tales will appreciate the forming of the balanced scorecard as first there was the mission perspective and now the finance view. In each novel Liz Allison & Wendy Etherington insures their characters are solid so that fans will enjoy watching whether Rachel and Parker risk their heart.

Michele Dunaway
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217946, $5.99

The asphalt company was at fault for wrecking her truck. Rocksolid Insurance offers to provide Charlotte based personal trainer Terri Whelan with the market value of her vehicle; she rejects their offer; demanding they fix her customized special NASCAR race fan truck that she and her dad upgraded. A beleaguered customer service employee forwards Terri's call to Max Harper, a Rising Stars program trainee; he accepts the call because he believes a real customer complaint would prove more beneficial in his training than the tapes he has been given. He agrees to look into her demands.

Terri meets Max and his twelve year old daughter Mandy over a commercial the adults are both indirectly involved in. Terri and Max are attracted to one another, but his first interest remains rightfully so his tweener. Besides Mandy's mom, Los Angeles drama queen Lola knows that what Lola wants Lola gets and she wants Terri gone; not that she wants Max back.

This entertaining contemporary romance stars two likable lead protagonists, a strong positive support cast, and a mom who offers no redeeming values. The lead couple is a wonderful pairing from their first telephonic encounter. However his ex-wife trying to destroy their relationship fails to come out of the starting gate let alone make it around the oval to the finish line. Still overall TAILSPIN is a fun second chance at love for him and first time for her tale.

In Hot Pursuit
Wendy Etherington
Harlequin NASCAR
9780373217953, $5.99

Four years may have passed since her policeman husband died in the line of duty, but Kylie Palmer has not had time to fully mourn her loss as their child now ten year old Ryan needed her then and now. Her bossy widow mom Madeline "Honey" Richardson ordered Kylie to move into her lake house in Moorseville, North Carolina so that Ryan's maternal grandma could help her raise him; Kylie acquiesced and she and her son moved from the Charlotte suburbs.

Kylie works as PR for the Motor Media Group; her prime job being to promote NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver
Will Branch, whose father Hilton vanished after apparently absconding with family and bank money. Kylie takes Ryan to soccer practice; something Honey has always done. She meets his single with no kids coach Arthur Treadway. They are attracted to one another over changing a tire; but as he tells her to call him Sean and learns he works security, she thinks four years five months and eighteen days and counting since her eight year marriage ended in death.

NASCAR plays an extremely minor role in this superb second chance at love romance. The support cast is solid and the racing car game in which Honey is the champ adds depth. However, this is Kylie's story even though Coach is a fully developed strong protagonist. She must decide to chance on love especially with his line of work or remain cocooned by fear.

At Her Pleasure
Cindi Myers
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794232, $4.99

In Amity, Michigan History Professor Adam Carroway persuades his depressed friend nurse Nicole Howard to go on a Caribbean vacation with him. Actually the academic plans to work while at sea as Adam based on an autobiography, believes the treasure of Passionata, the famous early eighteenth century pirate queen, is on Passionata's Island, a deserted island near Jamaica. He also hopes the trip will cheer up a despondent Nicole, who was fired twice by her ex boyfriend Dr, Kenneth Brambling; he dumped her as his lover and as a nurse at Amity Surgical Associates.

However, the isle proves not to be totally deserted as British scientist Ian Marshall is there. He has reasons to hide why he is there from the newcomers. However, he also possesses a so called love potion even if he is one hundred percent certain it will not work. When he and Nicole partake, he revises his opinion although he admits he was attracted to her before he sipped the elixir.

This is a fabulous heated contemporary romance with some historical passages (from Passionata's autobiography written while in Newgate). The story line is fast-paced, but totally driven by a wonderful lead couple and a strong support cast including the infamous eighteenth century pirate queen with apparently more pleasures for readers to come

All or Nothing
Debbi Rawlins
Harlequin Blaze
9780373794218, $4.99

Heeding Sinatra's advice about making it in New York, Dana McGuire arrived in the Big Apple five years ago from Borden County as its reigning Miss Teen Dairy with dreams of being a star. However, in spite of encouragement from so many she never quite made it. Instead of moping about fantasies lost, Dana thinks of the survival of the fittest as she has become a personal fitness instructor with a revised dream of one day owning her own facility.

At the exclusive St. Martine Hotel, Dana meets her newest client Chase Culver. She is attracted him, but learned a hard lesson of never mixing work and pleasure. He wants her, but is reluctant to pursue her because he is an undercover investigator working to find out who is behind several thefts at the hotel and the evidence predominantly points at the woman he desires.

This is an engaging Manhattan romantic romp with a fine late twist adding spice to the repast. Dana is a strong protagonist who has moved past her disappointment of not making in Manhattan as she does things her way. Fans will enjoy this fine under cover undercover romance.

A Father For Danny
Janice Carter
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715152, $5.50

Tweener Danny visits artifact sleuth Samantha Sorrenti to hire her to find the father he never met. She keeps telling him she does not look for people, but his sadness hooks her when he explains his mom is in the hospital dying from cancer. She visits her almost sixty year old mom the therapist who points out to her that she is out of her league and probably doing this because her dad walked out on his three women when Sam was Danny's age.

With the help of her FBI sister Skye, Sam locates Danny's biological father while miraculously the child's mom remains alive a bit longer than predicted. Chase Sullivan is stunned to learn he sired a son and wants to meet his child and take over raising him. As Sam and Chase fall in love, Danny's avaricious relatives do not want a father interfering with the spending of Danny's inheritance even if that means abduction and perhaps something more lethal.

Readers will feel like Sam when Danny trying to hold back tears explains his mom's theory on hospitals is patients need patience as you are always waiting even to die. Fans and Sam are hooked and Danny knows it. Readers will enjoy this engaging romantic suspense and it also appears Janice Carter is cooking up a sequel for Skye.

Stranger at the Door
Laura Abbott
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715176, $5.50

In Savannah Isabel "Izzy" Lambert is stunned when a forty something man arrives at her door claiming to be the son of her husband, Sam. Mark Taylor explains that his mom Diane never told Sam as she raised him with Rolf Taylor whose name is on the birth certificate. Izzy believes the man as he looks like her spouse; she is upset that her beloved faithful Sam cheated on her during his Viet Nam War tour, but she also demands he see his offspring but Sam refuses.

Sam is shocked and runs away to have time to think what to do about his disappointed wife and the son he never knew he sired. He knows he must make amends with his Izzy or watch four and a half decades of marriage end. He also must decide about Mark, whom he wants to meet but fears the outcome especially how his adult daughters will react to an older half brother.

This is an engaging family drama as the past comes back to haunt the present and perhaps destroy the future. The cast is very strong especially the lead trio. Although there are too many introspective moments slowing down the pace even as that adds depth to the sexagenarian couple, fans who will appreciate a deep character driven relationship drama will want to read STRANGER AT THE DOOR as Izzy realizes Mark is Sam's offspring from his looks and demeanor.

To Save a Family
Anna DeStefano
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715121, $5.50

In Atlanta single mom and public defender Emma Montgomery and police lieutenant Rick Downing are always arguing over cases especially when she does her best for even the most obviously guilty. Everything changes with a bullet when one of her clients Tanner Simmons grabs the Bailiff's gun, shoots him and her. After flatlining Emma physically recovers but is not the same mentally as she no longer believes in the jurisprudence system.

However, Danny needs the best on a particular case in which he thinks he made a mistake by arresting the wrong member of the family. He wants Emma to help a mom Olivier Sanchez about to lose her family over selling drugs and having her children including a nine year old be her peddlers. He thinks she is covering for one of her kids. She warns him of being too pushy but takes that case on too. As they work together on the case, the attraction they have shared for one another blossoms into love even as Emma begins to emotionally heal from the trauma of being shot.

This is an excellent romantic legal thriller with some police procedural elements. The story line is action-packed from the moment Emma is shot in court and never slows down until the final incredibly superb twist. Readers will relish Anna DeStefano's excellent Atlanta tale as Danny needs TO SAVE A FAMILY and the woman he loves.

A Dad for Her Twins
Tanya Michaels
Harlequin American
9780373752294, $4.99

Divorcee Mackenzie Green and her nine years old twins Drew and Leslie are relocating from Raindrop, North Carolina to Atlanta with the help of Mac's older sister Aunt Ann. The trio moves into suburban Peachy Acres in a abode that is next door to widower artist Jonathan "J.T." Trelauney who is also the loan officer banker.

Neither Mac nor J.T. are interested in a relationship at this time, but both are attracted to one another from their first auspicious meeting. She distrusts men as her former spouse was a mess and her sister has marital problems too. J.T. has never recovered from the deaths of his wife or their child. However, as he revels in the antics of her children and even encourages their frolics, they begin to fall in love.

A DAD FOR HER TWINS is an entertaining second chance at love contemporary romance starring two nice adults not in the mood for love. The fun in the tale is J.T. learning the rules of a single mom as school nights are sacred. Although the plot is slim, fans of a well written enjoyable family drama will appreciate Tanya Michaels' fine Georgia peach of a tale.

A Firefighter in the Family
Trish Milburn
Harlequin American
9780373752324, $4.99

In Horizon Beach, Florida her father and four brothers were firefighters so Miranda "Randi" Cooke gravitated to the same vocation. However, her first time on the job proves her inept and leaves her dad wheelchair bound. Heartbroken, Randi fled her hometown especially as her family blames her for her father's accident; her lover failed to defend her. Zac Parker was also a Horizon Beach firefighter, but he was falsely accused and convicted of arson; he spent time in prison. He also feels guilt for letting down his beloved Randi.

Three years since the incident that sent her fleeing town, Randi comes home. Although Zac distrusts everyone, he vows to be there for the woman he still loves as he feels guilty for letting her down. She investigates a fire that looks like arson only to find herself in danger with Zac keeping his pledge to risk his life to keep her safe.

A strong ensemble cast (mostly her family) enhances a terrific second chance at love romantic investigative thriller. Fans will enjoy Randi's return home as she and Zac are filled with regret and guilt; their remorse supersedes their love. Fans will enjoy this engaging tale of first responders in love but with a past still haunting their present seemingly leaving no future.

Kayla Perrin
Harlequin Spice
037360520X, $13.95

In the Kissimmee area, teacher Sophie Gibson had thought her marriage was perfect. Thus she is stunned when her spouse Andrew rejects sex with her and soon he confesses he had an affair while she was away with her best friend Marnie. Sophie throws Andrew out and she goes through the phases of grief. First she is in denial; then in shock; and finally she considers having an affair though she has no candidates and besides a lover seems seedy and unsatisfactory.

She begins to reconsider taking on a lover when Sophie meets brooding filmmaker Pietro call me Peter at the Blue's Club. Peter is blatant as to his attraction for Sophie and persuades her to share his bed. The sex is the best of her life not that she has had many mates to boast about. Peter fulfills her wildest fantasies. However, he is also demanding of her time and frighteningly morose and temperamental. Scared he might hurt her as she rejects some of his demands, Sophie ends their relationship, but Peter refuses to accept her finale insistence it is over between them.

This is a terrific contemporary erotic character study starring a wonderful lead character struggling with betrayal and OBSESSION. The story line is driven by Sophie whose anger leads to her seeking solace elsewhere even though readers will not agree with her actions. Although the climax seems over the top with too easy of a resolution, fans will enjoy Sophie's groove taking her deeper into trouble.

To Catch a Thief
Christina Skye
9780373773077, $6.99

When the Da Vinci sketch was stolen from the National Art Gallery, suspicion falls on art restorer Nell MacInnes and her father, a notorious thief just out of prison. Navy SEAL Dakota Smith is assigned to keep a close eye on Nell, which he knows is too easy to do as she is beautiful. They meet in the Isle of Skye where they work together to rescue stranded young climbers from treacherous Mt. Blaven.

Soon afterward an unknown adversary arranges to abduct Nell. Although they fail, her worried dad tells her to obtain the help of Nicholas Draycott and his Foxfire team. Even if she does not trust authorities who insist they are there to help she feels she has no choice so Nell goes for help; there she encounters Dakota again with the mission to recover the art treasure linked to a terrorist group.

Combining her "Code Name" saga with her "Draycott Abbey" escapades, Christina Skye provides her fans with the best from both. The story line is fast-paced and filled with non stop action from the moment the lead couple use body warmth on Blaven until the final dual rings. Readers will appreciate this fine romantic suspense thriller starring a strong capable heroine (just ask a Viet Nam vet about Nell's skills), a tough caring hero, and brilliant enemies.

On the Move
Pamela Britton
9780373772223, $6.99

SSI sports agent Vicki VanCleef believes her current assignment is impossible. Knight Enterprises Motorsports hired SSI to watch over NASCAR driver Brandon Burke, whose reputation as an out of control bad boy was affirmed at the Indy last year when on the last lap, with him 20 laps behind the leader, he caused the car in front to crash. Her amoral boss assigned her the task of baby sitting this wild Neanderthal.

In violation of his contract, Brandon plans to ride in a drag bike race. Unable to reason with him or to get him to adhere to his contract, Vicki arranges for his bike to be taken. Brandon threatens to arrest her, but she warns him the bad PR would destroy his already shaky career. She finally gives up and tells him his bike is in the bathroom and leaves. Her boss is ecstatic with her work and assigns her to Brandon exclusively. As the driver and his agent get acquainted over arguments and kisses they fall in love. However, he hides a dark family secret he refuses to tell anyone because he believes if it is revealed it would bury his racing career permanently and end his chances with his beloved Vicki, who sees beneath the nonchalant exterior.

This is a terrific NASCAR romance starring a fascinating bad boy and the woman who drives him to distraction. The story line is faster than a spin around the oval as Vicki and Brandon fight and kiss and fight. The return of stars from previous tales (see ON THE EDGE) adds to the racing venue, but it is the warm contemporary romance that steers this fine tale.

Sweet Trouble
Susan Mallory
9780373773053, $6.99

Matt Fenner believed that Jesse Keyes betrayed him. He vowed to never give his heart to a woman ever again and has proven very successfully at his pledge. Instead in a classic case of psychological defense mechanism he places his passion at succeeding at business.

When Jesse returns to see Matt after five years away; he is stunned by her four year old son Gabe accompanying her. He called her a liar when she told him she was carrying his son, but DNA proves she told the truth. She knows he has a right to hate her as does her sister Nicole (see SWEET SPOT), who like Matt believes Jesse had an affair with her then brother-in-law. However, she hopes Nicole and her other sibling Claire (see SWEET TALK) forgive her for she is no longer that selfish person who betrayed everyone as she has a child to raise with she hopes the man she loves. However, though he loves her, Matt seeks revenge and knows the one way to destroy her heart like she did his.

The final "sweet" sisters' tale (see SWEET TALK and SWEET SPOT) is more than just a sweet contemporary romance, as Matt, still hurt, goes after Jesse with a vengeance even though he knows he still loves her. Readers will enjoy this fine tale as the relationship that is in the past comes back to disturb this lead couple leading to a second chance at love seemingly out of reach.

The Wedding Challenge
Candace Camp
9780373773084, $6.99

Although she is already twenty-three years old and many of her peers proclaim she is on the shelf, Lady Calandra Lilles is not rushing out to find a husband. None of her wannabe suitors have been able to face her protector, her unapproachable brother, the Duke of Rochford.

At a masquerade ball, the Earl of Bromwell dances with her and for the first time in a long time she feels an attraction, but assumes he will turn into a coward when he meets her sibling. Instead to her shock, he shows his animosity towards Rochford. Intrigued by the reactions of the two men, Callie is further stunned when her brother orders her to never see Bromwell again; she asks why but he offers no explanation. Not afraid of her sibling, Callie obtains the help of friend Lady Francesca Haughston so that she can continue to see Brom although she knows someday a reckoning between her and the two men in her life will occur.

The keys to the third delightful Matchmaker Regency romance (see THE MARRIAGE WAGER and THE BRIDAL QUEST) are once again the strong support cast and the hostile relationship between the two men the heroine loves. The story line contains mystery elements involving Callie's need to know why her brother and her beloved are such loathing enemies. Fans will relish Candace Camp's terrific historical as revenge appears to trump love.

Lie with Me
Cara Summers
Harlequin Blaze
0373794177, $4.99

Animal psychic Philly Angelis has loved her brother's best friend Roman Oliver for years, but he does not reciprocate. As he recovered at Saint Jude's Trauma Center from a near fatal fall, she made her intentions clear to him; Roman shoots her down insisting he sees her as a little sister. He not only considers her off limits, Roman refuses to have a wife and children. He fear he will be just like his dad neglecting his family.

Roman displaces any desires for family by totally focusing on the family business. He dashes Philly's dream when he bluntly tells her she is a kid sister to him and no more. Needing to repair her damaged ego and move on, Philly travels to Corfu seeking a fling. Shaking his head in denial that he is not in love, Roman flies after her. However, Philly's psychic skills lead the pair to danger shocking Roman with how frightened he is for Philly.

This is an excellent paranormal romantic suspense thriller starring a fascinating heroine who concludes she understands animals much better than people especially that strange other gender and a man who fears he is a chip off the old block so avoids entanglements. The story line is fast-paced especially in the Caribbean. Readers will enjoy running from danger alongside Philly and Roman while wanting to shake him for not seeing the obvious.

The Hell-Raiser
Rhonda Nelson
Harlequin Blaze
0373794169, $4.99

Chastity Walker hires the Ranger Security firm to insure that building salvage expert Sarah Jane Walker does not steal her inheritance. The women hate each other since they attended high school together, but more so as adults when Chastity conned Sarah Jane's widow dad into marrying her. Chastity further insists since there is no will, as the legal wife she owns everything. Ranger Security sends Nick "Hell-raiser" Chivers to keep a watchful eye on Sarah Jane.

Nick knows to keep his distance from Sarah Jane as he keeps her under surveillance. However, he cannot heed his own advice as the former Army Ranger finds he wants his client's enemy like he has never wanted anyone ever before. He soon joins the enemy seeking the will that Sarah Jane is positive her dad would have signed.

The latest Men Out of Uniform romantic suspense (see THE PLAYER) is an engaging tale as Nick finds himself caught between his heart and his contract. He knows who is client is but his heart and another male body organ tells him differently. Although the conflict between Nick and Sarah Jane ironically seems to lack depth as all the quarreling resides inside Hell-Raiser, series fans will appreciate this fun story.

Same Time Next Summer
Holly Jacobs
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715114, $5.50

Carolyn Kendal and Stephen Foster were best friends as children meeting every summer on family vacation to play together. As teens she saved his life and though he felt gratitude and a debt, they began to fall in love with one another. As adults they reverted back to being buddies.

In 1994, thirty-four years old Carolyn's young daughter Emma is expected to die from a car crash. In nasty weather, thirty-five years old Stephen arrives at the hospital to be there for Carolyn and to pray for Emma; in some ways he feels he is paying part of his debt from two decades ago on Lake Erie. As the child slowly recovers, Emma and Stephen realize that their first love is their last love.

With echoes of When Harry Met Sally, SAME TIME NEXT SUMMER is a superb second chance romance between two friends for life. The key to this warm endearing tale is that although Carolyn and Stephen realize how much they love one another, Emma comes first. Holly Jacobs provides a warm touching tale that readers will appreciate due to the couple and Carolyn's child.

Not On Her Own
Cynthia Reese
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373715077, $5.50

In Braselton County, Georgia artist Penelope Langston wants to construct a sculpture studio for her to work by herself on her art on her grandfather's farm. Deputy Brandon Wilkes offers to help her build her studio but hides his agenda from her. He sees this as an opportunity to persuade her to return the land that he believes her grandfather stole from his uncle.

However, she refuses to believe his story that her grandfather is an evil thief. She believes it is no more than a rationalization fable by his uncle. They argue over their relatives' relative morality even as they fall in love; an emotion he loathes because of her roots and she embraces to overcome her loneliness. Still it all comes down to answering whose land is it?

The battle between the artist and the cop is worth the price of admission as these two enemy combatants quibble and debate their way to love. Part of the fun is that Penelope and Brandon seem like polar opposites, which enhances their dispute and sparring. The strong eccentric support cast adds a regional feel to an enjoyable rural Georgia romance.

Worth Fighting For
Molly O'Keefe
Harlequin SuperRomance
9780373782550, $5.50

In New Jersey after struggling with a sour land deal that could destroy his firm, his mother begs realtor Jonah Closky to meet his father Patrick and two brothers Gabe and Max. Jonah tells her his father is thirty years too late and wants nothing to do with him or his siblings. They left his mom cleaning houses so she can feed him. Still he would do anything for her so he grudgingly agrees to meet his at his sibling's Riverview Inn in New York. There he is to meet with men whose DNA he shares, but has never met.

At the inn, the four males struggle with any form of bonding. However, Jonah has no trouble wanting Athens Organic farmer Daphne Larson in his life. Even more shocking to the real estate tycoon recently nicknamed unfairly The Dirty Developer", he finds he loves her daughter too. However, to have mother and daughter in his life, he must accept his father and brothers too.

This enjoyable family drama is filled with misunderstanding. Fans will appreciate the attraction between Daphne and Jonah that neither initially wants but soon cultivate. His point blank condemnation of his father and brothers add fuel to his war with Daphne. Readers will enjoy the latest Mitchell of Riverview Inn contemporary romance (see BABY MAKES THREE).

Cowboy Dad
Cathy McDavid
Harlequin American
9780373752256, $4.99

Near the Arizona Mazatzal Mountains, Natalie Forester runs guest services at Bear Creek Ranch, a position she is good at as she effortlessly makes everyone who visits feel welcome. Former rodeo star widower Aaron Reyes is the new owner of the ranch; he is in town on family business for a short time. He makes Natalie wary especially because of how he looks at her with desire and how she reacts to him.

She knows she is attracted to Aaron, but refuses to act on it; keeping him at a distance. The single mom knows she cannot afford emotional entanglements as everything she feels must be caring for her baby, Shilo. Aaron wants the mom and is falling for her precocious child, but love is not strong enough for this rolling stone to stop moving on or is it.

This is an interesting contemporary romance starring two individuals whose fears caused by failed relationships make neither particularly wanting to take the first step. Aaron and Natalie are two deer caught in the headlights as neither embraces love; in fact they are so wary of love they flee from it. Cathy David provides a warm tale of sometimes you must take a chance at risking your heart

Baby in Waiting
Jacqueline Diamond
Harlequin American
9780373752270, $4.99

In Southern California, twenty-five years old receptionist Brooke Bernard is pregnant with no daddy to help raise her child. Archway Real Estate owner Oliver Armstrong hesitantly agrees to allow the beleaguered Brooke to stay at his house while she searches for a father to help her raise her baby.

As Brooke and Oliver live in close proximity their attraction for one another ignites. However, he is a workaholic who only develops properties not infants while she has no hope he would want to raise someone else's baby. As they fall in love, Brooke prays Oliver will see the light as she knows no other man will do for her and her baby.

Brooke and Oliver are a nice couple, but letting her stay in his pad seems out of character for this bachelor and her quest for a father seems inane. Still the story line is well written when the duo try to avoid each other; as the platonic pair are attracted to one another even with a BABY IN WAITING. Falling in love complicates their relationship.

Razor Girl
Marianne Mancusi
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
0505527804, $6.99, 1-800-481-9191

As a teen everyone thought scientist Ian Anderson was a lunatic because he believed the world was coming to an end. Obsessed he obtained an obsolete fallout shelter and filled it with food and water to last six years. Ian trained his fifteen year old daughter Molly to protect herself by teaching her martial arts.

When a pandemic flu begins rapid spreading, no one thought anything of it unless they caught it; that is until rumors spread that the hospitals are refusing patients. Molly and her friend Chris Griffin investigate only to affirm it much more than the rumor. They watch a zombie kill someone. Her dad performs some surgical enhancements on his daughter to keep her safe. Soon afterward, Molly and her mom enter the shelter.

Six years later, Molly exits the fallout shelter only to have her mom die. She heads to Disney World to meet her father, who had stayed outside to work on a more permanent haven. On her trek, she meets Chris who calls himself Chase now; he explains the Others, as he and his few allies, call the zombies, are intelligent precise militias. As they search for her dad, they also protect eight little kids from the deadly pack.

This exhilarating apocalyptic thriller effortlessly rotates back and forth between just prior to and six years after the pandemic disaster although some readers will find that story line approach somewhat off-putting especially when a sequence hooks the reader. Still Molly is a fabulous superheroine as all she has to do is save the world. Young adult readers will enjoy her efforts and the support from her sidekick Chase (gender bending the natural order intended it to be).

Double Enchantment
Kathryne Kennedy
Love Spell
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780505527639, $6.99, 1-800-481-9191

In 1848 Lady Jasmina Karlyle is frantic when she realizes her mom is a thief. To protect her mother, she vows to return the stolen item to its rightful owner. To do so without repercussions, she casts a spell creating a shadowy double of her self with plans to eliminate her other half once the mission is achieved.

To her dismay, Jasmina learns too late that the artifact her mom stole is the Relic of Merlin, which she learns means her "twin" lives. At a London ball, were-stallion Sir Sterling Thorn and Jaz meet and are attracted to one another. Although she is a distraction from his mission of finding his missing sister, they share an incredible sexual encounter. Soon afterward they marry. However, when his spouse vanishes, he learns the truth that he wed the doppelganger of Jasmina. With the prince urging them to find the Relic of Merlin, they agree to team up to do his royal bidding and find his vanished sibling and his missing spouse, her shadow twin.

The second Relics of Merlin alternate history saga (see ENCHANTING THE LADY) is a fabulous romantic Victorian fantasy with a clever twist in which the love triangle is complicated by his falling in love with the shadow twin and then the original twin. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jasmina casts her spell and never slows down as she and Sterling seek her doppelganger, his sister, the relic and lucidity to their convoluted DOUBLE ENCHANTMENT relationship.

Immortals: The Redeeming
Jennifer Ashley
Love Spell
0505527456, $6.99

No one has to tell Tain the Immortal that when it comes to letting demons live he is insane; he would agree as he loathes them ever since Kehksut the demon captured and tortured him for centuries. Having been freed by his four older half siblings, their soulmates, and a half-demon LAPD police detective Samantha after seven hundred years of torment, Tain wants nothing to do with anyone although he admits to himself that he is attracted to the cop.

One year has past since Tain tasted freedom. Meanwhile Samantha is working undercover in Venice Beach trying to infiltrate a gang using a demon rape date drug. He helps her on that case and afterward asks her to assist him on an investigation he is making into four prostitutes who vanished. Soon they work together on a group whose vision is a paranormal free world; these hunters are murdering demons and other otherworldly species. Tain vows to keep his cop safe and help her learn who is the leader of this deadly sect is; but he also emotionally keeps his distance as he believes he is one banana peel away from insanity while she assumes he rejects the demon half of her heart.

Although the other Immortal brothers' paranormal romantic suspense thrillers (see THE CALLING and THE GATHERING) are excellent, Tain's tale is the one fans of Jennifer Ashley have been waiting to read. The wait was worth it as he and half-demon Samantha make for a stellar show. The story line is fast-paced from the moment that Samantha working the bar senses Tain in the area and never slows down until the final confrontation. Tain puts an Immortal face to torture as he suffers an extreme case of PTSD that has left his sanity questionable at best with his extended family and Samantha his only footholds on healing his mind. THE REDEEMING is a winner.

Destiny Bay
Sarah Abbot
Love Spell
050552744X, $6.99

Curious to know why her mother Celeste committed suicide when Abrielle Lancaster was a baby, she finds a portrait of her. The picture serves as an impetus for Abby to visit St. Cecelia's Island; Maine, the home of her mother when she lived with local artist Douglas McAllister. Abby hopes to learn why her mom killed herself.

Businessman Ryan Brannigan hated Celeste who he still blames for his father Douglas failing to connect with him. He is outraged to learn that his mother rented a cottage to the daughter of that woman. Although attracted to the hostile Ryan, Abby assumes he is the one threatening her to leave or else. She refuses to run, but seeing the White Lady frightens her and the items that seem to be from her late mom begin to arrive. Meanwhile Ryan is angry with himself because he not only wants Abby, but feels a deep need to keep her safe.

The remote island adds to the overall feeling of foreboding in a tense gothic romantic suspense. Readers will feel the growing unease that settles in Abby's stomach and the conflict between Ryan's brain and his heart. Although in some ways the romance feels intrusive, fans will appreciate this strong thriller; as the lead couple and the audience wonder what is going on and can it be stopped before history repeats itself.

Savage Abandon
Cassie Edwards
c/o Dorchester Publishing Company
200 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10016
9780843958782, $7.99

In 1840 Minnesota, Winnebago tribe Chief Wolf Hawk is a shapeshifter who uses his gift to change into a hawk or a wolf to insure his people remain safe. However, he becomes despondent and upset when two his warriors are killed in beaver traps set in the forest where his tribe lives by whites.

He hunts the trappers following their trail to an abandoned fort. There he finds two people; Mia Collins is tending to her dying father. Wolf Hawk confronts her over the traps, but she swears they are innocent of killing anyone. Helping her bury her father, Wolf Hawk takes her prisoner back to his village. There he finds himself falling in love with Mia who reciprocates his feelings; he even finds love enhancing his supernatural skills. However, he also believes the murderers must face Indian justice soonest.

The shapeshifting skill adds a refreshing paranormal element to the typical Cassie Edwards' triangle of a noble Indian chief, an open minded innocent white female and a few despicable white males. The story line as always is well written with Wolf hawk being a unique character; Ms. Edwards' fans will fully enjoy this fine Indian romance.

The Devil's Closet
Stacy Dittrich
9780843961591, $7.99

Richland Metropolitan Police Department Detective CeeCee Gallagher specializes in juvenile sex crimes and homicides. Her clearance record is near perfect because she never gives up and constantly pushes herself beyond the limit; she does not want to hold herself responsible for the death of a child due to her being too slow to catch the predator.

An Amber Alert goes out when Hannah Peltrew disappears from her yard; another child witnessed a man grabbing her and putting her in a car. Hannah is found dead in the filed of an Amish farmer; she was dressed up like a doll and obviously tortured before being killed. The FBI investigates with Agent in Charge Michael Haerman leading the case. CeeCee has not seen him in a year, but still loves him although she chose to stay with her husband who might be having an affair with his trainee. Another child is reported missing and soon afterward found dead; as with Hannah she was made up and posed like a doll. Michael and CeeCee work as a team to end the horrific killing spree, but also know they remain attracted to one another. Meanwhile the serial killer taunts CeeCee sending her clues in a cat and mouse game with another youngster's life on the line.

This first CeeCee Gallagher police procedural is a terrific thriller mostly due to the dedicated lead character, who is tough yet vulnerable because she cares. Although the serial killer taunting the cops with clues is old, fans will feel this predator is as amorally evil as Lector is. The romance between the two cops adds depth to a strong tale that will frighten readers with what happens to the innocent young.

Found You
Mary SanGiovanni
9780843961102, $7.99

The Hollowers come from another dimension through a rip that allows them to enter other worlds. They have no features on their faces and thus can't smell, hear, taste or see and they wear a fedora, a black trench coat and dark clothing and shoes. They look at humans as tasty meat though they never kill directly. They can feel a person's fears and use those insecurities and trepidations to kill other humans or have them commit suicide. In Lakehaven six people actually killed a Hollower by studying its ways and learning what weapon to use (see THE HOLLOWER).

Of the sextet, Sally becomes a resident of the Oak Hills Assisted Living Center. One night she hears voices and sees changes in the facility. She believes the Primary Hollower is there to avenge the death of the Secondary. Detective Steve Corimar informs Sally's brother David of her death. Steve knows that similar deaths have occurred by the Hollowers. Now others are targeted like Jake and Dorrie. Those survivors and the two new additions unite to fight the Primary Hollower who is much more powerful than the one they were barely fortunate to have killed.

This sequel is as scary as the original so after finishing the tale readers will leave lights on as the dark is too "noisy". FOUND YOU is frightening from the opening message that the Primary whispers to Sally and never slows down. The tale is told by the multiple perspectives of scared individuals who know what to expect so are even more afraid but won't turn away from this fight. Mindful of early Dean Koontz, Mary SanGiovanni is a horror writer worth reading (if you can afford the electric bill).

Stand by Your Hitman
Leslie Langtry
9780843960372, $7.99

Widow Missi Bombay raises her teenage twin sons with the help of her family. She is also Miss Gadget maker for the family business that keeps the Bombay enterprise of paid assassins in the black and their rivals in red.

However, Missi's mom is worried about her daughter's all work and no fun lifestyle; if she is not doing something for the kids she is doing something for the business. Mom signs up Missi to attend a poor person's reality show in Costa Rica "Survival" and eliminate alleged arms dealer, Isaac Beckett. On the show, she meets former stuntman Lex Danby who is part of her "tribe". However, as Missi's weapons' construction skills give her side a major advantage, someone is trying to destroy the show though no motive surfaces.

The third Bombay satire (see 'SCUSE ME WHILE I KILL THIS GUY and GUNS WILL KEEP US TOGETHER) is a zany affair as Leslie Langtry assassinates reality TV shows. The story line is as always way out as Missi and family go about their business as paid assassins; the family that kills together stays together. Fans of the Bombay brood will enjoy their latest escapades as the audience will stand by their hit-woman.

Cafe au Lait
Liane Spicer
9780843960570, $6.99

Shari Zamore is mentally exhausted and feels a desperate need of some respite. She knows if she remains in London she will receive no mental rest. She decides to go home to Trinidad and Tobago to find her groove and hopefully some uncomplicated loving with a hunk who, like her, want no ties.

Although she is originally an ice queen towards him when they first meet, Michael Chancery is attracted to Shari so he keeps coming around. As she begins to loosen up, he turns up the heat sensing attraction reciprocity. They begin to share a tryst, but she wants no strings while he initially ignored his desire but now demands a lifetime rope as he claims their hearts are hogtied together.

This is an entertaining Caribbean contemporary romance starring two likable individuals with radically diverse lifestyles and seemingly no chance at compromise. Although their story line is typical of the sub-genre, Shari and Michael are an interesting couple; however, it is the setting of Trinidad and Tobago that owns the novel as Liane Spicer interweaves the beautiful locale into a fine tale that will have the audience considering some mellowing (and reading) in the Caribbean.

The Dragon Earl
Jade Lee
9780843960464, $7.99

Evelyn Stanton is about to marry the Earl of Warhaven when the ceremony is interrupted by a Chinese monk. He walks down the aisle claiming he is the legitimate earl. Jacob Cato says his family was murdered in China, but he survived because monks gave him sanctuary in a temple.

Before he can join the order, Jacob must avenge the deaths of his family by exposing and killing those who paid the assassins. To do this he must become the earl of Warhaven so he can enter the otherwise barred rooms of the Ton; for the killers hide behind those doors. Whereas other are skeptical of his claim, Evelyn believes him and says so. As they begin to fall in love, Evelyn's kindness begins to teach Jacob he can walk a different path other than vengeance to attain nirvana like a lifetimes walk with Evelyn at his side.

Jacob is the key to this superb historical romance as he feels pulled by two cultures. He feels Chinese inside having spent a "lifetime" with local monks, but needs his English heritage to "cleanse" his soul by avenging his family. On top of his confusion, Evelyn gets inside his heart. With some suspense on and off throughout, Jade Lee provides a wonderful refreshing tale of the DRAGON EARL who chooses love over hate to the delight of the monks who gave him tender care when he needed it.

The Book Stops Here
Ian Sansom
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
0061452009, $13.95, 1-800-242-7737

In Tumdrum, Northern Ireland Jewish mobile librarian Israel Armstrong informs his peer Ted Carson that for him THE BOOK STOPS HERE as he plans to tell their boss Linda he is resigning so he can restart his exciting London life especially with his girlfriend. However, before he can open his moth, Linda tells Israel and Ted they will to London on an all paid expenses trip to represent their district at the annual mobile library gala. Ted does not want to go claiming he once went to Belfast, which was enough of a big city for him. However, Israel, dropping his quitting plans at least until after the trip, cons his mobile partner into going by betting the prideful Carson that their library vehicle will win no prizes from the Mobile Library Steering Committee unless there is something given for the worst.

On the way to London, the duo stops in Finchley to see Israel's mom only to lose the van, which makes no sense to Israel as the vehicle is a crappy rusty junker older than him. He, his Londoner mom, and Ted search for the lost mobile in a quest that takes them to Stonehenge in order to recover and bring the mobile to the competition before Linda learns they lost the vehicle.

The third Mobile Library mystery (see THE CASE OF THE MISSING BOOKS and MR. DIXON DISAPPEARS) is a lighthearted frolic that never takes itself seriously. The stolen van mystery is low keyed as the tale focuses on the misadventures of the lead pair and the ensemble support cast consisting mostly of family, the Mobile Library Committee, the thieves and a few other eccentrics. Although crime buffs will pass, fans of an amusing satirical mystery will laugh at the antics of those crime busting buddies "not" Israel and Ted.

Daniel Clay
0061561045, $13.95

In Southampton eleven year old Skunk Cunningham lives with her father, brother and au pair. Skunk watches bully Bob Oswald batter teenager Rick Buckley; a few minutes after beating Rick up badly, Bob reports to the cops that the nineteen years old Buckley raped his thirteen year old daughter Susan. No one messes with one of Oswald's five daughters as the patriarch is not concerned with the truth; in this case the police Dr. Mortimer affirms Susan is a virgin. Charges were dropped.

Skunk avoids the Oswald girls like they have the plague as they are as insane and violent as their dad. Meanwhile Rick is afraid to go outside because he knows Oswald is not through with pummeling him. Finally unable to remain self incarcerated as he is going crazy, Rick reenters society looking for someone to beat up.

Although the plot is skeletal, this is a dark bleak character study. The Oswald brood is a fascinating family as Bob's argument that Rick harmed his daughter is based on fear she overtly displays; he is unable to take responsibility that her fear is of him. However, it is the metamorphosis of Rick from frightened shadow to avenger against those he feels affronted him like the female his age who told him his pecker was microscopic as well as the Oswalds. Not for everyone as the desolation and hopelessness oozes throughout, fans who appreciate the dark side of human interactivity will want to read aptly titled BROKEN.

The Firemaster's Mistress
Christie Dickason
9780061568268, $14.95

In 1605 in London with plenty of circumstantial evidence abounding, the Earl of Salisbury worries about an insidious plot against King James I. He needs someone to get inside the traitors' inner circle to learn what they are plotting so they can be stopped; that volunteer must have a special skill the conspirators would need to succeed in their plot or he would never be accepted.

Explosives expert Francis Quoynt accepts the dangerous undercover mission in which he will act as if he is against the King. Francis understands the risk. If he caught by the Royalists too soon he will hang as the counter attempt must be kept secret; if the plotters uncover his loyalties they will torture and kill him.

Francis's former lover Kate Peach happens to be in the capital; she is a Catholic at a time when the religion is not visibly practiced in London and she is alone having lost her family to the plague. Her current lover merchant Hugh Taylor is abusive so she earns money by pretending her dad still lives so she can make gloves to illegally sell to his customers; money she saves to leave London soonest while she remains alive and not incarcerated. When she and Francis meet, their desire for one another is as strong as ever; but their trust is as weak as ever.

This is an exciting historical intrigue that retells the events of the Gunpowder Treason plot. The lead couple is a terrific pairing as their emotions seem real while the support cast is strong whether they were real like Guy Fawkes or fiction. Although at times it seems half of early seventeenth century London appears (the scorer's sheet of characters helps) they add depth to a complex thriller that will leave grateful fans demanding more historicals from Christie Dickason.

The Archangel Project
C. S. Graham
0061351202, $7.99

Iraq War veteran October "Tobie" Guinness feels her skill as a remote viewer is a mixed bag. The former Navy vet can see who is doing what miles and miles and miles away; but she cannot bring into lucid focus completely the flashes she "witnesses".

However, though she considers herself an underachiever compared with her spouses, Tobie keeps on trying to clear her vision so as to make better use of it. Her latest effort frightens her as she sees flashes of Eisenhower's worst nightmare in action. A cartel of VIPs from the defense industry and the government plan a 9/11 style attack by "Iranians" on New Orleans in order to obtain public support for an Iraq type intervention. Those she witnessed plotting know of her and her mentor. They kill the psychologist-professor teaching her and go after Tobie. CIA Agent Jax Alexander investigates the professor's murder in New Orleans only to crash head first into the conspiracy and Tobie. They are on the run together while trying to prevent another avaricious Middle East war.

This is a terrific conspiracy thriller starring a wonderful hero who received the "psycho" honorable discharge from the Navy and a cynical CIA agent on the brink of being fired even before he foolishly becomes involved in the Iran War scam. Fans who appreciate a fast-paced tale with obvious Iraq implications will want to read Team Graham's entertaining conspiracy novel.

Cassandra & Jane
Jill Pitkeathley
0061446394, $13.95

Cassandra & Jane Austen were more than sisters; they were best friends sharing their desires for a romantic world though depending on relatives for sustenance made romanticism difficult. Neither finds much beyond disappointment as their family is at the lowest rung of the aristocracy; this means they must behave with decorum and obey the rules of the Hampshire Ton, as they are not high enough or wealthy enough to flaunt their standing as the poor relative. Making matters worse, romance proves bitterly disappointing for the siblings who each finds love only to lose love. However, when Jane dies at forty one, a grieving Cassandra destroys the letters from her sister that she always kept.

This is an engaging refreshing look at the life of Jane Austen through the eyes of her older sister. Cassandra and Jane are fully developed characters as the readers through the former's perceptions learn much about what happened to Jane. Although the facts and the fiction do not always blend together the avid Austen audience will fully relish this biographical fiction as the novel is loaded with tidbits about this wonderful author whose works almost two centuries old remain in vogue today (unless you are Clueless).

In the Dark
Mark Billingham
9780061432736, $25.95

In London, Ezra "Easy" Dennison informs Theo Shirley his illegal drug sales revenues have reached the level where the gang is ready to promote him. Theo is elated as he has two dependents to take care of. However, he has one more step left to prove he is ready for increased responsibility. Theo is in a car in which the headlights are off; he is to shoot in the backseat of a selected vehicle. A BMW flashes the lights at the darkened auto and Theo thanks the driver by firing as directed into the car.

The driver Sarah Ruston loses control and veers into a bus stop where Detective Superintendent Paul Hopwood and his eight plus months pregnant girlfriend Helen Weeks are waiting. One of the two at the bus stop dies. The police investigation soon takes a wicked turn beyond gang initiation rituals into an internal affairs investigation as someone believes the freak ricochet accident was not a random incident; that individual is easily killing the gang and others involved in the deadly incident.

IN THE DARK lives up to its title as it paints a bleak grim London landscape in which life is worthless regardless of which side of the crime line a person belongs too. The story line is action-packed as the police assume initially a sad weird but deadly accident killed one of them until the gang murders begin. As such the plot switches from the deep gritty look at the social and economic behavior of gangs to a more suspenseful but less insightful homicide investigation. This is a strong crime caper even with Mark Billingham's prime protagonist Detective Inspector Tom Thorne playing a limited cameo role.

Dark Rain
Tony Richards
9780061474668, $7.99

There really were witches in Salem and they escaped the burning times by quietly moving into the village of Raine's Landing. They kept a low profile, but one of them Ragan Farrer was accused by the townsfolk of causing harm to others; she was burned at the stake. Before she died she cursed the town and its people; saying they and their descendants will never leave Raine's Landing.

In the present the town is hidden from view; anyone who enters leaves forgetting the place exists. Sarauk, a tree spirit inhabits a human body and comes to town and he intends to become ruler of Raine's Landing. He is not strong enough to take over the entire town yet but as he makes the inhabitants afraid of what he will do, he grows more powerful in a vicious circle. If the trend continues he will soon overpower the townsfolk making them bow to his wishes. Only Ross Devries might be able to neutralize Sarauk, but though he has received information to succeed from allies, his chances remain grim.

This is a modern day gothic urban fantasy that mesmerizes the audience into a one sitting read. The characters make the tale as the reluctant hero must battle overwhelming odds to defeat a 200 proof evil villain. With a strong alternate earth world-building (or at least village building) setting, Tony Roberts provides an exhilarating dark horror thriller.

Everything Under the Sky
Matilde Asensi
9780061458415, $25.95

Spanish artist Elvira De Poulain is notified that her husband Remy was murdered by the Green Gang assassins in China. Stunned but not shocked as her late debauched spouse seemed to get into trouble all the time, she leaves accompanied by her orphaned niece Fernanda from Paris for Shanghai to bring his body home for burial.

In Shanghai, Elvira feels out of place and looks forward to returning to the comfort of Europe. However, she quickly realizes she has major issues to deal with as her self-indulgent husband ran up unbelievable debts due to his vices of gambling, hookers, and opium. She learns he was killed because he owned a priceless box that allegedly contains clues to the burial location of China's First Emperor and his treasure; others demanded he hand over his find, but he refused and died for his stubbornness. Elvira considers seeking the booty and soon finds allies: fiftyish pot bellied Irish journalist Patrick Tichborne, a white bearded Celestial local antiquarian Mr. Jiang and an orphaned young servant Biao.

This is an entertaining 1920s saga that fans will enjoy as the no nonsense European and her niece slowly acclimate to China while seeking the tomb and dodging killers. The story line is driven the by the quintet who consists of the artist, two youths and two older men; whereas their adversaries are professional assassins. EVERYTHING UNDER THE SUN is an entertaining tale as the audience wonders whether Elvira will survive her physical ordeal and solve the complex clues, get killed, or flee back to France.

Fade Away
Harlan Coben
Delacorte Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780385342506, $22.00, 1-800-726-0600

Ten years ago an injury ended his stint in the NBA without him playing one professional regular season game, but though Myron Bolitar has always thought of what could have been he uses self deprecating humor to move on and mope over what was lost to fate. He spent time as the most visible undercover FBI agent in the country (remember this is pre Plame days) before deciding to become a sports agent.

New Jersey Dragons owner Chip Arnstein wants to hire Myron to find his longtime sports rival going back to the sixth grade and the ACC, Greg Downing, who has had an illustrious pro career. The word to the media is he sprained his ankle; but on the street and in the Dragons front office Greg vanished five days ago. Using his not so honed FBI skills, Myron investigates with clues leading to a corpse, gambling, bold thirsty point shaving mobsters and a bit of everything else. Myron realizes he never came to grips with the injury that ended his career before it began.

The reprint of the third Bolitar tale (see DEAL BREAKER and DROPSHOT) is a superb story that easily overcomes the initial credibility of an owner hiring a sports agent to play sleuth due to the hero. Myron is wisecracking throughout targeting himself more so than others, but as he gets closer to finding his firmer rival, he realizes the humor hides his disappointment. This is a terrific series that holds up nicely a decade plus since its first printing as this entry affirms.

Company of Liars
Karen Maitland
9780385341691, $24.00

In 1348 England, many believe the devil is everywhere as the plague has killed numerous people and torrential storms seem endless. Hope is gone whether one is aristocratic or peasant as are crops adding to the vicious cycle of death.

Nine desperate travelers with no connection except fear band together on a journey to the south where it is reported the devil has not landed. As they make their way across a pestilent land, none reveal who they are especially their most precious deadly secret yet each has a tale to tell. Increasingly it appears none will make their destination and if they do are they bringing the devil's Black Plague with them.

With obvious homage to the Canterbury Tales, Karen Maitland paints a dark grim historical as the nine travelers expect death to greet them every step of the way. The story line offers no hope except for the Grim Reaper and undertakers as England is hammered by the pandemic plague and horrific weather making life for the survivors miserable as no one is safe from pestilence, famine, and exposure. Not an easy read as every page oozes with despondency and death, the COMPANY OF LIARS is a powerful look through he travelers at the year England almost died.

I Am Not a Cop!
Richard Belzer with Michael Black
Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
9781416570660, $24.00, 1-800-223-2336

When comic Richard Belzer's friend, New York City assistant medical examiner Rudy Markovich disappears without a trace, the comic actor becomes concerned especially when his pal fails to meet him at MSG for the heavyweight title fight as they planned. The more he learns of the vanishing, the more worried he becomes. Unable to remain idle, Richard decides to investigate even as he keeps reminding himself that "I AM NOT A COP"; only an actor who has seen many TV corpses in NYC and Baltimore.

He understands his experience as a sleuth is based on his role as role as Detective John Munch in Law & Order, but he believes how hard is it for real life to imitate Hollywood. He affirms his belief when Belzer finds a clue that ties four deaths to his case. Meanwhile Belzer's producer worries about his actor getting hurt while on the mean streets of New York so Kalisha Carter is assigned to accompany him as he makes inquiries into the four deaths and their ties to Rudy.

The fun story line rotates action with detective musing as Beltzer investigates the disappearance starting at MSG and continuing on the mean streets of New York. Although Beltzer the literary amateur sleuth is no Munch, fans will appreciate his efforts especially his stand up comic Noir-Lit aside commentary.

The Bone Box
Bob Hosteler
Howard Books
c/o Simon and Schuster
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 14th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416566473, $13.99, 1-800-223-2336

As he works in Israel with his long time friend Yigal Havner, archeologist Randall Bullock continues to grieve the death of his wife; killed by a drunken driver. Nothing interests him until Yigal informs him of a cave in at a park project in Jerusalem. The authorities need an expert to evaluate and evacuate the site. The widower agrees to lead the dig.

Israeli Antiques Authority agent Miri Sharon works alongside the American when they uncover an incredible find; a stone casket etched with "Joseph, son of Caiaphas" on the outside containing scrolls that document the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. While the pair is euphoric his estranged nineteen year old daughter Tracey, expelled from Rothan College in Ohio, arrives in Jerusalem to join her dad who was never there for her; not even at her mom's funeral as he came too late. Soon the trio is on the run from those who want their discovery interred. At the same time they are fleeing the threesome also tries to confirm their find even as the agnostic American archeologist begins to question his personal belief system.

This is an exciting religious thriller that puts a different spin to the typical Brownian theme. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the troubled Randall and Miri make their find and never slows down. Having Tracey join them adds to the deep look at the obsessive disturbed hero; but one must wonder why she was expelled rather than counseled especially since she is grieving while another student involved was allowed to remain in school because her dad showed up to defend her. Still, minor quibbles aside, readers will enjoy this fine thriller as the find has Randall questioning himself even while many want their proof buried along with the archeologist and his female partners.

The Dracula Dossier
James Reese
William Morrow & Company
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022-5299
9780061233548, $24.95, 1-800-242-7737

In 1888 Oscar Wilde's mother and William Butler Yeats invites Bram Stoker to attend the Order of the Golden Dawn indoctrination ritual. Initially fascinated by the ceremony, Bram and other attendees are stunned when something goes wrong.

Visiting American patent medicine salesman Francis Tumblety, who also attended, has become possessed by the evil Egyptian god Set. Tumblety-Set is methodically killing Whitechapel prostitutes using his surgeon's skills on these misfortunate women. Scotland Yard is stymied as there appears no motive for the homicides, but Stoker is seen in the area and his knife used as the murder weapon. He becomes the prime suspect. However, Stoker believes he knows the reasons behind the slaughters; he plans to confront Francis-Set whom he believes he has seen stalk the shadows of Whitechapel before someone else dies.

The story line starts off purposely boring to bring a journal methodology as the underpinning to the tale; once established, the plot accelerates and never look back. Tumblety as an evilly possessed Ripper makes for a perfect opponent to the Dracula author with both characters fully developed. References to the period, the Ripper serial killings and the literary works of Stoker round out an excellent late nineteenth century thriller.

The Mercedes Coffin
Faye Kellerman
0061227331, $25.95

Wealthy computer guru Genoa Greeves reads in the paper that someone murdered music producer Primo Ekerling. The description is what shakes Genoa. Someone executed Ekerling with three bullets to the head before leaving him in the trunk of his car. Fifteen years ago when Genoa was a high school geek her favorite teacher, Dr. Ben Little was murdered in the same manner; his case was never solved but the influential Genoa feels strongly she can "bribe" LAPD with opening he cold case with a seven digit "donation".

That type of money is taken seriously so the brass assigns Lieutenant Peter Decker to investigate the homicide of the history teacher as well as the current homicide to see if there is a link. After a review of the official police file, Decker and his associates, police detectives Marge Dunn and Scott Oliver, arrange to interview the cops on the older case. However, to their shock one detective still on the force commits suicide. They struggle to solve either murder, especially the one fifteen years old as memories have faded.

This is an engaging police procedural as the investigation into the two similar murders is fun to follow especially the nebulous older case. The scenes in which Decker spends with his Orthodox Jewish wife Rina and their children are fun to follow as they bring him needed respites from the difficult cases; though those interludes do not go as deep into her beliefs and their efforts to find common ground as earlier tales did. Still the whodunit is well written and exciting to follow team Decker investigate.

Ghost Radio
Leopoldo Gout
0061242683, $25.95

Supported by his girlfriend Alondra and his radio engineer Watts, former punk rocker and ham operator Joaquin and his cult favored talk show Ghost Radio are in amidst the American alternate lifestyle crowd. Based in Mexico, Joaquin emcees chat-analysis discussions mostly centered on myths, legends and the supernatural turning real.

He sets the tone by providing two frightening inexplicable incidents from his youth that he fortunately survived but his family in the first paranormal event and his best friend in the second happening died. Callers tell their encounters on the air. The more he hears, the more Joaquin seems unable to separate the real from the fake as realty perceived by this talk show host has vanished; a born again believer in supernatural phenomena he cannot stop himself from tussling with those who defy the laws of physics by being here.

GHOST RADIO is an entertaining supernatural thriller that builds on the theory that some white noise is not beneficial especially the unexplained. Joaquin is an interesting protagonist who goes from true believer to true skeptic to born again believer. Although the writing at times feels oddly stilted and off kilter for what is occurring at that moment, fans will enjoy Joaquin's adventures on and off the air.

The Good Thief
Hannah Tinti
Dial Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
0385337450, $25.99, 1-800-726-0600

In New England at Saint Anthony's for Boys orphanage, twelve years old resident Ren wonders how he lost his left hand and who his biological parents are. He has tried to solve both puzzles for as long as he can remember, but has made no progress on either of his inquiries. He especially would like to find his family as he fears the Brothers who run the facility will soon toss him out into the real world.

Adult Benjamin Nab arrives at Saint Antony with an astonishing claim that Ren is his younger brother. He backs his declaration by explaining how the preadolescent lost his hand and ended up in an orphanage. The Brothers feels good for Ren that his older sibling has come to take him home. However, Benjamin and his partner Tom are con artists whose newest ploy is to use a young angelic looking cripple to expedite the swindle. This proves quite lucrative as Ren takes to a life of crime as if he was born to it; Benjamin and Tom are family to him until they reach North Umbrage where everything unravels.

This engaging historical stars three fascinating crooks with radically different personalities whose adventures in con crime is somewhat abated. Readers especially the young adult audience will relish Ren's escapades but also understand his obsessive need to belong to someone who cares about him even if that means criminal activities; this is similar to youngsters joining gangs. Hannah Tinti provides a deep look at THE GOOD THIEF whose psychological relational needs are the driving elements to this enjoyable nineteenth century character driven thriller.

Something Wicked
Alan Gratz
Dial Books
9780803736665, $16.99

High school junior Horatio Wilkes attends the annual Highland Fair near Pigeon Forge, Tennessee at the invitation of his friend Joe Mackenzie; his family is major participants every year. Fortune teller Madame Hecate informs Mac that he will be king of the mountain and his cousin Wallace Banks will own Mount Birnam. Joe's college girlfriend Beth Weigle is excited while Horatio is cynical.

Horatio sees booth employee Megan Sternwood and is attracted to her. When her uncle asks him to watch over her, he is excited because he has a reason to meet her. However, Horatio has a different issue when he enters a tent to find the Highland Fair owner Duncan MacRae murdered. Unable to resist Horatio investigates not realizing the passion some have for this mountain and the danger the clues will lead to.

Although the amateur sleuth whodunit starts a bit late (almost halfway into the book), young adult readers will enjoy the plot due to the cynical mouthy hero who is caustic towards almost everyone at the Fair; surprisingly he didn't get his face rearranged. The story line is fun to follow even more so when the murder occurs as fans will feel they attend the Tennessee Highland Fair. Some profanity seems inappropriate even if much of the targeted audience uses the words and it fit the moment but that may be this reviewer's ancient outlook. SOMETHING WICKED is an apt title just don't wear kilts near the wickedly sarcastic Horatio unless your thick skinned or a bruiser.

The Sign of the Sinister Sorcerer
Brad Strickland
Dial Books
9780803731516, $16.995

In the mid 1950s in New Zebedec, Michigan young orphan Lewis Barnavelt lives with his Uncle Jonathan, a wizard who can perform illusions. Recently, Lewis has become interested in information pertaining to the magical Rule of Three that his Uncle claims is an obsolete theory, but next door neighbor the powerful witch (and great cook) Mrs. Zimmerman insists some mages believed in threesomes to embellish exponentially the power.

While watching his friends play baseball, Lewis is distracted by newcomer Hal Everit when his best friend Rose Rita Pottinger warns him to watch out; a foul ball hits him in the face. Just before it struck him, Lewis noticed a hooded robed individual watching him. Although he suffers two black eyes, overall Lewis is okay. A few days later, Jonathan gives him his allowance of five silver dollars, but on his way to the movies with Rose Rita and joined at the theater by Hal, he realizes he lost his money due to a hole in his pocket. The next morning, he smells Mrs. Zimmerman cooking breakfast so he runs down the steps, but trips and injures his leg. Lewis thinks a powerful wizard is trying to harm him; as he believes he suffered an attack based on the Rule of Three. Jonathan thinks otherwise and besides the trio of assaults already occurred; but he soon revises his opinion based on a message in a mirror; he believes he and his nephew are under magical siege and he thinks he knows who the culprit is.

This is an entertaining middle school historical thriller with some fantasy and suspense elements enhancing the tale. Young readers will enjoy Lewis' summer vacation as he begins to believe THE SIGN OF THE SINISTER SORCERER has him under siege.

Game for Seduction
Bella Andre
Pocket Books
1230 Avenue of the Americas, 13th fl., New York, NY 10020
1416558527, $14.00, 1-800-223-2336

Melissa McKnight is determined to prove that she is more than just the daughter of a superstar sports agent; her goal to make it in the male exclusive world although she recognizes her surname brings recognition but also doubters.

Melissa's biggest problem is her desire to perform unprofessional sexual trysts with one of her dad's top clients Dominic DiMarco. She hides her feelings until she and Dominic pose for a photo shoot. Dominic has been very careful to avoid scandal, but when it comes to Melissa he is unsure he can keep himself in line as he wants. He especially understands she is taboo as the daughter of his agent, but making love to her would be like winning the Superbowl, World Series, Stanley Cup and NBA title in one passionate relationship. Being together, though, may end both their careers.

The latest Bad Boys of Football contemporary romance is a fun tale starring two individuals who put up strong offensive lines around their respective hearts to avoid love sacking what each considers their well-being. Dom and Mel are fully developed although his concerns for dodging love (he is more elusive than Fran Tarkenton was eluding tacklers) seem trivial while hers is understandable. Fans will appreciate this hot sports romance as Bella Andre throws another touchdown (see GAME FOR ANYTHING).

The Bride of Casa Dracula
Marta Acosta
Pocket Books
9781416559634, $14.00

Milagro De Los Santos and Dr. Oswald Grant are engaged to be married. However the bride is frustrated with the rules that she must agree to in order for his side to accept her. Upset, Milagro wants to tell the bloodsuckers to go to hell, but he loves Oswald so he bites her tongue and agrees to adhere to the Vampire Council's strict code of conduct to include no sharing of the same bed until they marry twice; first a public exchange of I do's and a second a vampire blood exchange ritual as her intended and his family have a slight genetic abberation; they need blood to survive.

Besides her future in-laws loathing her, the marriage plans are taken away from her. Her friend Nancy takes over the public ceremony and the Vampire Council assigns Cornelia to run their rite of passage. Nancy is over the top and Cornelia has designs on the groom whom she has shared a bite or two with before Milagro intruded; with Cornelia comes her brother Ian whom Milagro has shared a bite or two too. As Milagro ghost writes a book for a maniacal self preclaimed shapeshifting cleint, accidnts begin to occur that makes Oswald wonder if his beloved cannot handle the pressure; Milagro knows someone wants to prevent their marriage and plans as always to kick butt.

The latest satirical visit to Casa Dracula is as always an amusing take no prisoners "vampiric" romance. The story line lampoons the sub-genre from werewolves to vampires and their extended packs and families as well as wedding planners. Filled with twists including a great final spin, readers will appreciate Milagro's escapades as her world is crumbling when she should be at her happiest; either way she knows what will occur will be toasted with a few pints of blood – mostly she fears hers.

Thread of Fear
Laura Griffin
Pocket Books
9781416570639, $6.99

She is one of the best forensic artists in the country and police from all parts of the nation ask her to talk with witnesses and victims so she can draw a picture of their assailant. Her success rate is phenomenal, but it also takes a toll on her emotionally. Fiona Glass keeps telling herself no more as she cannot cope with how she personalizes each case.

When the FBI talks to her about the abduction of ten year old Shelby with the witness being her six years old brother Colton who refuses to talk to any one, Fiona knows she has no choice but to help. She gets a tremendous sketch of the perpetrator from the frightened child.

She still reels from internalizing the trauma of that case when Police Chief Jack Bowman asks her to interview a rape torture victim. Reluctantly she agrees. Fiona learns that the trauma happened eleven years ago and the victim was Bowman's girlfriend at the time. He explains to the forensic artist that he believes that cold case is related to a recent murder of a girl dumped in a place where her corpse would be found fast. He admits no one else buys his theory. Fiona obtains decent sketches from Jack's former girlfriend. When the culprit kidnaps a state senator's daughter; suddenly everyone from the Feds to the State to the locals dive head first into the investigation. Fiona finds the clues that allows Jack to close in on the killer, but neither realize the perp is targeting her.

Laura Griffin provides a strong suspense thriller with a supporting romantic subplot that enhances the growing tension as Jack worries about the mental state of the woman he loves who risks her sanity and her life to help others. While investigating, the sparks between them is unwanted as one is commitment phobic and the other does not want to get involved. Although forensic experts with emotional issues are not new, THREAD OF FEAR is a crisp police procedural.

Salvation in Death
J. D. Robb
c/o G. P. Putnam's Sons
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780399155222, $25.95, 1-800-847-5515

Father Miguel Flores is presiding over the funeral service for Hector Ortiz at St. Cristobal's Church in Spanish Harlem when he drinks the wine from the chalice; he keels over immediately and dies. NY Police and Security Department Lieutenant Eve Dallas catches the case. Examining the body affirms her belief that the priest was poisoned with the deadly sera in the consecrated wine. Eve and Detective Peabody search Father Miguel's apartment where she finds a note taped to the back of a dresser drawer; the paper contained a mar on it.

The medical examiner finds the priest had esoteric facial reconstruction and knife wounds scarred all over the body. He also had a tattoo removed, but the ME was able to resurface the design, which turns out to be a mark of a gang member The Selector. Eve ponders whether the real Father Flores is missing most likely dead with an imposter replacing him. She soon confirms her theory as the false father is Juno Martinez who obviously had a purpose for being at this church in 2160. The cop needs to find a motive for why Martinez was at St. Cristobal's, why someone killed him, and where is the real Father Flores

Each new book in this superb bestselling futuristic police procedural series enhances the Eve Dallas mythos and deservedly the reputation of J.D. Robb. Eve's current case is extremely complex having to go back in time to when Juno was a gang leader; even with her spouse Roarke's help with all the assets at his disposal. The heroine runs a methodical step by step investigation with each new clue required hard work from either Eve or part of her team. There is less banter between the characters even concerning Roarke and Eve (though the pair still steam up the city), as the official inquiry moves the story line forward in what may be the best "in Death" tale to date.

Rough Weather
Robert B. Parker
9780399155192, $26.95

Wealthy, almost famous for her marriages, Heidi Bradshaw hires Boston based private investigator Spenser to be her escort on her privately owned island, Tashtego. The occasion is her daughter Adelaide's wedding. Spenser gets the impression his client wants a bodyguard; he takes the job and brings his lover Susan Silverman with him. The bride and groom exchange vows only to have gunmen arrive led by Rugar the Gray Man; and they abduct Adelaide.

Spenser does not try to protect Heidi as his first concern is Susan's safety. The kidnappers and the bride reach a helicopter but not before Rugar kills the groom and the minister. Spenser is shocked as the scenario is not Rugar's precise efficient MO and no ransom note is sent. As the Boston sleuth begins closing in on the truth, Rugar sends assassins to kill him, but they fail. He vows to rescue Adelaide and learn why Rugar is behaving out of character.

ROUGH WEATHER is Robert B. Parker at his very best with a great suspenseful mystery enhanced by the hero's even greater love for Susan; her safety comes first before his client or himself. Susan accepts Spenser for who he is and tries not to change her beloved into a more "acceptable" boyfriend fitting in her circle. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the Gray Man arrives in a shockingly fumbled caper, but it is the dry witted Spenser who turns the tale into a thriller's thriller.

Loose and Easy
Tara Janzen
Dell Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780440244691, $6.99,, 1-800-726-0600

In Denver bookie Franklin Bleak informs art recovery private investigator Esmee Alden that her father Burt owes him over eighty thousand dollars in gambling debts that is due now or else. She knows what or else means to someone as bleak as this vicious bookie is. So the story of her life repeats itself with "Easy Alex" risking everything to bail her dad out of trouble.

Since she does not have that amount of money, she finds a source. Multi-millionaire Isaac Nachman is offering a reward that will cover the debt, her expenses and more. She must retrieve the 1910 Jakob Meinland "Woman in Blue" Expressionist masterpiece painting from Otto von Lindberg and give it to Nachman. Masquerading as a street hooker, Esmee begins her quest only to have her almost high school lover Johnny Ramos, back at home after his latest military tour in Afghanistan, recognize her. Shocked as she was the valedictorian at East High, he needs to know why. Soon after he challenges her, the pair finds themselves in double and triple crosses with the only persons to trust being themselves.

This is a fast-paced romantic suspense thriller that never takes a breather as Esmee fails to live up to her nickname; nothing goes right on this tour of the streets of Denver except for Johnny. The story line is filled with action although there is some repletion for the benefit of understanding (in terms of the reader and not the cast) as information is reiterated. Still Tara Janzen provides an exhilarating tale as Esme with Johnny at her side takes on a horde of thugs from seemingly all sides of the Mile High city.

The Lost Tomb
David Gibbins
Dell Books
9780553591194, $6.99

Many thought that Claudius died from poisoning in 54 AD, but the diabolical Roman Emperor faked his death and that of his freedman Narcissus because he knew his health did not allow him to rule any longer. He rushes to Herculaneum in the shadows of the Vesuvius where he takes up his writing .He once met with Herod Agrippa who he knew in Rome and later met with him and Jesus in Galilee where he hoped the Christ would cure him of his affliction. He didn't but Claudius writes down their encounter but to guard Jesus he hid the scroll in a safe place.

In the present marine archaeologist Jack Howard confirms that he has found the shipwreck that St. Paul was on when he was being delivered to Rome. Before Jack and his crew can complete their quest, he is called to Herculaneum by his colleague Costas, who found the secret villa of Claudius that was devastated by an earthquake, but the quake opened up a concealed secret room that contains information about a scroll written by Jesus. They head to Rome seeking the lost gospel; there a message sends them to London devotion that leads them to Santa Paulo, California and finally to Jerusalem. The last decipher proves difficult but ultimately they find a secret chamber in a church; those who were following them want them killed. Jack understands immediately why as what he and Costas has found will send tsunami like waves throughout organized religion.

Obvious Brownian connections aside, this tale is filled with adventure and action as readers will enjoy the escapades of the two brave heroes. Jack is an Indiana Jones style archaeologist who understands the danger he and his friends will face as he accepts the mission. He is on a scavenger hunt that if successful will change the world as he simply seeks the truth, which in some ways may not set people free. David Gibbons provides a fun tale that feels like a cross (no pun intended) between Dan Brown, Clive Cussler and George Lucas.

Celeste Marsella
Dell Books
9780440244660, $6.99

The four female friends work at the office of the Rhode Island Attorney General. They go out together on weekly "Sabbats"; this time drinking a bit too much at the seedy Fez, a mob hangout. Laurie, Shannon, Beth and Marianna are leaving when the murdered body of a young woman is tossed from a car.

The quartet knows they should never have gone to that dive so each lies to their respective bosses. They quietly investigate not wanting to raise the ire of the AG Vincent Piganno, the police, or the mob. However as the truth of what they did and saw surfaces, they are removed from the coed homicide investigation so as to not taint the case. Meanwhile ADA Mariana takes the hit with Piganno so is the one sent undercover to Holton College to learn why student Melinda Hastings was with mobsters; similar to the question the four Sabbat females keep asking themselves why they went there too.

Marianna lives up to the title as she is DEFENSELESS while working undercover at the college. Although her soliloquies can be disruptive, fans will enjoy her escapades as she struggles with a touch of romance from a babe magnet and plenty of danger. Celeste Marsella provides an enjoyable romantic suspense thriller.

The Darker Side
Cody McFadyen
Bantam Books
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1540 Broadway, New York, NY 10036
9780553806946, $24.00, 1-800-726-0600

The Director of the FBI orders Los Angeles based agent Smoky Barrett to come to Washington, D.C. to work on the case of a young woman stabbed to death while flying on an airplane. Smoky has no idea why her boss wants her to look at the corpse and get involved in this case that is across the continent, but heads east immediately.

Smoky is stunned to learn the victim is daughter of a US senator and that Lisa Reid was undergoing a transsexual procedural. She and her team find clues that lead to a psychopath they call "Preacher", a serial killer who murders his victims to obtain their innermost darkest sins. The Fed knows that her predator will challenge her to steal her darkest secrets if she does not stop the culprit first.

In her third FBI police procedural (see THE FACE OF DEATH and SHADOWMAN), Smoky is superb as she and readers expect her to be the rodent in a cat and mouse game with a killer who "steals" secrets from those victimized. Although the passages relaying each victim's deepest darkest secrets are fascinating they seem more like cul de sacs rather than feeding the main story line. Still sub-genre fans will enjoy this psychological thriller that digs deep into THE DARKER SIDE of people.

Too Close to Home
Linwood Barclay
Bantam Books
9780553805567, $22.00

Promise Falls, New York is a small town where big crimes are never supposed to happen. Teenager Derek Cutler hides in his neighbor's basement crawlspace waiting for them to leave so he have some cuddly time with his girlfriend Penny. When they finally go, he takes a tour of their house, but hears a noise and scurries back to his basement hiding place. The Langleys have returned home because the wife felt ill. Derek waits for them to go to sleep so he can sneak out. Someone enters the house and shoots the entire family; Derek flees without talking to anyone including the police about what he witnessed.

The police find a suspect who lied to them. They realize Derek was in the house when the homicides occurred based on phone calls he made. His earring is found in the bed of the late mother and the blood on his sneaker belonged to his friend Adam. The cops arrest Derek; however other evidence surfaces exonerating Derek who is freed from imprisonment as the charges are dropped. His parents fear the nightmare has just begun as a cold blooded killer is still on the loose and their family may be the target.

Linwood Barclay creates a great complicated crime caper that seems so genuine especially for anyone who has a teen in the household. The murders strip away the veneer of safety in the small town ands secrets become known that were never meant to see the light of day. The only moralistic person in Promise Falls is Derek's dad Jim who always wants to do the right thing, but also realizes how difficult that can be with so many choices to make that harm perhaps kill someone; often an innocent. Although he knows there is NO TIME FOR GOODBYE with his expecting a stalking killer coming their way, his cerebral ethical pondering adds depth to a strong whodunit that will have sub-genre fans seeking Mr. Barclay's backlist.

Swim to Me
Betsy Carter
Bantam Books
9780553591484, $5.99

In 1973, seventeen years old Delores Walker leaves her troubled family home in the Bronx. She takes the bus heading south where she obtains work as a mermaid at Weeki Wachee Springs in Florida, which she believes is a miracle of sorts as she is not pretty.

Shockingly, Delores becomes the star somewhat because she is nice and displays enthusiasm in her work and somewhat her imagination with productions like the Merfather spoof brings in audiences who had been going to Disney. Her peers think she is the best and anyone who gets to know her feels likewise. TV producer Alan Sommers sees a chance to work with a human interest story angle on the most popular mermaid, but needs to muddy up the water perhaps with skeletons from the Bronx. Delores tries to remain true to her kind self as she becomes almost famous as a local TV "weatherwoman" and the invasion of the extended Walker family, but is grateful for wise mentoring by gentle circus giant T. Rex and mermaid attraction owner Thelma Foote.

This is an entertaining character study held in focus by Delores, a likable star attraction. The caring Delores turns the lonely, slick and ambitious into being kinder and friendlier as everyone including readers (with the exception perhaps of her runaway father) feels her warmth and subsequently a need to change. Betsy Carter provides an uplifting historical that brings to life the impact of Disneyworld on 1970s Florida.

The Various Flavors of Coffee
Anthony Capella
Bantam Books
0553807323, $22.00

In 1896, twentyish Robert Wallis is a poet who prefers to lay back and do nothing. When he does work he is known for his excessive hyperbole. Coffee maker Samuel Pinker decides that Wallis is the perfect author to write a glowing guide to coffee beans that the entrepreneur believes will help his business thrive so he hires the laziest poet in London.

When Wallis meets his employer's daughter Emily, he decides he wants her and courts her with charming ditties. However, Pinker, worried about his daughter, dispatches the writer on a world tour of coffee beans. The expedition broadens his horizon as the apolitical aloof Wallis gets involved with social issues like slavery and suffrage.

Wallis makes this superb historical tale from the start as he changes from a selfish indifferent young man into a caring thoughtful person. Readers will appreciate his adventures in finding a good cup of coffee by tasting the various flavors offered around the world. Filled with fascinating yet plausible twists, Wallis gains an education yet underneath his escapades the foundation of the plot is the Abyssinian proverb that "When a woman gives a man coffee, it is a way of showing desire".

Recovering Dad
Libby Sternberg
Bancroft Press
PO Box 65360, Baltimore, MD 21209
9781890862589, $19.95, 1-800-637-7377

Bianca Balducci looks forward to her junior year at St. John's Parochial School in Baltimore; and is happy for her mother who tells her and her brother and sister that she is marrying police officer Steve Paluchek. Bianca has no personal memories of her father who died seventeen years ago; but she is very fond of Steve, who has always been there for her and her family. Bianca's sister Connie who is a private investigator believes her late father was a saint and is overtly displeased that their mom is marrying Steve.

Connie holds Steve culpable for the death of her father, who was a police officer too. They were partners, but he failed to be there when he was needed; in fact no one at least in the Balducci family knows where Steve was that night. Connie investigates the cold case and learns Internal Affairs was conducting an inquiry into Steve. He now lives in an affluent lifestyle a cop could not afford. Bianca trying to keep her obsessed sibling from doing something dangerously stupid assists her sister as they look into Steve's ties to an illegal immigration smuggling ring; the same group their dad was probing when he was killed.

Young adults will be fascinated by brave Bianca who packs more activities in a week that most teens need a year to complete (boomers need a decade). However, her prime effort is to help her normally wiser older sister from doing something insane and potentially deadly. Bianca struggles to understand Connie's motives as Steve has always been nice to her and she does not really know her dad except from what her siblings and mom told her. In between sleuthing and saving her sister, Bianca worries about her SAT scores, the junior prom, and first love. In her latest Bianca case (see UNCOVERING SADIE'S SECRETS), Libby Sternberg provides a very personal mystery for her teen sleuth to investigate.

Dog Eats Dog
Iain Levison
Bitter Lemon Press
37 Arundel Gardens, London, W11 2LW, United Kingdom
9781904738312, $14.95,

In New Jersey Phil Dixon thought the bank robbery would go over smooth so how he wonders why it went so wrong. He flees the Garden State with a bullet wound and no cash heading towards Canada with aspirations of becoming a farmer. However, his wound is very severe so he is forced to stop in Tiburn, New Hampshire.

Phil peaks inside a window of a home to see a thirty something geek rolling on the floor with a teen who's probably was still in high school. A desperate Phil forces the home owner history professor Elias White to provide him a haven or face exposure, censorship, and perhaps criminal charges. White agrees, but sees the hostage situation as a chance to enhance his floundering career. Meanwhile cynical FBI agent Denise Lupo volunteers to follow a nebulous clue to Dixon's whereabouts in some small New England college town.

DOG EATS DOG is a humorous satirical crime thriller in which key traits of the three main characters are purposely exaggerated so that the audience can compare them when their odd triangle forms. Street and prison savvy Dixon pretends to be the hardened criminal to hide his shortcomings; White is a pompous professor who uses his superego to hide his shortcomings; Lupo is the burned out cop who uses cynicism to hide her shortcomings. Readers will appreciate when they merge in Tiburn.

The Shape of Mercy
Susan Meissner
WaterBrook Press
c/o Waterbrook Multnomah Publishing Group
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781400074563, $13.99, 1-800-726-0600

She knows her family's money comes with quite a cost for college student Lauren Durough. As long as she depends on that wealth to finance her she will never be autonomous from their purse string control. Though scared, she accepts a position working for octogenarian Abigail Boyles.

The unpleasant bitter older woman hires Lauren to transcribe the journal of her ancestor Mercy Hayworth, whose first hand account of the seventeenth century Salem witch trials come alive in her diary though she was convicted. As she performs her work, Lauren begins to heed the advice of the courageous Mercy, but also realizes the seventeenth century chronicler's descendent remains bitter for failing to confront her personal issues; Lauren vows to follow Mercy's lead although she is not sure where it will take her except it gives her hope and she believes it does likewise for acrimonious Abigail.

This is Christian inspirational literature at its best as Susan Meissner entertains yet gets her message of hope and faith to her readers through her three female characters without preaching. The diary is incredible as Mercy goes through several emotions including feeling the Lord abandoned her, but throughout believes that though she dies unfairly God awaits her. Her overall optimism lifts Lauren and eventually Abigail as well as readers. THE SHAPE OF MERCY is moving and encouraging.

The Other Side of Darkness
Melody Carlson
Waterbrook Press
9781400070817, $13.99

Ruth loves her husband and children, but fears for them. She doesn't want them tricked by the machinations of the evil devil. She prays for them and does everything to prevent Satan from tricking any of her loved ons into sinning.

However her husband Rick resents how much money and time she spends on the Valley Bridge Fellowship Church and it's New Life Christian School. Her children Mary and Sarah resent her pushing religion down their throat as they have enough at school. Worse her hero Pastor Glenn has been fired by the congregation either because they were fooled by Satan or jealous of how good he is. Ruth feels her world imploding as the more she prays the more things go bad and the more they go bad the more she prays especially when she follows her idol Pastor Glenn to his new church; her family refuses to go with her.

This is a refreshing very intense inspirational Christian tale in which the main character suffers from a serious mental illness, obsessive compulsive disorder. Ruth is unique protagonist as the more time she gives, the more troubled she becomes. Interestingly several deeply religious individuals selfishly and knowingly take advantage of her time and money. Although seeing demons seems unnecessary, Melody Carlson leaves the audience with a deep poignant thriller in which accepting psychological treatment is just one tool provided by God to help his flock with free will.

Bon Appetit
Sandra Byrd
Waterbrook Press
9781400073283, $13.99

Lexi Stuart dreams of becoming a pastry chef, but that means risking everything for special on the job training in France. Her boss Luc suggests a swap for six months with his sister Dominique. She decides to go for it leaving behind L'Esperance the French bakery she works at in Seattle and her boyfriend Dan to work and learn at a bakery run by grumpy Madame Odette in Presque le Chateau.

The adjustment does not go smooth as her twentyish American enthusiasm is looked at with disdain by many of the locals. Still she works hard and joins a church. However, she begins to feel welcomed when she meets preadolescent Celine and her father Philippe, an attractive widower. As her time overseas begins to count down, Lexi has to choose between Washington State and rural France; both feel like home.

The sequel to the mouth watering LET THEM EAT CAKE is an enjoyable tale as Lexi struggles for acceptance in France where from her first entrance at the airport is scorned and laughed at. Readers will appreciate the tasty bakery scenes as "Mamam" initially treats her new employee like an ugly American. Although the romantic subplot feels too sweet. Sandra Byrd provides her audience with a deep look at France and French pastry cooking.

Cyndere's Midnight
Jeffrey Overstreet
Waterbrook Press
9781400072538, $13.99

To be or not to be is the question that Cyndere asks herself every day at the water's edge. The widow grieves the loss of her spouse Deuneroi. He was more than just her husband; they shared a common dream of trying to help the Beastmen. She struggles to live another day although she is the House of Bel Amica's heiress because she no longer dreams except for leaping off the top of the Stairway Rock. Besides losing her husband, the Beastmen who they wanted to assist killed him in cold blood.

Jordan the Beastman has heard of the enchantment of Auralia's Colors; his cursed tribe especially his three blood thirsty brothers think he is crazy as they hear nothing. To his chagrin, Jordan finds himself thinking of shades of consequences that he and his Beastmen do in their black and white berserker rages. When he meets the grieving Cyndere he sees first hand the impact on a person; adding to his guilt, she wants to help him rather than he her. Still confused, as his siblings prepare to attack the House of Abascar, he must decide whether to help Cyndere defend the place or join his brothers; the former feels foreign but right while the latter feels instinctive but wrong. Either way he chooses to ally himself will impact the kingdoms of The Expanse so that they will never be the same.

The "Blue Strand" sequel to "The Red Strand" thread (of AURALIA'S COLORS) is a wonderful fantasy starring a grieving widow with nothing to live for since her mate and with him their dream, was murdered until she meets Jordan. He gives her a renewal of faith by lifting off the hopelessness that engulfed her; she now has a reason to live. In some ways the confused Jordan is the more fascinating character as his world has changed from that of his siblings; whereas they think in terms of us and them; he understands complex interweaving colors of us, us, and more us. CYNDERE'S MIDNIGHT is an entertaining wonderful fairy tale.

When the Soul Mends
Cindy Woodsmall
Waterbrook Press
9781400072941, $13.99

Two and half years ago, then seventeen year old Hannah Lapp left in disgrace the Old Order Amish community and her family home in Owl's Perch, Pennsylvania. Her equally shunned Aunt Zabeth Bender took her teenage niece into her home in Winding Creek, Ohio. Hannah vowed never to return although she misses her family, even though her father who's shunning of her means to him she is dead. Hannah has found contentment with her beloved Martin Palmer and the children they raise.

However, when her troubled sister Sarah frantically calls her, Hannah, in spite of her sibling spreading the rumors that led to her exile, rushes home to help her. She quickly realizes the community loathes her for her choices; her father demands she leave. With the help of her former fiance Paul Waddell, Hannah tries to help Sarah with mental health issues while she also wonders if she made a mistake when she left her home.

The third Sisters of the Quilt tale (see WHEN THE HEART CRIES and WHEN THE HEART CRIES) is a terrific ending to the Hannah Lapp saga as readers obtain a deep understanding of the faith Mennonite and Old Order Amish families. However what makes the story line engaging and inspiring is Sarah, a unique person in terms of the Amish or for that matter inspirational fiction in general as she suffers with mental issues. Readers will appreciate this excellent entry in the Lapp saga as Hannah returns home to help her sister while her parents and siblings struggle with shunning and welcoming.

My Mother's Wish: An American Christmas Carol
Jerry Camery-Hoggatt
Waterbrook Press
9781400074051, $12.99

In Hastings, Nebraska, young Eleanor "call me Ellee" Crumb McKutchen heeds the call of the poet Juan Ramon Jimenez who urges people to "write the other way"; thus Ellee's philosophy of life is "contrariwise". She wants to be part of the changing the world and knows where and who she wants to start with; her mom who has an image that she expects from her daughter; a vision that Ellee cannot see for herself.

Considering running away the tweener sits at the Comeback Cafe, thirty miles from her home, wondering how to mend her broken dreams without hurting her mom who puts up blank Christmas lists for herself, her spouse, and her two children Susan and Eleanor; Susan being Ellee's older engaged sister. Each fills the list, but fulfilling it is irrelevant. Ellee knows mom means well even if her good intentions pave the way to hell for Ellee. Suddenly a three-armed waitress and an eccentric truck driver Jedidiah accompanied by his cat Cecily provide the distraught child with a strange holiday brew; an adventure on the backwaters of the Plains in what matters in life.

This is a terrific tweener Christmas Carol, Americana Midwest style starring a distraught girl whose flight of fancy is in opposition to her mom's no nonsense attitude. Fans will enjoy Ellee's adventures as Captain Jedidiah and his not named Mrs. Smee cat take her on a journey of understanding. This is a fun tale and mom's gift to her youngest daughter is the perfect Christmas present.

Under the Blood Red Moon
Mina Hepsen
Avon Books
c/o HarperCollins Publishers
10 East 53rd Street, New York, NY 10022
9780061373251, $13.95,

In 1871 half Russian Princess Angelica Belanov detests going to parties, events, or anything with crowds because of her ability to hear what people think. The chatter is overwhelming her mind; her preference is to avoid society and hide at her Russian father's English estate reading a book. However, with the family fortune in jeopardy with the disappearance of three ships they own, she is in London with her brother Prince Mikhail seeking a wealthy spouse. However, the silent noise from others is driving her crazy.

Also in London is the head of the Eastern Vampire Clans Prince Alexander, who is on the trail of a serial killing vampire Sergey; he and his clans and those of the Northern Clans worry about their species dwindling numbers and Sergey exposing them to humans. When Alexander meets Angelica, they telepathically communicate. He assumes she is a vampire like him, but soon realizes she is a mortal. As she learns he is vampire, they fall in love with Servey and an ally stalking them.

Readers will fully enjoy this exciting paranormal Victorian romantic suspense thriller as Mina Hepsen makes vampires living in Europe seem genuine and even more so Angelica's ESP skills as the supporting details are wonderfully interwoven into a strong tale. The lead couple is a strong pairing and the support cast enhances the belief in the supernatural as natural. Sub-genre fans will welcome Ms. Hepsen with accolades and look forward for more exhilarating novels from her.

Killer Charms
Marianne Stillings
Avon Books
9780060850746, $6.99

SFPD vice inspector Andie Darling is very ambitious and her goal is to leave Vice for Homicide as soon as possible. She sees a great opportunity to prove her worthiness to brass when she is assigned to go undercover to catch psychic con artist Logan Sinclair cheat someone.

Logan finds Andie unique as she acts immune to his magnetism. However his failure does not alarm Logan who has not lost sight of his goal; starting with obtaining the Star of Avril necklace. Andie suffers from vivid nightmares starring a woman she has never met. Logan informs his skeptical client that the woman Emma Harte exists. However, a killer has plans that could include murdering Andie; Logan will risk his life to keep her safe.

The third delightful Darling thriller will give readers plenty of SATISFACTION starting with Logan AROUSING SUSPICIONS in the mind and heart of the only female Darling sibling. The fast-paced romantic suspense uses humor especially between the lead couple to somewhat lighten the growing tension. Filled with twists, some involving a bit of the paranormal, fans will relish this "Darling" drama as the heroine wonders if her self- proclaimed protector is her beloved enemy.

Gilding Lily
Tatiana Boncompagni
Avon Books
0061451010, $13.95

Lily Grace moves from Nashville to New York with plans of taking Manhattan by storm. She becomes very popular amidst the elite social class and meets educated wealthy charmer Robert Bartholomew. They marry.

When Lily becomes pregnant, Robert loses interest in her as she gains weight and is no longer the it "Girl of the moment". He quits his job as a lawyer and begins spending time with his socialite mother who never wanted the southern belle as her daughter-in-law. Lily begins writing lifestyle articles that allows her reentrance into the high society world her pregnancy kicked her from, but she is treated with disdain by Robert's mother.

Using hyperbole as an amusing saber, Tatiana Boncompagni provides a fascinating look at what people will accept in order to belong to a group that treats "outsiders" as pet rocks. Lily holds the tale together with her need to be part of the upper crust elitist crowd whose motto ought to be "Let them eat cake off our Persian rugs". Humorous yet somewhat sad as the human need to belong supersedes self actualization even when the members disdain you as inferior. This is a well written insightful contemporary tale in which readers will like the desperate Lily and root for her to find the grace of telling her spouse, her in-laws and the wealthy in crowd to pound rocks although at the same time the audience knows her inclination is in the opposite direction.

This Year's Model
Carol Alt
Avon Books
9780061366246, $13.95

Trying to earn some money before going off to the University of Penn; tall Melody Ann Craft works as a server at the Porter House in Morristown, New Jersey. On his way back to civilization after visiting family in Cleveland, photographer Jonathan Novak stops on the barbaric side of the Hudson to grab a bite to eat. Melody Ann is his server and he thinks she is a beauty who displays decorum and cool calmness with a nice smile. He says he is not a stalker, leaves her with his business card and tells her to call the Manhattan model agencies using his name as a reference. He leaves her a nice tip before finishing his drive back to what he considers the real world.

Although cynical Melody calls and soon finds herself in Manhattan learning what it takes to be a supermodel. She is sent on shoots with photographers who must have been part of the Spanish Inquisition in a previous life and finds her peers detest rivals. However, Mac struggles with the male model hunks and huggable who are temptation. Still she wants to make it in Manhattan, but remain an ethical Jersey girl; a seemingly impossible mission.

THIS YEAR'S MODEL is an exposure of what happens behind the scenes in the world of modeling as seen through an increasingly former innocent turning cynical gilded. Character drive the story line especially the Jersey teen who tries to avoid the drug scene, the hunk scene, and the cat fight scene; which leaves her somewhat remaining as an outsider. Although nothing new, Carol Alt provides a deep look "beyond the glory", glitter and glamour to the ugly underside of super modeling.

Back to Life
Kristin Billerbeck
Avon Books
9780061378775, $12.95

Although one year has past since her fiftyish husband Ron died, thirty-five year old Lindsay remains stunned and unsure of what she wants in life. Residing in a senior citizen condominium, Lindsay still grieves as she feels her life is rudderless.

Ron's first wife Jane arrives at the condo. She is the executor of his estate and needs to complete the documentation to distribute the assets in accordance to the will. Accompanying Jane is their adult son Ron, Jr. whom the first salad days wife insists to the second trophy wife that he is actually someone else's junior. The two wives loathe one another yet to their mutual shock soon begin to understand what the other brings to the table and brought to Ron.

The second Trophy Wives Club is an engaging tale that enables the audience as well as the two wives to see deep into the souls of Jane and Lindsay. The chapters rotate their points of view, which initially focuses on amusing scorn as both feel the other is an irritant, but slowly turns to respect. Readers will appreciate this fine inspiring tale as each of Ron's wives learn much about themselves through understanding the other spouse.

Secrets of the Knight
Julia Latham
Avon Books
9780061432965, $5.99

In 1480 League of the Blade warrior Diana Winslow traveled to Castle Bannaster in disguise as a servant. Her assignment was to end Viscount Bannaster's brutal mistreatment of women. However, she went too far leaving the viscount dead and his brother Thomas accused by the lords as his killer.

Six years later, King Henry strongly suggested to his "cousin" Thomas to court Cicely Winslow. Thus he heads to Richmond while Cicely's sister Diana knows she cannot hang around just in case he recognizes her in front of her family as the servant who could defend herself with the blade on that fatal day. Instead once again the impulsive master bladeswoman acts; she abducts Thomas. As she holds him prisoner, the pair are attracted to one another. However, if extended family relations were not convoluted enough, her employer orders her to investigate Thomas' loyalty to the King

The third League of the Blade historical romance (see THRILL OF THE KNIGHT and ONE KNIGHT ONLY) is a fabulous gender bending tale as Diana is super with the sword and not afraid to act often impetuously and unwisely. Thus she is weaponless when she falls in love. Thomas is a strong character too, but this deep period piece belongs to the third bladeswoman.

Passion and Pleasure in London
Melody Thomas
Avon Books
9780061470936, $5.99

In 1877, now thirty-two, which is old age in his profession compounded by his enjoyment of all types of vices, Rory Jameson has spent years bringing thieves to justice. However, outside of London he stops his work temporarily at the request of his sister to visit his estranged dying grandfather to make a final peace. On the trek to his family home someone attacks and wounds Rory. Former toast of the Ton Winter Ashburn takes the wounded aristocrat to a cottage so he can heal.

Winter remembers Rory as the rake who thought she was a fallen woman. Still she is attracted to her patient and him to her. As they fall in love, Winter worries her actions could cost her mother and brother plenty as the family patriarch her odious Uncle wants the half gypsy dead.

This is an engaging Victorian romantic suspense, which readers will enjoy from the first stolen kiss until the final kiss with a bit of a mystery and a lot of romance in between. The story line is character driven with a strong lead couple and a deep support cast. Fans will enjoy PASSION AND PLEASURE IN LONDON (and outside too) as neither Winter or Rory are ready for love yet both welcome it even as they hide it from their beloved.

The Devil Wears Tartan
Karen Ranney
Avon Books
9780061252426, $6.99

In 1870 the scandal with womanizing adventurer Alisdair Cannemot leaves Davina McLaren with one option. She can marry a man she never met, but others claim that the "Devil of Ambrose" is insane. She decides to take her chances with the lunatic so after her Aunt Theresa arranges the marriage and leaves town immediately, Davina begins wedding preparations. Her aunt returns in time for Davina to say I do in the Edinburgh castle of the Earl of Lorne.

Marshall Ross is infamous as the "Devil of Ambrose"; everyone assumes something evil happened to him as the Queen's diplomat to China. He no longer can tolerate the outside world so remains a hermit with servants. However, he and Davina are mutually stunned by the immediate attraction between them. She starts to wonder if she is so shallow as to fall in love with the "Devil". As they become better acquainted she realizes her beloved husband is not crazy, but someone with access to him is somehow causing him to suffer nightmares that he believes are real. She vows to risk her life to expose the villain before the maniac permanently harms her spouse.

THE DEVIL WEARS TARTAN is a superb gothic Victorian romantic suspense based on documented historical events starring a fallen courageous woman and a traumatized man whose love gives each something neither has had recently: hope. Marshall is fascinating as the male lead with deep issues while Davina starts as a classic gothic damsel in distress but soon shows no fear will prevent her from trying to uncover the truth of what is going on at foreboding Black Castle.

Seduction of a Proper Gentleman
Victoria Alexander
Avon Books
9780061449468, $7.99

In 1854 although he won the bet against his three opponents on who will be the last man standing single, Earl Oliver Leighton thinks it is ironic because even he thought he would be first as he was the only one when they wagered who believed in love. However, he toasts his compatriots because in his mind they won and he is the loser of the tontine.

Needing to escape London, Oliver decides to rusticate at his country estate. He is taken aback when he finds an injured woman suffering from amnesia at his door. He takes her in and his staff calls her "Kate". Oliver is attracted to the newcomer, but wonders whether she is hiding something ugly from him; he is ignorant that his beggar is Kathleen Mac David, a Contessa's granddaughter. As they fall in love, she begins to regain her memory in bits and pieces; but remains unaware that her Aunt Lady Hannah Fitzgivens magically sent her to Oliver to break a family curse that only love can sever.

Readers will toast with thirty year old cognac this tremendous historical romantic saga, the Last Man Standing. Each tale contains humor, action and love. The finish is excellent with amnesia and the paranormal playing key "matchmaking" mechanisms that bring love to the only tontine believer before the bet. Living up to her first name, Ms. Alexander affirms once again she is royalty when it comes to exciting entertaining Victorians.

Tempted by the Night
Elizabeth Boyle
Avon Books
9780061373220, $6.99

In 1810 Lady Hermione Marlowe has loved the rogue Lord Rockhurst, but the rake seems to ignore her except with quick fleeting glances of desire when he thinks she is not looking. She wonders how to make him see her without causing a scandal and wishes to learn his deepest secrets as that will bolster her chances.

She is stunned when the ring she wears makes her invisible. She follows Rockhurst and learns what her heart has been saying; that he is not a scoundrel but instead he is London's protector, but she wonders who protects the protector. She vows her. When she saves his life coming out of nowhere, he calls her his "Shadow". As he tries to get her to back off from the danger of the night as only the Paratus would understand, Hermione refuses to heed his plea; instead she demands he allow her to join him in love protecting the innocent from evil.

Few authors use secret or mistaken identities as well as Elizabeth Boyle consistently does (see THIS RAKE OF MINE and LOVE LETTERS FROM A DUKE). This time the superb historical author has her intrepid heroine believe in her heart there is much more depth to the wastrel she loves (sort of believing Percy is the Scarlet Pimpernel with all proof to the contrary that he is a dandy). Hermione obtains the gimmick that lets her prove her theory with "stalking" her hero inside of a great Regency romantic adventure thriller while fans will be TEMPTED BY THE NIGHT to buy Ms. Boyle's backlist.

Can't Say No
Bette Ford
Avon Books
9780061143502, $6.99

In Detroit former NBA star Ralph Prescott enjoys being a highly desired "all pro" player when it comes to slam bam scoring with women. Although used to females making shocking proposals, he is stunned when the queen of responsible behavior good girl Vanessa Grant offers him the proposition of being his lover; she pledges to herself he will not break her heart. He accepts.

However, his behavior is far from the roguish cad she expected whose only asset is in bed. Instead, he is there for her and her family during a crisis caused by a rat who once dated her late mother. To her chagrin she falls in love with the kind hunk, but refuses to believe he reciprocates. He knows the clock is running out on his chances of proving to his beloved they belong together.

The third Motor City Prescott sports romance (see UNFORGETTABLE and AN EVERLASTING LOVE) stars two strong protagonists who in spite of their deep sexual attraction initially believe they have nothing else between them; especially wanting no part of Prescott is Vanessa while he wants no overtime. The story line is fast-paced and deep actually because of her family troubles caused by a clever villain. Fans will say yes to Bette Ford's engaging drama that effortlessly switches from the bedroom to the courtroom as Ralph proves to be much more than a womanizing former pro athlete. Now if Ms. Ford can use an even more shocking athlete in her next Prescott family saga.

The Edge of Desire
Stephanie Laurens
Avon Books
9780061246364, $7.99

Lord Christian Allardyce and Lady Letitia Vaux were in love with plans to marry once he returned from the war against Napoleon. However, while he risked his life, her father forced Letitia to marry for money; as he wasted the family funds on horrific speculation. When he returned from overseas in 1815, Christian is stunned and vowed to never marry; he signs on with six former "government" workers who knew that the adventure was over; these comrades in arms formed the Bastion Club whose perquisite for joining is to never marry. Ironically since chartering the club last year, his six "brothers" have said I do.

In 1816, Letitia sends a note to Christian begging him to help her brother Justin who is accused of killing her spouse of eight years Randall. Although he hates her, he never stopped loving her; to his chagrin, he agrees to investigate. As they work together, prideful Letitia tries to hide from her sleuthing partner that she still loves him and never stopped thinking of him even when she was with Randall.

This is a brilliant last of the original magnificent seven Bastian "brothers" tale. The story line is a fast-paced Regency romantic mystery in which the lead couple remains on THE EDGE OF DESIRE while following false leads, clues to nowhere and increasingly the evidence point to her brother's guilt. Stephanie Laurens is at her best with this superb second chance at love historical whodunit.

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Sean Williams
Del Rey
c/o Random House Trade Group Publicity
1745 Broadway, 17th floor, New York, NY 10019
9780345499028, $26.00, 1-800-726-0600

The chaos of war throughout the galaxy is no more as the Republic and its Jedi Knights are history and ironically so is their Separatist opponents who while destroying the Republic destroyed their movement too. However there is no power vacuum; as the diabolically brilliant Darth Sidious has played the sides against each other and has come through as the only central power left declaring himself the Emperor Palpatine. However this sly dictator knows others out there want to dethrone him either out of a thirst for freedom or the more dangerous group that want to replace him. He plans to rule with an iron fist forever so must eliminate the cancers that remain in revolt even those that are microscopic.

The Emperor assigns his top assistant, the equally vicious Darth Vader, who Palatine brought into the dark side with him, to destroy the remaining resistance. Vader has groomed a student for years for a deadly enforcer role. This Sith student knows one thing: to kill Vader's foes, who are defined as those opposing the Emperor. This student of Vader must first kill the remaining Jedi who failed to turn dark. However, this Apprentice has one flaw of light in an otherwise totally dark existence. He must choose between his mentor father figure Vader or the flickering light of hope he feels when he thinks of Juno Eclipse who hopes to hear his long lost name from her lips.

THE FORCE UNLEASHED is an exciting novelization of the video game though at times falls into the trap of feeling like a game. The Apprentice is a fascinating prime player who knows only loyalty and death as everything else has been programmed out of him by his fatherly mentor. His trek to eliminate resistance takes the audience on journeys to fascinating worlds especially that of the Wookiee. Fans will relish his escapades as this seemingly emotionless killing machine suddenly has feelings for a woman, but will his training or his heart rule his mind?

Star Wars: The Clone Wars
Karen Traviss
Del Rey
034550898X, $20.00

The Clone War between the Separatists and the Republic takes a strange twist when agents of the former kidnap Rotta the infant son of Jabba the Hutt from his Tatooine palace. Jabba offers a deal to the Republic; he will allow their vessels safe access of his space sector in exchange for the rescue of his child.

The Republic, knowing the strategic value of Hutt's zone especially at a time their adversaries are winning, assigns Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker and his Jedi Master Obi-Wan Kenobi to conduct the rescue mission. Besides a top military unit, accompanying them is newly assigned apprentice fourteen year old Ahsoka for Skywalker to train. Separatist leader Count Dooku learns of the Republic's efforts to obtain the Hutt offspring; he knows the incredible morale boost to his side and the devastation mentally to the already shaky enemy's confidence with the killing of Skywalker "The Chosen One". He assigns assassin Asajj Ventress to kill the knight and his master and sends battle droids to insure none escape.

Tied to the Clone Wars TV saga, this is a fast-paced exciting Star Wars military science fiction thriller. The action-packed story line never slows from start to finish, but the plot premise is a bit thin beyond the vivid battle scenes. In some ways the novel feels as if Karen Traviss prime directive was to introduce key players from the TV series. Still it is well written and fun to read as the readers realize how desperate the Republic needs to partner with Hutt, who feels out of character as a drooling caring father.

Misspent Youth
Peter Hamilton
Del Rey
9780345461643, $26.00

In the near future former RAF pilot Jeff Baker invents the memory crystal that led to the datasphere, which replaced the Internet. Jeff Baker made his creation available to everyone placing him on a par with Mother Teresa for altruistic adulation.

In 2040, the European Union scientists make an incredible breakthrough in genetics; they developed a new biotechnique that enables them to replace aged genes. Jeff is the chosen one because of what he did with his memory crystal and the theory that his brilliance could solve the home energy crisis. The conversion works as Jeff goes from a septuagenarian to a twentyish person. Only Jeff finds his sex drive supersedes everything and everyone else including his used to be much younger wife and his teenage son.

Discounting some unnecessary English terrorists detracting from the fascinating thriller, MISSPENT YOUTH is an interesting look at the unintended consequences of science finding a Fountain of Youth. The story line focuses on out of control Jeff who finds his former peers ancient and only sex matters. In terms of relationships he succeeds as a born again sex machine, but the only intelligence he brings back from his years of experience is sex; thus narrowing the scope of an intriguing premise.

Daryl Gregory
Del Rey
9780345501165, $13.00

Demonic possession was first noticed in the 1950s as one hundred demons leap from one person to another; infecting thousands. As a child Del Pierce was chosen by Hellion, but with his family and a psychologist, he kicked the demon out.

Years later, Del never fully recovered from his trauma. Two more incidents as a teen and as an adult has led to Del hearing voices and believing the Hellion has returned to reside in his head. Sleep has become a nightmare as Del hurts people and destroys property. He is hospitalized and receives sleeping pills which help, but is kicked out with little medicine when his insurance runs out. Del goes home to attend the International Conference on Possession; hoping that research by Dr. Ram will make him a demon-free zone so he no longer chains himself up at night. At the event Valis the demon (his human host is Philip K. Dick) introduces him to clairvoyant Mother Mariette; the Human league soldiers whose vision is a demon free earth want Del contained or dead.

Although Del Rey labels PANDEMONIUM as a young adult fantasy, the complex surrealistic story line takes a powerful psychological tour of the human mind from predominately Jungian theory. Demons are considered by Jung followers as archetypes of the collective unconscious; other theories also abound. However, Del is the key to this superb paranormal psychological thriller as he is the human posterboy of demon possession. This deep complicated thriller is a terrific allegorical tale that through demonic possession takes a fascinating look at mental disorders comparative to what is the acceptable norm.

Kill Chain
Meg Gardiner
Obsidian Mystery
c/o The Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
0451225236 , $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

Evan Delaney is near hysterical when she learns her father's car has been found wrecked at the bottom of a California ravine. The local authorities believe Phil committed suicide, but cannot answer Evan's calm question of where the corpse is. The FBI believes Phil set up a death ploy to flee the country just before the DA was to file charges against him, but they fail to be specific as to his alleged crime when pressed by Evan. She believes law enforcement at all levels is CYA as her dad was a spy who came in from the cold as a whistle blower; she fears something sinister has happened to Phil as she knows he would have called her if he could.

Her fear proves right although she gains no satisfaction with the affirmation. An assassin for hire visits Evan; his wife Jax is also missing just like her dad. Since his spouse and here father worked together on the Riverbend Operation, he and Evan agree the same culprit abducted both of their loved ones. Rio Sanger is a madam who caters to men with particularly twisted desires; she calls Evan with a deal. In exchange for the location of where Phil is stashed, Evan is to deliver the Riverbend file, which she does not have and will have to go on a treasure hunt to find it. Evan is on a scavenger hunt of 72 hours and counting down; the prize saving Phil.

Meg Gardiner writes some of the best suspense thrillers on the market today. In KILL CHAIN the author surprises her audiences with the way the story line develops as each spin seems plausible but comes from nowhere; finishing with an explosive climax that will shock the readers and the heroine. Evan is a strong willed individual who will need every ounce of her iron determination to save her dad irregardless of the consequences to herself. She is at her best fighting impossible odds established by a ruthless unknown adversary who does not mind collateral damage.

Alison Gaylin
Obsidian Mystery
0451224973, $21.95

Investigative reporter Steve Sorensonis stunned to learn his best friend celebrity reporter Zoe Greene is not only in love with a soap opera star; the die hard Manhattanite is moving to San Esteban, Mexico to live with Warren Clark. Steve is upset for two reasons; first he loves Zoe though he has hidden his feelings from her with the facade of friendship and second he knows this town as the place a NYU student had his heart torn from his chest.

Steve decides to go to Mexico to insure Zoe is okay. Meanwhile her romance with Warren collapses as she begins to do what she does best as a reporter, interrogate. The Sangre Para La Vida cult members are interested in Zoe's "blood in exchange for life".

HEARTLESS is a fascinating horror thriller with a unique romantic underpinning. The story line is based on the Sangre Para La Vida cult believing the Fountain of Youth is to suck human blood vampire style with their latest "donor being Zoe. Although the tale at times crosses into the absurd without humor or satire, readers will enjoy this tense thriller for a fun Mexican vacation; that is for readers not tourists.

Murder, She Wrote: A Slaying in Savannah
Jessica Fletcher & Donald Bain
Obsidian Mystery
9780451225054, $21.95

Jessica Fletcher receives a call from a Savannah lawyer informing her that her friend nonagenarian Tillie Mortelaine died. The two women worked together decades ago on an literacy program that became the Georgia standard. Tillie left Jessica with a million dollars for their literary program based on a stipulation that inside of a month the New Englander discovers who murdered the deceased's fiance Wanamaker Jones forty years ago; if Jessica fails the program gets nothing.

Four decades ago the police got nowhere with their inquiries as those living in the house closed ranks against outsiders. Determined to solve the case as she has a million motives from various suspects, Jessica questions those people who were there and still alive today. While she investigates, two ghost hunters and a man claiming to be Tillie's fiance get in her way; Tillie's nieces are uncooperative as they believe Mrs. Fletcher will keep the money. Jessica ignores their slurs, but cannot disregard the attempts on her life or the ghostly happenings in Tillie's house. She is running out of time to put together the puzzle as those central to solving it wants the money and obviously Jessica to fail.

As Tillie and series fans know Mrs. Fletcher is a contemporary New England Miss Marple. Her investigation is difficult because of the time lapse and the lack of cooperation of those involved. Whereas her motive is to insure the literacy program is funded, their motives with one exception are to inherit the money; the lone exception would be the killer if he or she is still alive. The police support the family in that they resent this northern outsider intruding even on a cold case; however she begins to win some of them over with her methods and they admire her moxie. This is one of the best cases Mrs. Fletcher (and Donald Bain) has worked on as she emotionally grieves the death of her friend, which also reminds her of her own mortality; while working on an entertaining cerebral cold case whodunit.

A Killer Workout
Kathryn Lilley
Obsidian Mystery
9780451225351, $6.99

It is not easy being a plus size female TV reporter as Kate Gallagher knows first hand from the not so supple hints about her weight from the suits. She decides to trim down so goes to Body Blast run by her old South Boston friend Riley Matthews whose partner is his lover Kahn. The place is run like a boot camp more than an exclusive exercise spa, but Kate finishes the obstacle course. Her roommate Marnie Taylor fails. The next morning, Kate awakens to find Marnie gone though her bed looks used.

Marnie's body is found on the wall in the obstacle course. Although the evidence points heavily towards murder, the authorities treat the incident as an unfortunate accident. Kate sees the connection between the death of her "body buddy" and another woman who died lat year; the latter's parents sued Body Blast for negligence. Kate asks questions even as someone goes through her things in her room. Kate remains determined to solve what she now believes is two homicides although by continuing to sleuth she could end upping the murder count with her death.

It is fascinating to learn how a television news story comes together even before the on screen journalist gives the report on the air. Late is a complete professional who knows she needs to lose weight if she wants to move on to the big city TV news shows, but isn't panicking to do so as she is overall comfortable with herself as she is. Her investigation is fun to follow as she uses her investigative news skills in search of a killer.

Death in Daytime
Eileen Davidson
Obsidian Mystery
9780451225641, $6.99

She has worked on the daytime soap opera The Young Tide for over twenty years until recently it feels like a second home. The show acquired new head writer Marcy Blanchard who hates star Alexis Peterson for stealing her boyfriend two decades ago. She believes if Alexis didn't go out with her lover, he would have married her and they would have raised kids together. Instead she is totally alone living miserably but with plans to make Alexis' life even more miserable than hers.

When Marcy forgets to give Alexis her script, the actress decides enough and plans to have it out with her. When she enters the writer's office, she finds Marcy on the floor with her head bashed in. Alexis is the prime suspect because they had public fights witnessed by the TV crew and their history together. Unwilling to sit idly by, Alexis investigates and learns Marcy had a husband she divorced and a teen daughter. When Marcie's ex is murdered, someone cleverly designs the crime scene to make it look as if Alexis killed him. Alexis goes full speed to uncover the real culprit before she needs bail.

Readers get treated to the inside scoop of what happens at a popular soap opera off screen as Eileen Davidson uses her experiences on the Young and the Restless and the Bold and the Beautiful to create the background to this exciting, heady and enthralling mystery. The investigation is cleverly handled even if a frantic drama queen like Alexis probably should have hired a pro private investigator. Still with great characters, a fun look at soaping and an engaging whodunit, fans beyond the soaps will enjoy this fine amateur sleuth tale.

The Chocolate Snowman Murders
JoAnna Carl
Obsidian Mystery
9780451225061, $19.95

Lee McKinney Woodyard, manager of her Aunt Nettie's Tenhuis Chocolate shop, is the treasurer on the committee organizing the annual Warner Pier Winter Arts Festival known in Western Michigan as WinterFest. Every year an art show is sponsored, but this year a juror breaks a leg and cannot participate. He obtains a substitute retired Professor Fletcher Mendenhall. Lee's husband Joe offers to pickup the former academia, but when he gets tied up, she gets him. To her horror Fletcher pulls out a flask and starts drinking.

Her discomfit turns to shock and horror when her visitor turns drunk and amorous while she is driving amidst heavy traffic. She finally leaves Fletcher at a motel to sleep it off. Lee tells Joe who decides to visit the professor to inform him to leave his wife alone. Fletcher fails to answer his phone or the knock on his room's door. Joe has the desk clerk unlock the door. They find Fletcher dead on the floor; his head bashed in and his cell phone missing. Lee and Joe become immediate suspects even before the victim's cell phone is found in her possession. Lee concludes that someone is setting up her and Joe to keep the cops from this clever culprit. She intends to investigate in the hopes of going where the police are ignoring so as to clear her and Joe.

JoAnna Carl writes scrumptious regional amateur sleuth tale with delightful chocolates to sweeten the plot. Life in a small Michigan town especially from the perspective of a chocolate shop proprietor is vividly depicted; as everyone knows everyone; yet the key is not everything so one can still conceal nefarious felonious deeds, in this case murderous activity from their neighbors. The investigation is credible (more so than Lee's previous inquiries) as the heroine believes the killer is playing police by leading them increasingly towards the Woodward couple with the motive being the deceased's unwanted amorous escapade. THE CHOCOLATE SNOWMAN MURDERS is a charming cozy.

Burn Out
Marcia Muller
Grand Central Publishing
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017
9780446581073, $24.99, 1-800-759-0190

Still struggling from her harrowing experience (see THE EVER RUNNING MAN), depressed San Francisco based private investigator Sharon McCone decides to get some R&R at her Yosemite ranch while musing about her future. McCone wonders if perhaps it is time to quit the field operations sleuthing business and become a 100 percent executive desk potato; she knows she is fortunate to be alive as she suffers from post traumatic stress disorder.

However, the ranch quickly proves tedious especially after the adrenaline higher than Nob Hill war she just fought. She soon gets involved in the case of her ranch manager Ramon Perez's nieces and their mother. One niece Haley was murdered while the other Amy and their alcoholic mother Miri vanished. McCone looks at the dysfunctional interrelationships between the family, but soon looks wider when two more murders and an apparent suicide seemingly but loosely related occur.

BURN OUT is a perfect follow up to the excellent EVER RUNNING MAN; especially enlightening is McCone's inner thoughts re field work as she remains shook up from the recent traumatic events. Her spouse Hy Ripinsky, who feels guilt over what he put his wife through in the EVER RUNNING MAN, assists her though he would prefer she retire; her Shoshone family also helps on the case as the story line turns into a solid whodunit while McCone remains hesitant between desk and field.

The Bride Bargain
Kelly Eileen Hake
Barbour Publishing
P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, OH 44683
9781602601758, $10.97, 1-800-852-8010

In 1855 in Buttonwood, Nebraska Territory, lonely Josiah Reed wants his son to remain in town to help him with his general store and to practice medicine here. However, he understands Saul the doctor came home temporarily out of love of his father and frustration with sanitary conditions in Baltimore where he worked; as much as he cherishes his dad he feels there is nothing in Buttonwood for him.

Kicked off the wagon train heading to Oregon, Clara Reed offers Josiah a deal he cannot ignore. If she can persuade Saul to stay and marry a local, Josiah will give her and her Aunt Doreen ownership of his beautiful home. Josiah accepts because a house is not a home without family. Saul learns about THE BRIDE BARGAIN between Clara and his father so he promises himself to teach her a Prairie lesson about intruding in someone's life; he courts her.

Combining humor and faith, Kelly Eileen Hake provides her readers with an entertaining pre Civil War romance (make that two romances). The story line is character driven as Clara and Saul engage in a gender war that leads each of them to fall in love. Although the Bleeding Kansas compromise that impacted Nebraska is somewhat diminished, fans will enjoy this amusing inspirational historical.

White Christmas Pie
Wanda E. Brunstetter
Barbour Publishing
9781597899376, $10.97

Sixteen years may have passed since his widower father Frank dumped him unceremoniously on an Amish couple, but Will Henderson never fully moved beyond his bitterness. Regina and Mark Stoltzus raised Will in love, but the abandonment leaves him filled with anger especially around Christmas time.

His fiancee, Karen Yoder tries to help him come to grips with his biological dad leaving him with the Stoltzus, but fails to reach her beloved Will. Frank never expected years to pass when he left his son behind with friends of his late wife; he needed steady work when he left with plans to come back for Will. An accident leaves Will in dire need as Frank's second wife encourages her remorseful guilt laden husband to see his son.

'WHITE CHRISTMAS PIE is a superb inspirational family drama as the prime cast confront major issues especially abandonment. Fans will find it interesting how each of the prime players feels the impact of the abandonment differently. The Stoltzus feel Frank did the right thing out of love and honored them with the greatest gift he could give them. Frank feels guilt that so depresses him his second wife fears for his well being. Karen knows how much the abandonment hurts the soul of her beloved fiance, but is unsure of what to do. However, Will makes the tale as the adult remains emotionally battered by the child left behind. Wanda E. Brunstetter provides her fans with a touching tale of who makes up a real family.

Dark Hunger
Sara Reinke
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
1420100548, $4.99, 1-800-345-2665

Pregnant vampiress Tessa Davenant has had enough with the abuse and meanness of her spouse Martin five times her age and a zillion times anyone's cruelty. She leaves the Brethren Kentucky estate, a place she never left before, to travel to New Orleans to help her fraternal twin Brandon Noble convicted to die by the family elders.

Half-breed vampiric outsider Rene Morin is her escort although his constant criticizing of her is disturbing especially since she is attracted to the former cop. He tries to hide his desires for her behind the facade of assuming she is a wealthy spoiled rich bitch. As they journey to still desolate post Katrina Louisiana, someone follows them with the intent of killing both of them and her brother and his human lover Lina, Rene's ex-police partner.

This is a terrific vampire romantic suspense that sort of uses a patriarchal community similar in some ways to the Mennonites as the home base of the Brethren. The story line is action-paced from the onset as the lead couple is attracted tone another, but refuses to act on their desires. Although well written, some of the support characters' activities seem too obfuscate with implications that the reader should peruse the previous tale DARK THIRST for a better understanding. Still this is a fine paranormal romantic thriller due mostly to the prime duet.

Dragon Actually
G.A. Aiken
Zebra Books
c/o Kensington Publishing Corp.
850 Third Avenue, New York, NY 10022-6222
1420103733, $6.99, 1-800-345-2665

"Dragon Actually". Desperate to save her people warrior Princess Annwyl the Bloody fights to the death to end the cruel reign of her brother Lorcan the Butcher of Garbhan Isle. As she nears death from wounds, she remains resolute and still battling when Fearghus the Destroyer dragon swoops down and removes her from the battlefield and takes her to his cave. Unable to resist her courage and her beauty, Fearghus heals her instead of dining on her. As the dragon and the lady fall in love, her sibling continues his vigil to kill the only person whoever opposed him, his sister.

"Chains and Flames". Dragon Queen Addiena informs her First Born White Dragonwitch daughter Rhiannon that she will mate with lord dragon Bercelak. Addiena calls him the "Great" while Rhiannon insists he is the "Vengeful". Rhiannon's choice is to die or accept the Claiming of Bercelak as her mate.

These two entreating dragon romances are fun to read from the moment that Fearghus snatches Annwyl from the battle. Whereas "Dragon Actually" is a full length medieval paranormal thriller, "Chains and Flames" is a novella dragon equivalent of "Meet the Fockers (or at least what their courtship must have been like). Both are well written complements.

The Highlander
Heather Grothaus
Zebra Books
9781420102420, $5.99

In 1077 Englishwoman Evelyn Godewin, knowing she needs to start life over, agrees to escort elderly Minerva Buchanan who wants to go home to the Highlands to die. However, instead of stopping on Buchanan land, Minevera takes them to the estates of the MacKerrick, specifically Ronan who she whispers she is coming to him just before she dies. Eve has no time to grief or to ponder what next as savage wolves attack her while she is in a forest. To her shock a wolf she names Alinor saves her life and escorts her to a haven; a nearby cottage.

Highland chieftain Conall MacKerrick grieves the deaths of his wife and child; he beleievs his family curse killed them so he runs away from his clan to hide in his forest cottage. He is shocked to find an occupant and demands she leave immediately. Desperate to stay, Eve lies to him claiming she is Clan Buchanan; considered the key element in breaking the MacKerrick curse. As they fall in love, Eve knows she must tell him the truth that she is not the right blood to end the curse.

THE HIGHLANDER is a terrific eleventh century historical romance starring two seemingly opposites with a lot more in common than they realize at first look falling in love. The Evelyn is a dedicated person whose courage and strength fascinate Conall (and readers). However, he is the more interesting protagonist as he struggles with a curse that haunts him and his clan even as he wonders if she is the destined one to save them. Heather Grothaus provides a wonderfully exciting uplifting tale of love.

The Price of Desire
Jo Goodman
Zebra Books
1420101749, $6.99

In 1823 Alastair Cole owes Viscount Griffin Wright-Jones 1000 pounds due tomorrow; he does not have the money to make remittance in less than twelve hours so he pleads for four days. As quid pro quo collateral the Viscount claims the family emerald ring Cole wears; to be returned with a prompt payment.

Two men, Mr. Fairley and Mr. Varah come to collect Mrs. Cole; unaware that Olivia is his sister not his wife. They deliver her to Griffin who tells them they paid their debt in full. Griffin realizes she is either Alistair's cousin or sister when he offered her in remittance of his debt. Even now the idiot is back at the gaming hells having learned nothing. He is a bit surprised as to how calm the very tall willowy woman is when he presents the facts to her. Her bravery is obvious and soon she demands to deal in his gambling hell. As they fall in love, they become entangled in a dangerous game in which the bet is your life.

The lead pairing make for an enjoyable Regency romance as their banter is delightful fun to follow. Readers will admire the unsinkable Olivia as she displays strong conviction and courage throughout. Griffin is somewhat mysterious and on the surface seems hard yet Olivia sees inside to his soul especially when he does not force her into his bed as the payment allows him. Much of the rest of the Ton are hedonistic losers who will leave readers wondering how the sun failed to set on the British Empire prior to Victoria's ascendancy.

Elvis and the Dearly Departed
Peggy Webb
075822589X, $22.00

All the Elvis sightings in the world are bogus because he lives in a small Mississippi town reincarnated as a basset hound dog with all his memories intact. Right now he is torn between Daddy Jack Jones and Callie Valentine Jones, who both want custody of him. He observes and connects the events that Callie is not aware of including how her soon to be ex husband makes a living. She works in the family owned Eternal Rest Funeral Home.

They are taking care of the late well-known Dr. Leonard Laton, whose will cuts off his children without a dime except for his adopted son Kevin who he left a million dollars. The rest of his fortune goes to Las Vegas stripper, his mistress Bubbles Malone. She makes a surprising visit to the funeral home. After she leaves, Laton's corpse disappears. Callie and cousin Lovie follow Bubbles and they hope to find Leonard in Vegas. They find a body in a deep freezer owned by Bubbles, but when they open it they find the murdered body of Bubbles. The two learn the body of Laton reappeared and is back in its' coffin at the funeral home, but Callie and Lovie have to figure out who killed Bubbles which means investigating the ugly Laton family.

Readers will enjoy this amusing amateur sleuth as Elvis' sidebar commentaries make for a humorous reincarnated celeb lit mystery. In some ways the whodunit plot supports the antics of the characters especially the cousins, Jack, Elvis and the corpses. Peggy Webb provides a light heard hilarious romp as Elvis can't even find blue suede shoes that fit his paws.

Amor and Summer Secrets
Diana Rodriguez Wallach
9780758225535, $9.95

In Philadelphia an argument occurs between forty-five years old Lorenzo Ruiz and his eighteen years old son Vincent over what is family and their heritage. Lorenzo having arrived in Camden as a ten year old accompanying his older brothers and their parents never looked back. However the fight shames Lorenzo who ignored his roots and Americanized his offspring. To atone for his slap at his DNA pool, he decides to send Vince and his other child fifteen-year old Mariana to spend time learning their heritage. Instead of hanging out with her friends and attending sweet sixteens, an unhappy Mariana and a euphoric Vince are shipped to some distant relatives she never met in Puerto Rico for the summer.

Mariana feels punished for her father's sins and in the remote mountain home of her great aunt and uncle finds herself bored and lonely. There is no air except the occasional breeze that blows hot; no fast food only ultra spiced meals she cannot pronounce; no English except for cousin Lilly; no privacy or even posters on walls. So why she wonders is she having the greatest summer of her life.

The characters especially Mariana make for a strong entertaining contemporary tale. Vince sets the tone with his bet on the flight down that his sulking sister will cry on the way home because she will be sad that the most wonderful summer of her life is over. The story line contains a strong cast that provides deep insight into Puerto Rican extended families with a divide between those living on the island and those residing in the States. Diana Rodriguez Wallach provides a superb intelligent tale about how friendships make a place feel like home even when you first believe the Doors are right that "People are strange when you're a stranger".

Tuscan Holiday
Holly Chamberlin
0758214030, $14.00

Single mom Elizabeth Caldwell is proud of her daughter Marina who just graduated from college. However, she is concerned that her offspring is marrying Boston Brahmin Jotham Grandin for all the wrong reasons. Turning into a pop psychiatrist Elizabeth believes Marina is submissive to her fiance on everything; and marrying him not out of love or even friendship, but more a reaction to avoid the victim mistake her mom made over two decades ago. As a graduation present, she buys two tickets to Italy. Marina thinks it is for her and her fiance, but Elizabeth awkwardly corrects her that this TUSCAN HOLIDAY is for mom and daughter.

Elizabeth knows she is not a role model having been unable to fully commit to her lover Rob after thirteen years together, but hopes to reconnect with her daughter and prays Marina finds some passion. In Italy, Elizabeth is ready to give up as Marina behaves like the condemned walking the last mile to their execution. Suddenly the air seems fresher and livelier when Marina meets Luca who brings a zest for life that has both women reconsidering their relationships back home.

This is an entertaining look at relationships especially between a mom and a daughter. The lead pair rotates perspective so that the audience sees the same event at times almost entirely different as the two female Caldwells bring personal lenses to the mix. Fans will enjoy this fine family drama.

The Forbidden Daughter
Shobhan Bantwal
0758220308, $14.00

Their first offspring was female so Nikhil and Isha Tilak expect their second child to be a male. However, they are stunned when ultrasound test confirms Isha is carrying a girl. Nikhil's affluent parents demand their daughter-in-law abort the female fetus. Even her physician Dr. Larnik recommends ending her pregnancy with an illegal abortion.

Nikhil says no as he wants his offspring to live and also worries about the health of his wife. However, he suddenly is murdered. Isha believes her husband's modern day western stance against the abortion on demand due to the fetus being the wrong gender led to his homicide. She assumes she is next if she fails to abort ASAP.

THE FORBIDDEN DAUGHTER is an insightful look at the international abortion industry in which a prime reason to destroy the fetus is the wrong gender especially in patriarchal societies. The story line is at its best when the focus is on Nikhil, Isha and their extended families (especially his) as they put faces to the abortion issue. When the plot pontificates against the free use of abortion, some of the sting is lost as the pressure on Nikhil to do his duty and then after he is murdered on his pregnant widow to do her duty loses some of the impact. Still well written, this astute tale affirms no one gets as deep into Indian society as Shobhan Bantwal does (see THE DOWRY BRIDE).

I Want You to Want Me
Kathy Love
Kensington Brava
9780758218575, $14.00

Allegedly Erika Todd insists she moved to New Orleans to be close to her recently married friend and to jump-start her career as a sculptor. In reality she knows she moved because her fortune teller, known for accuracy, insisted she must starting with her now house mate, a black cat. The only thing that has not happened yet is finding her true love.

She is attracted to her neighbor Vittorio Ridgewood, but he avoids her like she has the plague. He knows he wants her too, but the two century old vampire has sworn off mortals as they die leaving him forlorn; grieving is not worth the short time he would give away his heart. His perspective radically changes when his stalker abducts her.

The sequel to ANYWAY YOU WANT IT is an entertaining paranormal romantic suspense romp. The fast-paced story line centers on whether Erika can persuade Vittorio that he only has fangs for her; she fails until the "matchmaking" kidnapper forces the issue; albeit deep into the plot. Vampire romance fans will enjoy this amusing tale between the immortal and the human sculptor.

Lydia Parks
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758228451, $12.95

"Once Bitten". Vampire Jake Brand is a caring person who needs blood for sustenance, but always politely asks permission of a possible donor. He also insures his volunteers enjoy the sexual experience of being with him. His world is perfect until he meets the human Athena, who has him dreaming of being a monogamist blood eater.

"Bite Me Again". Centuries old vampire Daniel Ward is proud of his ability to take blood while sexually satisfying his volunteers. However, he is very careful with his donors for he still remembers his youthful salad days when the bloodlust overcame his control. Now after decades of self control, he meets Meg who heats up his blood with passion and desire he has not felt in hundreds of years.

The lead couples are similar as the vampires are compassionate caring souls who feel strongly that to take blood without permission is rape, and the human females who boil their blood are somewhat innocent sharp women. Both tales are filled with bite as alpha vamps fall for feisty mortals making fun to read novellas; Lydia Parks delivers a pair of well written erotic vampire romances

Everlasting Bad Boys
Shelly Laurenston, Cynthia Eden, Noelle Mack
Kensington Brava
9780758228505, $14.00

"Can't Get Enough" by Shelly Laurenston. Ailean the Wicked is one bad ass shapeshifter who is renowned for his fighting skills as a human and as a dragon. He has captured dragoness Shalin the Innocent with plans to win her even though her inflamed bellicose family want to make him toast.

"Spellbound" by Cynthia Eden. Someone wants witch Serena Tyme and her coven dead. Desperate as the adversary is obviously very powerful, she summons soul-hunter Luis D'Amil's to save her and the other witches. His price is her.

"Turn Me On" by Noelle Mack. Marketing analyst Beth Danforth loves her new job at SpectraSign and not just because she is half in love with her boss Justin Watts, the firms electrifying CEO.

Sub-genre fans will enjoy these three fine paranormal romances though the tones differ even as each stars a bod boy of an otherworldly species. Surprisingly the women seem more developed than the males as their "badness" never fully comes across. Still these are entertaining tales that widen the bad boys' concept into fantasy realms.

Sexy Beast V
Kate Douglas, Vonna Harper, Crystal Jordan
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758219893, $12.95

"Chanku Wild" by Kate Douglas. Shapeshifters Oliver Chen and Mei are obvious Chanku lifemates. However, although they love each other, they have one humongous problem that threatens to keep them apart. He is wolf and she is snow leopard.

"Night Scream" by Vonna Harper. Near Flagstaff, skeptic Amy Murphy attends a Walapai Apache ceremony. That is until Tohon confronts her to learn the meaning behind the cry of the puma, to deal with life's difficulties past and present lives, and to love sex in any shape or form.

"In Ice" by Crystal Jordan. In the distant future, Jain Roberts' ship crashes on an icy planet where she is rescued by Kesuk, clan leader of the shapeshifting Arctic Bears. He entices her with sexy dreams that he plans to make real.

These three paranormal erotic romances are fun tales to read. Kate Douglas' contribution is well written and continues her series, but newcomers will be lost without at least reading Wolf Tales VI. Sub-genre fans will enjoy these hot romantic fantasies especially the were-bear melting the ice around Jain's heart and the introspective relationship of "Night Scream".

Dead Stop
Jamie Denton
Kensington Brava
9780758210166, $14.00

Serenity Heights Sentinel reporter Ainsley Brennan is concerned with the package that she finds on her desk as there is no return address. The label on the tape inside says: "Day One". She plays the recording to hear tormented female screams. Not long after listening to the harrowing tape, the mutilated corpse of young woman is found in the woods.

Ainsley tries to persuade deputy police chief Beck Raines that this is the beginning; he reluctantly agrees. After burning out as a LAPD homicide detective, he came here for peace and quiet. Now he fears he is working a ritual serial killer case who has just stared with the murder of a freshman and he fears a second murder as another young woman has vanished. Worse he is attracted to the beautiful nosy Ainsley who he worries could be next.

DEAD STOP is an exciting investigative romantic suspense starring two likable competitors falling in love. The subplot of a major conglomerate buying the local paper adds a touch of reality to the fine tale. The killer is somewhat typical of the sub-genre, as the culprit is in plain sight yet able to hide his psychopathic tendencies from everyone. Jamie Denton provides a fun to read police-procedural-journalist investigative romantic thriller as the predator is watching the "Bitch".

Make U Sweat
Amie Stuart
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758228550, $12.95

Three Cavanaugh females (sisters Reece and Robbie Jo and their cousin Carla) inherit the Texas based Cavanaugh Brothers Moving Company. The trio plans to take control of the business.

"Move Me". Reece believes she must be in control at all times; psychologist Jack Saunders wants her to understand it is okay to sometimes allow the man to be on top.

"The Right Moves". Robbie Jo is a man-eater; her sister warns her to stay away from the crew. She did until battered former rodeo rider Cash McBride joins the firm; she wants him to ride her.

"Make a Move". Carla feels a bit of an outsider not because her partners are sisters. She wants to make decisions that do not require her sweating with muscles. However, this causes some friction at Cavanaugh Brothers Moving Company, but also introduces her to attorney Josh Winters

These three interrelated novellas will move the audience as the readers learn the true meaning of relativity. The same event is seen through the relative eyes of each female and their respective love interest. Although not as heated or containing the varying sexual encounters as the typical Aphrodisia, MAKE U SWEAT is a strong contemporary with no closure so a "Make U Sweat More sequel seems apparent.

The Pleasure of His Bed
Melissa MacNeal, Donna Grant, Annalise Russell
Kensington Aphrodisia
9780758228543, $12.95

"The Captain's Courtesan" by Melissa MacNeal. In 1717 Captain Damon Delacroix escorts the daughters of wealthy Lord Havisham from England to America. However, at sea he finds stowaway Sophia Martine, who enjoys his dominating her.

"Ties That Bind" by Donna Grant. Betrayed Kingdom of Hesione Queen Jarina is outraged as she has become a sex slave in Pereth, home of her country's enemies. Then she meets her master King Kyros of Pereth whose touch makes her crave being his loyal subject.

"In His Bed" by Annalise Russell. Chessa persuades the Viking Bodin to take her safely home in exchange for her being his sex slave while they travel. Neither expects to want to continue their relationship once he drops her off, but both find they need more.

These three torrid erotic historical romances are filled with sex, sex, and sex starring strong alpha males and submissive females (even the queen). The lead cast is solid (no male pun intended) and the frequent trysts well written, but the plots are shallow with none containing any depth beyond the encounters.

Nature of the Beast
Hannah Howell, Adrienne Basso, and Eve Silver
9780758228468, $12.00

"Dark Hero" by Hannah Howell. In 1512 Scotland Berawald lives in a cave to limit all the spirits he sees. He notices a living child David who he brings inside his cave and goes to the beach to see if the lad's older sister Eve lives. He is stunned that he desires the battered unconscious woman. He takes her into his cave and begins to heal her. A few days later Eve awakens and knows David is okay by his laughter. As they fall in love, each has secrets if revealed would end their relationship; but if concealed will end their relationship anyway.

"Bride of the Beast" by Adrienne L. Basso. In 1220 thirteen year old Bethan detests her evil stepfather Sir Agnarr. Bethan liberates a few prisoners including young Haydn of Gwynnedd before her stepfather murders them. Ten years later Bethan seeks a champion; Lord Meiford agrees to help her because she freed him from Agnarr's prison a decade ago. As Bethan and Hayden fall in love, he fears her reaction to his essence.

"Kiss of the Vampire" by Eve Silver. In 1839 London day nurse Sarah is alone since her dad died. She works at King's College Hospital Women's Sick Ward where she notices a man biting a woman's wrist. Surgeon Killian arrives, but the man is gone and the woman is dead. Two weeks later another patient dies with a cut wrist. Killian escorts Sarah home, but upon arrival she is stunned when she sees three presents in her apartment that could have only come from her dead father. Killian and Sarah make love and he bites her; she knows he is a vampire. Sarah tells Killian she loves him; he says he cannot love a mortal.

The three tales are all well written with strong lead characters as the vampires seem real in each novella although some readers might feel the Silver tale is more supernatural than romance.

Antiques Flee Market
Barbara Allan
9780758211958, $22.00

In Serenity, Mississippi, Brandy Borne and her mother Vivian are shopping for bargains at the flea market at the fairgrounds so they can stock their booth at the downtown antiques mall. While looking around they meet Vivian's friend Walter Yeager who introduces them to his granddaughter Chaz. Vivian prevents Walter from foolishly selling a first edition of Tarzan and the Apes at a ridiculously low price. A thief is running away with his loot and just as Brandy is about to stop him, Chaz prevents her asking her not to intervene as he is her boyfriend.

Vivian and Brandy go to visit Walter and while her daughter chats with Chaz, the mom enters the trailer to find Mr. Yeager dead. The police declare it a homicide and arrest Chaz, but Vivian hires her Chaz a lawyer to represent her. He gets her off on a technicality. The Tarzan book is missing and Brandy finds she is in a case in which Joe, her friend who is a veteran suffering from PTSD is also missing and he wanted the Tarzan book. When Brandy is knocked out, Joe is found and arrested, but the Borne pair thinks he is innocent so they investigate.

The writing team of Barbara Collins and Max Allan Collins provide readers with an entertaining cozy that will bring sunshine on an overcast autumn day due to the loving often frustrating relationships between the mother and daughter. Although Brandy is the star, mom steals the show as she lands the duet in ridiculous predicaments. Fans will enjoy this latest "Treasures Mystery" as the bipolar mom treats her daughter like a child even though we and Brandy know she is the mom.

Elizabeth Amber
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758220413, $12.95

In 1823 Lyon is the last Satyr sibling standing since his brothers married (see NICHOLAS and RAINE) two of the daughters of the Faery King. He would prefer to remain single, but like his brothers know he has no choice but to obey his monarch and wed his offspring.

Thus Lyon leaves his beloved Tuscany wine fields to head to Paris to marry Juliette Rabelais, the city's most infamous courtesan renowned for her cuisine and carnality skills that when combined is heaven. As the full moon is coming, he needs to return home, but he is unsure who seduced whom.

The third Lords of Satyr romantic historical urban fantasy with a bit of a mystery is much darker in tone than the previous two tales, but contains the same fast-paced excitement with strong characterizations. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the relocating Lyon travels to Paris to meet his new wife, a fallen woman with a murder charge hanging over her in his beloved Tuscany from three years ago. Fans of the mini series will know what that means to the couple. Elizabeth Amber provides a strong finish to a powerful saga.

Sweet and Sinful
Jodi Lynn Copeland
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758227116, $12.95

"Just Like Candy". Shy Courtney Baxter wants to be as seductive and desired as her cubicle teammate fun loving Candy Masterson. So the country bumpkin undergoes a total remake that has men in heat especially hunk Blaine Baxter, who shows his meddle when someone stalks the new look Courtney.

"Hard Candy". Candy is as shook as Courtney was with the stalking. She decides to redo her image into a less seductive style, but not give up the sex she loves. After recovering from a health scare, she meets Ty Louis in her apartment complex and soon realizes she wants more than just a tryst or three. He does too, but his vocation is also calling.

These two interrelated erotic novellas are entertaining tales starring two pairs of fully developed lead characters. The stalker adds a suspense element to "Just Like Candy" whereas "Hard Candy" feeds off of the scare and the title character's health issue.

Vision of Seduction
Cassie Ryan
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758220669, $12.95

Seer Katelyn Hunt cannot help but notice the strange hunk who has been spending time at her New Age store recently; the handsome stranger seems out of place even in her weird shop, but like her partner Rita says no mind-blowing sex without first saying hi. Katelyn she feels like a stalker when she goes to introduce herself to Grayson de Klatch. An elderly pushy woman gets between them followed not long after by an army invading her premises.

In the scuffle, Katelyn is knocked out. When she awakens she knows she is on another planet that for some weird reason feels familiar; a sort of deja vu. Meanwhile her last new customer, Prince Grayson de Klatch believes she is the seer he has searched for to save his world Tador. The planet is dying unless sexual energy rejuvenates it. Grayson also believes like he did on earth, he has found at last his lifemate, but fears how his beloved Katelyn will react when he tells her the truth

This is a terrific erotic romantic science fiction thriller with some paranormal elements enhancing the exciting story line. The lead couple is a delightful pairing in and out of the boudoir as they feed off of each other. However it is his people and planet that brings depth to a superb outer space tale.

Lord Of The Dark
Dawn Thompson
Kensington Aphrodisia
0758221800, $12.95

Gideon the fallen Guardian of the Principalities of Arcus thought he knew suffering when the slightest touch of his wings turns him into an animal in heat, but he will soon learn how wrong his belief is. He believes he deserves his punishment of eternal exile to the Dark Isle for angels are forbidden to lust after mortals, but he will soon learn how unfair his punishment is.

He has survived for eons but now comes a crisis that rips his soul. The most beautiful female he has ever seen, Rhiannon washes up on his beach surviving the Pegasus shipwreck. He knows he must not tamper with her innocence, but his desire for her is way beyond the wind caressing his wings. He thinks of her and turns hot and bothered. Making matters worse, Rhiannon reciprocates heat for heat. As they fall in love, Gideon's biggest fear is the Gods will punish him by punishing her.

LORD OF THE DARK is a deep erotic romantic fantasy with a different overall spin than Dawn Thompson's previous tales (see THE RAVENCLIFF BRIDE, THE WATERLORD, THE FALCON'S BRIDE, AND BLOOD MOON); this story line is much more fantasy with the romance serving as a critical but support subplot. Fans of the late great Ms. Thompson will relish this superb thriller as the lead couple struggles with outside interference, his eternal sentence, and their love (in that order) with no hope for the future.

Blood Alone
James R. Benn
Soho Press
853 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
1569475164, $24.00,

In 1943 the Allied army invades Sicily. However, General Eisenhower's Special Investigator Billy Boyle carries a special message, but not from his boss who is a distant relative. The former Boston police detective brings a note from American Mafiosi Don Lucky Luciano to the Sicilian Mafia asking them to not fight the American soldiers.

However Billy is wounded before he can deliver his message. As he struggles with amnesia, less scrupulous individuals plan to take advantage of the battlefields. One particular felon needs Billy dead before his memories return; while Billy slowly puts together his past and his assignment making him wonder if he is a mob hit man.

The third Boyle WWII thriller is an exciting tale that brings to life Sicily in 1943 (see THE FIRST WAVE). As the allies invade the island, readers obtain a taste of the abject poverty alongside of mob rule. Although the amnesia ploy is an over used technique, Billy is terrific as he struggles more with what type of person he is than with just who he is. James R. Benn provides another fascinating look at the madness and anarchy of war in the European Theater of Operation.

Hurting Distance
Sophie Hannah
Soho Press
1569475210, $25.00

Sundial maker Naomi Jenkins comes to the Spilling police station because she is panicking over the whereabouts of her forty years old lover Robert Haworth, a lorry driver. Every Thursday for the past year, they have met at the Rawndesley East Services Traveltel for a three hour tryst; the married with no kids Robert failed to show up for the first time; Naomi believes his wife Juliet harmed him.

Detective Sergeant Charlie Zailer and Detective Constable Simon Waterhouse have no time for a trivial side inquiry as they work on the case of a blatant serial rapist who charges admission to watch him live while he forces himself on career women. They take a haphazard look into the reported Haworth disappearance, but his wife convinces the police he is not missing. Realizing the cops are going to drop the case, Naomi claims Robert raped her three years earlier. Simon visits Robert's home to question him re the allegation only to find him dying from knife wounds. Meanwhile as more victims surface Charlie gets involved with resort owner Graham Anguilley that keeps her mind off the case.

Loaded with brilliant twists and red herrings, the second Spilling English police procedural (see LITTLE FACES, not read by me) is a terrific tale that focuses on the victims and culprits of violent crimes as the investigation serves as a mechanism for a deep look at the symbiotic nature of violence; and not just crime. Ironically love can turn into a bullying "sibling" relationship between a victim and their perpetrator. Fans will appreciate this strong insightful thriller filled with spins into the psyche of people.

Bones in the Belfry
Suzette A. Hill
Soho Press
9781569475102, $24.95

In Molehill, Surrey, Vicar Reverend Francis Oughterard feels remorse and guilt for choking to death a parishioner (see A LOAD OF OLD BONES). He beat the rap thanks to his brilliant pets Maurice the cat and Bouncer the dog who removed revealing evidence from the crime scene.

When his former theology classmate, Nicholas Ingaza Oughterard asks him to hide stolen art in the vicarage, Francis reluctantly agrees; not out of some college loyalty but because Nicholas gave him his phony alibi. However, a true crime writer obtains permission to look around the church and belfry forcing the beleaguered clergy to relocate the paintings in his sister's home. Things turn worse when one of the masterpieces is put up for fundraising.

BONES IN THE BELFRY is an amusing British crime caper that older readers will think of Terry Thomas starring as the helpless beleaguered Vicar who seems to somehow find himself trapped in criminal activities. This time his saviors Maurice and Bouncer realize there is very little they can do to keep the hands that feed them out of jail. The two pets makes the tale fun to read with their resigned feline and canine sense of inevitability in which their human pet will be locked up; if not this time, perhaps the next time. Purist mystery fans need to pass as there is no detecting, but those readers who appreciate the antics of a humorous bungler supported by an eccentric cast of human fumblers and two loyal brilliant animals will want to read the lighthearted BONES IN THE BELFRY.

Rainstone Fall
Peter Helton
Soho Press
9781569475256, $25.00

In waterlogged Bath, England the caller makes it clear he knows that artist Chris Honeysett and his two barn associates painter Annis Jordan and former safecracker Tim Bigwood have solved a couple mysteries (see SLIM CHANCE and HEADCASE). He informs Chris that he abducted a fifteen years old boy; if he wants to recover the teen alive and without bodily mutilation, Chris will commit thefts.

Unsure how to react to the macabre call, Chris finds his car is stolen. When the vehicle is recovered there is a corpse inside. Chris begins a desperate game of robberies to save the lad as he takes his caller seriously. However, he also with his sleuth partners tries to find the lad and his kidnapper.

The keys to this exciting tale are Bath in the wet season and Honeysett is still recovering from injuries, but caught up in a save the child or else scenario. He and his two sleuthing buddies make the tale seem genuine with their frantic efforts to rescue the teen if there even is one to save as they have doubts but cannot take a chance of doing nothing. Fans will enjoy Honeysett's tour of rain soaked Autumn in Bath.

The Red Country
Sylvia Kelso
Five Star Books
295 Kennedy Memorial Drive, Waterville, ME 04901
1594147078, $25.95, 1-800-223-1244

With an ego bigger than the Kingdom of Everran and logic smaller than a grain of sand, haughty Princess Sellithar runs away from the palace in Saphar to follow a dream in the Hethria desert as sitting on the throne has proven to be a nightmare. Rebels from within plot sedition to remove the young royal and formerly friendly larger neighbors plan to annex the kingdom. Her teacher Kastir, an Estar political exile, accompanies her hoping to keep her safe.

The pair meets many strange beings as they venture across the land. During their enlightening journey the desert people and the nearby farmers are in heated dispute. Sellithar feels a need to reconcile the two groups for the sake of the kingdom. She also begins to realize she must determine what to do about the telepathic legendary mage Zam who she is attracted to but in some ways fears because his allegiance is to Hethria.

The third Rihannar Chronicles tale (see EVERRAN'S BANE and THE MOVING WATER) is a great coming of age fantasy starring a fascinating young woman who must grow up fast to save her kingdom and her people. The story line is fast-paced from the onset with a theme somewhat similar to EVERRAN'S BANE. Although the vernacular can be a bit distracting (that is why a glossary is included) Sylvia Kelso writes a strong tale.

Walter Sorrells
c/o Penguin Putnam
375 Hudson Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY 10014-3657
9780525478324, $16.99, 1-800-847-5515

In Alsberg, Minnesota, seventh grader Jessica Sternberg knows she has always been different as she is taller than all the boys and can jump higher than any of them. However, she prefers reading to basketball to the chagrin of the basketball coach who believes she would make them a state contender. Thus it is not shocking for her to enter Queeg & Rosewood Antiquarian where the owners insist they have her book already paid for at a cost of, $3719 to give her. The book is titled "Her Lif". Jessica looks at the last page and realizes that the owners try to kill her. She escapes by grabbing a paperweight that she drops outside; the building vanishes.

Jessica runs into her best friend Dale McDuffie who got a call from the most famous library in the world insisting he needs to return his borrowed copy of My Lif. Soon the pair is involved in all sorts of adventures caused by the ERRATUM to My Lif. Whereas villain Bob Robbins wants to vacuum a hole in the universe; Jessica is destiny's child trying to prevent it from happening.

Though the audience is fourth to sixth grade, ERRATUM is a fantastic complex science fiction thriller that uses string theory as the basis of the adventures of a wonderful seventh grader that children and adults of all ages will relish. Jessica is a terrific tweener though at times she seems much more mature as she struggles to add the "e" to Her Lif and eliminate the ERRATUM. With libraries never the same and an incredible final Twilight Zone like twist, fans will root for Jessica as she tries to save the universe.

Chelsea Cain
St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
031236847X, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

Emotionally scarred detective Archie Sheridan returns to his hometown of Portland, Oregon hoping to find some peace, but doubts he will succeed. He feels deranged as he still dreams of serial killer Gretchen Lowell as his SWEETHEART although he no longer visits her as he did weekly when she was first incarcerated. He hopes work will help him forget his deranged HEARTSICK mind starting with the murder at Forest Park; the place where Lowell left her first victim.

While Archie battles with his mental state, Herald reporter Susan Ward writes an article accusing U.S. senator Castle of seducing the then fourteen years old babysitter of his children ten years ago. Two more corpses are found in Forest Park and Gretchen escapes from prison. When Castle dies, Susan finds a connection between his sex scandal and the park deaths. When Gretchen escapes from prison, Archie knows he must confront the Beauty Killer who he is obsessed over before she begins a second serial killing spree.

This is an exhilarating police procedural sequel due to the emotional relationship between Gretchen and Archie who understand one another. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action as the subplots tie together, but it is the odd coupling as it was in HEARTSICK that makes SWEETHEART a must read.

A Secret and Unlawful Killing
Cora Harrison
St. Martin's Press
031237268X, $24.95

In 1509 everyone in the Burren region of Ireland looks forward to the Michelmas Fair until Steward Ragnall MacNamara raises the annual tribute. Even before his avarice spin, the pompous nasty Stewart was an unpopular individual with many wanting him dead. Someone however decides to do the deed beating MacNamara to death in a churchyard.

The only LADY JUDGE in Ireland Brehon Mara leads the investigation into the homicide and the murder of another unlikable chap, Ragnall's enemy Aengus the miller. However as she expected seemingly everyone residing in the Burren had a motive to kill the odious Steward and disliked the Miller. The case seems to be going nowhere, but the Brehon continues her inquiries knowing the people need resolution.

The key to this excellent sixteenth century legal investigative thriller is the insight into Irish law during that era. The cast is strong with key players developed enough to enhance the exciting plot. Especially fully developed is the heroine whose intelligence and courage enables her to break through the gender barrier; in fact men somewhat fear her. However, the tidbits cleverly interwoven into the Brehon's inquiries so that they may seem odd today make for a fine refreshing historical tale.

A Secret and Unlawful
Cora Harrison
St. Martin's Press
031237268X, $24.95

In 1509 everyone in the Burren region of Ireland looks forward to the Michelmas Fair until Steward Ragnall MacNamara raises the annual tribute. Even before his avarice spin, the pompous nasty Stewart was an unpopular individual with many wanting him dead. Someone however decides to do the deed beating MacNamara to death in a churchyard.

The only LADY JUDGE in Ireland Brehon Mara leads the investigation into the homicide and the murder of another unlikable chap, Ragnall's enemy Aengus the miller. However as she expected seemingly everyone residing in the Burren had a motive to kill the odious Steward and disliked the Miller. The case seems to be going nowhere, but the Brehon continues her inquiries knowing the people need resolution.

The key to this excellent sixteenth century legal investigative thriller is the insight into Irish law during that era. The cast is strong with key players developed enough to enhance the exciting plot. Especially fully developed is the heroine whose intelligence and courage enables her to break through the gender barrier; in fact men somewhat fear her. However, the tidbits cleverly interwoven into the Brehon's inquiries so that they may seem odd today make for a fine refreshing historical tale.

Rough and Tumble
Mark Bavaro
St. Martin's Press
0312375743, $24.95

New York Giants tight end Dominic Fucillo is having a tough season while his mates are on a roll that he hopes will leave him with a Superbowl ring. The Commissioner fines Dominic, $50,000 for attacking a referee during the Eagles loss and his girlfriend will not talk to him. Minor inconveniences when compared to the team physician telling him his once blown out knee has a hole in it requiring post season surgery. Dominic understands the knife will occur after the season ends just like he knows this time his career will be over with the needed operation.

However, Dominic's final run to glory is hampered by the team's superstar drug using linebacker James Moze. He was recently beaten to a pulp by either gamblers who he hangs with or drug peddlers. As the team begins a victorious march towards the playoffs, every form of human lice converges with demands on the Giants.

Although not new as football exposure stories have been around for years, former great tight end Mark Bavaro provides a thrilling but dark look at the NFL. The eccentric cast makes the story line engaging especially for football fans as the audience obtains a deep look at what happens behind the scene to a professional football team especially when they make a strong run for the championship.

A Song for You
Betsy Thornton
St. Martin's Press
0312380623, $24.95

Seventeen years ago in Dudley, Arizona, Rachel Macabee comes home to find her mother Annie lying in bed with her face blown away. The police arrested her mom's boyfriend Kurt because he lent Annie Glenn his gun, which turned out to be the murder weapon. Rachel never believed he shot her mom and was pleased when he was acquitted. Except for testifying at his trial, she never returned to Dudley.

A nice couple buys a home in Dudley when the monsoon rains ruin a retaining wall. They hire people to dig out the dirt only to find a human skeleton buried there. The remains are identified as Wynn Wyckoff, who performed in the same band as Annie did. Rachel sees the obvious connection and hires private investigator Bryan Flynn to look into her mother's cold case murder. Since he is busy at the moment, his new employee and ex girlfriend, former victim's advocate Chloe Newcombe leads the inquiry; Chloe is leaving the job she loved due to an incompetent interfering political hack new supervisor. They work separately on the case seeking clues to the homicides and hoping they can bring closure to Rachel, who just came home, but remains traumatized after all these years and in spite of the love of her father and her husband.

This is an exciting private investigative whodunit enhanced by colorful secondary characters who the readers meet mostly through the inquiries of Chloe and to a degree Bryan especially in Dudley. Although there are too many points of view and the ending seems inadequate, Chloe makes the tale work as she learns on the job how to interview, find clues, and survive; all part of remedial private investigation 099. Fans will enjoy her efforts as her work coupled with Rachel's return to Dudley place both in peril from a clever just out of sight ever watching killer.

Sherrilyn Kenyon
St. Martin's Press
0312362153, $25.95

In 9548 BC Katoteros, based on the prophecy of three of his bastard daughters, an irate Archon angrily directs his horde to kill their unborn child. Archon's wife of several centuries Apollymi and her Charonte demons flee as she refuses to allow him to murder her baby. Feeling betrayed by her spouse as she always remained loyal, Apollymi and her followers kill any in the Pantheon that get in their way. The baby she names Apostolos is lifted from her and hidden inside a pregnant Queen Aara having his essence merged with the baby inside. Apollymi gives her spouse a stone baby and warns him that when the time comes her son will return to destroy him and his followers; he vows to find and kill his offspring.

By the time he is seven years old Acheron knows his parents hate him though they know from an oracle to prevent his death or else; only his sister Ryssa cares about him. However, she cannot understand why he is treated so badly over the next few years. He concludes the Gods cursed him but has no idea why as everyone except Ryssa loathes and fears him. In his death, the horror comes to devastate the world; only he can save humanity but he does not want to return to save those who spurned him when he lived; besides which he knows who will come for him if he returns.

Throughout the extremely well written Dark Hunter saga, readers have waited for Acheron's tale to be told. The pressure on Sherrilyn Kenyon must have been immense, but like the Redeem Team she comes through with a great tale. From the opening sequence when a desperate Goddess tries to save her unborn from his father to New Orleans fans will relish the "biography" of the titled character. In a sense two related novels with over four hundred pages each occurring eleven millennium ago and about three hundred in New Orleans, Ms. Kenyon's excellent thriller will be on most fans' short list for fantasy of the year.

Treasure of Eden
S.L. Linnea
St. Martin's Press
0312942168, $6.99

Army chaplain Jaime Richards arranges for him to do occasional special projects for Eden where she spent three years learning eternal secrets. Her current task is to escort to safety Edenite Dr. Andrea Farmer to the World Economic Summit in Davos, Switzerland in time to prevent fiscal subversion destroying the international monetary system.

Corrupt CIA Political Officer Frank McMillan, a member of the Geneva Terrorism Task Force, believes the Garden of Eden exists and has some circumstantial evidence that ties Jaime to the biblical Garden. When the legendary Treasure of Eden surfaces with an artifact put up for bid on eBay, he no longer has doubts about either of his assertions. He plans to kidnap Jamie and torture her if need be into telling him everything she knows about Eden.

The latest frenetic action packed Eden thriller (see CHASING EDEN and BEYOND EDEN) is a terrific tale that combines biblical references with modern day intrigue. The story line grips the audience from the onset as McMillan's plans are revealed to the reader and never slows down as an incredible amount of escapades occur in an extremely short time span. Jaime is a fabulous protagonist holding the plot together as S.L. Linnea puts her through enough adventures to turn Job into a doubter. This is a superb entry in a fascinating saga.

Woman of a Thousand Secrets
Barbara Wood
St. Martin's Press
0312363699, $13.95

Her parents adopted Tonina as an infant although her much lighter skin meant she came from another land. She grew up tall, much taller than all the women and most of the men. Tonina was also competitive; rather than allow a potential suitor to defeat her in athletic contests; she participated and usually won especially in swimming. Finally her family worries that she has no man so they believe she must go from their tiny island to the nearby mainland seeking people just like her.

Her journey takes her to the Mayan Empire where she meets a barbarian outsider Kaan. They are attracted to one another, but he is married. When his wife dies, he begins the quest to insure her soul is cleansed. Soon Tonina joins him as they travel together to Mayapan bringing along an entourage of followers. However, Mayan Prince Balam has raised an army of many people with one battle in mind; destroy Kaan, who he holds culpable for all that has failed in his life. That means killing every follower who are both genders and all ages including elderly and children, but few soldiers.

WOMAN OF A THOUSAND SECRETS is a superb pre-Columbus Central American tale. The story line brings to life several cultures especially the Mayan, but to a lesser degree the islanders. Tonia is a fabulous central figure who holds the insightful plot together from the island to the mainland. Barbara Wood provides an entertaining Mayan Era historical.

Pure Blood
Caitlin Kittredge
St. Martin's Press
0312948301, $6.99

Threes months on medical leave after killing the former DA Duncan on her last case (see NIGHT LIFE), Nocturne City homicide detective Luna Wilder is finally back on the job. Her fist case on her first day back involves what looks like a male blood witch addict overdosing; a simple street OD case until medical examiner Kronen notices an anomaly. The victim's eyes show pretichial hemorrhaging, a symptom associated with choking not heroin.

She is not welcomed back to the precinct as a hero. Instead the rookies gawk, the veterans look concerned probably because of the tabloid publicity of an out of control werewolf cop, and her new hostile Captain Morgan informs her she is less than crap. When more witches die, Luna realizes she is investigating a witch gang war. She could use the help of her former lover Dimitri Sandovsky, but his pack forbids him seeing her as they blame Luna for his illness caused by a demon bite.

Luna is the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly rolled into one livid lone lobo werewolf as she follows the clues angering everyone who she meets. The case is fun to follow, but it is gritty Nocturne City that magically owns this dark police procedural urban fantasy. Fans will enjoy walking the mean streets with Luna half logical and half lunatic as she brings to life the gloomy exhilarating world of Caitlin Kittredge.

Lori Andrews
St. Martin's Press
0312352727, $24.95

DEA Agents Ted Silliman and Castro Baxter are part of a joint workforce with the Las Vegas Police Department investigating the use of the date rape drug "J"; the victims end up in many cases mutilated and dead. Evidence leads to the Fantasy Resort owned by septuagenarian Frankie "The Bayonet" DiBondi, but it makes no sense for him to deal with an illegal relatively minor remittance when his legal brothel brings in a million declared dollars a month and who knows how much of the profit iceberg remains beneath the surface. Still they follow DiBondi onto an Indian Reservation when Ted suddenly goes into convulsions and dies.

The official response is an overdose of cocaine, but Castro rejects it as inane because he knew his partner and knows what a cocaine death looks like. Armed Forces Institute of Pathology Dr. Alex Blake conducts an autopsy and agrees with Castro. She believes Simmons died from his body violently reacting with a hyper-immune response. Soon afterward his corpse disappears and DEA grabs the autopsy results and all related information to the Simmons' death. Teaming up with Castro, Alex learns of eight other identical deaths on that same night that all tie back to a fountain in a Taos, New Mexico public square. Based on unnamed government sources the media blames Native American radical rights group Red Rights for introducing a new "silent assassin" disease into the drinking water as a widening epidemic seems imminent with new deaths; shockingly Homeland Security chief Martin Kincade demands Blake and Castro back down or else.

This exhilarating conspiratorial thriller will grip readers with the opening prologue when the seemingly healthy but tired Silliman suddenly convulses. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action and strong characters (including the lead duo) with personal agendas; these protagonists represent real groups goals such as denoting Native American issues and signifying Homeland Security leaderships' self interest goals. Readers will enjoy the latest AFIP adventure.

The Way You Love Me
Francis Ray
St. Martin's Press
0312946848, $6.99

Shane Elliott and Paige Albright first met in Dallas; the former Ranger has not forgotten her though neither acted on their first encounter. Still when he sleeps he is DREAMING OF YOU, Paige. Not long after that about a hundred miles from Dallas, Shane, handling security at Sierra and Blade Navarone's estate on the Riviera Maya, catches an intruder, Paige. He warns her to leave town or else, but knows the only woman who moves his soul thinks he is disgusting.

Joann Albright arrives at the estate as a guest. She asks Shane to investigate Russell Crenshaw who has been dating Paige since her father died several months ago from a stroke. Joann believes Paige is seeing Russell to honor her beloved late father as his dad was her dad's business associate; Joann does not trust the man as she thinks he is interested in her multimillion dollar estate. He reluctantly agrees to watch over her though he wonders who will protect her from a relationship cynic like him.

Just when readers thought the Grayson brood was finished with ONLY YOU , Francis Ray widens her saga with the a new series the Grayson Friends. The opening act is a terrific contemporary romance even as the lead couple's attitudes mirror Sierra and Blade. As they fall in love, an Albright family secret threatens their relationship, but the resolution seems too fast. Still this is an engaging tale as fans will appreciate the opening act of the extended New Mexico clan.

Bite the Bullet
L.A. Banks
St. Martin's Press
031294912X, $6.99

Before meeting her lifemate Max Hunter under the full moon, Paranormal Containment Unit Squad leader Lieutenant Sasha Trudeau considered herself soldier, soldier and soldier before anything else. With Max at her side she has revised her prejudicial concepts about the paranormal even being one since she learned to delineate between werewolves, shadow wolves and demon werewolves. Her current mission is to kill the rogue demon infected werewolves and obtain samples of the toxin that has tainted them; Max believes vampires are behind a conspiracy to divide werewolf packs against one another.

While they are near the Canadian border looking for two of her familiars, make that subordinate soldiers, Max and Sasha fear what could happen at the United Council of Entities international meeting in New Orleans during a rare blue moon following upon Mardi Gras. Each worries that something bad will occur at the assembly of Fae, Pixies, Dragons, Werewolves and an assortment of paranormal ilk. As they prepare to prevent a catastrophe of species fratricide, Sasha worries that Max has been infected.

The second Crimson Moon paranormal para-ops suspense thriller grips the audience from the onset and never slows down for a nanosecond as the action keeps on coming. The story line is fast-paced, but it is the heroine who makes it work as Sasha will BITE THE BULLET to do her duty yet to succeed needs Max at her side, but fears he is going rogue. Once again sub-genre fans can bank on L.A. Banks to make the supernatural seem natural as violence is as paranormal as the pull of the moon.

Once Were Cops
Ken Bruen
St. Martin's Press
9780312384401, $22.95

Clever sociopathic Galway, Ireland cop Matthew Patrick "Shea" O'Shea arranges through extortion and blackmail for a one-year assignment with NYPD as part of a police exchange program. The Irish cop is teamed with abusive New York cop Kurt "Kebar" Browski.

Matthew knows he must hide his vice as his host city will not tolerate him choking to death beautiful women with lovely long swan necks. Shea realizes quickly his partner is as crazy as he is; perhaps even sicker as Matthew gains more pleasure than he does with roughing up someone. The two nasty police officers seem to work well together as poster-boys of police brutality until Kebar introduces Shea to his retarded sister, who has a beautiful long swan neck.

These two brutal cops who believe in taking no prisoners star in Ken Bruen's deep character study of two sadistic police officers abusing their authorities not so much to catch felons even but more for personal pleasure of sorts. The plot is somewhat limited though readers anticipate a violent showdown between the lead police officers once the long swan neck sibling is involved. Fans of Mr. Bruen will appreciate his New York Noir style Irish stew.

Spoonful of Poison
M.C. Beaton
St. Martin Press
9780312349127, $24.95

In Comfrey Magna in Cotsword, elderly Mrs. Andrews seems in good spirits as she attends a church charity gala. She remains upbeat when she suddenly leaps from the tower of Saint Odo the Severe. While almost everyone watched in horror, someone robbed the proceeds. An autopsy finds LSD in her; further inquiry leads to someone spiking the jam with that hallucinatory drug.

Private investigator Agatha Raisin and her apprentice Toni Gilmour investigate as do the police. Both competing groups focus on the six women who donated the jam. However, a homicide and the suicide of one of the six suspects Sybilla Triast-Perkins complicates a case that is more muddled than the respective love lives of either Agatha or Toni

This amusing cozy works on two levels as Agatha is her usual irascible self while challenging the police to try to out sleuth her and her sidekick. The romantic capers of Agatha and Toni add depth to the pair. However, it is the investigation as the ever mocking cocky (pun intended) Agatha goes breast to chest with the police daring them to solve the case before they are KISSING CHRISTMAS GOODBYE.

Wild Card
Lora Leigh
St. Martin's Press
0312945795, $7.99

Nathan Malone joined the SEALs; eventually he fell in love with Sabella and they marry. Several years later his Uncle Jordon informs Sabella that Nathan died.

Two years have past since Sabella buried Nathan. He thinks back to the mission that led to his funeral. He was captured by a brutal Columbian drug cartel, who broke every bone in his body and subjected him to tons of Whore's Dust, an aphrodisiac that keeps males hard; but for the eighteen months of his captivity he refused to break his vow to Sabella. He was rescued and healed physically though his body was changed, but mentally Nathan Malone is dead. He left the SEALs and joined Jordon's "dead men" special operations team as a cold killer.

Jordon gives Nathan a file that focuses on Sabella and the Black Collar Militia that hunts illegals to kill, rape, and sell their babies. Almost everyone in his hometown of Alpine, Texas deserted Sabella who after a two year mourning funk has tried to make a go of Nathan's garage. Nathan still loves Sabella, but refuses to tell her he lives as he believes Malone died in Columbia. Mechanic Nathan Hawke obtains work at the garage. His eyes which remind her of her Nathan and his first name disturb Sabella. Worse she is attracted to him. He is stunned to watch his pampered southern belle work as hard as she does as a blue collar mechanic as he never knew she had such skills. As they fall in love, she begins to put together his HIDDEN AGENDA while he and his team seek the Black Collar Militia.

The premise of a Martin Guerre like spouse coming home after being buried is superbly handled leading to the prime couple gaining reader empathy early on. The action is fast-paced and the suspense high. Although the militia at times comes across as inane and the audience never learns why they want the garage, fans will enjoy Lora Leigh's engaging romantic suspense.

Envy the Night
Michael Koryta
St. Martin's Press
0312361580, $24.95

When his other clandestine life as a mob hit man is exposed, U.S. Marshal Frank Temple II, a, commits suicide. His family is shocked first by the revelation by the patriarch's death and his son who worshipped him cannot deal with his hero crumbling like this.

Seven years later, his twenty-four years old son, Frank III remains angry and still drifting as he has since his dad killed himself. When a friend from his dad's military days in Nam Ezra Ballard informs him the rat who squealed on his father is Devin Matteson, the son finally finds a reason to focus on life; he wants vengeance. He has the opportunity when Devin is coming from Florida to Wisconsin. The III waits at his late dad's cabin in Willow Flowage, but soon realizes he has a bigger issue to deal with; he and auto repair shop owner Nora Stafford are in deep trouble as some nasty killers stalk the area.

This tense thriller hooks readers from the moment Frank III leaves jail with a severe headache while thinking what to do about the info Ballard provided him. Character fueled mostly by the son, ENVY THE NIGHT is a fast-paced taut tale that never misses a beat even when the exciting story line makes a turn from III the stalker to III the stalked. Michael Koryta is at his best with this action-packed Wisconsin thriller. This is an unputdownable thriller.

The Highly Effective Detective Goes to the Dogs
Richard Yancey
St. Martin's Press
0312347537, $24.95

For the second time Teddy Ruzak fails the Tennessee private investigator licensing exam; he also failed the police exam. Already despondent, he knows the two strikes your out state rule. He is notified to shut his practice.

Teddy leaves his office only to notice a homeless man just outside; he gives the man his hat. The next day, Teddy returns to his office only to see the same man dead in the ally behind the building. Someone beat the homeless person to death. Rationalizing that he does not have a paying customer so he is breaking no violations, Teddy begins to investigate even as he is joined by Archie the clever sleuthing canine so intelligent he was residing at the pound and the pound desk assistant U of T philosophy student Amanda.

Teddy is terrific in his second appearance as THE HIGHLY EFFECTIVE DETECTIVE who bumbles his way through the investigation. The story line is driven by Teddy who's "Noir-lit" asides and his sleuthing companions make for an amusing Tennessee waltz as he struggles to solve the case, feed the dog, and get the woman. His successful ineptitude makes for a fun anti-hardboiled detective.

Hell Bent
William G. Tapply
St. Martin's Press
9780312358303, $24.95

Boston based attorney Brady Coyne is taken aback when Alexandria Shaw enters his office. They were once lovers, but they had not seen one another in seven years. Alexandra asks Brady to represent her brother photojournalist Gus Shaw in his divorce. Brady agrees to meet with Gus; who suffers from post traumatic stress disorder following a harrowing experience in Iraq in which he lost his hand. He also says at that time they will decide if he should be his lawyer.

They talk and in spite of knowing Gus will prove to be at best a difficult withdrawn client, Brady agrees to handle the divorce. However, soon afterward, Gus is dead in what looks like a suicide. Alexandria refuses to accept her sibling killed himself; she believes he may have been depressed but would not have taken his life. Reluctantly and questioning his motive for acquiescing, Brady agrees to investigate though he is believes he will only affirm the official ruling.

Although similar to ONE-WAY TICKET as HELL BENT is more an investigative tale than a legal thriller especially after Gus dies, fans of Coyne will enjoy this strong regional mystery. The investigation into whether Gus was murdered or committed suicide is well done although somewhat obvious. However, Coyne's inquiry is incredibly illuminating on the impact of the Iraq war on family members of the military. The deep look into those struggling with grief and in some cases sudden poverty while not always coping with deaths that hiding the flag draped coffin from the media does not hide it from the loved ones. Others must deal with physical or mentally hurt soldiers who left healthy and upbeat and return in pain both physical and mental. Well written and entertaining, William G. Tapply showcases the hidden cost of the Iraq War that those who claim to support the soldier prefer to ignore.

Dark Summer
Iris Johansen
St. Martin's Press
9780312368081, $26.95

Six days ago the 7.5 earthquake devastated several villages on Santa Marina Island in the Caribbean. Former Navy SEAL Jude Marrok and his dog Ned are part of the Red Cross rescue effort hoping to find survivors. However, whereas Jude has given up in this small hamlet, Ned keeps searching when someone starts shooting at them; Ned is hit. Jude vows to find the sniper and rip out his or her heart after he takes his canine buddy to the rescue effort veterinarian Dr. Devon Brady.

Kingston reports to his superior Raymond Danner informing him he shot the dog, but Jude is unharmed. Raymond warns him to kill both or else; Kingston knows hunting the SEAL is safer

Jude brings Ned to Devon ordering her to fix his dog before vanishing like a magician. The note he left her says he will come for Ned as soon as he can. Devon and Ned return to her home in Colorado where his Caribbean caper follows Ned there. Jude arrives to protect his buddy, one of the "Dogs of Summer" while Danner and his business associates use her as a target to get to him.

Although over the top of the Pike's Peak and overloaded with too many angles, fans of Iris Johanson will enjoy her latest romantic suspense thriller due to the gender war between the battling buddies of Ned. The story line is fast-paced and loaded with non-stop action even as the various prime support cast groups at times seem overwhelming for the reader and Marrok to handle. Still, with Ned matchmaking and refereeing, DARK SUMMER is a fun read.

Closer Still
Jo Bannister
St. Martin's Press
0312383673, $24.95

Owner of the Dimmock based private detective agency "Looking for Something?", Brodie Farrell is looking for a respite as her six month old son Jonathan has spent a lot of his young life with doctors having been born with rare condition retinoblastoma. His doctors have no idea how much the infant can see; if he has any sight at all. Math teacher Daniel Hood helps at the shop, but would like to help more in her personal life because he loves Brodie.

Jonathan's father Dimmock Police Detective Superintendent Jack Deacon is investigating the activities of nasty hoodlum Joe Loomis, who threatens to harm his son and his son's mother. When Loomis is shot to death, the brass removes Deacon from the search for the hood's killer as the DS had a motive and opportunity. However, the investigation turns frightening when it leads to a terrorist plot aimed at Dimmock.

This meritorious mystery series reaches new heights of excellence with this great thriller. Besides the Jonathan health issue and the two men in the heroine's life competing for her affection, the story line focuses on the townsfolk as reactions to a potential terrorist plot varies with the cops hoping to contain the panic while distrust grows until vigilante violence occurs even before the absolute confirmation of Dimmock being the target. The strong support cast makes this Brodie Farrell tale a flawless winner.

Flesh House
Stuart MacBride
St. Martin's Press
9780312382636, $24.95

In Aberdeen, Scotland, the remains of humans are found in a shipping crate and a butcher shop. The police brass immediately hone in on Kenneth "the Flesher" Wiseman who two decades ago got away with brutal murders on a legal technicality. Detective Sergeant Logan McRae goes to bring in the Flesher for questioning and perhaps a bit more.

Having been part of the mishandled investigation twenty years ago, Detective Inspector David Insch plans to insure this time the Flesher does not get away with homicide even if he bends the law. As more body parts appear around the terrorized city, McRae concludes the police are investigating the wrong man, but he remains clueless as to who the brutal serial killer is and there is pressure on him is to keep digging into the Flesher.

FLESH HOUSE needs to carry a warning label: "do not read on a full stomach" as Stuart MacBride gets ultra gory with this exciting Scottish police procedural. McCrae makes the tale in his fourth investigation (see BLOODSHOT, DYING LIGHT and COLD GRANITE) as he bucks the brass seeking the culprit elsewhere. While doing so his amusing cynical commentary contrasts nicely to the bloody scenes and the pomposity of his superiors. Not for everyone, this is a vivid action packed thriller that colors Aberdeen red.

Third Strike
Zoe Sharp
Thomas Dunne Books
c/o St. Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
0312358970, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

In New York City, English expatriate bodyguard Charlie Fox is stunned to see her estranged father, a renowned physician on TV being accused of medical negligence in the death of a friend in Massachusetts; almost as stunning as the accusation of he drank while caring for his friend is that he is in Manhattan. Charlie pulls off a ploy to confront her father who tells her to mind her business.

The next day Charlie and her lover Sean Meyer follow her father to a rendezvous with a hooker in Brooklyn, but the trio gets busted by the cops. The negative publicity hurts her employer the Parker Armstrong agency, but her boss may be upset but supports her. Charlie calls her mom in England, who acts almost as strange as her father. Charlie and Sean believe her mom could not freely talk to her so they fly England to find out what is going on there; they find her mom held hostage by a tall muscular woman and an even bigger man. Nothing makes sense except extracting her parents from what they do not know.

The THIRD STRIKE Charlie Fox thriller (see FIRST DROP and SECOND SHOT) is an entertaining tale that because it is family, readers learn a lot about the heroine and her estrangement with her parents. The story line is action-packed from the moment that Charlie sees her father behaving out of character on the TV news and never slows down in England, Manhattan or Brooklyn. Although the scenario of what happened to her parents seems stretched; readers will enjoy this sharp fast-paced thriller as Charlie and Sean try to extract her parents from a cross Atlantic mess.

Body In the Record Room
Joe Barone
Thomas Dunne Books
0312384106, $24.95

In 1954 at the Sunrise Mental Institute, Roy Rogers is a patient; not the movie star, but someone who took his name to emulate the western actor's doing good deeds. Roy the patient enjoys sneaking in the record room to look at the files. He and his sidekick Harry enter only to find the battered corpse of elderly Father Coonie. Instead of notifying the Little Man who runs the place, Roy persuades Harry to bury the priest in the stables.

Roy investigates and learns Coonie's tied to Marcia Weinhart, who was murdered two decades earlier. A second murder occurs when someone murders Father Hogan. With help from asylum worker Nancy Jane and some of the patients, Roy begins to put together who killed the two fathers and how it ties back to the unsolved cold case homicide of Marcia.

This engaging historical amateur sleuth tale provides readers deep insight into the mindset of mentally ill people and the mega-hospital asylums where many lived. Roy is a fascinating lead character as he tries to live up to the moral mantra set by the actor. At times Roy preaches about the legacy of Reagan and subsequent administrations that the politicians prefer to ignore; condemning the avarice that slowly eroded mental health assistance to those in need. A female patient explains she is safe at Sunrise due to Dr. "Little Man", but once the bigwigs shut the facility as she expects she will live homeless under a bridge waiting until the rapes begin.

Clare Curzon
Thomas Dunne Books
9780312375317, $24.95

The biker deliberately hits Warren Laing in front of the auction house run by Charles Hennigan. The chief auctioneer visits the severely injured and fully bandaged comatose victim at the hospital and informs the police that he is his employee porter Sandy Craddock. Meanwhile the real Sandy learning of the identity mistake believes he was the intended victim so he pretends to be his half-brother Warren.

Craddock moves into Laing's luxurious flat figuring he is safe for now and can live off of his half brother's affluence. However, things spin further out of control when Fiona Morgan enters Laing's bed where Craddock sleeps. Fiona invites him to join her at an art course where she is the nude model even as she wonders why he seems to not care that his sibling lies in a coma; she still mourns her sister who died last year in an accident. Things turn even nastier when his art class partner Rosa Burford is murdered. When Rosa fails to show up for class, Thames
Valley police led by Superintendent Mike Yeadings investigate.

This may be the best police procedural in this excellent long running series as the story line starts off seemingly to scatter in a zillion directions, but Mike Yeadings and his Thames Valley squad manage to methodically bring it into focus. Readers will appreciate this strong entry as the Superintendent is more laid back than usual while his staff works the missing person's case that keeps spinning into something new with each revelation.

The Killing Circle
Andrew Pyper
Thomas Dunne Books
9780312384760, $24.95

Toronto TV reporter Patrick Rush has not recovered form the sudden death of his wife. He struggles at work as his performance has deteriorated so that he has been relegated from the National Star to the local reality beat and fears he will be fired from that if he does not turn it around. Patrick also wonders if he failing his young son though he tries his best to raise his child.

Trying to come out of his funk, Rush turns to his dream of becoming an author by joining a writing circle. However, Rush becomes stunned when he reads the work of another writer Angela during a peer review. Her book sounds autobiographical and not fiction to the journalist. Rush is especially fascinated with the evil lead villain, a paranormal serial killer who is partial to dissecting his victims. As his grip on reality slips, Rush considers his next step especially when fiction becomes reality.

This gripping psychological suspense thriller has a Poe feel to it as the reader keeps expecting increasingly bad things to occur. Rush is fabulous as a grieving man breaking down when he cannot afford to as his son needs him; could he be emulating the book in real life, imagining the murders occurred, or could Angela be writing based on first hand knowledge. THE KILLING CIRCLE is a one sitting read.

Chasing Ghosts
Lee Driver
Full Moon Publishing
P.O. Box 408, Schererville, IN 46375
9780978540296, $16.95,

Sara Morningsky, a shapeshifter who can turn into a wolf or a falcon, enters her home to find a dead body. Chase Dagger explains his opponent tried to kill him after asking to hire the private detective. Two of his friends get rid of the corpse, but they freak when a bomb like no other explodes inside his body.

Dagger realizes he is missing parts of his life and he makes a stealth visit his former employer who he believes is responsible. A Cardinal is making a visit and someone tries to burglarize his apartment. It is the same person who died in Sara's home. Chase recognizes a series of numbers that take him to a place that once belonged to his former employer; unaware that he will be extremely fortunate to get out alive.

The fusion of mystery and urban fantasy makes CHASING GHOSTS a wonderful thriller. Lee Driver writes fabulous paranormal whodunits that star interesting characters struggling with a world that makes no sense. There is plenty of action and unexplainable incidents for the police to investigate. However, it is Sara and Chase along with some friends who must solve the case or die in this terrific character driven tale.

The Company
K.J. Parker
c/o Hachette Publishing Group
237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017-0010
9780316038539, $24.99,

The war ended seven years ago. Many soldiers left the military to return to civilian life. This includes four friends who never see one another anymore as that reminds them of comrades who died when the Confederation needed them; now stoic over being alive but struggling with adjustment as many other vets are doing too.

Their former commanding officer General Kunessin visits the quartet to remind them of the pledge they made while still uniform. They honor their vow to settle on a peaceful utopian island that Kunessin has found for them. He will fund their colonization. The men find wives financially desperate enough to willingly marry them in a group exchange of vows and accompany them to Kunessin's paradise. Everything is fine until gold is discovered.

THE COMPANY is a dark gripping military fantasy that is a parable on the life of vets when the war is over. The story line is fast-paced from the onset as the audience gets a taste of how society turns its back on those who risked their lives when they are no longer needed for combat. The island is their escape from a reality they cannot readapt to, but even there society intrudes once gold is found as once again they are expendable. K.J. Parker will have readers pondering whether we are truly doing all we can for vets and their families.

Hunter's Prayer
Lilith Saintcrow
9780316001762, $7.99

Jill Kismet is a hunter; a human who kills the creatures of the nightside; evil beings who wish to destroy mankind. The local police are not equipped to deal with such beasts so they hire her when it looks like the supernatural committed a heinous crime.

She is called in to examine a body of a prostitute in which all the internal organs are gone and it looks like someone took out chunks of the victim to eat. Jill learns that others were found in the same condition. In between looking at dead bodies and trying to figure who or what killed them, Father Guillermo calls her to do an exorcism on seminary student Oscar. She is successful in pulling the demon of his body, but she later learns he is a Sorrow; a human who worships the Chaldean Elder Gods. If Sorrows are in Kismet's city, she is prepared to deal with them because she uses a hellbreed's mark, which gives her powers that originate in Hell. Jill discovers an old enemy is in town; the Sorrow who killed her mentor and she learns that a rebel Sorrow is performing a ritual that will allow the Nameless, Destroyer of Babies and Eaters of Worlds God to cross into our real unless she can locate and stop the evocation.

As usual, Lilith Saintcrow writes an entertaining, action-packed urban fantasy loaded with strange dark and evil monsters. Her Hunter world is grim yet hopeful as creatures of myths, legend and the night roam the earth. The heroine uses evil powers to fight for the better good and protect the innocent in a sort of fight fire with fire manner. Jill's romantic feelings for a were-cougar embellish an enjoyable paranormal thriller.

Amy MacKinnon
Shaye Areheart Books
c/o The Crown Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, #B1, New York, NY 10019-4305
0307408965, $24.00, 1-800-726-0600

In Brockton, Massachusetts Clara Marsh works as an undertaker at the Bartholomew Funeral Home where she does better with the dead than the living although she is sympathetic to the grieving. She has no one except perhaps her kindhearted boss, Victor Bartholomew. When Clara finds Trecie in the funeral parlor playing there alone, she becomes concerned for the child. She asks Trecie if she prefers to go to the nearby playground, but Trecie answers no as there is nobody yelling here unlike home and she likes the flowers and candles.

Clara does nothing as Trecie is causing no harm. However, Clara becomes hysterical during a corpse pickup when she finds a child pornography video with the preadolescent Trecie as a star. Detective Mike Sullivan investigates only to tie the ring back to the murdered, unidentified and unclaimed body of Precious Doe, who Clara helped bury and still feels haunted by the child; visiting the gravesite regularly. Fearing that Trecie may be in danger; a normally compliant Clara and compassionate Mike investigate with neither aware that the resolution leads back to her childhood.

This entertaining mystery stars a fascinating extremely meek heroine. The story line is character driven by predominantly Clara with strong support from Trecie and Mike. That focus on Clara provides an intriguing look at being an undertaker, a job that requires a person to remain detracted yet sympathetic.

When Duty Calls
William C. Dietz
Ace Books
c/o The Berkley Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780441016327, $24.95, 1-800-847-5515

The war between the Confederacy of Sentient Beings and the Insecticide Ramanthian Empire continues. By order of their Queen, the Ramanthian military is going to invade Gamma- 014 rich in iridium. The planet belongs to the Clone Hegemony, a group of worlds in which sex and childbearing are prohibited; from birth the clones know what work they will do. The Confederation warns the Clone Hegemony even as the mutual enemy piles up victory after victory while the CSB shrinks with planet after planet being lost.

Commanding Officer of the Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 1st REC Captain Antonio Santana is ordered to go to Gamma 014 to fight under the command of a Clone Hegemony General. This should cement the alliance between the two groups battling the Ramanthians. Antonio's lover diplomat Christine Vanderveen is on Hegemony planet Alpha 001; she is attracted to the leader of the rebellion there, who wants to replace the present government in order to allow people to have freedom of choice. On Planet Gamma 014, Santana and his bio bod and cyborg troops fight for their lives as the enemy badly outnumbers them and accepts deaths easily as a part of the hostilities. He knows it will take a miracle to leave this orb alive.

Fans of military science fiction on other worlds will thoroughly enjoy WHEN DUTY CALLS, the latest Legion of the Damned space opera thriller. When the Ramanthians invaded earth, they are stunned by the sentient animals they encounter who not just resist, but operationally fight back even as much of the military is dying on Gamma 014. The resistance fighters are organized under an unusual leader and the enemies' casualties run much higher than the most pessimistic Ramanthian predict. William C. Dietz keeps his long running saga fresh to the delight of military science fiction fans.

Beside a Burning Sea
John Shors
NAL/New American Library
c/o Penguin Publishing Group
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780451224927, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

In 1942, the hospital ship Benevolence with five hundred filled patients' beds is sailing the South Pacific near the Solomon Islands bringing medical assistance to sailors from both sides of the conflict as required by international law. Suddenly a Japanese torpedo hits the vessel ripping the boat in half. In the next instant, as the Benevolence is engulfed in chaos, most of the crew and patients die, but a few manage to make it to a nearby island.

The survivors include the captain, his spouse a nurse, another officer, an engineer, a Japanese prisoner of war, a second nurse, and a Fijian stowaway. Each has felt the horrors of war, but now must find a way to cooperate if they are to survive. However one of them is a traitor who has their own agenda defining survival quite differently than the others.

The key to this powerful WW II survivor drama is each cast member is fully developed with differing personalities and backgrounds; this leads to unexpected relationships as race, culture, social class, and war are explored through the interactions of the characters. Perhaps the only minor quibble is a traitor seems unnecessary suspense padding, as John Shors provides a deep historical character study.

Blood Memories
Barb Hendee
c/o New American Library
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014-3658
0451462297, $14.00, 1-800-847-5515

Youthful looking beauty Eleisha Clevon seems vulnerable and helpless, but in reality she is a survivor; being two hundred plus years old vampire. She easily lures human predators into being alone with her before ripping open their throats to dine on their blood. When she eats a mortal's blood she also sees their lives mentally flash passed her. Eleisha also is the prime caretaker for a senile vampire.

After being seen by cops when the vampire Edward killed himself, Eleisha accompanied by William flees Portland for Seattle. They move into the home of Maggie also a vampire. Meanwhile a vampire who has gone rogue is killing vampires with Eleisha and her friends on the undead death list.

BLOOD MEMORIES is a terrific vampire stand alone thriller that fans will enjoy but ironically when compared to the classic Barb and J.C. Hendee's Noble Dean saga it somewhat pales; in fairness few supernatural novels attain that quality level. The story is filled with action, but also contains a strong cast who insure vampirism in the Northwest seems real as readers learn the back-story of several of them through the characters practicing mental telepathy. The heroine especially is an intriguing person; she detests killing humans although she knows she must yet limits her attacks to the dregs of society. Still it is serial killing villain murdering his own kind who makes this a fine tale that the vampire crowd will appreciate.

Crusade: Destroyermen, Book II
Taylor Anderson
0451462300, $23.95

US Navy Lieutenant Commander Matthew Reddy and the crew of the USS Walker still struggle to adjust to being on an alternate earth. However, he knows they do not have any time to understand how they were transported and how to get home. Instead he and his team train their local allies, the gentle peace-loving Lemurian, for war against the feral reptilian Grand Swarm of Grik.

However, the scenario turns even uglier for the displaced World War II Americans. A Japanese battle cruiser from their earth has arrived. The War in the Pacific has expanded to this alternate earth.

This is a terrific graphic sequel to INTO THE STORM as readers will believe they are part of Reddy's crew with fully described sea, air and land battles and a typhoon to add to the overall chaos. The story line is filled with action, but the bottom line is Taylor Anderson's deep look at the deterioration of unit and individual values in combat. Does for instance the seven modern day Army Values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage truly hold up when the enemy has overwhelming fire power that leaves your comrades dead, dying or severely injured?

City of Jade
Dennis L. McKiernan
9780451462312, $23.95

Legend talks of a City of Jade hidden in the jungle. Probably more likely myth than a real lost city, as no one has ever returned from the quest of finding this fabled locale though many have tried across Mithgar.

In the Final Year of the Fifth Era, with the Dragonstone War ended when the Black Mage God Gyphon was slain by the elf, passages have opened between realms while wards have been used to close those leading to and from the creations of the late Dark God. In that seemingly peaceful environment, Elven Captain Aravan learns of the City of Jade and wants to find this precious legend. He brings together a crew of elves, dwarfs, men, and other species to sail into the sunset on the fabled Eroean. Accompanying him on his quest is his beloved mage, Aylis the seer. Even without Aylis' predictions all of the crew of the Eroean knows the journey will be dangerous and many if any will not return; they volunteer because the lure of adventure is greater than their safety; most are used to a world at war. Few perhaps would have signed on if they knew the dark necromantic sorcerer Nunde seeking vengeance is lurking everywhere they are sailing.

As explained in the "afterword" to this engaging fantasy, the events in the CITY OF JADE occur at the end of SILVER WOLF, BLACK FALCON and the beginning of the RED SLIPPERS: MORE TALES OF MITHGAR anthology. The thriller starts off as more of an interrelated anthology catching up with what has happened to the good, the bad, and the nasty since the demise of the Dark God. Once the crew is set and prepares to sail, the story line converges into an entertaining adventure tale with a fuming vengeful Nunde stalking the Eroean over each horizon. Fans will relish this terrific tweener while new readers should first peruse SILVER WOLF, BLACK FALCON to better comprehend the citations to the war.

Imaginary Friends
John Marco & Martin H. Greenberg, editors
DAW Books, Inc.
375 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014
9780756405113, $7.99, 1-800-847-5515

The theme of this fine anthology is just what the title advertises, IMAGINARY FRIENDS, but with a fantasy or Twilight Zone twist that widens the scope of the collection. The compilation of all new tales is superb as each entry is well written with some being excellent. Person favorites include "A Good Day for Dragons" by Rick Hautala that kept me thinking of Pete's Dragon, "Best Friends Forever" by Tim Waggoner stars Biff the stuffed animal, "Images of Death" by Jim C. Hines as the title character is a best friend who reminds the little girl of a Muppet, and the moving tale of sibling love "Greg and Eli" by Paul Genesse. The remaining tales are all fun reminding readers of their own IMAGINARY FRIENDS.

Mercedes Lackey
Daw Books
9780756405243, $25.95

The Pieter family takes into their home infant orphan Mags, but not out of the kindness of their hearts; they see the lad as labor toiling long hours in their dangerous gemstone mine seeking sparklies. They abuse the child as they do other strays that have no champion to protect ragtag nothings from horrific conditions. However, Mags is even lower than these pathetic strays as he is the Bad Blood offspring of dead outlaws according to the family since he was found in a cradle in a camp.

Everything abruptly changes for Mags when men on white horses ride into the Pieter compound; they take the lad with them so he can train to become a Herald Trainee. However, the adjustment proves nearly impossible as Mags is unable to deal with, comfort or attend classes at the Herald's Collegium; as his world was bread, water and the mine. However his companion Dallen helps him somewhat adapt, but this may prove too late as Mags is pulled into dangerous political intrigues by the Heralds divided in many ways but especially between tradition of one on one training vs. a classroom; however the former mine worker finds the schism beyond his understanding except he is an expert on survival.

This is a great Valdemar tale due to Mags who may not comprehend the ways of the Heralds or their dispute, but knows how to live through anything. The story line is especially fascinating during Mags' time with the Pieters as ignorance is bliss since he does not know of anything but mine living. When the Heralds take him away as a student, he is shocked to have a consistently filled stomach and a new reason to survive. Although the story line is a bit thin in comparison with all the action of previous saga entries, fans will relish Mercedes Lackey deep fantasy character study with its analogy to winning in Middle East starts with first feeding people, then teaching them to fish in order to win their stomach, mind and heart in that order.

Coyote's Wife
Aimee and David Thurlo
c/o Tor Books
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10010
9780765317162, $24.95, 1-888-330-8477

On the Navaho Reservation in New Mexico, everyone is appalled by the brutal assault of Ervin Benally. Most people assume the beating was in direct reaction to Benally planning to install StarTalk on the reservation. This satellite phone system would enable instant cheap communication across the reservation.

Navajo Tribal Police Officer Ella Clah investigates the brutal incident. She quickly finds the Fierce Ones vigilantes involved, but is unable to figure out why as this group is known for instant eye for an eye justice. Ella soon realizes someone has purposely set up the beating and the vigilante group as a distraction for her and other law enforcement investigators, but once again remains in the dark as to whom and why.

Although there are too many cul de sac false clues followed, the latest Team Thurlo Navaho police procedural is an engaging and enthralling mystery. Ella is a terrific lead protagonist as she struggles with a case in which each step forward in progress seems to lead to two diagonally giant steps back. However, the star of COYOTE'S WIFE and this strong investigative series is the Navaho as the audience obtains a deep look into life on the New Mexico reservation.

Half a Crown
Jo Walton
Tor Books
9780765316219, $25.95

In 1941 Britain and Germany signed the Farthing Peace accord, which allowed the English elite to continue to live an affluent lifestyle while "undesirables" like the Jews and any anti government protestors have been and still are shipped to Easton Europe in cattle cars. Nineteen years later, London hosts an international peace conference in which the three superpowers Britain, Germany and Japan plan to increase their respective spheres of influence.

Peter Carmichael left Scotland Yard to become head of the Watch, a secret police whose midnight raids have terrorized much of the country. His mission is to weed out dissenters and traitors as well as Jews. However, he tries to sneak the Jews to safety when he can. He also knows his relationship with his valet Jack, if discovered will send him to the camps in the east as that behavior is unacceptable. However, everything will soon come to a head for Peter when teenage ward Elvira Royston overhears a conversation that if she reveals will destroy her guardian.

One of the best alternate historical miniseries in recent years, the final tale is as terrific as its predecessors (see HA'PENNY and FARTHING) due to the strong characterizations. Readers obtain a taste of living under a totalitarian rule especially how the next generation, who were born after the Farthing Peace Accord, react; in many ways Elivra's simple acceptance of the inevitability of human brutality makes the tale and the saga. In all the bleakness as the let them eat cake affluent party thrives while many suffer; there remain slight flickers of hope, but slowly they are being snuffed out.

A Dangerous Climate
Chelsea Quinn Yarbro
Tor Books
9780765319814, $27.95

In 1704 vampire Count Saint-Germain is in Saint Petersburg, which is being built by Russian laborers under the direction of elite European specialists. Saint-Germain directs the construction of machinery to drain the marshes so that building can commence. He is to observe and report all that is going on in the city to the King of Poland.

Saint-Germain is pretending to be the missing Arpad Arco-Tolvay. Zozia, who is the real Arpad's wife, pretends to be a married to Saint-Germain so as a couple they can fit in easier with the horde of other foreign nationals flooding the construction site. She has her own orders from Poland's king to carry out. They are there less than a week when Saint-Germain is attacked and left for dead. A second assault affirms what he already knew that someone wants him dead, but he has no idea as to who or why as he has not been around long enough to have made enemies. More troubles follow when Lajos Rogoczi arrives insisting that Saint-Germain is dead and as such he owns the properties in Russia. Saint-Germain has to prove Lajos is a lying imposter without giving away his identity.

Reading about Saint Petersburg being built on top of a swamp is fascinating as politicians and their retinue arrives allegedly as a display of diplomatic support to the Tsar, but in actuality to spy on the Russians and one another. Saint-Germain is his usual urbane self even when he allows Zozia to order him around. A DANGEROUS CLIMATE is Chelsea Quinn Yarbro at her outstanding best as the thirty-seven hundred years old vampire, star of a zillion novels, is caught in quite a conundrum.

Pirate Sun
Karl Schroeder
Tor Books
0765315459, $25.95

In Virga, Admiral Chaison Fanning learns no good deed goes unpunished. His bodacious foray prevented an assault on his orb Slipstream; he was imprisoned for his actions, but he is liberated by he assumes his daring subversive wife Venera who when he was first captured he saw fleeing.

Returning to his town, to his amazement, Fanning is considered a traitor by those he saved; he expected the ruler who initially betrayed him to paint him as such but not his neighbors. As revolution, civil war, and outside invasion threaten the Virga spheres, he fights alongside Antaea Argyre, who is from another orb of the "system" near its edges. There he begins to understand there is much more to the universe than just what is connected to Virga's central sun Candesce.

As with the first two books of the Virga chronicle (see SUN OF SUNS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE), it is the variety of town-spheres that make for a complex exciting science fiction saga in which anything seems possible under the sun (of Candesce that is). The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Fanning, though scorned and swiftboated continues to do what he thinks is the ethically right thing for the good of his people. His escapades never slow down as Karl Schroeder provides a strong outer space opera thriller.

Warren Hammond
Tor Books
9780765312747, $24.95

In 2788 in the gritty town of Koba on planet Lagarto homicidal dirty detective Diego Banks forces Koba Office of Police cop Juno Mozambe into premature retirement. Juno knows he has no moral stand as he sold out to the powerful crime lords. Before losing his job he was despondent, but now feels like a failure as his efforts as a private investigator proves futile; he feels old, worn-out, and finished with only boozing giving him relief.

His former police partner detective Maggie Orzo quietly hires a reluctant Mozambe to investigate the homicides of the parents of Adela Juarez; the daughter was convicted of the murders and sentenced to be executed. Maggie believes Adela is not only innocent, but her current partner Ian Davies framed the girl. Mozambe works the case muddied by police corruption and attempts to drive him off the inquiry by threatening his family.

The sequel to KOP retains the gritty helplessness of the first futuristic police procedural science fiction (see KOP). Readers will feel they walk the mean streets of a town with no pity alongside of Juno who works a case he does not want to investigate. Fans will appreciate Warren Hammond's excellent but extremely bleak future Noir as abject poverty leaves everyone harder than the carbonite that froze Hans Solo.

The Night Children
Kit Reed
c/o Tor Books
9780765320384, $17.95

People come from around the world to spend time at the Castertown MegaMall. Rich and poor they all flock to this premier wonder of the modern world. When last call occurs, zillions of people vacate the premises heading mostly to nearby hotels so they can easily return to shop until they drop.

However, at closing not everyone leaves. Tonight sitting in a car at the top of the internationally acclaimed WhirlyFunride is local junior high school student Jule Deveraux following a fight with her guardian Aunt Christy over misplacing her cell phone; the next morning her only known living relative was gone without leaving a note. Knowing what happens to unsupervised teen orphans, the feisty thirteen years old hides in the mall for now. However, she is not alone as the Castertown MegaMall contains residents of the night. Two rival gangs consisting of abandoned and runaway teens, tweeners and even younger children battle for mall supremacy. The Castertown Crazies headed by Tick Stiles fight with the Dingos led by Burt Arno. Neither chieftain nor the newcomer they each want to join their side understands the real war is to begin. Castertown MegaMall owner Amos Zozz resents these young rats living and abusing his facility; extermination and youthful cleansing are coming military style to THE NIGHT CHILDREN; there hope to survive depends on a loner who belongs to no one.

This is an exciting middle school thriller that hooks the audience from the moment the confused Jule meets the two rival gang leaders and learns the eyes of the kids are upon the unaware visitors. The story line is fast-paced from the onset yet provides moral insight into the social issue of what to do about unsupervised young that is summed up by a key secondary character who says: "Because you can't treat people like that". Kit Reed provides a strong parable of the richest society being so indifferent that they ignore the plights of the poor unless it negatively affects the bottom line.

The Ghost Quartet
Marvin Kaye, editor
Tor Books
0765312514, $25.95

"A Place of No Ending" by Brian Lumley. In Eastern Dartmoor Moor, Paul learns first hand the truth about ghosts.

"Hamlet's Father" by Orson Scott Card. Teenager Hamlet knows his father the Danish King thinks little of him so as he goes to university in Heidelberg he ponders whether his sire considers his offspring worthy to sit or not sit on the throne.

"The Haunted Single Malt" by Marvin Kaye. They meet once a month at the Tron to exchange ghost stories, but none of them expected to star in a spirit's latest saga.

"Strindberg's Ghost" by Tanith Lee. Blya and the Swan know they cannot be together until one joins the other in death.

The four tales are interesting ghost stories with Tanith Lee's being by far the strongest.

Two to the Fifth
Piers Anthony
Tor Books
9780765319357, $24.95

The world of Xanth is in danger (so what else is gnu I mean new). The powerful sorcerer Ragna Roc is methodically taking over villages as the bird soars to new heights with plans to be ruler of the realm. Cyrus Cyborg knows nothing about the bird or much else for that matter and is worried about his future as his robotic father expects him to be a metallic chip off the old block and his amazon mother demands he become a warrior. He does not want to be either as he lacks the metal of his biological father and the muscle of his mother. He does what everyone in Xanth with a problem does: he visits Humphrey the magician for sage advice.

Cyrus asks Humphrey the wrong question and receives a response that insists he should be a playwright. As part of his Service in payment for answering the question, Humphreys explains about the evil bird mage and insists Cyrus write plays and gather a troupe to perform them. He begins his remittance gathering performers as he travels around, but also gains the interest of Ragna. Cyrus is also falling in love with one of his new players, the child Princess Rhythm, who magically makes herself older so they can make love without the Adult Compromise taking hold. The stork delivers their child Kadence who is six years old, but cryptically informs them she is Rhythm's sister. Taken by Ragna to his castle, the sisters battle the bird knowing that only TWO TO THE FIFTH can defeat the evil mage, but have no Xanthian idea what that means.

Xanthologists will have a field day or two with the latest whimsical pun filled fantasy. The story line is the usual Humphrey quest formula of the series, but the new array of outrageously humorous word plays make for a fun adventure. Readers will enjoy Cyrus' lament as he has parental troubles and loves what is happening to him since he got Rhythm as they work in secret together to beat the beak.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

The Collected Poetry of Hugh Fox 1966 - 2007
Hugh Fox
World Audience Inc.
303 Park Ave. South #1440, New York NY 10010-3657
9781934209XXX $35.00

Hugh Fox is a Professor Emeritus, archeologist, editor, writer, and iconic poet of international fame. His poetic styles range from super academic to Dadaistic to surrealistic to avant garde to post-Bukowski realism. For decades, whatever his creative style at the time, fans have celebrated the earthy and erudite poetry experience that is Hugh Fox. His collected poetry is a personal, intimate epiphanal unfolding of an exceptional man's life. He allows readers to feel the textures, taste the bitter and sweet, see the ghosts of his past. Between these covers lie dramas, great and small: cosmic rumbles; erotic romps; thermonuclear apocalyptic visions; ecological nightmares; cultures and rituals seen through a wormhole into primeval times. Readers share the Hugh Fox reality. We see the moon rise in slow motion over ancient landscapes. We tremble as ancient gods stride the earth and battle for her domination. We become one with Fox and the land as the Native Peoples of America dance and wait for the earth to heal. And we stand with him shoulder to shoulder through personal triumphs and tragedies or times of fear and doubt.

Sometimes there's a leak,
A squeak of smoke,
A wisp of doom,
Insignificant in this expanse
Of time and room.
It's happened in a different way,
No apocalypse
But a gradual shabbying of
Pricks and bricks,
A hardening of eyes,
Not spies
But beryllium skin
Not thin enough to let the human in.

Each chapter in this book provides a different insight into Fox's life through various poetic styles. His experience is recorded through poetry with a riveting asymmetry. His words become stark contrasts between harsh an tender, innocent and streetwise, blunt or gently introspective, shocking or playful. Always, underlying, is the poet's sense of human mortality:

…there isn't
anything else but the turning
of the tumbrels of time, our
only reality constantly

It's not possible to adequately review a book of such size, magnitude and variety. These poems provide a cultural and anthropological world view, a commentary on our times. If you haven't been a devotee of Hugh Fox's work from the beginning, this book is the ideal addition to your poetry collection. Fans of his later works will relish the earlier poems found here. If you're a fan of contemporary American poets, this book is a must have. Highly recommended.

Chasing Secrets
Christy Tillery French
L & L Dreamspell
P.O. Box 1984, Friendswood TX 77549-1984
9781603180542 $16.95

I say every new book by Christy Tillery French is "the best one yet." To continue with that thought, Chasing Secrets is one of the best action thrillers I've read in a long time. It has a fast paced, exciting plot, slam-bang action, charismatic protagonists and purely evil bad guys. (Think quintessential action movie, such as The Replacement Killers with Mira Sorvino and Yun-Fat Chow.) French's latest book is action thriller nirvana.

Rowan Bronson is up to her pretty neck in trouble. Her undercover gig for the ATF has gone south, thanks to crooked cops and an ATF mole determined to see her dead. Rowan has proof that a white supremacist televangelist and an organized crime capo are laundering money and smuggling firearms. Both men have lusted after Rowan and want her returned to them alive for lascivious reasons. One way or another, Rowan knows she'll end up dead if they ever get their hands on her. She's an intelligent and resourceful woman; she will never give in or back down from what she knows is right, even if it kills her. Fortunately, Rowan has Zeus on her side. Zeus is her Weimaraner sidekick, a huge dog with a heart and spirit to match. And then there's Garrett Somersby, a straight-arrow police detective determined to keep her alive. All three fight to stay one step ahead of an army of vicious killers sent to track them down. Who can they trust? They
have nowhere else to turn so learn to trust each other. Each brings different strengths to their battle for survival and Zeus is the glue that holds this partnership together.

Chasing Secrets has all the elements that make a story interesting and exciting. Tight plotting and well-developed characters enhance the book's realism. Rowan is a strong, ethical woman who hides her softer side from everyone but Zeus. Zeus is a canine hero of the highest order, devoted to Rowan, the undisputed linchpin of her survival. And Garrett Somersby is the dogged detective who loves and protects both woman and dog with his life. If you enjoy action thrillers, this latest book by Christy Tillery French is highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Death at Hallows End
Leo Bruce
Academy Chicago Publishers
363 West Erie St., Chicago, IL 60610
9780897335744 $22.50

Leo Bruce is the pen name used by Rupert Croft-Cooke, who lived between 1903 and 1979. Bruce wrote two separate mystery series: the Sergeant Beef series, which was published between 1937-1952, and the Carolus Deene mysteries, written between 1955-1974. Croft-Cooke also wrote a book of short stories under his own name. Bruce's Carolus Deene is a school teacher who solves mysteries in his spare time.

It is almost time for another school term when Carolus Deene is summoned by the solicitor Lionel Thripp, whose partner Duncan Humby has disappeared while delivering a will to be signed to an old man who thought he would never die and who didn't particularly like his own family. By coincidence James Grossiter is also dead, leaving his fortune to his two nephews, Holroyd and Cyril Neast. There is rumor of an illegitimate son names Hickmansworth. They farm neighboring pieces of land. Grossiter went to Hallows End, the home of his nephews, just before his death. Are these deaths just a coincidence? And where has Humby gotten to? It is up to Carolus Deene to sort through several layers of smokescreens put up by the families to get at the truth:

"Yes, it was possible for a car to be in to the side here and for another car to pass it. But only just. If Duncan Humby was still at the wheel of his car when it stopped here, he must have deliberately pulled it in to leave room for others. There was no sign of any wheel tracks on the grass edges, but that meant nothing, for it had rained since. If there had been anything of the sort, presumably the police would have seen it when they were first informed. He was accustomed to coming too late into an investigation for that sort of evidence and knew that it was not, in any case, his strong point."

Leo Bruce is just the sort of author who would have made Agatha Christie proud. Not only does he write "whodunits" that are nearly impossible to fathom, but he does it with a relaxed style that is as relaxing to read as it is confounding. Bruce's books no double had an impact at the time he wrote them, just as Hollywood was tuning in to how much fun the guessing game could be. Leo Bruce was a masterful writer.

My Soul to Keep
Melanie Wells
Multnomah Books
12265 Oracle Boulevard, Suite 200, Colorado Springs, CO 80921
9781590524282 $12.99

Melanie Wells has her hand in many pots, including a private practice as a psychotherapist, as well as being a musician and author. She hails from Texas, where she attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, beginning in music as a violinist. She ended up with a degree in English and obtained graduate degrees in counseling psychology and biblical studies. She has published two prior "soul" books entitled WHEN THE DAY OF EVIL COMES and THE SOUL HUNTER.

Dylan Foster is busy ushering her latest degree candidates from the small college where she teaches psychology. She attends a birthday party for six year old Christine Zocci, a special child of a friend visiting from Chicago. A happy birthday party turns to tragedy when Nicholas, the child of Dylan's friend Maria, is abducted from the park. Christine immediately begins having breathing episodes that nearly kill her, but her "gift" enables the frantic adults around her, including Maria's boyfriend, an investigator in the case, get a handle on just what have happened to Nicholas. A few people help along the way, including a mysterious man who calms Christine at the hospital just before she is scheduled for x-rays:

"Instead, a sixtyish man with close-cropped gray hair, a phenomenal tan, and a bright, affable smile leaned into the booth and tapped Christine on the shoulder. He wore a faded hospital gown, his muscular, browned legs poking out the bottom and set off by a gleaming pair of white athletic socks. The man shot me a quick wave like he knew me and sat on the bench beside Christine. 'Are you afraid?' he said to her."

Melanie Wells combines shrewd acuity towards the human condition with almost a New Age take on angels and their help when we humans least expect it in this snappy suspense novel. Her writing style is mature, and her portrayal of Dylan Foster is just crazy enough to add a light touch to the story. Dylan is a likable, if extremely eccentric; academic who probably couldn't keep her tennis shoes tied without help. But on a deeper level she has a heart of gold; is self deprecating enough to offset what might be academic arrogance in any other character; and is herself on her own mission of redemption. A good read!

A Shot in the Dark / Shell Game
Richard Powell
Stark House Press
2200 O Street, Eureka, CA 95501
9781933586182 $14.95

Richard Powell authored many famous books; including comic mysteries of the 1940's (featuring Arab and Andy); The PHILADELPHIANS (filmed as "The Young Philadelphians starring Paul Newman); his 1959 novel PIONEER, GO HOME, which formed the story line for the Elvis Presley film "Follow That Dream," and finally his 1966 novel DON QUIXOTE USA, adapted into Woody Allen's film "Bananas." The Powells settled in Ft. Myers, Florida after World War II, where Powell served in the War Department and for General Douglas MacArthur in the Pacific as a Chief Censor. For a time he moved his family back to Philadelphia, after a handsome offer from a New York advertising firm. He wrote about his native Philadelphia; had with that hit and his Elvis Presley hit was able to return to Florida, where he penned most of his mysteries.

Both stories feature young men who have made their way to Florida. In A SHOT IN THE DARK Johnny Edwards is trying to appease his conscience after his tardiness in helping a friend in need results in his death. Johnny is bent on revenge, and will that be his undoing? In SHELL GAME Bill Stuart is a Florida tourist hunting for shells, when he discovers an attractive woman who is barefoot and has a sexy voice in need of his help. The trouble is, she becomes a primary suspect in a murder and Bill Stuart has fallen for her in a big way. The local Chief of Police may be plodding, but he is beginning to put the pieces together, all because of a pair of gray suede pumps:

"She sat down obediently and eased off the gray suede pumps. I looked at the bottoms of her feet, and shivered. I didn't see how she had managed to come skipping happily into the house. With feet as cut and blistered as hers, I would have come in walking on my hands. I told her not to move and went upstairs and brought down a basin of warm water and cotton and antiseptic and clean white socks and my bedroom slippers."

Richard Powell wrote in an understated masculine way, which formed a great backdrop for Hollywood mysteries. His background as a police reporter, fiction writer, ad man, and mystery writer gave him a unique perspective on the amateur sleuth of the 1960's. His male characters are brave but uncertain, and obviously the attraction to the opposite sex sets up interesting character development. His works contribute to modern heroes.

Rio Grand Fall
Rudolfo Anaya
University of New Mexico Press
MSC04 2820, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM 87131-0001
9780826344670 $17.95

Born in Pastura, outside of Santa Rosa, New Mexico, Anaya was the fifth of seven children. He attended the University of New Mexico with an undergrad degree in English, then obtained his master's degree in English, as well as one in guidance and counseling. Anaya taught for the Albuquerque Public Schools, became a counselor, and ended up as a member of UWM faculty. He retired in 1993 after twenty years. He is well known for Chicano literature, and has published several books that deal with the history of New Mexico and the influence of Old/New Spain; as well as the Mexican; Native American; and Anglo influences that make up today's magical Southwest.

Mexican P.I. Sonny Baca finds himself once again in a struggle against the evil Raven. Not only did Raven murder Sonny's beautiful cousin, but his murderous tricks threaten to disrupt the Albuquerque International Balloon Festival, the area's biggest money-maker. Clues point to a conspiracy between government; drug cartels; and the cult leader Raven Sonny is also on a personal quest to discover his own spiritual guides, the coyotes, and how they can help him as his search for Raven becomes increasingly dangerous:

"From where he watched, Sonny could sense the fury that bristled between the two men. They hated each other, they didn't trust each other, but the deal kept them together. Sonny knew it was always like this; the money to be made on drug deals made strange bedfellows. The hate and distrust grew, and only death could ease the greed that was always part of the world of drugs."

Rudolfo Anaya treats the reader to a panorama of the New Mexico landscape. Then he charms us with the history of these wonderful people. Finally, he digs deeper into the disservice that's been done in the name of government and tailors it into a plot that is fascinating and impossible to put down. Sonny Baca is a modern day medicine man, as well as being a charming private eye. Sonny is a compelling hero, and he constantly puts his heart, as well as life and limb, in danger for his friends. RIO GRANDE FALL is one heckuva read by an author who has much to teach. Anaya's writing is like a breath of fresh air after a thunderstorm.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

Little Bit & Big Byte, A Day At The Beach
Craig T. Feigh
Illustrations by Patrick Carlson
Lifevest Publishing
Centennial, Colorado
9781598796179 $11.99

Let's face it parents, our children's world is the computer. Finally an author has brought forth a work that they can relate to and perhaps will encourage their reading. Author, Craig T. Feigh has moved into their space and given them exactly what they need to tickle their reading bone and interest them in a good book with, "Little Bit & Big Byte."

Inside the pages of this outstanding work children will find colorful characters given the names of computer works, such as, Little Bit Romie, who lives inside their computer in a town called, Cyberville. His parent's names are CD and Nettie. How cute is that? Bit has an adorable dog, who is a Pointer named, Click and a cat named, Browser. He also has a big brother named, "Big Bite and a sister named Joy, who is as slim as a stick. What a smart way to interest children right from the start of the read.

Inside the pages of this book, you are taken on an adventure where you will meet some more of Bit's friends and some trouble-makers in Cyberville that cause problems just like the ones on a computer. The children will learn about computers and also enjoy a great story while their at it.

The book is very colorful; the characters jump right out at you, big and bold. Great job! This is definitely a new concept in a book for this generation of children and one I am sure is going to be well received. You really have to see and read this outstanding book to appreciate its content and visual. Definitely a new wave in reading for the young, and also not so young, incorporating the computer into their reading is one smart idea. Great job! Exceptional and highly recommended.

Genuine Men
Journeys in Stories and Stills
Nancy Bruno
Bridgeway Books
PO Box 80107, Austin, Texas 78758
9781934454275 $18.95

There are times when an author captures the heart of their subject and almost magically transports that to the pages of their work. This is what our author, Nancy Bruno, has done in this outstanding work, "Genuine Men."

We are taken on a mini-journey of many men's lives through the pages of this book, one that shows the heart and soul of numerous men, their, challenges, accomplishments and triumphs in life. We meet such men as, James, who lost his legs at an early age in life, yet despite numerous reasons to call it quits, trudged along and accomplished more than many who had both legs. Stephen, who daily fights depression, yet has the courage to daily forge forward with each new challenge it brings, and overcoming. And Cliff, who had battles in life, emotionally, physically, and spiritually, yet found love brought the peace he desperately sought. Each one of the men in this book have a unique story, yet one that I am sure is played over in others lives in our world. They had challenges that they had to battle and defeat.

The story of each is soul reaching, sober, yet encouraging. The pictures make the man real, not just a character in a storybook, but a flesh and blood co-exister in this world of ours.
This is a book of heart, one of hope and achievement that is reached not only as the world measures it, but also as only the true spirit of mankind can achieve.

In The Face
Lorelei Armstrong
Iota Publishing
92 Corporate Park, Suite 110, Irvine, CA 92606
9780979372056 $23.95

I sat amazed as I read this book wondering if there truly were people in this world who would stoop to the lengths as told in this story to make their children perfect. We meet Jai Varent, a plastic surgeon who works on infant patients before their bones harden and change their faces aiming for perfection. Creepy! However, this surgeon's life and many others is about to change when a body is dumped on his patio and by viewing security tapes it appears the 'dumper' is one of his earliest patients. The plot thickens as this patient is not just anyone, but a famous top Hollywood actor who has thousands of adoring fans. Is he really the killer or was he framed? That answer will be the job of two Los Angeles Police Department detectives to figure out. Of course, one of them maybe caught in the middle, a position that can only add flames to the already burning fire.

This is one 'in your face' read. It is a story that will grab your attention and keep you turning the pages. The entire concept of 'shaping,' as it is called to make a perfect person is mind-boggling. Top that off with a half crazed Hollywood star, not one, but several unsolved murders, and a detective who has perhaps dabbled in the wrong cookie jar from time to time bringing him in the mix, and your hooked. I'm telling you the truth. I did not know who committed the crime until the ending. The twists and turns in this read will leave you totally off balance in your quest to find the answer, and that is a good thing. This is not your normal murder mystery read, but it is one that has a fresh new twist that you will simply devour. I was impressed and am proud to give it my highest recommendation. Well done.

Shining Moments
Finding Hope in Facing Death
Georgia Lang Weithe
Reflections Press
32724 State Hwy 130, Lone Rock, WI 53556
9780979034312 $15.96

We live in a world and are a people of quick fixes. Modern technology seems to have a cure all, or make it better pack, for every area in our lives that annoy or disturb us in anyway. However, there is one area that each of us, in time, one way or another, must face head-on, and that is, death.

In this tender book by author, Georgia Lang Weithe, we take the journey with her as she confronts the loss of her father. We travel with her from the first sign of trouble, to the final breath he takes. It certainly is a journey that you will remember.

I want to say right off, this is not a woe is me, depressing read, quite the contrary. Although it definitely takes a hard look at the unpleasantness of the situation, this author opens areas that we have carefully guarded for many years, and confronts them. To name one, I feel his book will be especially helpful to those of you who are in the Baby-Boom generation, although it certainly will be a plus to many others. However, if you are of that generation, which I am, Ms. Weithe gives some good insight into our growing-up years and the world that we lived in, and interestingly intertwines them in our emotional reaction to death. This was quite an eye-opener and certainly a truth. I was amazed at her revelation. Good job.

This book doesn't stop there, however, it touches on many of the deep seated emotions we have all pushed inside of us and takes an honest look at them. Ms. Weithe shares her heart, her fears, her joys, and leaves us knowing that indeed death will touch us all, with loved ones, with ourselves, but the journey does not have to just involve pain and loss, regrets and heartache, but can be so much more rewarding if we know the path to take.

This is definitely one of a kind read. Touching, honest, soul-reaching, and one I am happy to recommend. Well done, from beginning to end.

God Has A Purpose For Me
LaRonda Koffi
Illustrated by Victor Guiza
Jesus Loves Me
Children's Books
PO Box 3237, Cherry Hill, NJ 08034
978098171501 $15.95

I was immediately impressed with this children's book by author, LaRonda Koffi. The cover art has the most adorable little girl on it and draws you into the book before you open to the first page. This is the story of little Aya. One day in church she heard the pastor speak of fulfilling God's purpose in our lives. This concerned little Aya, for she very much wanted to please the Lord. She tries in her own way to do things that she feels would be fulfilling God's purpose in her life, but she is still confused and unsure if she is doing right. After a heart-to-heart talk with dad she finally understands what Christians must do to fulfill God's purpose in our lives.

I really liked this book. The illustrations are some of the best that I have seen in a long time. Bright, bold, and colorful, reaching out to you, clearly bringing the emotions and happenings to life by the expressions on the character's faces and the surroundings clearly shown. Excellent job. The story is perfect in learning a concept about the Lord which will help any child in their walk with God. All in all, I am very proud to highly recommend this book . A real winner. Great job.

Templeton Turtle
Ron Pridmore, Illustrator: Michele-Lee Phelan
Bridgeway Books
2100 Kramer Lane, Suite 300, Austin, TX 78758
9781934454213 $14.95

Templeton Turtle has just been hatched in this delightful children's book by, Ron Pridmore.
To Templeton everything is new, everything is an adventure and he can't wait to get on with his brand new life. He asks his mother if he may go exploring, and is told yes, but to stay close-by.
Of course, Templeton, like all children, wonders a little further than he should and is almost trampled. Thank goodness that Mr. Blue rescues him.

This is a very colorful book. The illustrations are quite vivid, detailed, and definitely bring out the wild-life around the pond where Templeton lives. The story also shows children some of the wild-life that may live around ponds, such as, snakes, big birds and small, frogs and racoons, and even a beautiful butterfly. Templeton learns that there are also dangers, and it is wise to listen to his mother's instructions before wondering too far away.

A very well-made book with a learning story, and crisp, colorful, illustrations that are sure to delight your child, while giving them a lesson on following instructions, and the dangers they may encounter is they do not. Nicely done.

April Fool
John Neufeld
Grey Swan Press
Marblehead, Massachusetts 01945
9780980037739 $14.95

George and Peg have moved from their home in busy New York City to a calmer community in the countryside, one they hoped was close enough to still occasionally commute and be part of their past, yet give them some peace and quiet. Peg, wife to George, is content with her life, busy with events that she finds to help out with in her new community, but George is definitely going through a mid-life crisis. He feels that life is slipping him by and even is a regular visitor at the local hospital, where he ends up time after time with chest pains that are only in his mind, from stress, or other reasons not life threatening. His doctor tries to calm him down, make him see how good his life is, but George has illusions of a better life at middle age, one that does not include his faithful partner, Peg.

George has connected with another woman through the internet and to him all the excitement of life lies with this woman. Now George must find a way to free himself of Peg and that is truly where the problems begins. I am not going to tell you what George does, or what happens to him at the end, but let me just say this, he got what he deserved and more.

This book truly goes into the mind of a man who doesn't see what he has, thinks the grass will be greener, and forges ahead without any guilt of the consequences upon others, especially the woman who had truly loved him, his wife. I think the author pretty much hit the nail on the head as far as getting into the mind of a wayward partner, and did a great job in bringing it out in his story.

The book is at times humorous, but most times it leaves you angry and frustrated at our main character, George. You want to pick him up and shake him and tell him to wake-up to the goodness that life has given to him. Alas, George cannot see the plunge he is about to take to his destruction. I enjoyed this book, it was a really good read from start to finish, one I feel you will enjoy and perhaps know a soul or two who could well be, George.

Fiscal Pear and Shimmer in the Call of River Whale
Olivia Brooks-Scrivanich
BookSurge Publishing
9781419695896 $14.99

In this adorable read we meet our two very interesting main characters, Fiscal Pear, who is of course a pear, but one who has grown arms and legs, and Shimmer, a lightning bug. Sounds like a strange duo? Hold on you haven't heard anything yet.

As we begin the story we are told of a little village that has several bakeries, The Bakery of Apples, The Bakery of Blueberries, the Bakery of Cherries, the Bakery of Peaches, and the Bakery of Pears. Everyday they make delicious bake good for the villagers, but there is one problem. The evil owner of the Bakery of Pears is not happy when all of her customers pass her by for the other Bakeries. What will this evil baker do?

She decides that something must be done and she gets in touch with the very evil, Butt Rott Root. The name alone should send shivers down your spine. This evil slimy thing teams up with, Cutter, his name describes him quite well, and devises a plan, that includes kidnapping Fiscal Pear, to put all the other Bakeries out of business. Now the adventure beings.

I have to say that our author has let her imagination go wild in this wonderful book, and the reader will be pulled into her world of fantasy. The storyline is quick moving, sure to keep any readers attention, and the characters are both good and evil, endearing and frightening. There is a hint of mystery as the story moves along, as all of your questions on just why Fiscal Pear has arms and legs, and what his purpose is in the world is not answered, at least not in this book. Good touch. There is adventure, friendship, excitement all merging with just the right mix to make one enjoyable read.

I loved this book. It is definitely different, imaginative, and one that will hold your attention from beginning to end. Great book! Highly recommended.

Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Taylor's Bookshelf

Sandlot Summit
Rick Fishman
24065 Greenlawn Ave., Beachwood, OH 44122
Outskirts Press
10940 S. Parker Rd. -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432718688, $13.95,

Three and a half decades of conflict all come down to Little League. "Sandlot Summit: The Winner Gets to Go to Diary Queen" is a bizarre and entertaining look at the cold war. The theme is a fictional situation where General Kostlitzo Zolotov & President Reagan make a pact to settle hostilities over a children's baseball game. Felix Farley is left to coach the American team in a game where there is more on the line than the post game reward of ice cream. Deftly written, "Sandlot Summit" is recommended to anyone seeking a good laugh, whether or not they are in favor of baseball diplomacy!

Parallel Universe
Generalisimo Duffy
Outskirts Press
10940 South Parker Road -515, Parker, CO 80134
9781432718572, $13.95,

A biting satire on today's world, "Parallel Universe" tells of Planet Gerth. On Gerth, politics is highly influenced by religion and big business. This country, calling itself Utopia, will sound highly familiar to readers. Humorous and entertaining alongside informed and informative, "Parallel Universe" is a top pick for anyone seeking good satirical fiction.

Arupa Tesolin
Wisdom Tree
9788183280846, $14.95,

Creativity is a strange thing that few people manage to understand, even people who are called creative "Spark: Raise Your Mind to the Power of Infinity and Create Anything" is a guide to sparking that creativity and getting it going. Vision is having an idea, but "Spark" seeks to help readers turn that vision into a vague concept in reality. Applicable to business, writing, artistry, or other avenues, "Spark" is a handbook that would prove good reading to anyone whose meal ticket depends on their creativity.

Rethinking the Headlines
Joel Clarke Gibbons
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave., South, New York, NY 10016
0533153999, $15.00,

How much should the government truly be involved in many of today's important issues? "Rethinking the Headlines: Studies in Law, Justice, and Society" is one man's pondering on these critical subjects. Attacking the prison system, abortion, gun rights, marital rights, and much more, he supports his stance with rational thinking and details. For anyone seeking opinions on today's complex world, "Rethinking the Headlines" is a strong choice for that purpose.

The Cloud
Elmore Hammes
Kanapolis Fog Publishing Emporium
713 Rustic Road, Anderson, IN 46013
9780615147154, $13.95,

What's out there in the cold dark depths of space? "The Cloud" tells of a presence that annihilates all life that it touches throughout the atmosphere. An otherworldly man flees his soon to be destroyed planet and heads toward its next destination – Earth. With only a farm girl as an ally, he must find some way to put an end to the needless destruction. "The Cloud" is a gripping and creative science fiction novel, highly recommended.

Read Chinese Without Knowing Chinese
George Kung
Privately Published
31 Justin Street, Lexington, MA 02420-1424
9780981693309, $44.95,

Chinese is one of the most difficult languages to grasp to outsiders in the world. "Read Chinese Without Knowing Chinese: A Complete Guide to Computer-Aided Chinese Reading" is what anyone who needs to understand the Chinese language and doesn't have the time to learn its complex rules needs. Granting tips on comprehending Chinese internet sites, Chinese newspapers and books, and even Chinese street signs and billboards, it's an ideal purchase if one will soon find themselves immersed in Chinese culture. "Read Chinese Without Knowing Chinese" is informed and educational, a must for those who lack time, but need to understand.

John Taylor

Vogel's Bookshelf

Born to Serve
Charles R. Gay
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158607, $12.95,

It takes a selfless soul to dedicate oneself to serving others. "Born to Serve" is a biographical memoir of one Charles R. Gay. Serving his family as a teenager, caring for his parents exempted him from the draft. But he entered the Navy anyway, serving during the Korean war and spending two decades in the service afterwards. Upon returning to civilian life, he served as a police officer and a deputy sheriff to continue serving the people. A tale of a man who's given his life to aid others, "Born to Serve" is an inspiring and motivating read.

The Elusive Cobra
Madison Oliver
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158171, $12.95,

Defeating cancer is an impressive feat, indeed. Defeating cancer multiple times is miraculous. "The Elusive Cobra" is Madison Oliver's memoir on his battle with a recurring cancer that doesn't seem to want to let him live in peace, and his fight with it regardless of what it wants to do. Fighting the ailment since the late 1960s, Oliver's continued life is a testament to the willpower of man to stay alive. "The Elusive Cobra" is inspiring and motivating for readers who believe in the power of the body to survive.

Va Fa Sa
Hugo Cipriani
Vantage Press
419 Park Avenue South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158461, $10.95,

Striking out in the world away from the comforts of one's hometown and parents is an adventure in itself. "Va Fa Sa: A Young Man's Memoir" is an old man's recollection of a time long past as he reflects on his time just starting out in 1934. Autobiographer Hugo Cipriani tells of his adventures through America and how he found happiness, which he states is simply a matter of being brave enough to be free. "Va Fa Sa" is a unique and compelling memoir making it highly recommended reading and a recommended addition to community library American Biography collections.

Surviving Depression
Robert L. Hamlett
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533159048, $11.95,

Depression can devastate lives, stripping people of the very desire to simply get out of bed in the morning. "Surviving Depression: My Agonizing Struggle with Sanity" is Robert L. Hamlett's recollection of a life spent battling chronic severe depression. For most of his life, doctors were baffled until he found the one psychiatrist who could help him. Since then, he has overcome his depression, and offers hope to those who currently face it. "Surviving Depression" should be read by any who are losing hope in treating their own.

Ted Sabine
Vantage Press
419 Park Ave. South, New York, NY 10016
9780533158287, $12.95,

Traveling the world can provide much great inspiration. "Tsantsa" is the story of Moises and his inner conflict dealing with his culture's traditions and a western priest who wants him to follow Christianity – and end his people's practice of shrinking heads. A novel of culture clash with engaging characters, "Tsantsa" is a piece of highly recommended writing for those looking for a literary-quality story.

Paul T. Vogel

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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