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MBR Bookwatch

Volume 5, Number 2 February 2006 Home | MBW Index

Table of Contents

Donovan's Bookshelf Kaveny's Bookshelf Klausner's Bookshelf
Laurel's Bookshelf Lorraine's Bookshelf Shelley's Bookshelf
Shirley's Bookshelf    

Donovan's Bookshelf

The Blaue Reiter Almanac
Wassily Kandinsky and Franz Marc, Eds.
MFA Publications
465 Huntington Ave., Boston, MA 02115
0878467009 $22.50

The Blau Reiter art movement began in 1911, founded by the same two young painters who here edit THE BLAUE REITER ALMANAC: it blended international culture with European avant-garde and THE BLAUE REITER ALMANAC provides essays long unavailable in English. This documentary edition is edited by Klaus Lankheit and blends art history and a survey of moments with black and white illustrations and Blaue Reiter philosophy. A 'must' for any who would understand the premises and foundation history of the Blaue Reiter movement.

Single Action Sixguns
John Taffin
Gun Digest/KP Books
700 E. State Street, Iola, WI 54990-0001
0873499530 $39.99 1-800-258-0929

From modern sixguns to antiques, the single-volume sourcebook SINGLE ACTION SIXGUNS: THE DEFINITIVE, FULLY ILLUSTRATED REFERENCE WORK covers everything in an illustrated guide and is a 'must' for gun collectors and hobbyists. Color photos appear on every page along with first- person insights on gun purchases, brands, gun tricks, production specs and more. The first-person comments throughout reflect author John Tafflin's in-depth knowledge of these guns and their history.

Online Therapy
Kathleen Derrig-Opalumbo
Foojan Zeine
W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
500 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY 10110
0393704521 $34.00 1-800-233-4830

Both practicing therapists and those seeking to expand or enter into the field will find ONLINE THERAPY: A THERAPIST'S GUIDE TO EXPANDING YOUR PRACTICE an invaluable, unique guide. The idea here is that therapists can be empowered by embracing the Net as a medium of communication with patients, learning web-based tools from message boards to chat rooms and video conferencing to reach new clients and add access channels for those already under treatment. Since most of these methods will already be familiar to a wide audience who uses them in everyday life, the transition will be easy, and the focus of implementation in ONLINE THERAPY, rather than theory alone, assures a realistic approach.

1006 Gravenstein Hwy N., Sebastopol CA 95472

Tyler Mitchell's WEB MAPPING ILLUSTRATED: USING OPEN SOURCE GIS TOOLKITS (0596008651, $39.95) provides an important illustrated guide to building interactive maps, from working with map data while cutting expenses with the new open source tools available, to gathering map data, storing and managing it, and generating web services to gather data from different sources. An outstanding, cost-effective toolkit of options for web mappers. Digital video enthusiasts will welcome the tips offered by Joshua Paul in DIGITAL VIDEO HACKS: TIPS AND TOOLS FOR SHOOTING, EDITING, AND SHARING (0596009461, $29.95). Film novices and experts have long used workarounds and tricks to improve conventional motion pictures, so there's no reason digital video users can't employ some of the same tricks to optimize projects. Chapters cover everything from troubleshooting common problems to creating effective and unusual visual effects, fooling audiences with audio tricks and editing audio for maximum results, and adding professional features. Simply an outstanding resource for digital video editors at all levels. Cheah Chu Yeow's FIREFOX SECRETS: A NEED-TO-KNOW GUIDE (0975240242, $29.95) provides a step-by-step workbook introduction to Firefox, the noted Web browser, covering both popular and lesser-known features. Use themes to customize Firefox, access its hidden features, and use the best practices to get the most from Firefox - plus, use the accompanying CD-ROM of Thunderbird extensions and themes to further enhance Firefox's capabilities. Dan Pilone and Neil Pitman's UML 2.0 IN A NUTSHELL: A DESKTOP QUICK REFERENCE (0596007957, $34.95) reviews the language and semantics of UML, covering the latest version of the language as chapters survey diagram types, symbols, and how tagged values and UML profiles work. Don't review UML 2.0 IN A NUTSHELL as a coursebook, but as a reference to the language, helping learns develop logical UML-based software projects. Schuyler Erle, Rich Gibson and Jo Walsh's MAPPING HACKS: TIPS & TOOLS FOR ELECTRONI CARTOGRAPHY (0596007035, $29.95) covers the new applications and potentials of cartographic mapping tools as they apply to GPS devices and new navigation sites online. From free map services and potentials in projecting cartographic statistics into various systems to building an in-car navigation system and taking advantage of free or inexpensive GIS programs to create maps, MAPPING HACKS packs in the reviews of a wide range of GIS programs and systems and applies them to projects and real-life applications.

Diane C. Donovan
West Coast Editor

Kaveny's Bookshelf

Hi everybody, I am back with another iteration of Kaveny's Bookshelf, with promises of a lot more to come in the next few months. But first I want give my readers an update of what I have been doing for the last several months which is to say just like Rodney Dangerfield have been am back in school for the last several semesters. In the process I would like to make a few comments about my love hate relationship to the academic world which I have strong reason to believe is reciprocal

Elsewhere I have stated that I have about the same relationship to the academic world as a problem patron does to his favorite neighbor tavern. That is to say I make trouble, get warnings, I am asked to leave, stomp out swearing to now do something really interesting. As I start to do this something interesting I again realize that the academic world has something I need to continue and find myself back in the game so to speak. In way Universities are to me like banks were to reformed bank robber Willy Horton. When asked why he robbed banks he simply answered. "That's where the money is" For me if I would say the same thing about ideas, but most important collegial with others who share my interest. I would also want to this that I have a lifetime serious vocational interest in religious studies, and I am in the process of getting an intellectual and vocational retooling to pursue this interest. One my Biblical Literalist colleagues said it would help if I knew the number of books in the Christian and Hebrew Bibles. Well of course the questions depends on which of the hundreds of versions and editions ones means.

I would add that Ideas and particularly literary, social, and even (much to my dismay) Freudian theories have a kind of life of there own That is to if the are solid and based on something more than mere conjecture. Then they can help us to understand thing which exists in the real world of lived experience in the built environment. I will give a few examples from some books I have read across my lifetime with purchase information so you can easily find them, and perhaps next month summarize a couple of papers and long reviews I have written, which I think are of general interest.

Like everything else with me it starts with a story actually two stories which are woven together across thirty six years of my lifetime. In 1967 I left the University of Wisconsin Madison graduate school of education writing the F word on several of my final exams because the was a war going on and I found that I could not love justice and my country at the same time and left with all my bridges burning behind me. I was twenty three years old and under the mistaken and rather self important assumption that my melodramatic and self destructive gestures were something that the world cared about. When I teach as I plan to I well have an entire section in my courses on the futility of melodramatic and self destructive gestures, since I have almost in spite of myself lived through more than I can count, but not so many recently.

Enter Jean Paul Sartre. And back to my story.

I stayed in Madison Wisconsin because that was my home and for the next couple of years I drank hundreds of pitchers of beer and played chess and engaged in metaphysical speculation with Doctoral Candidates in a theoretical branch of mathematics called topology, but I must add my life has always been drug free. I would add that perhaps the most profound thing anybody has said about the late 1960's was that we the protestors were dead right about the war, and dead wrong about drugs.

But in any case I met two coeds named Cathy in 1969 both of whom I tried to impress in different way since neither was impressed by my ability to play chess, talk metaphysics or chug beer. I took the first Cathy to French Film by Jean-Luc Goddard, the most influential of the French New Wave directors. Called La Chinoise (1967). Since she had to pay for us both, and I took her to the film in my friends 1951 Chevy with rotted out floor boards, she was not impressed. Several later months, in order to impress the second Cathy, I read Jean Paul Sartre's

Jean-Paul Sartre
Lloyd Alexander (Translator)
New Directions
ISBN: 0811201880, $12.95

and she was impressed with me and I was impressed with Sartre. I would add that neither Cathy was my soul mate. That is who is my present wife of nearly twenty years and soul mate for twelve before that, but both Cathy's were in there way very kind to me, though I did not know this until a while later because in a sense brought me back into the world, and perhaps helped me to meet my soul mate.

Okay by now my reader you are thinking well Philip that all very interesting but after all this is a book review column and not your autobiography. Well last night I was privileged to attend the first session of existentialism course from the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies at the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire from world class scholar Dr. Ned Beach who teaches with natural and intensity, and clarity which make the equal of great names I have taken courses from at the University of Wisconsin Madison, or I have heard on the BBC, or watched perform at over the one hundred academic conference I have participated in the last twenty five years, when I presented my first paper in a graduate student comparative literature at University of Wisconsin Madison in 1984. Six years later I returned to earn two more advanced degree.

Well in any case Ned opened to a class of about thirty of us by asking if any of us knew anything about existentialism I was able to quote Sartre's on words from the introduction to Nausea where he clearly states that "existence precedes essence" Thus, Sartre re-directed three two and a half Millenniums of philosophical inquiry. So what does that mean to Me. Well it meant that I was in the world and it mattered more than anything else. In it meant in Feb 2 1971 I quit drinking booze never to drink again, and that mattered. It means we are what we do and the moral choices we make matter. And finally it means that to matters whether we act in good or bad faith. Here I am going to introduce some work I did one Albert Speer for my Holocaust studies course last semester to show how I think Sartre thinks things matter.

I have some academic work to share with you in which I make uses of Sartre's concepts of Good and Bad faith but that will have to wait until next month because. I am running on empty and starting to fade.

Philip Kaveny
Senior Reviewer

Klausner's Bookshelf

Michael J. Cavallaro
ISBN: 0977453324, $15.95, 468 pp.

Thirty-five years have passed since the destruction caused by the Encryption Wars devastated much of society. In direct reaction, the computer based subliminal animation, known as sublimation was created to regulate actions. All humans living in Cybernetica were expected to undergo the surgical implant of a chip to control the behavior of the law abiding citizens. However, there exist those outside the domination of the implants. These are lumped together as criminals and hunted down by the leaders of the corporatism that rule the city. That in turn has led to some banding together of the fringe element. One particular group, the Drifters, plans to tear down sublimation and return civilization to its roots of freedom, but this revolt will be fought mostly in cyberspace, which is owned and controlled by the Cybernetica corporatism. However, no one is prepared for the spark, an assassination attempt of an actress or the results of the hiring from shadows of two con artists to investigate the murder. CYBERNETICA is an intriguing science fiction cautionary thriller that brings 1984 into the cyber age by depicting a society in which computers do the thinking for people. The story line moves forward on several fronts including the who-done-it, but deftly comes together with a battle to determine the future of mankind; one side wants programmed cattle while the other prefers free will. Orwellian fans and anyone who appreciate a well written exhilarating warning tale about the government-industrial-media complex telling us when to go to the bathroom will want to read this dark futuristic thriller.

Murder in Montmartre
Cara Black
ISBN: 1569474109, $23.00

In January 1995 in the working class neighborhood of Montmartre in Paris, the police arrest fellow officer Laure Rousseau for killing her partner, Jacques. She swears she is innocent as she explains to her childhood friend private investigator Aimee Leduc that Jacques was meeting an informer with her as his backup when he was killed; she was arrested because her gun was fired and residue was on her hands. She persuades Aimee of her innocence and to take on her case. Aimee knows she will find the truth somewhere in the dingiest sections of Montmartre. There she immediately meets a boy who swears he witnessed the killing; she believes him, but also knows he will not be credible with the police or the courts. Other clues lead to danger from street hooligans and a Corsican separatist group that wants Aimee to leave the neighborhood. Instead the intrepid sleuth keeps digging, but soon finds the investigation takes a side tangent involving her deceased father and buried under the soot of police indiscretions, scandals, and illegalities that seem to touch her not so clean friend. In her sixth French mystery, the Aimee Leduc tales are some of the best private investigative novels on the market over the past half a decade or so. MURDER IN MONTMARTRE is a bit darker than usual, but sill retains that powerful story line that grips the audience form the moment that the two long time friends discuss the murder. Fans will want to go with Aimee as she goes home to find clues to what went wrong in order to exonerate her buddy, but the mean streets of Montmartre are even gloomier and grittier than her nightmares. Cara Black is at her best with her latest murder in France thriller.

Olympic Wandering
David Lundberg
ISBN: 0976324644, $19.95

Part One. Troy remains the only challenger to the Greek domination of the seas. However, most believe that the city-state is starting to show flab and the time to end their control of the Hellespont that links the Aegean to the Black Sea is soon. When Trojan Prince Paris allegedly abducts the beautiful Helen, Greek ruler Menelaus has his excuse to take the city. Ulysses agrees to help though he believes that Helen went willingly with her lover. Thus the lengthy Trojan War has begun *(short blip in this book). This is a terrific retelling of Ulysses' Odyssey that Homer and mythological fans would appreciate, as readers tour the islands with the great champion, on his quest, as a guide. Part Two. Author David Lundberg follows much of Ulysses'' travelogue to see how much of the spirit of the great king and his peers still live in modern day Greece. Readers will enjoy the insightful tour that could stand on its own as a fine guide to the Greek islands. OLYMPIC WANDERING is an entertaining unique look at the Greek culture that will elate readers with its use of Ulysses to tell about the glorious past and tracking his trek to relate a deep look at modern Greece. Imitation being the greatest form of flatter; this reviewer expects to see similar combos of tale and a travelogue as the pairing at least by a talented writer like Mr. Lundberg makes sense while educating and entertaining.

Bridge of the Separator
Harry Turtledove
ISBN: 1416509186, $24.00

Rhavas is an honorable pious person trying to do the right thing in accordance with his beliefs in the heavenly God Phos and avoid falling into the traps of the evil God Skotos. Though cousin to the Empire of Videssos Avtokrator Maleinos II, Rhavas serves as the prelate in remote Skopentzana; of course remote was how he felt when he first was "exiled" there, but since finds he enjoys the place. Still, he hopes to one day to return to his hometown as the ecumenical patriarch of Videssos the capital city even as he wishes no ill will towards the present priest Kameniates who remains in good health. When civil war suddenly erupts, the Avtokrator recalls troops protecting the borders to defend his reign. However, the withdrawal of the border guard enables the nomadic Khamorth warriors to invade causing the residents of Skopentzana to flee. In his haste to leave, Rhavas learns he contains a lethal power to curse someone to their death, which he uses while struggling to survive amidst the chaos of the outside invaders, the rebel forces, and those loyal to the Avtokrator. As he wanders the countryside, Rhavas observes that evil seems to have triumphed over good; he logically concludes that Skotos is the more powerful of the dueling Gods. Using religious themes like the BRIDGE OF THE SEPARATOR and a "war" between heaven and hell, Harry Turtledove provides an intriguing fresh Videssos tale. Rhavas is a fascinating soul who has converted to the side of the evil one based on his observations of hellish chaos that has engulfed Videssos. Though action-packed with plenty of adventure that will grip fans of the series, it is the religious philosophical debate that rages inside the lead protagonist that makes for a strong entry as Rhavas logically argues that to the victors go the religious texts and related dogma.

Conrad's Lady
Leo Frankowski
ISBN: 1416509194, $25.00

"The Flying Warlord". Since coming from twentieth-century Poland, Conrad Stargard has been planning for the Mongol invasion that will occur based on the history books he has studied in 1241. In his nine years in thirteenth century Poland he has brought twentieth century transportation, communication and weapons; Conrad pushed the rights of women and the poor. Now, the gazillion horde blitzkrieg begins while the Time Lords are upset with his thirteenth century reengineering. Book four in the series is a strong close out to the three previous tales that set up the Mongol Horde invasion of Poland. "Lord Conrad's Lady". Lord Conrad's wife Lady Francine is an upset woman. It is not the barbarians being defeated at the gates or that Cracow burns, or even a serial killer (another of those twentieth century oddities). It is the hotties flirting with Conrad, who acts like a rock star even as the Time Lords consider intervention. Book five feels more like an afterthought clean-up tying up loose ends that "The Flying Warlord" failed to do so. Still the time paradoxes caused by Conrad is fun to follow. "Conrad's Quest for Rubber". The Exploration Corps are on a field expedition to study the midnight sun when Conrad recalls them to send them to the Amazon Rainforest seeking rubber. They bring disease that devastates the native population while also succumbing to the local illnesses and peril. Still Lord Conrad requires rubber and so they continue the quest. The sixth tale comes across flat except perhaps for die hard fans as the tale seems like a second aftermath in spite of the Time Lords deeper involvement. Though two of the reprints seem like afterward minor tales, fans will enjoy the time travel escapades of Lord Conrad mindful of the movie Norman's Awesome Experience, but also wondering why not package The Flying Warlord with the first three thrillers.

Timothy Zahn
ISBN: 1416509259, $25.00

"Blackcollar". Three decades have past since the Ryqril invaders conquered the earth. The last hope, the Blackcollar warriors failed and either died, were captured, or fled in defeat, rumors being to lick their wounds on the isolated colony of Plinry. Now thirty years later, a fledgling resistance has formed. Amongst the newcomers is young Allen Caine, who has never lived on a free earth. His mission is to find the Blackcollar squadron and accompany them in a quest to locate and use five cached Warships. Blackcollar: The Backlash Mission: Allen Caine has come along way from his neophyte mission. He has since been trained as a Blackcollar and commands his own unit. His first mission as a leader is to visit a lab that produced the physical enhancer chemical Backlash. The assignment seems simple enough after his time on Plinry, but he will learn otherwise once in the Mile High City. In Denver, a bewildered and beleaguered Allen learns first hand that the local gangsters run the city and do not welcome armed outsiders; others want him to fail, even retired Blackcollars. Finally the elixir and its secrets reside inside an impenetrable stronghold that no one not even the Blackcollar veterans who thirst for their potion or the Ryqril have infiltrated. The reprinting of and merging of two entertaining 1980s science fiction thrillers into one book will please fans of Timothy Zahn and anyone who enjoys a besieged earth vs. all powerful alien invaders. Both tales are well written with Blackcollar more of a coming of age story while by the Backlash Mission, Allen has gained experience and training. Though the tale simplifies the good vs. evil adversaries, albeit these are Allen's tales, readers will want to peruse this fine collection.

Princess of Wands
John Ringo
ISBN: 1416509232, $25.00

Mississippi mom and loving spouse Barbara Everett believes she lives the perfect Christian life, but needs a break from domestic tranquility. However she never expected that time off would lead her to battle alien invaders using her Kung Fu skills. Though she works quietly, her efforts are noticed by a top secret group that handles supernatural cases for the FBI. This shadowy law enforcement team hires Barbara to join their spiritual squad. She soon finds herself working a paranormal case at a science fiction convention where a necromancer kills geeks, fans and writers in order to employ the brainless in a nefarious localized take over the convention scheme. Finally, Barbara visits nearby Gulfport, Mississippi to dine on Cajun food. However, instead she teams up with New Orleans Homicide Detective Sergeant Kelly Lockhart on stopping a demonic serial rape murderer the Bayou Ripper. All in the life of a soccer mom turned paranormal crime fighter. Though more like three related novellas, PRINCESS OF WANDS is a fantastic fantasy starring a wonderful heroine who just wanted a bit of excitement in her too perfect life and learned that sometimes you get what you prayed for. The interrelated tales are amusing, filled with action (some tongue in cheek), and contain a message that good always defeats evil. John Ringo is at his best with this strong Christian based fantasy that delivers its significant point through the adventures of the PRINCESS OF WANDS.

Bone Thief
Thomas O'Callaghan
Pinnacle Press
ISBN: 0786018119, $6.99

The serial killer removes the entire skeleton from his victims leaving behind skin, muscle and a form of identification. New York Police Department Lieutenant Detective John Driscoll leads the difficult investigation that with each new corpse the political suits and the "elated" media exponentially raise the pressure to stop the psychopath grows though neither group has altruistic motives. The Irish Catholic lead cop also struggles with his life outside the department. His beloved wife Collette lives in a vegetative state at home as she has for five years since the accident that also killed their daughter, but his religious beliefs will not allow him to pull the plug on her; and his attraction to his partner Margaret only makes John feel more guilt. Still he compartmentalizes his personal feelings into a back brain cell because John must concentrate on stopping this particular gruesome serial killer. THE BONE THIEF makes this an exciting serial killer police procedural though readers will wonder how John can keep his wife home (not just expense - think of the complexities of Terry Shiavo) though he is also a sympathetic character for trying to do right with his spouse. The story line moves quickly especially when the killer is performing his surgery and to a lesser degree during moments of John's lament. However, the use of a young teen hacker while the cops barely can turn on their machines seem double stereotypes from an earlier computer age (even an illiterate like me can surf the net). Still this is a tense thriller that fans who appreciate a novel killer will want to read.

Head to Head
Linda Ladd
ISBN: 0786017171, $6.99, 384 pp.

After working Robbery/Homicide in Los Angeles and undergoing a horrible tragedy homicide detective Claire Morgan moves to Lake of the Ozarks, Missouri where the biggest crimes are domestic disturbances someone stealing a lawn ornament, and x-rated phone calls. That all changes when a murder occurs at Cedar Bend Lodge which is owned and operated by the wealthy and charismatic Nicholas Black. The victim, a famous soap opera star, is found posed underwater sitting at a table covered with kitchen items as if she was waiting for a meal to be served. At first Claire thinks Nick is the most likely suspect especially when someone attacks her and puts her in the water to drown. She arrests Nick then and there she but he is released after cops prove with the security tapes he wasn't the person who attacked her. When she learns the relationship between the victim and Nick, she crosses him off her suspects list and he begins helping them profile the serial killer. The medical examiner discovers that it is the victim's body but someone else's face attached to the body. When another victim wearing the first victim's face is found in the place where they tape the soaps in L.A. is found Claire's past is exposed. Her boss is so livid he suspends her but she is later reinstated and finds herself in danger because she was the target all along. Linda Ladd has written a riveting and chilling thriller that is really two stories in one. The second story is about a child called Brat who is the victim of physical, sexual and emotional abuse who at the age of fourteen began a killing spree. He kills the victims and chops off their heads so they can keep his mother's head company. How this relates to the main storyline is an another great mystery written by an author who knows how to create two separate but parallel stories. HEAD TO HEAD IS memorizing and exciting reading and the sexual tension that exists between Claire and Nick adds an extra layer to this fantastic novel.

Forever Will You Suffer
Gary Frank
ISBN: 1932815694, $6.99

Eight years ago, sexagenarian Walker suddenly drove over sixty miles an hour hitting head on the vehicle containing Rick Summers' mom Mari Anne and his sister Allison; their seat belts inexplicably opened a nanosecond before impact; both female Summers died. Walker walked away swearing he could not brake or steer the out of control car. Three years later Rick's dad remarried, but he never visits the Mount Moriah Cemetery near their hometown of Fair Lawn nor wants his son in his new life. Rick comes every anniversary to tell his mom and his sister how well he is doing, which he knows is a lie. Finishing his visit, Rick enters his cab, but quickly notices his human driver lying on the road dead replaced by a rotting female corpse once called Judith. Unable to escape, he is driven to the Fair Lawn home of Katarina "Kat" Petroska, whom he once loved. She is not there, but a hostile Meggan assumes Rick was stalking Kat who recently vanished. Hell has returned to Fair Lawn with Rick being the focus of one particular female resident with a memory longer than a lifetime and eternity to cause harm as she did eight years ago. This tense horror tale grips the audience from the moment that Rick turns to leave the cemetery only to hear the whisper "take care, Rick" but no one is there and never slows down until the final confrontation in Rick's hell. The frightening story line is action-packed with reanimated corpses doing harm to any one near Rick. Fans will keep the lights on all night as Gary Frank writes a scary thriller that leaves the audience constantly looking around to insure no invasions from the grave has occurred.

The Light Horseman
Marjorie Jones
ISBN: 1932815457, $6.99

In 1917 as part of the Sinai and Palestine Campaign the Australian Light Horsemen brigade attacks the enemy lines at Beersheba. Dale Winters and his younger brother were amongst the soldiers who obeyed orders that all know probably mean their death. Dale lived while his sibling died. With the Great War over, Dale returns to the family station a broken man who feels guilt for surviving while his sibling, who followed him as kids and into the military, died. Arizonian Emily Castle always wanted to visit her Uncle Charles' Castle Winters Sheep Station in Australia as she always marveled at the tales he told in his letters. When her uncle dies, she inherits half the station. She travels to Australia looking forward to meeting the two boys Charles raised, but learns one died in the war and the other acts dead. Though half in love with the Dale of the letters, she knows this is not her romanticized champion. When Emily bets her half of their station on a horserace, she begs Dale to ride for her, but that would mean breaking a death pledge. This historical tale with a supporting romantic subplot is a timely terrific look at the human cost of war based on a real unit and their famous charge (see the movie The Lighthorsemen for more insight). The story line focuses on the mentally broken Dale and the woman who hopes her love for him nurtures him back to being whole. This gripping character driven tale takes no prisoners as to who truly sacrifices vs. who patriotically calls for others to sacrifice through the anguish of the battle fatigue syndrome protagonist. Only the patience and nurturing of a loved one can provide solace and even that may not be enough.

Lasso the Moon
Beth Ciotta
ISBN: 1932815287, $6.99

In 1877, Paris Garrett travels to the dangerous Arizona Territory in hopes of fulfilling her childhood dream of becoming a famous stage actress though she has no experience. When she feels down with no hope of achieving her goal, she thinks of her beloved late father who encouraged her to always seek to make your dreams happen. Joshua Grant left his first love law enforcement, which he hopes to return to soonest, but first must meet the stipulations of his late uncle's will. He must marry within two weeks or his odious cousin inherits the opera house. Though he does not want to own the opera house and detests giving up law enforcement even temporary he would rather be dead then let his relative gain possession. Still he has no one in mind until a talented songwriting dreamer arrives in town. Joshua knows she is a mistake, but he wants the wannabe actress so why not marry her. Of course he first must win her over while his cousin has other plans for her, him, and the opera house. LASSO THE MOON is an amusing historical romance starring two likable protagonists and a vile antagonist. Joshua has no idea what happened to his simple life feeling eh must be JINXED; first with the will and now with Paris whose CHARMED innocence and obsession somehow SEDUCED his heart. Fans will laugh at the escapades of the lead couple and hiss at the villain as Beth Ciotta provides a warm lighthearted nineteenth century romantic romp.

Troubled Midnight
John Gardner
ISBN: 0312337213, $23.95, 272 pp.

In 1943 in Wantage, England, someone tortures before killing Lieutenant-Colonel Tim Weaving and his lover; the bodies found in her cellar. Concern over this homicide is extremely high because Weaving has been a key participant in the planned D-Day invasion of the mainland. Scotland Yard Reserve Squad lead the investigation as much into who committed the killings and what did they learn from the late military officer. In spite of RS chief Tommy Livermore's chagrin, the War Office Intelligence Liaison Curry Shepherd takes over much of the inquiries claiming security. He also persuades Woman Detective Sergeant Suzie Mountford to switch sides at work joining his team and in bed dropping Livermore for her new boss. Still the concern remains whether top secret Operation Overlord has been breached. This intriguing World War II espionage police procedural is a fine thriller that provides an interesting look at the pre D-Day planning. The who-done-it is more critical than just a double homicide investigation as the allies need to capture the culprit to learn what he or she might know and who they divulged that information to. In her fourth appearance, Mountford remains a bit weak needing male rescuing, but in spite of her seemingly pathetic skills John Gardner provides a fine historical spy story.

Walter Satterthwait
ISBN: 0312352441, $24.95, 352 pp.

Veteran cops who thought they had seen everything want to puke; some do. The killer removed the fat from the obese woman as St. Anselm, Florida detective Sophia Tregaskis thinks the murder reminds her of a flensing operation performed by whalers on whales. Her partner former NYPD detective James Fallon takes charge of the crime scene. The clues are few if any. Two more identical deaths of obese females follow, making it obvious that a serial killer targets overweight women. To aid the cops, psychologist Dr. Eva Swanson begins profiling the killer. As they dig for clues, James admires his partner for holding up and providing insight into the case, as the culprit is quite clever. As the city panics, the Mayor and police chief, encouraged by the demands of the media to catch the killer or resign, pressure the two lead sleuths. Sophia has learned so much from her veteran partner, the consummate professional not allowing anything to intrude on uncovering the identity of the killer except his desire for his much younger partner, but his top priority remains stopping the ritual-like murders before another victim surfaces. In this day and age in which serial killers are common in police procedural novels few match up to the centerfold Lector or the real things, but the "sophisticated" culprit of PERFECTIONS he comes reasonably close especially as he dines and wines on quality food and drink,. Readers and Sophia appreciate James professional and methodical sleuthing for instance lecturing a cop who carelessly parked his car on a crime scene lawn. Though the climatic final twist is somewhere in the realm of Rod Serling plausibility, fans, except overweight females, will enjoy this solid suspense thriller.

The Rainaldi Quartet
Paul Adam
ISBN: 031235004X, $23.95, 320 pp.

In Italy, aging violin makers Castiglione and Rainaldi, Father Arrighi and police detective Guastafeste are players in a string quartet. The four men enjoy playing together as they respect one another though they can be quite caustic with one another; still they try to make as much time available to practice and perform. Rainaldi tells his friends especially Castiglione that he is on the trail of a great find, a priceless violin. However, instead of the glory and euphoria of a great find, someone kills Rainaldi. Father Arrighi performs the funeral attended by the other two men of their musical group as well as family and friends. Guastafeste investigates the homicide though he knows he has a personal stake that should probably exclude him from looking into the murder that he believes is tied to the rare violin. Castiglione assists him as a violin maker expert especially with his insight into construction. Clues soon lead the two men from their rural section of Italy to England, but uncovering the identity of the killing genius remains seemingly impossible even as the duet makes progress towards their objective. Though the whodunit is terrific it plays base to the rich textured musical perspective. The story line harmoniously blends the music with the murder mayhem without slowing down or neglecting either. Castiglione and Guastafeste are a wonderful pair, who at times are quite cutting with each other, as they follow clues in an effort to uncover the culprit who changed their quartet to a trio. Paul Adam provides a virtuoso performance.

Sorrow's Anthem
Michael Koryta
ISBN: 0312340109, $22.95, 320 pp.

In Cleveland private investigator Lincoln Perry plays HORSE with Amy Ambrose when her editor informs her that an arsonist was taped burning down a house with a woman inside. The suspect Ed Gradduk eluded the cops, but upon hearing that name Lincoln is stunned as they were best friends as children. Several years later Lincoln adhering to his oath as a cop had arrested his pal. Still feeling guilty of betrayal though he knows he did the right thing, Lincoln wants to help Ed. He visits Ed's hostile mother and then his pal Scott Draper when Ed comes down the stairs of the bar insisting he never killed the woman regardless of tapes. Cops see Ed who flees; they drive after him but when he stumbles they accidentally hit and kill him. Lincoln believes Ed and decides to prove his friend's innocence to clear his name. With the help of his partner Joe Pritchard, Lincoln begins his quest not realizing that his path leads to a serial arsonist protected by those who could make trouble for Lincoln. The second Perry hard-boiled detective tale (see TONIGHT I SAID GOODBYE ) is a terrific who-done-it because of the hero's belief that though he did the right thing as a cop years ago, he failed his pal by not being there afterward; thus clearing Ed's name is an obsession heated by a need for redemption. The twists and turns of the arson-murder investigation is clever and plausible while quite entertaining. The key cast members, not just Lincoln, seem genuine especially characters like Ed's mom who holds Lincoln culpable for her son's downfall. Michael Koryta provides a deep mystery with a strong support cast and a powerful lead detective working the mean streets of Cleveland.

The Princess of Burundi
Kjell Eriksson
ISBN: 0312327676, $23.95, 288 pp.

In Libro, Sweden, everyone is stunned when the mutilated corpse body of husband and father John Harald Jonsson, out on a job, is found in the snow. Based on the disfigurement, whoever killed the renowned cichlids tropical fish expert, passionately hated John. Death had to be a relief for the obvious evidence like three cut off fingers that shows he suffered while alive. Thus, homicide detectives Ola Haver and Ann Lindell, who comes off maternity leave to work the case, hone in on a forty-two year old troubled person, his family, and especially an acrimonious nutcase who apparently had a run in with John. However, proof proves difficult to come by making the two sleuths wonder if they are going down a wrong path. Reassessing what they know and suspect, Ola and Anna continue to search for the motive by someone who obviously detested the victim, but could it have to with his personal life or his work at the aquarium that led to this vicious homicide. This tranlastion of an award winning Swedish police procedural reads in many ways more like a deep insightful psychological thriller though the detectives diligently work the homicide. The characterization is top rate as the audicne undertsnads what motivates several key players while the support cast enhances that perception. Fans will enjoy the excitng tale and look forward to hopefully more translations of the works of Kjell Eriksson, perhaps THE ILLUMINATED PATH.

John Boyne
ISBN: 0312343582, $24.95, 352 pp.

In 1910 Camden, England, Scotland Yard Detective Walter Dew feels somewhat ill as he looks over the crime scene in the cellar of a family house. The victim is Bella Crippen, a former music hall singer under her maiden name Elmore before she married Dr. Hawley Harvey Crippen. The obvious prime suspect is the husband, but he is nowhere in sight. A witness recognized jewelry that Crippen's female companion, who was not his wife, wore that belonged to Bella. The sleuth assumes Crippen is on the lam though possibly also dead if by some remote chance he is not the killer. At the same time that Walter heads the homicide investigation, in Antwerp, Belgium, Mr. John Robinson and his teenage son Edmund board the passenger ship SS Montrose to traverse the three thousand plus miles of the Atlantic to Quebec, Canada. In fact John is actually Hawley and Edmund is his lover Ethel LeNeve. Neither realize as they try to limit contact with the crew and other passengers that Dew continues to follow their trail. CRIPPEN is an intriguing historical fictionalized account of a real sensationalized at the time love-murder triangle. The tale moves back and forth between the present (circa 1910) and the late nineteenth century childhood of the title character. Though the insight into the pre-homicide Hawley is fascinating, that subplot also slows down an interesting Scotland Yard investigation. Still fans will gain insight into late Victorian and Edwardian England as well as what motivated Crippen to kill his wife and run off with his lover in an apparent crime of passion. Readers will appreciate this deep Edwardian tale, but struggle between the two appealing segues that take away from each other.

The Templar Legacy
Steve Berry
ISBN: 0345476158, $24.95, 496 pp.

In Copenhagen, Cotton Malone observes "Red Jacket" knock down and steal the purse of his former boss at the U.S. Justice Department Stephanie Nelle. Red Jacket races up the Kobmagergade but to avoid capture he jumps off the tower slicing his throat on the way down. Stephanie is shook up because she realizes this was no ordinary thief; he somehow knew her business involving her work as head of the DOJ's Magellan Billet. Cotton goes back to talk with Stephanie, but she leaves. A bit hurt, the former agent decides to sleuth as he assumes Stephanie did not want him probing into her official work. He soon finds himself studying the religious order of the Knights Templar that allegedly died out soon after its last master died in 1308 France. Behind that he learns that several groups feverishly search for the Great Devise that disproves the Resurrection and tears apart much of the heart and soul of Christianity. As he and new teammates interpret the clues, the current Templar Master Raymond de Roquefort and his supporters want them dead before they uncover the "Rosetta Stone" that will destroy Christianity. The action is non-stop from the moment Red Jacket commits suicide until the final confrontation with killer monks. Cotton is a courageous soul who meets his Muslim female counterpart while on the investigation. Religious conspiracy buffs will appreciate the complex abstruse puzzles that are part of sub-genre cloning of the Da Vinci Code. Though some of the rationalizations defending lethal actions seem stretched even for religious fanatics (another cloning device), Steve Berry keeps THE TEMPLAR LEGACY fresh by avoiding the usual dissing of Christianity, instead he provides an action-packed arcane thriller that will have the audience interpreting the enigmatic clues along side of Cotton and his pilgrims.

Skin Gods
Richard Montanari
ISBN: 0345470974, $24.95, 416 pp.

In Philadelphia, a vicious sly serial killer enjoys reenacting famous death scenes from movies. He films his work and then splices its content in with originals like Psycho. After adding his real gruesome take to a video, he returns the revised film to the store so someone can rent his "director's" cut. People who have seen Hitchcock's Psycho for instance are in for quite a shocking "director's" cut. Philadelphia homicide detectives Jessica Balzano and Kevin Byrne investigates the homicides though the latter works part-time as he still recovers from a gunshot wound. Since the killer's is talented with his filming and cutting, in between Kevin chomping on pain pills, the two sleuths look into the local film industry for clues to include a major producer and pornography movie makers. The two partners also have baggage from their personal lives as Kevin struggles to stay connected with his teenage daughter following his divorce and Jessica worries about her preschooler after tossing out her womanizing spouse. The serial killer makes this a strong thriller as readers can envision his splicing his work into classic film scenes. This makes for an electrifying investigation mostly run by Jessica. Though the two sleuths seems to be overloaded with personal baggage that slows down the case, fans of police procedurals or gimmicky serial killer tales will take pleasure in reading SKIN GODS and obtaining the two detectives' first case together (THE ROSARY GIRLS).

The Coming of Conan the Cimmerian
Robert E. Howard
illustrated by Mark Shultz
ISBN: 0345483855, $29.95

This anthology consists of the first thirteen (in chronological order of when released) Conan tales, which most literary historians agree were the start of the sword and sorcery sub-genre. The tales are well written and enhanced by terrific illustrations by Mark Schultz. Those who grew up with the Schwarzenegger films will find Howard's Conan a much more complete character (actually the Marvel Comic book series captured more of the original essence). The stories are exciting though they were written in the 1930s. The collection also includes much more information on the Conan tales including maps, an untitled draft and several synopses of potential future tales. The Miscellanea and Appendix sections are fun to read during spare moments as fans will gain an understanding of how creative the author truly was, but clearly the exhilarating stories is where the superb reading experience is at as that affirms Mr. Howard's greatness.

Party Girl
Sarah Mason
ISBN: 0345469569, $12.95

In England though several weeks have passed, event planner Isabel "Izzy" Serranti has not recovered from being dumped by her boyfriend. That coupled with feeling overweight has left Izzy lacking confidence in her abilities to hold the attention of a man. When she sees her childhood best friend, who inexplicably became her teenage tormentor, financier Simon Monkwell she babbles about food while he apparently fails to recognize her. Simon hires Izzy to perform a planner's miracle as his family estate Pantiles is in financial trouble, but to save it he must fool potential American investors that all is well. She would like to refuse him, but he is so handsome and debonair while she is oafish, but the reason she agrees is because she inadvertently gave away some Pantiles' insider information to her lout of an ex. Thus she hosts a weekend in the English countryside where investors, their wacko families, a tarantula and others interfere with the attraction between Simon and Izzy; however it is what caused teenage Simon to turn into a bully that remains between them. PARTY GIRL is a warm British chick lit romance starring a likable but unconfident lead female struggling to make a weekend right for the man she loves who she expects will mistreat her as he did when he turned thirteen. Izzy is an interesting protagonist coping with the families of her and Simon, other fractious souls like the help, the demands of the Americans, and SOCIETY GIRLS invited to the gala. Though the support cast at times overwhelms the tale with the baggage they bring to the weekend event, dizzy Izzy makes this a fun often amusing romantic romp.

Every Breath You Take
Judith McNaught
ISBN: 0345479904, $24.95, 334 pp.

Self-made millionaire Mitchell Wyatt assumed he was an orphan but is actually a member of the prominent Wyatt family, who looked upon his birth as an embarrassment. When his brother William learned about Mitchell, he engineered a meeting with his sibling. Mitchell quickly cares for his brother, his sister-in-law and his nephew Billy. When William disappears, Mitchell comforts his sister-in-law and Billy; not realizing the Cook County Attorney General believes he killed William and probably his father too. Kate Donovan is on the Caribbean Island of Anguillia waiting for her boyfriend of four years to join her, but meets Mitchell; they share a passionate interlude and Kate breaks it off with Evan when he arrives, but finds Mitchell returned to Chicago to answer questions about the murder of his brother. Kate thinks he deserted her and Evan tells her he used her to get revenge on his father who played a role in sending him away when he was an infant. She believes Evan and after a brief bitter exchange at a social gala Kate and Mitchell don't see each other for three years until another crime brings them together. Fans of Danielle Steel will appreciate the mainstream fiction EVERY BREATH YOU TAKE. The story line is loaded with suspense as the audience anticipates Mitchell's arrest and subsequently what he will do. The relationship between Kate and him feels more obligatory of the sub-genre than a genuine meeting of the hearts. Still reader will enjoy the tense tale pondering how it will end.

The Protege
Stephen Frey
ISBN: 0345480589, $24.95

Since taking over for the murdered CHAIRMAN Bill Donovan ten months ago, Everest Capital CEO Christian Gillette has several incredible successful ventures already. However, THE PROTEGE David Wright accidentally killed a prostitute during a bondage session. Complicating matters for the guilt laden second in command is that the Carbone mob has pictures that they use to blackmail him into revealing insider information on the CEO even as he wonders whether the gang wants control of the Vegas NFL team owned by Everest. At the same time, Christian uses his opposition to try to leverage information about his father a senator who died in a mysterious plane crash sixteen years ago. His efforts lead him to defrocked former CIA agent Norman Boyd who sells him a bill of goods as to what happened while in reality working for the Carbone crowd. Of course he still has a few deals to make worth millions to the company. Though too much is going on between the lead protagonist's personal life and business lie and that of some of his subordinates especially the person he has been mentoring, fans will marvel how well everything ties together in this tense financial thriller. In spite of too many subplots, the action-packed story line moves at a fast pace, which is a tribute to the talent of Stephen Frey. Overall this is a fine thriller from the moment the hooker's neck accidentally snaps with a haunting descriptive popping sound until the final crackling confrontation.

The Ethical Assassin
David Liss
ISBN: 140006421X, $24.95, 336 pp.

In 1985 in a trailer park near Jacksonville, seventeen years old Lemuel "Lem" Altick goes door to door selling encyclopedias. Though he makes good money, the job devastates his nonexistent social life and makes him feel middle aged so he plans to stick with it for one year and then find something more appealing like sleeping through college. Lem tries to sell his wares to Karen and the "Bastard" when someone kills both of them. Stunned into inertia Lem listens to Melford Kean explain that these two, as animal abusers, deserved death. Meanwhile police chief and self declared mayor of the trailer park Jim Doe investigates the double homicides, but seems more interested in keeping Lem quiet anyway possible. Apparently the killings interfere with the Mayor's fund-making rackets including a speed trap, the encyclopedia selling operation, and a hog farm where animals are brutally mistreated before being dumped in the "waste lagoon" that also serves as a human cemetery. Not sure which side is less psychopathic, Lem wants to live long enough to register in college and steal kisses from a bookselling peer. In the tradition of the zany South Florida (though this is few hundred miles north on I-95) suspense thriller, THE ETHICAL ASSASSIN is a wacky coming of age tale starring a bewildered teen wondering how he got into this quagmire. The story one told from the shocked Lem's perspective is loaded with puns, barbs, and satirical asides on life in Reagan America. The secondary cast makes for a wild time with loonies (whose names matter) aging the stunned teen. Sub-genre fans will welcome David Liss, who provides a fresh madcap mayhem to the Florida swamps.

Learning Curves
Gemma Townley
ISBN: 0345480031, $12.95

Harriet Bell, CEO of Green Futures, a firm that helps British companies provide environmental friendly services around the globe, is concerned with a brewing construction scandal in Indonesia. An earthquake destroyed over 500 homes many built to weather natural disasters after the Boxing Day Tsunami. Fingers point at the construction company Axiom with claims of corruption and bribes involving her former spouse's company Bell Consulting. She asks her daughter Jennifer to visit her father George who she and her mom have not seen in over a decade since he deserted both of them, to learn the truth using their MBA program as a means to get inside. Jennifer does not like the idea of spying on anyone let alone her father, but her mom plays on her conscience so she reluctantly agrees. However, nothing seems right as she tries to avoid her dad, digs for dirt on his company and meets and falls in love with lecturer Daniel Peterson. Using the environment as an underlying issue, LEARNING CURVES is an interesting boardroom romance with two other couples augmenting the relationship between the lead pair. Harriet and George are intriguing support players who stubbornly blame the other for the end of their marriage while their offspring learns a lot more than she bargained for when she joined the Bell Consulting MBA program. Gemma Townley provides a deep character driven tale of romance in the world of big business.

Magic Hour
Kristin Hannah
ISBN: 0345467523, $23.95

The media and the parents of the victims and even the survivors hold child psychiatrist Dr. Julia Cates culpable after a teenage patient of three years Amber Zuniga went on a rampage killing four peers. However, no one holds Julia to task more than she does herself as she keeps looking over what she did, trying to figure out what she could have done different to prevent the tragedy. In between the Pacific and the Olympic National Forest, Rain Valley is a tiny insulated town, but has a problem. Chief of Police Ellie Barton pleads with her sister Julia to come to the northwest to help a mute little girl who came out of the nearby woods; local assumption is the child was raised by wolves. Julia heads north to work with the child she names Alice. Local Dr. Max Cerrasin assists her as she tries to reach Alice and learn who her parents are while also rejecting the persistent courting advances of her new medical partner. MAGIC HOUR is a deep character driven tale that grips the audience once the depressed Julia leaves Los Angeles for the Pacific Northwest and never slows down until the final encounter. The exciting story line is driven by the emotional needs of Julia as much as by Alice. Who the child is and who her parents are lead to a fine mystery (similar to a real story from the early twentieth century) to a superb drama.

A Hole in Juan
Gillian Roberts
ISBN: 0345480198, $23.95, 240 pp.

It is been almost a month since Amanda Pepper and Mackenzie were married but now that the schoolteacher is considered family, her husband's kin send his nephew Pip stay with them for a while until he calms down and gets over his broken heart. Her spouse, a former homicide detective, is now in school studying to get his PH.D in criminology. He is a part time private investigator and Amanda is learning to be on call they can supplement her income from Philly Prep. Mischief Night is coming up soon but the atmosphere at the school is dark and foreboding as the senior students are not acting like themselves. Physics teacher Juan Reyes is complaining that equipment disappears and reappears and blames his students who think he is too hard and strict with them. Amanda is getting notes that point to something terrible happening at the Friday Mischief party at the school. Two female students who are supposedly best friends are constantly arguing and two males who were best buddies have a vicious altercation. Professor Reyes is seriously injured in what police think is an accident but is in reality a sadistic prank that viciously backfires on the students who caused it. All these happenings are linked but unless Amanda figures out what it all means, a terrible tragedy will occur. Gillian Roberts has written another exciting mystery that demonstrates how a mob can rule and force their collective mindset on another person. After reading this book readers will understand how a Columbine situation can happen if stops aren't taken to prevent it. A HOLE IN JUAN is a chilling and terrifying storyline involving crimes that are beyond comprehension yet seem plausible. The protagonist takes action making her a true heroine.

The Kill
Allison Brennan
Ballantine Books
ISBN: 0345485238, $6.99

Olivia "Livie" St. Martin tries to stop the man with the blue bird on his arm from abducting her older sister Melissa, but he just slaps the little girl away and throws Missy inside his black truck. As he drives off, Livie's parents hearing her screams race outside, but they are too late. Her mom hugs Olivia, but that was the last squeeze she ever received from her. Over three decades later, Olivia is Director of Trace Evidence and Materials Analysis at the FBI lab in Virginia when her former husband Dr. Greg van Burns informs her that the DNA of the man she testified abducted her sibling, Brian Harrison Hall, does not match a hair found on Missy's corpse. Hall is freed while Livie is stunned as the only thing that relieved her survival guilt was the conviction of her sibling's rapist-killer. Needing to learn the truth, she breaks office procedures by leaving the lab to do field work. Olivia quickly finds evidence that a serial killer is loose and has been for years; his last known victim in Seattle where she teams up with workaholic Police Detective Zack Travis to stop a clever psychopath and to figure out who killed Missy. THE KILL is a fast-paced character driven investigative tale starring a stunned heroine who knows the irony that her field of expertise exonerated Hall. The romance between Livie and Zack seems somewhat forced, as the investigation takes front and center as the crime lab guru and the homicide detective follow clues that take several intriguing twists. Fans of police procedurals with an overwrought obsessed star will want to read Allison Brennan's fine thriller and seek her two previous FBI tales (See THE PREY and THE HUNT).

Little White Lies
Gemma Townley
ISBN: 0345486862, $6.99, 320 pp.

Sick of living in Bath and wanting to taste swinging London, Natalie Raglan quits her job at an advertising firm and ends her relationship with her boyfriend. Once her ties to Bath end, she moves to London. However, just because she moved to the big city does not mean anything has changed except that Nat feels even more alone than ever. More embarrassing is that outside of bills, wrong numbers, and crank calls, the previous renter Cressida Langdon receives all the friendly calls and fun mail. However, the frustrating turning point occurs when Cressida receives an invitation to attend a gala at swanky Soho House. Unable to resist Nat decides to attend pretending she is Cressida. Rubbing elbows at bashes at the Soho House with the rich and famous is great, but it is dating investment banker Simon that makes Nat feels she is dancing on clouds for she loves him, but also feels part of her is in the pits of hell because he loves swinging urbane Cressida not mousy Natalie. This character driven tale centers on a lonely individual who remakes herself by "stealing" someone else's image. Natalie soon learns several life lessons on deception yet also believes that without it she would never have tasted love ("far better to have loved …"). Readers will empathize with Nat as she hobnobs with the elite, which was her dream until she met Simon who she believes fell in love with her Cressida persona not the real Natalie. Fans of contemporary fiction will appreciate Natalie's dilemma for she knows she must reveal the truth, but that will end her relationship with the man she loves as trust is important.

Murder at the Foul Line
Edited by Otto Penzler
ISBN: 0446696315, $13.95

Using real anecdotal examples from headlines over the last two decades Otto Penzler implies that modern day basketball and criminal behavior share the courts. Thus this marriage led to the fourteen short stories that make up the fine MURDER AT THE FOUL LINE. The contributors are a who's who of mystery though some are surprises as the sport link is not evident in their resumes. Each tale is solid with some contributions (those of George Pelecanos and Laurie R. King) being backboard shattering dunks that Chocolate Thunder would have relished adding to his repertoire. Overall a fun steady anthology with no air balls, but few fast break slam dunks; still sports mystery readers will enjoy the compilation as the violations by the protagonists lead to a winning series of shots.

All in One Piece
Cecelia Tishy
ISBN: 0892967978, $24.95, 307 pp.

After divorcing her wealthy husband and losing much of her income, psychic Reggie Cutter moves into the townhouse she inherited from her aunt Jo in Boston's South End. Jo was a psychic who helped the police on many cases and Reggie is following in her footsteps. Her life takes a dangerous twist when she gets hit by a car. Her upstairs tenant Steven Damelin sees the incident and believes it was t an accident not someone deliberately trying to kill her. After getting her fixed up Stephen talks about a deal that Jo was going to invest in and ask Reggie if she is interested. She puts him off. That night she hears strange noises and the next morning she sees blood dripping from Steve's apartment into hers; she opens his door and sees him lying on his floor, the victim of a gruesome murder. Since she is involved the police don't want her working the case. She intends to listen to them but she has a vision of Steve in water and a piece of wood hitting him. She decides to do her own investigation by interviewing plenty of suspects who had reason to kill him, and almost winds up getting killed by a murderer without mercy. ALL IN ONE PIECE is a charming amateur sleuth mystery with the eccentric cast of characters adding humor to this who-done-it. The protagonist is a down to earth person who thinks of her psychic powers as a tool to be used as one more investigative method while readers will look at her as the kind neighbor next door that everyone likes. Cecelia Tishy has a knack for creating a plausible mystery with a paranormal twist.

The Tenth Circle
Jodi Picoult
ISBN: 0743496701, $26.00, 400 pp.

Daniel Stone was the only white child who lived in an Alaskan Eskimo village where because of his race, the boys picked on him until he finally acted out by stealing, vandalizing property, fighting and a host of other petty crimes. When he was eighteen, he left Alaska and reinvented himself and now is a mild mannered comic artist; a stay at home dad to his teenage daughter Trixie, who he will protect at any cost. Trixie is in love with Jason who dumped her for another girl but she does everything in her power to get him back. At an unsupervised teen party, Trixie tries to make Jason but it backfires and she returns home telling her father he raped her. Jason is arrested and let out on bond but the lead detective on the case finds inconsistencies in Trixie's story. Just when they are about to drop the case, a date rape drug is found in Trixie's blood taken when she went to the hospital right after she claimed rape. Jason is now going to be tried as an adult but that is not the end of the story only the beginning. Jodi Picoult always writes an exciting thriller wrapped around a social issue and in THE TENTH CIRCLE the concern is date rape and how it affects the victim, the family and the suspect. The plot takes so many unexpected twists that readers have no idea where the storyline will finally take them. The audience will empathize with Trixie, a young adult who is facing issues her parents never dealt with and she struggles to deal with them on his own. This book is going to make the New York Times bestseller list.

Behold the Many
Lois-Ann Yamanaka
ISBN: 0374110158, $24.00, 304 pp.

In 1939 Anah's daughter Hosana dies; though she mourns her loss, Anah prays that the death will lift the curse. In 1913 Hawaii, young Leah comes down with Tuberculosis; her mother tries to hide the illness, but is caught. The child is sent to a remote orphanage in the Kalihi Valley in the Ko'olau Mountains. One year later her sister Aki joins her and not long afterward another sibling Anah is sent there. In 1916 Leah dies and subsequently so does Aki. Anah vows to stay there forever and the ghosts of the children who have died there including her two sisters communicate with her. In 1924, Anah marries Ezroh with plans to finally leave the orphanage. However, the ghosts are angry and jealous that she is able to go anywhere while they cannot. They try to stop her marriage, but fail; however she and her family are cursed by one of the spirits. Over the years Anah has several children, but never overcame the guilt of surviving nor of leaving. In some ways BEHOLD THE MANY is a deep historical tale with plenty of insight into Hawaii and how tuberculosis victims were treated. However, it is the relationship when they lived and after they died between the surviving sister and her two deceased siblings that make for an eerie ghost story. Anah's beliefs that she communicates with all the dead children at the isolated clinic seems very real though some skeptics will say she compensated for her losses. Though time moves too fast making it somewhat difficult to follow, fans will relish this strong ghost story.

The Good Life
Jay McInerney
ISBN: 0375411402, $25.00

Luke McGavock detests his upper class hollow life so he decides to make changes to the chagrin of his wife Sasha, who insists she covers both of their needs with her activity to help the poor through elitist charity galas. Their teenage daughter enjoys the material life that his financial job covers. He quits his high paying Wall St. financial job seeking something meaningful. At the same time that Luke is going through a soul searching, publisher Russell Calloway and his previous stay at home wife Corrine barely know one another anymore though they raised twins that were initially sired through the artificial insemination of her sister. Corrine now wants to do something meaningful so she is trying to break in as a screenwriter. 9/11 changes everything as Luke and Corrine meet at a Ground Zero soup-kitchen. They are immediately attracted to one another but seek comfort that they know their respective spouses will fail to provide to them after watching so much death and destruction. They turn to each other and begin an affair with both wondering what is truly THE GOOD LIFE. The deep look at how 9/11 affected the social life of Manhattan's upper crust make for an intriguing drama until the affair intercedes and brings the plot back to soap opera realm. The key four characters seems genuine especially the before and after Luke and Corrine. Meanwhile fans will ponder the philosophical title in a world that is five degrees from a suicide bomber.

Perfect Weapon
Amy J. Fetzer
ISBN: 0758211058, $14.00

Government scientist Dr. Sydney Hale cannot believe how her life has turned upside down. Assailants broke into the top secret lab killing everyone except her. She managed to escape barely, but flees in denial as people she has worked with are dead. The Feds assume she is behind the break-in and homicides. Hunting with pals, Special Operations Jack Wilson notices several men shooting at a woman on the run. He fires at the goons, forcing them to retreat and regroup, but soon finds his three friends dead courtesy of the snipers. Jack vows revenge, but first catches up with Sydney to learn what she knows. Her story makes him wonder if perhaps she conceals her role in the original lethal incident followed by a fall out amongst criminals. Still he smells typical DC cover-up so plans to keep the cute female Einstein alive until he learns the truth. Initially wary of one another, they begin to bond and fall in love, but the only way to survive is trust and neither feels comfortable testing the waters. Readers will dive head first into this exciting romance thriller and not come up for air until the final confrontations with the enemy and between the two heroic protagonists. The action-packed story line starts off seemingly with brawn meets brain (some might classify it as beauty and the beast), but the audience will quickly realize that Einstein's female clone is in pretty good physical shape and the Marine can use the muscle inside his skull. Fans of espionage suspense thrillers will want to join the distrusting duet on the lam as Amy J. Fetzer provides what will prove to be one of the sub-genre's best of the year.

I Love You to Death
Amy Garvey
ISBN: 0758210396, $14.00

"My Love Life is Killing Me". With the ink not quite dry on her divorce papers, Alex looks forward to dating again, but is not sure how to take the dive. Her best friend comes through arranging a blind date. Things initially seem okay until her date dies in the men's room with undercover private investigator John looking into what happened. Alex wants to team up with John, but he wants to form a personal relationship only as he does not want Alex to get hurt. "Dial M for Mortified". With her coffeehouse Sacred Grounds grinding near bankruptcy, Darcy needs a gimmick to get customers to come in once; she feels most will return. She throws a "blind date night" bash that turns into a monster success. At her gala is reporter Noah, who Darcy is attracted to even if he seems more like someone who failed to have his first caffeine fix. However, everything changes when someone adds a homicide to their coffee. "Dead Men Don't Write Checks". Elementary school teacher Franny feels she is a chivalrous knight protecting her neighborhood from the developers like the Landry Foundation that bulldoze historical buildings in the name of progress. She decides she must confront the dragon in his lair so she wears her sexiest outfit and crashes the Landry Foundation's annual fundraiser to tear down CEO Theo. Shockingly it is attraction at first sight between Theo and Franny until one of the opponents dies during dessert. These are three amusing blind date romantic suspense thrillers with homicides to spice up the relationships between the protagonists. Readers will appreciate Amy Garvey's fun I LOVE YOU TO DEATH as long as they do not have a blind date on the horizon.

Bad Boys Ahoy!
Sylvia Day
ISBN: 0758212518, $14.00

Stolen Pleasures. Earl Sebastian Blake left the boredom of the Ton behind especially the narrowness of the inane rules to become a pirate; shockingly the blueblood became quite good as a bluebeard known as the notorious Captain Phoenix. When he captures a feral big mouth female, she stuns him by claiming that their fathers married them by proxy as her name is Lady Blake. She shocks him further as she rips his skin off with her temper that shows no fear of him; only his kisses shuts her up except for that desirable moaning. Lucien's Gamble. Womanizer Lucien Remington lives by the golden rule in which he has the gold so he makes the rule. He is a notorious womanizer who is considered a social pariah despite his wealth. However, his antics costs him his heart's desire, Lady Julienne La Coeur until dressed as a male she enter a private all men's club seeking her foolish brother. Lucien sees opportunity and seizes the moment as his body would recognize his heart's desire regardless of her disguise. Her Mad Grace. Hugh La Coeur prefers wine, women and wagering more than being an Earl. However, he finds himself stuck in a dilapidated mansion owned by a crazy duchess. However, though he wants to allude his hostess, Hugh wants to sleep with the companion Charlotte even though she obviously hides something from him; something that could prove dangerous to him if he learns what her secret is. BAD BOYS AHOY! contains three wonderful historical novellas starring strong females ready to battle against and on the side of the bad boys they love. The robust compassionate courageous women make for a fine time as they do not fear men who make other males shake in fear and ladies tremble in anticipation. This is a fine "Bad Boys" entry.

Crown of Stars
Kate Elliot
ISBN: 075640326X, $25.50, 540 pp.

When the Aoi crash landed on their return to Earth after centuries in the aether, the collision caused a cataclysm that led to earthquakes, flooding and the sun to disappear behind a cloud of dust. The people can't plant crops because the frost lingers and food is in short supply. New lands and alliances are formed and King Sanglant of Wendor is trying to bring his people together to ride out the after effects of the collision. When he consolidates his reign, he wants to annex Varree as it once belonged to the empire. Sanglant knows that he will not have an easy rule since many want what he has and the church refuses to recognize his marriage to the excommunicated Liaeth, a fire daimon who is not quite human but a woman he will not forsake. Relatives in his family who rule in their own realm want to conquer Sanglant's land and annex them into the Lady Sabella's dominion. The Ashioi, who are finally reunited with their exiled brethren, plan to invade the human lands in revenge for what was done to them. Fighting battles against their enemies, Liaeth must prove she is a worthy consort for her one true love while Sanglant tries to hold his country together. In a land where the creatures of myth and legend are very real, humans must learn to understand and if necessary fight those who want nothing less than all humans' dead. Political intrigue and battles abound in CROWN OF STARS but the love that Sanglant feels for his wife is the shiniest light in the heavens and gives him the strength to do what he thinks is right. Liaeth is a woman of incredible strength, power and beauty who battles deadly magical creatures, befriends people who reject her and learns that her strength and love for Sanglant makes her a formidable foe to his enemies. Kate Elliot concludes her series with a powerful and brilliant epic fantasy.

The Radioactive Redhead
John Zakour and Lawrence Ganem
ISBN: 0756402824, $6.99

In 2060 feeling at times extinct especially when he is on a case, Zachary Nixon Johnson is the last private eye on Earth. His assistant Artificial Intelligence HARV has been downloaded into his brain. Though helpful HARV seems to find ways to irritate Zach especially when he experiments on himself without warning the sleuth. However, this time his partner goes to far when HARV decides to find his feminine side and undergoes a sex change operation so that he is now the she HARA. Zach goes to the Oakland Kabuki Palace Theater and Dinette to meet with a potential client. Kabuki Droid Assassins try to kill him as part of the production The Revenge of the Forty-Seven Samurai. He survives the onslaught and manages to save the life of teen superstar Sexy Sprockets, who the People Against Talentless Acts (PATA) want dead. Things turn worse when the beleagured sleuth learns he is also the star of a new reality show Let's kill Zach so he asks his psi "niece" Carol to help him before realizing that she dyed her hair red same as Sexy and HARA; three redheads cannot be good for anyone's health let alone the world's last private detective. As always in a Zachary tale, zaniness rules as the last living private eye struggles with three lethal scenarios. The network's reality show stars him in a death role; PATA efforts to kill Sexy though he somewhat agrees with their cause; and finally dealing with three volatile redheads at the same time that could lead any male into suicide just to escape. The amusing science fiction mystery story line is lighthearted fun as the escapades keeping coming at Zach.

Retribution, Inc.
Geoff Cooper
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587671123, $30.00

In Brackard's Point, New York, guitarist Ronnie leaves the band Retribution, Inc. to attend the Full Sail audio production program in Florida. His departure leaves base playing singer Chuck and drummer Mark in need of a guitarist fast since they are the opening act for renowned Your Kid's On Fire at an upcoming concert. Mark tries to persuade Joey to leave Chaos Theory, but he refuses. Desperate, the duo tries an open audition hoping someone in Westchester, Putnam, or Bergen Counties can strum a guitar. Ernie the nerd looks anything like a fierce rock band member, but he plays angry punk rock with compassionate and skill. He learns his segues fast and apparently has the gig though whenever he plays his fingers bleed. However, when Joey becomes free, Mark wants to drop Ernie for the better imaged guitarist, but Chuck disagrees. Will the band break up over the selection of the third member or will they find a compromise? Neither Chuck nor Mark is ready for the destructive path their disagreement leads them to. RETRIBUTION, INC. is a tremendous lyrical portrayal of a local rock and roll band buckling under the stress of replacing a member that might simply end with the break-up as egos take control of the decision process. The story line though only involving four individuals runs the gamut of the five stages of group dynamics from forming (in this case re-forming), norming, storming, performing and adjourning; though that climax to the group seems overkill. Each of the four musicians is unique bringing different skills and personalities to the band. Fans will appreciate this dark look at the competitive egomaniacal nature of music band members even those who are just escaping garage grunge.

The Illustrated Stephen King Trivia Book
Edited by Brian Freeman and Bev Vincent
illustrated by Glenn Chadbourne
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587671085, $20.00, 404 pp.

Obviously for fans of the renowned author, this collection asks trivia questions involving King or his works, offers hints and ultimately the answers. His works are further broken down into separate chapters re the novels, novellas and short stories. Other chapters include his books written as Richard Bachman and the Dark Tower series. Finally, his movies, non-fiction endeavors and miscellaneous musings fill up three more segments of the lighthearted entertaining book. Fans of Mr. King will fully enjoy this seemingly complete trivia homage that digs as deep anything you can find; for instance asking which Red Sox player had his name misspelled in The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon?. The illustrations add eerie depth as well as posing additional trivia questions associated with them. Clearly aimed at Kingophiles like the SKEMERS (Stephen King E-MailERs), whose founder Michelle L. Revelle, provides an afterward, casual fans of the author will also enjoy this fun book. Of course adding to the pleasure, this reviewer trounced her spouse.

Fearful Symmetries
Thomas F. Monteleone
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587670534, $40.00

This is a terrific compilation of many of Thomas F. Monteleone's horror-dark fantasy tales published mostly in the 1980s (nine) and 1990s (fifteen) with two from this decade. Each entry includes a newly written "introduction" (more like background information/commentary) that enhances the reading and footnotes that though insightful and interesting can prove distracting. The stories run the gamut of horror and dark fantasy from obsession and revenge suspense to black magic and lethal monsters. Every contribution is gripping but especially thrilling is those (most of them) in which Mr. Monteleone avoids overindulging his morality gene such as "The Roadside Scalpel" and "Rehearsals". Some eerie scary illustrations by Matt Eames augment this fine anthology that fans of the author or the horror genre will want to read.

The Necromancer
Douglas Clegg
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587670712, $35.00

Justin Gravesend was born in Cwthshire, Wales in the middle of the nineteenth century to a grim mother and a fiery devout father, who firmly believed in using the rod. Unhappy at home and also feeling like something is missing from his soul, Justin turns to keeping a journal. As he grows up in hell under the abuse of his strict father Justin learns why he feels like a demi-person; his twin died during a plague. Fixated on his sibling, Justin digs up the grave to find his brother did not die from disease, but from a bullet in his head. When his father confronts him for breaking the commandments especially having sex, he clammy refutes their piousness with his knowledge of the homicide. Now understanding the value of knowledge and information, Justin leaves the coal mines and his fundamentalist parents to make his fortune and find a place where he belongs in the world especially when his uncle sends him to University where he meets the Necromancer in a brothel. Justin Gravesend has found his mentor into the realm of Chymera Magick and his path that will lead to Harrow House. This is a terrific prequel to the Harrow House novels as readers obtain an intriguing look at Gravesend through his late nineteenth century journal and a scholarly introduction to Necromancy by Rutherford University Professor Wandigaux. Together these segments give this strong "coming of age" horror tale a deep Victorian Era feel. Fans of the series will treasure this brilliant work while newcomers will go chasing after the rest of the series because this clever creative tale is not enough; fans will want the rest of the story.

The Folks
Ray Garton
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587670380, $40.00

After the fire ravaged his face, Andy Sayers came to live with his grandma in the remote village Pinecrest, isolated even from other towns on Mount Crag. Andy lives apart from the townsfolk not just because he finds their fundamentalist Christian control insidious but also because adults look at his face in horror. Still he has dated though his ex-girlfriend recently became the victim of a serial killer. He earns a scholarship to attend the local Hand of God College, which elates his true believing grandma that he will find Jesus there. On Halloween, Amanda Bollinger drives Andy to a nearby graveyard where she seduces him with her incredibly elongated tongue, but as he is in the midst of passion something wrong grips his testicles. He wants to run, but Amanda persuades him to come to the family mansion where he meets her family, a brood of people the result of incest with physical and mental disorders that would make a circus side show seem normal. Because of his scarred visage, he is the Chosen One to lead THE FOLKS of the Bollinger brood. Though the graphic details of the FOLKS may turn off some readers, fans of gothic horror will enjoy this tense thriller. The story line of to be or not to be a Bollinger takes a back seat to the sinister suspense laden atmosphere in which the audience expects bad things to happen to Andy. Several key members of the Bollinger minion have distinct personalities including the patriarch who wants to groom Andy as his heir, the sex predator Amanda, and a boy-man with strange ethics. Not a typical read, fans who appreciate something different in their horror tales will want to read this cross between Layton's Beast House and Browning's Freaks.

Edited by Peter Crowther
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587670909, $40.00

"So Long Gerry" by Terry Lamsley. The flat is in a perfect location, the cost reasonable and the ability to move in immediately elates "mature" student Gerry Royal. However, ideal turns surreal when a stranger asks for Maggie; Gerry soon begins to wonder if he shares his flat with the previous occupant as her past seems to want to replace his present. "Langthwaite Road" by Simon Clark. When his friend Paul Robertson died on Langthwaite Road, Vic Blake begins researching the history of what he learns is a deadly place where in the last five years, eighteen people have died and thirty severely injured in car accidents. He soon believes that there is more to the road than just pavement. Guitar in hand and faith he is doing the right thing, he plans to exorcise Langthwaite Road. "In the Valley Where the Belladonna Grows" by Tim Lebbon. Sixteen years have passed since Mary last seen another human, but now a man offers her freedom. She rejects it. The next day another man arrives saying her spouse Sherlock wants her home, but she refuses having never forgotten his betrayal. Others follow until she ponders whether she should visit her apparently dying husband. "Stumps" by Mark Morris. In the garden of their new home, the Morgan family of four find polished "stumps". For no apparent reason, these stumps frighten the family patriarch Colin who begins losing his grip on reality as he believes his past has come calling on him from the graveyard. These are four interesting horror tales grips the audience because each one contains everyday people caught by something paranormal that initially seems so forebodingly normal.

The Eyes of the Carp
T. M. Wright
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587671115, $30.00

Kevin grew up in a household with seven siblings, his parents, and a menagerie of animals. He knew death when he was young as his dad had a tendency to back up without looking so was always running over a pet or two until the day he ran over his three years old daughter Doris. Forty years later on his deathbed, he tells his only surviving child Kevin that he wishes he never hit Doris. Over the years filled with death, Kevin learns to speak with ghosts who over time have become his only friends; phantasms like Ghastly William and Fat Leonard, his late dad or some other dead blood relative. He keeps track of his encounters in a journal, but when he looks back he wonders about his spouse; neither William nor Leonard can explain where she fits into his life as she seems just out of his reach even when they touch. THE EYES OF THE CARP is a complex character driven ghost story though readers will wonder if the phantoms are real or the imagination of an individual who has lost his mind. The journal entries make the circular plot that arcs to various points but never linear (even on the circle) difficult to follow and requires a one sitting read (the novella format is perfect for this thriller), but it is worth the time as the audience will find the logic behind what seems insane ramblings of a deluded soul whose mind is spiraling out of control fascinating. This terrific psychological ghostly tale will send readers seeking other such horror stories from T.M. Wright (see COLD HOUSE).

Black Fire
James Kidman
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587671069, $40.00

In Black Hills, Pennsylvania, seven years ago, eighteen-year-old high school student Eddie Farris killed his abusive father, a prison guard in what the teen later called The Showdown. Eddie has since become a macabre caricature of a boogeyman; everybody talks about him in a ghoulish way. The isolation started with his girlfriend Rachel fleeing Black Hills right after the lethal Showdown. Still over the next seven years the lonely Eddie tries to overcome the Showdown mental aftermath by following his psychiatrist's advice to write it down; though that has not proven a total catharsis, it helps. Eddie constantly wonders if things would have been different if his younger sister Mary did not die when she was four in an accident, but also believes his dad accidentally killed her during one of his abuser moments. After seven years away, Rachel returns home accompanied by her son, Eddie's child no one bothered to tell him about. She claims that his father is harassing her with increasingly threatening phone calls, but Eddie killed his sire in the Showdown or did he? He notices someone in the shadows stalking him, taunting him, threatening him. BLACK FIRE is a terrific tale that keeps the audience guessing whether Eddie finally lost his tenuous grip on sanity, is being set up by others to lose his mind, or his dead dad dancing from the cemetery. Thus, readers will consistently consider between psychological suspense and horror as James Kidman slowly delivers clues then and now by rotating between the present and the Showdown. Strong thriller starring an intriguing individual who at best has crossed the line between rational thinking and insanity as his past catches up to him now perhaps with something evil from beyond.

Friday Night in Beast House
Richard Laymon
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587670348, $35.00

In Malcasa Point, California teenager Mark physically fantasizes that one day he will date Alison. Mustering up his courage he finally asks her out; she accepts on the stipulation that he spend FRIDAY NIGHT IN BEAST HOUSE after it closes. Excited he agrees to meet her stipulation hoping this is the ticket to ecstasy even though he knows the day time tourist attraction has been the sight of several ghastly homicides. On Friday night Mark breaks into Beast House. He proceeds to hide in the Beast Hole hoping to quietly pass time and emerge as a hero in the eyes of Alison. However, Beast House earned its reputation for grisly inexplicable murders and soon Mark and Alison will learn even wet fantasies can turn nightmarish in the wrong environs. Richard Laymon's final Beast House tale is a terrific entry in a great series that like it predecessors (see THE CELLAR, THE BEAST HOUSE and THE MIDNIGHT TOUR) hooks the audience into a complacency that slowly turns into tension and suspense wondering what will happen next to Mark. The delightful protagonist slowly realizes how much trouble he is in as he learns the truth about Beast House. Not quite at the emotional roller coaster levels of the previous three novels; this tale is a tense gripping thriller that will have readers searching for the previous books.

Blue November Storms
Brian Freeman
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587671107, $30.00

In Beacon Point, Pennsylvania, the townsfolk named the high school football stars the "The Lightning Five" for their athletic exploits. Steven, Harry, Joe, Matt, and Adam were best friends and even built the Summer Place in the woods overlooking the nearby lake together. However, a girl died there, but instead of investigating what happened, the fearsome fivesome were treated like heroes. Two decades later, Adam, who the others thought was dead as he seemingly vanished, calls his friends to ask them to meet him at Summer Place. Adam never truly overcame the tragedy that haunts him still, much more so than his buddies. Excited over the prospect of seeing him for the first time in years, Steven, Harry, Joe, and Matt agree to a twenty year reunion at The Summer Place. The five meet filled with nostalgia and excitement, but also lingering is the one dark episode., However, a meteor shower suddenly attacks from the sky with unnatural blue stones hitting near where the quintet reunite. Not long afterwards the woodland animals go berserker trying to kill the trapped humans forced to retreat onto the roof of The Summer Place, an eerie reminder of the tragic pivotal moment in their lives with each remembering while wondering if they like the critters could turn into sociopath killers. BLUE NOVEMBER STORMS starts off as a deep psychological thriller in which the audience wonders what happened twenty years ago and why suddenly Adam reappears; however Brian Freeman sets the reader up as the tale digs inside the psyche and soul of the lead five, it twists into an old fashion B-movie horror tale (cross between King's Maximum Overdrive and the Ninja Turtles) yet retains that soul deep look at the ensemble as each wonders if the others will turn lethal. Brian Freeman provides a solid tale that fans will enjoy.

The Lost
Jack Ketchum
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587670216, $40.00

A bored or angry Ray Pye is a dangerous person. In June 1965 in Sparta, New Jersey, Ray, accompanied by his girlfriend Jennifer and his best friend Tim, goes camping when he sees two girls touching and hugging one another. He concludes they are lesbians, a sexual preference he abhors. He shoots and kills one and leaves the other in a comatose state. Four years later, the second girl dies. Neither Jennifer nor Tim snitch on Ray and no other evidence links the sociopath killer to the crime. Tim and Jennifer fear Ray and do anything he demands of them. Jennifer continues to have sex with Ray though he openly cheats on her all the time. When Katherine enters his life, Ray falls in love his style. However, she dumps him leading to a rampage that makes his previous homicides seem like a night at the opera. Jack Ketchum is a master of suspense and horror of the human variety. With each new novel he writes, Mr. Ketchum's plots seem to become scarier and scarier. THE LOST is horror at the edge of reality. The story line seems lifted from headlines making it even more frighteningly plausible. Readers deeply believe in what this Bram Stoker winner writes, there is probably a high correlation between installing new security systems and the release of a new Mr. Ketchum chiller.

Roll Them Bones
David Niall Wilson
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587670682, $30.00, 130 pp.

Big Ronnie demands his three childhood associates, who became his friends after the incident bonded them, Jason, Frank, and Lizzy return home to Random, Illinois to complete what they started years ago. They thought that had destroyed the horror, but as Ronnie has informed them, they failed to finish the job. This Halloween they must achieve what they did not do when they were preadolescents. Though years have passed, the incident when they were twelve years old still haunts each of them. Thus the trio race home to Ronnie's summoning. It has wrecked one's marriage and permeates every word of the horror novelist amongst them. Now the quartet knows they must confront it again, but each is wary as they know they ROLL THE BONES for the second time, but this time luck may not be with them and if not they will roll death. Readers will wonder from the start what did the foursome confront as kids and will meet shortly as adults. The tension builds up until the altercation, but then picks up even more suspense until the final watery climax. David Niall Wilson cleverly keeps the audience off balance for a while wondering if this is a psychological thriller or supernatural chiller until the author brings the readers and the quartet into the beginnings of the confrontation. ROLL THEM BONES is a magnificent tale about for some you can't go home while others may have physically left but never mentally departed.

The Hides
Kealan Patrick Burke
Cemetery Dance
ISBN: 1587671204, $40.00

Seventeen years old Ohio teenager Timmy Quinn has the uncanny ability to help homicide victims obtain a modicum of revenge by sharing his gift with the murderers. Over the objections of his mother sick of the visits from the curious, the desperate, and the crazies, he agrees to help his neighbor Mr. Knox with his burden, but explains that it is up to the spirit whether to communicate with Quinn; some have moved on while others just do not want to be seen by any living being. However, the case shakes him at a time when he is vulnerable with his parents splitting. His father asks Quinn to come to their ancestral home in Dungarvan, Ireland to especially meet his grieving paternal grandmother. Though reluctant to leave his mom behind, Quinn thinks this is the right thing to do so he travels across the Atlantic. However, instead of solace in the sea town, he finds the ghosts there much more gruesome looking than back in the States. He wonders why and who the brutal killer could be. He begins to investigate not understanding that he places himself in danger of being the next victim. Though the ending defies the Burke Law of paranormal-physics (as established throughout by the encounters) THE HIDES is a fantastic ghost story that grips readers from the moment a desperate Knox asks Timmy for his help and continues at a fast pace when the teen takes his skills to Ireland. The action-packed story line works because Timmy and his supernatural talent seem genuine so that the audience believes in ghosts and other apparitions. Horror fans will take immense "gruesome" delight reading Kealan Patrick Burke's solid chiller.

Captain Rakehell
Lynn Michaels
ISBN: 097651852X, $14.95

Her parents and her twin brother Andrew demand she marry Napoleonic War hero Captain Lesley Earnshaw, but Lady Amanda Gilbertson refuses. Her memory of Lesley is that of a bully. She prefers to spend her time doing intellectual things though much of their communication is correspondence that Andrew serves as intermediary with Lesley's older brother Charles, a duke. About to leave the military Captain Lesley Earnshaw refuses his family's efforts to wed him to childhood pest Lady Amanda Gilbertson, who he assumes, is a loser having failed to find a match in three seasons with rumors that she has been waiting for his return. Besides not having any desire to be pursued by the nuisance, Lesley figures that the loser must be pathetically idiotic or ugly, and probably both. Lesley and Amanda set in motion separate brilliant schemes to avoid the other. However, instead, their perfect plots force them together in escapades and misadventures that allow each one to realize that life would prove tedious without the other as love begins to blossom between them, but identities remain hidden. CAPTAIN RAKEHELL is a reprint (under the name Jane Lynson) of a rousing Regency romantic romp. Sub-genre fans will appreciate the antics of the lead couple as their plots intermingle causing the opposite of what they first intended. The support cast adds to the amusement of two souls avoiding marriage to one another except their endeavors propel them together and in love. Lynn Michaels provides a fabulous historical that hopefully will also lead to the reprint of the sequel, THE DUKE'S DOWNFALL.

Robina Williams
Twilight Times
ISBN: 1933353600, $16.95

Not to long ago, Brother Jerome past away, but in his mind he feels busier now than when he lived. Ironically he was a stay at home monk rather than a traveling soul as he is now especially when his friend Leo the live friary feline takes him on one of those weird adventures as his "dead" cat guide Quant. At the friary, the new guardian Father Aidan seems opposite to his reputation of being an easy going person; instead he is tight and sets strict rules that disturb the brothers. Unbeknownst to all the residents except Leo, Father Aidan is undergoing a faith crisis with no one human to turn to for help. Instead he finds some renewal with paintings, but to fully regain his lost soul he will need a feline miracle. However, Quant is to busy to show his Seraph soul to the skeptical Guardian. Brother Jerome, due to a freak accident, has exchanged places with the Ancient Crete Minotaur. While he resides in the Labyrinth uninterested in dining on teens, the bull relaxes at the monastery's modern day shed looking for some meat. ANGELOS, the sequel to the fabulous JEROME AND THE SERAPH, is a delightful fantasy that uses humor to tell a deep philosophical tale. The story line moves forward (stop quibbling - back in time too) as the audience, Jerome and Aidan receive a feline education that showcases the true meaning of relativity. Life including religious choices depends more on the era and locale than on the dogma. Robina Williams provides a terrific tale that the audience will cherish.

By the Sword
Mike Yorkey and Rick Myatt
Broadman & Holman
ISBN: 0805440739, $14.99, 320 pp.

During Passover, commandos assault the Jewish Bottstein family in their home in Jerusalem threatening to kill them or else. When pregnant Kareh chose or else they kill her and her unborn; the other members of her family including her three years old son were already dead. Other attacks occur in Jerusalem during the night. Washington National newspaper reporter Amber Robbins has covered the Middle East for two years, but has never seen or heard of such a coordinated slaughter as the Passover Massacre. While the West claims extremists caused the horrible destruction, Amber connects the massacre to recent bombings of churches and synagogues. Soon Amber identifies the fanatical sect Islamic Revolution behind the murders as the charismatic Ayatollah Hoseni demands a sea of Islam with no infidels anywhere; convert to Allah or die. While the attacks are spreading and growing in intensity, the West clings to its obstinate message that only a few are causing the lethal problems, but Amber believes otherwise; she feels Ayatollah Hoseni has powerful sponsors including Iran and perhaps even the royal Saudi family. This action thriller seems over the edge unless readers have read Richard Clark's Against All Enemies or Scorpion's Gate; if they have, BY THE SWORD suddenly seems plausible. Fans will appreciate this frightening tale that contains a strong cautionary message to beware because any extreme fundamentalist group can prove dangerous when they insist it is only their way (maybe Wal-Mart should call it the Hanukkah or Kwanza season). Amber is a courageous soul, but is clearly out of her depths in her opposition to the Ayatollah Hoseni and his powerful supporters.

Crazy Wild
Tara Janzen
ISBN: 0440242606, $6.99

Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special operations and Low Intensity Conflict the Honorable William J. Davies orders General Buck Grant to shut down the Columbian job immediately. He wants three of the four agents to handle a potential terrorist act in the American Heartland where a Soviet nuclear bomb is headed. He also demands Buck not use that lunatic Creed Rivera, the ghost killer. However, Hawkins, Hart or Chronopolous are unavailable even if Buck could find any of them; thus he sends Creed without a leash leaving behind his comrade and the two terrorist killers they stalk. Outraged Creed flies to Denver to abduct the most dangerous woman in the world, Cordelia "Cody" Stark, who looks like the poster child for librarians rather than an international nuclear arms broker. However, as Creed stalks her waiting to make his move, three brutes attack her. With her cover broken and unable to shake Creed who saved her life, Cody flees knowing that if caught she will spend time in Leavenworth, but at least the map that everyone wants is stacked away in a terrific hideout in plain sight. The third "Crazy" tale is a wild romantic suspense starring perhaps the craziest of the foursome and the only woman for him, the courageous somewhat kooky Cody. The story line like its predecessors (see CRAZY HOT and CRAZY COOL) is fast-paced from the moment that Creed arrives in Colorado and never slows down until the final altercation in which all hell breaks loose with Cody in the middle. Fans of the miniseries and sub-genre readers will enjoy the tale of the "Blond Bimbo and the Bomb mostly due to the two "bad to the bone" protagonists.

Lois Greiman
ISBN: 0440242630, $6.99, 339 pp.

Chrissy McMullen went from being an Illinois cocktail waitress to a Los Angeles psychologist; between her two professions she considers herself an expert on the human condition. Her best friend Laney Butterfield works as her receptionist and there isn't anything she wouldn't do for her including finding her boyfriend Jeen Solberg who disappeared at a convention in Las Vegas for techno-geeks. This is a true test of friendship because she can't stand Solberg who she calls many derogatory names to everyone but Laney. Solberg's boss has not heard from him but isn't worried because in Vegas Jeen told him he needed a few days vacation time. Nobody else has heard from him either including his co-workers and next door neighbor. Solberg calls Chrissy to ask her to meet him at a designated location. When she goes to get her car two thugs abduct and manhandle her but she escapes. She learns that Solberg's boss thinks he embezzled, $500,000 dollars from the company but Chrissy is sure that is not true and he is in trouble. She asks questions and ends up turning herself over to the real perpetrator in return for letting the person he kidnapped go. Now Chrissy is alone with some very dangerous men and has no idea how to extricate herself from the situation. Lois Greiman's protagonist is a cross between Stephanie Plum and Harry Minor of the Mrs. Murphy series. Chrissy gets herself into zany, dangerous and unusual predicaments like Stephanie but she also has the savvy of Harry which allows her to extricate herself from potentially lethal situations without the help of a man. Lieutenant Jack Rivera is sticking to Chrissy in the hopes she will confide in him and like in UNZIPPED the sexual tension is so thick, one can cut it with a knife. The mystery is well written and readers will thoroughly UNPLUGGED.

Michael McBride
Black Death
ISBN: 0974768049, $15.00, 305 pp.

Her architectural husband Brad Morris mentioned that the hollow leg bones on big dinosaurs seems from an engineering perspective impossible; thinking about it the pregnant Jennifer begins to theorize that perhaps an external organism attacked the mallow. However, her opportunity to prove her theory goes wrong with the entire paleontology team dead, but before dying Jennifer manages to call Brad to save their child. Several years later, pandemic destruction leaves few survivors. Brad and his son William meet a few other survivors as they make their way to sanctuary. Shannon, Jason, Nancy, her son Tim and her sister Cindy, and Trick stay alive while watching loved ones die horribly. Corpses are everywhere. None understand why they are the chosen to live when others died so horribly. In common they share a genetic mutation that has allowed them to become the survivors of the malady. The world they knew is gone and no longer safe for middle class people. One more death occurs while strange psychic powers blossom. The human SPECIES has taken the next Darwinian step of survival of the fittest. Michael McBride provides a fabulous end of the world thriller that grabs the attention of the audience from the moment of the initial tragedy and never gives readers a moment to catch their breaths until the final tragedy occurs. The action-packed story line is at first difficult to follow as several subplots involving the survivors occur, but that also enables fans to meet the key players and sense the big picture scope of the calamity as well feel the impact on the shocked individuals. Book one of the SPECIES trilogy is a winner that will have fans seeking out the next tale, SPECIES: THE HIVE.

The Conjurer's Bird
Martin Davies
ISBN: 1400097339, $24.00

In 1774, during Captain Cook's second expedition in the South Pacific, the crew captures the thrush-like Mysterious Bird of Ulieta. Cook presents the unique specimen, only one of its kind ever seen, to his highly renowned friend, naturalist Sir Joseph Banks, who was on the first trek. Stuffed and given a place of honor as the rarest creature in Joseph's collection, the bird ultimately vanishes at the same time his lover Mary Burnett, who disguised as a man sailed on the second trek, disappeared. Over two centuries later, wealthy collector Karl Anderson and his lover Gabriella persuades her ex, British conservationist John "Fitz" Fitzgerald, to search for the Mysterious Bird of Ulieta. Though he has not heard her voice in fourteen years and wants nothing to do with a search he catalogues with extinct species, the enthusiasm of his lodger Katya convinces him to agree. While Karl wants to add the bird's DNA to the Ark Gene project; American Emeric Potts searches for the valuable paintings that were reportedly encased with the lost bird. The two subplots rotate with the historical story line containing more energy perhaps because it is straightforward with fewer twists than the modern spin. Still the duality comes together nicely so that the audience receives a deep late eighteenth century slant inside a solid twentieth century thriller. Adding to the suspense is that the key casts in both eras seem genuine with many of the Cook crowd coming from real life. Martin Davies conjurers up the best bird investigation since the Maltese Falcon flew the coop.

Davis Bunn
ISBN: 0849944864, $19.99

FBI Agent Matt Kelly is stunned when he observes his mother killed by an apparent terrorist bomb. Unable to gain closure and told to take some leave to grieve his loss, Matt instead of relaxing is determined to find the culprit. Baltimore police officer Consuela "Connie" Morales rejects the sexual assaults of her boss; in retaliation for her refusal, her superior takes her off the street ands puts on internal desk duty. Outraged by the harassment and subsequent "unofficial" punishment, Connie decides to help Matt uncover the identity of his mother's killer. As they find clues, the dots seem to connect back to his father's military time in Viet Nam. His dad, a potential senatorial candidate, has received a major boost in the polls because of sympathy due to his wife's homicide; he demands Matt stop his investigation, but the Fed needs to know who and why. IMPOSTER is a terrific investigative thriller that grips the audience from the moment that Matt unable to not visualize his mom's death becomes fixated with the truth. The story line is loaded with suspense as he with the help of Connie finds each step closer to fulfilling his quest that much more dangerous and personal. The key cast is solid as the initially aloof Matt becomes ardent with his desire to know what happened while the women who enter his life during his pursuit soften him a bit with their beliefs in right and wrong yet also imbue him with courage and determination. Davis Bunn provides a powerful suspense thriller with the faith elements cleverly enhancing the superb story.

Dark Lord - The Rise of Darth Vader
James Luceno
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345477324, $25.95

After turning his back to the light, Jedi Knight Anakin Skywalker devastated his former compatriots Jedi Knights, but "died" during his confrontation with his friend and teacher Obi-Wan Kenobi. Out of Anakin's "death" arose Darth Vader, whose loyalty is to the Dark Lord Sidious as the former heir apparent has become the Emperor Palatine's prime executioner. While the Imperial forces destroy what is left of the failed Jedi insurgency, Vader goes after the three surviving Jedi Roan Shryne, Bol Chatak and Padawan Olee Starstone. As the trio flees, they know that when their former friend catches them, they will die. Still they elude the clone soldiers and stormtroopers as they search for a "safehouse" to hide the twin infants, Leia and Luke Skywalker, from their father in hope of improving the odds when the inevitable confrontation between light and dark occurs. DARK LORD - THE RISE OF DARTH VADER is a terrific follow-up to the novelization of the third movie. The key to the story line is the deep look inside Darth Vader, who comes across as a tragic figure struggling between what is left of his ever darkening soul and the seemingly unrestricted power of the force that tightens its addictive control over him. While the Jedi look to the future with protecting the next generation, the dark threesome wants to eradicate all resistance now. Fans of Star Wars will treasure James Luceno's latest entry as one of the best in the long running multiple series.

The Conquering Sword of Conan
Robert E Howard
Del Rey
ISBN: 0345461533, $15.95, 416 pp.

This particular Conan collection contains five of Robert E Howard's tales (Servants of Bit-Yakin, Red Nails, The Black Stranger, Beyond the Black River, and The Man-Eaters of Zamboula). Fans of the series know these are some of the best Conan escapades with plenty said on each. However, what make the compilation fun are the extras added on top of the thrillers. Included are early drafts of Mr. Howard's tales, an insightful essay the Hyborian Genesis that this reviewer found fascinating, and additional analysis of the recurring themes especially honor and death found in the Conan stories. As always the illustrations provided this time by Gregory Munches are top rate, but also seem so different than that of Gary Gianni's in Bloody Crown of Conan. Obviously targeting Howard fans, those who sword and sorcery fans who have not read the works of the founding father will also appreciate this anthology as the pride and courage of Conan stands out in every escapade in each of these incredible adventures.

Sword Across Time
Catherine Anne Collins
Treble Heart
ISBN: 1931742871, $14.99

New York magazine reporter, Tamara relaxes at her mom's home in rural Vermont, but feels compelled to search the attic. In her "quest" Tamara uncovers an ancient looking tome. She asks her mother Diana, a Wiccan witch, about the book. Diana claims the find is the ancient journal of Niumbe, the Lady of the Lake, High Priestess of Avalon. Though Tamara scoffs at that explanation, the rest of the story is even more ridiculed as her mother also insists that Tamara is Niumbe's descendent. Not long afterward in what she rationalizes is a coincidence, Tamara travels to Glastonbury, England on an assignment involving a Wiccan ceremony. She knows from Niumbe's journal that Glastonbury Tor is the alleged site where she fought Merlin over Excalibur. Private investigator Gavin Calder finds an ancient looking tome allegedly scribed by Merlin in his parents' attic. He takes it to his friend Mac, a bookstore owner, when Tamara enters Mac's shop carrying Niumbe's journal. Instantly Gavin and Tamara are attracted to one another, but both skeptics begin to ponder all the coincidences that brought them together. They wonder are they being manipulated to repeat the past or is fate using love to right the wrong. Using the Arthurian legend as a base, Catherine Anne Collins provides a delightful modern take as Tamara and Gavin must overcome skepticism, toss away logic, and control their feelings to battle each other or the diabolical enemy manipulating them as she did Niumbe and Merlin. The fascinating story line contains two plots that include flashbacks to Camelot and the modern day spin. Fans will wonder whether history will repeat itself or unite in love against a sly manipulative third party. SWORD ACROSS TIME will make believers of the Camelot crowd that Ms. Collins has had access to genuine Camelot journals.

Legacy of Morevi
Tee Morris and Lisa Lee
Dragon Moon
ISBN: 1896944299, $19.95

Off the coast of Ireland, Captain Rafe Rafton sails the Defiant through "The Graveyard of Lost Ships" that he learns is a space-time continuum; they end up in the Kingdom of Morevi where he helps the ruthless First Queen Askana Moldarin against her enemies from within and from neighboring Eyrie. He succeeds, saving her life and her kingdom, and becomes consort to the Queen (see MOREVI: THE CHRONICLES OF RAFE AND ASKANA). Rafe and Askana initially assume happily ever after as he is a hero to her people and to her. However, as he struggles to adapt to life in Morevi, he finds the influential Ladies of the Blood want him to go home; somehow they persuade his daughter Ahstari, the Second Queen, to join their cause of removing the foreign usurper. However, before he can consider what to do about his child turning against him, Rafe must lead a battle that he knows his side cannot win against the dangerous Southern Wood creatures and the deadly magic of Morevi's former allies the Elves of Arathelle. One mistake and Rafe will welcome death as a better outcome for him. This second tale contains all the exhilarating thrills and magical chills that made the first Morevi entry terrific. The superb story line hooks the audience as the adventures begin early and never slows down. Rafe, like the true champion he is, feels prepared for epic hostilities on the mundane and mystical planes, but also fears he lost his daughter to the pure blood movement that want him deported. His relationship with the First Queen is that of love, but that might not prove enough, that is if he survives the upcoming war. This is a great character driven action-packed fantasy.

Goddess by Mistake
P.C. Cast
ISBN: 1930709323, $TBA

Thirty something high school English teacher Shannon Parker stops at an auction sale where she notices a vase containing a portrait of her on it. She wins the bid with a ridiculously low price tag due to a mysteriously appearing crack inside the vase. On her way home, Shannon is transported from her vehicle to a luxurious temple where her friend Suzanna calls her Lady. She soon learns that the vase was a portal that her "twin" the High Priestess of Epona Rhiannon used for them to switch places; Suzanna is actually Rhiannon's slave Alanna. Centaur ClanFintan arrives with his "horsies" to demand Rhiannon complete the hand-fastening ceremony that would have them married for a year. Shannon goes through the ceremony, but refuses to take any lip (or other body part) from a man built at least down there like a thoroughbred. Instead she treats him and others the same way she taught teenage hormonal maniacs in Oklahoma. As the transplanted Shannon and the shapeshifting centaur fall in love, she tells him who she is while they team up to battle malevolent demonic vampires and prevent the real Rhiannon from returning. The first "Goddess" book contains the enjoyable ingredients that make these mythological romances fun to read because the species of mythos seem genuine and the strong heroine is ready to battle; in this case her new society, her beloved, her "twin", and the vampires using the techniques honed in teaching wars with teenagers. This tale is amusing mostly due to Shannon's observations and quips yet it has its' serious moments too (for instance the worshipped Goddess learns that teachers are treated with contempt as those who can't and paid accordingly). Though the heroine adjusts too easily, fantasy romance fans will cast about seeking the remaining delightful Goddess tales.

Passarola Rising
Azhar Abidi
ISBN: 0670034657, $21.95

After leaving Brazil for Portugal and gaining financial sponsoring in Lisbon, by 1731 Bartolomeo Louren is ready to test his airship, the Passarola in front of His Majesty Joao V. However, Bartolomeo's flying machine angers Cardinal Conti who believes that if man was meant to fly, God would have given Adam wings. With the force of the Portuguese Inquisition, he forces Bartolomeo and his younger brother Alexandre to flee via their airship to France. French King Louis XV supports Bartolomeo's efforts to improve on the Passarola as the enlightened monarch sees great military advantage in fighting enemies on the ground from the air. Meanwhile the Acadmie des Sciences hire the siblings to measure distances to the polar circle, which they undertake. On the dangerous trek, Alex claims to have seen a great city, but no proof is offered and his older brother admits he never saw the phantom sprawl. After a return to France, Alex goes home to Brazil as the adventures are over for him, but Bartolomeo starts a new epic in India. Based on the real account of two eighteenth century brothers, PASSAROLA RISING is a superb historical fiction novel that brings to life the first half of the eighteenth century through the passion of siblings who want to soar through the sky. The tale is told in a look back memoir like manner by Alexandre, who romanticizes and worships his creative talented and daring older brother. Readers will enjoy the adventures of two daredevils defying church, royalty, and other powers of society to live out their dream even though for one of them it turns into a relatively short fantasy.

The Thrall's Tale
Judith Lindbergh
ISBN: 0670034649, $25.95

In 985 A.D., Eirik Raude is exiled from Iceland; he leads a party of his followers to settle in Greenland. Amongst those on the ocean faring journey is Irish catholic Katla, enslaved by Einar when he captured her during a raid. His son Torvard violently rapes her. Seeress Thorbjorg buys the battered young woman still wearing her rosary and nurses her back to health enabling Katla to give birth to a daughter, Bibrau. Thorbjorg becomes more of a mother to Bibrau, teaching her all she knows especially of Nordic mysticism. Katla misses her ability to openly practice her religion, which along with the violent way she conceived, lead to her hating her symbolic daughter. Bibrau knows her heritage including how all the other Greenlanders disdain her and how much her mother loathes her; she vows to use all that her mentor taught her to avenge all those who scorn her. THE THRALL'S TALE rotates the first person between the lead three females so that readers learn what motivates each one of them in a world where they remain outsiders and anticipate a tragic confrontation. The story line combines a strong look at the Norsemen colonies in Greenland at a time when Christianity is beginning to gain acceptance. It is this deep look at society in flux through the "victimized" trio that makes Judith Lindbergh's fine historical tale soar.

Bridge of Souls
Fiona McIntosh
ISBN: 0060747609, $14.95, 528 pp.

Though he wishes he could go back to before when he was a general in the Morgravian army, Wyl Thirsk courageously continues to live with his "gift" of life granted to him by the now late Myrren the witch. Myrren's "gift" is a spell that propels his spirit to occupy the body of anyone who murders him. Currently Wyl resides in the body of his sister Ylena while he continues his quest to kill King Celimus of Morgravia with a secondary objective to thwart the monarch's intention to marry Queen Valentyna of neighboring Briavel. Meanwhile Myrren's late father Elysius before turning to dust "assigned" young Fynch "mentored" by Knave the dog to annihilate the malevolent magician Rashlyn. These two quests will soon link up leaving a depressed Wyl and unconfident Fynch in mortal danger from two evil abominations, but failure leaves their countrymen at risk. BRIDGE OF SOULS, the final bodysnatching tale in the Quickening trilogy (see MYRREN'S GIFT and BLOOD AND MEMORY) is a fabulous epic fantasy that grips fans of Fiona McIntosh from the moment the boy magician Fynch and Knave communicate. The story line never slows until the final confrontation between good and evil. Though it is better to have read the previous tales to understand how things progressed to the bridge of no return, epic fantasy readers will appreciate the action-packed climax as Wyl tries to save the people of his nation and those of the neighboring country as well as the woman he loves in a desperate final gamut.

Heir of Autumn
Giles Carwyn & Todd Fahnestock
ISBN: 0060878908, $25.95, 450 pp.

Ohndarien is a city of peace where little crime exists and freedom abounds. The realm is governed by the Children of the Seasons, men and women who took the Test of Stone and those who are found worthy of the Heartstone. They wear a diamond in their chests that grant them magical powers. Prince Krellis of Physendria came to Ohndarien to conquer but instead but was persuaded by one of the Children Baelandra to take the test and when he passes it he becomes one of the Children. Krellis trains the army and governs justly so that the people and soldiers become loyal to him. When his son with his dying breath tells his father that Brophy was the one who raped a Faradan girl, Krellis exiles him. He is shipped to Physendira who intends to invade the Ohndariens. He becomes the Queen's champion in the deadly game Nine Squares. From there he travels to the island of Cinder to ask the Opal Empire to help them in the upcoming war. On the island is a potent weapon that if let loose could destroy the world. Once the Opal Empire realizes that Ohndariens were preventing the Legacy of Efflen from being used, they change sides and agree to help. However it will be Brophy who will be the one to save his homeland if he is willing to pay the price. HEIR OF AUTUMN is a terrific and spellbinding work of high fantasy. There is enough political intrigue, battle scenes and romance to keep readers' attention at an all time high. Told from the perspective of various characters, fans becomes so involved with the tale that they are unable to stop reading even for one moment because they want to see what happens next. The authors have an excellent sense of place that allows the audience to believe these locales actually exist.

No Present Like Time
Steph Swainston
ISBN: 0060753889, $13.95, 416 pp.

In the Fourlands several years have passed since THE YEAR OF OUR WAR, but now a rare challenge to a position in Emperor San's Circle of the immortal Eszai occurs. Shockingly the newcomer defeats Gio Ami, and replaces him as the Swordsman, Serein. Feeling humiliated by his defeat, as only the second immortal to lose the vaunted inner circle position in several centuries, Gio vows to regain his place of prominence and more. Meanwhile San sends Eszai members Comet Jant Shira, the new Serein, and the Sailor to negotiate with the natives of a newly discovered island, Tris to obtain their agreement to join the Fourlands. The mission fails as the islanders, knowing they were once the fifth land of the Fourlands, want their paradise to remain out of the empire. However, a deadly Insect, who should never have been on board the Stormy Petrel, is released on Tris at about the same time Gio leads an assault on San's castle. The sequel to THE YEAR OF OUR WAR is a fine fantasy that contains two major well written subplots: the future of Tris and the insurgency led by former Swordsman Gio. There are also several minor threads involving specific relationships between characters, but those weigh down the prime sagas even when Jant uses drugs to visit the intriguing and critical to this tale realm of Shift. Still this is a well written original thriller that fans will enjoy as more people see the "Emperor's New Clothes" while the Insects still cause havoc.

Grail Quest
Laura Anne Gilman
ISBN: 0060772794, $10.99

King Arthur declares that he and 9*3 knights will seek the Holy Grail. In Camelot, a gala occurs to celebrate the upcoming quest. However, something strange occurs when all the adults abruptly fall asleep while all the children remain awake; adding to the discomfit of those not asleep is the fact Merlin is missing. Gerard squire to Sir Rhaymond d'Abmont realizes an enchantment has occurred, but that the children must pretend all is normal or their enemies will take advantage of the vulnerability. Gerard, Queen Guinevere's handmaiden Ailis, and Newt the horse boy know only Merlin can reverse the spell. They begin a trek to find the missing wizard unaware that a malevolent force will kill anyone who tries to prevent the destruction of Camelot. GRAIL QUEST is a fun young adult Arthurian fantasy that looks at Camelot from an entirely different perspective as children must save the day. Though his appearances are limited, Merlin steals the show as everyone knows not to mess with someone who can turn you into a rat; in some ways he seems like the Merlin in the Disney cartoon The Sword in the Stone. The three heroes are terrific with differing personalities as the squire and the horse boy squabble all the time while the handmaiden tries to keep the peace. Targeting the Potter crowd, Laura Anne Gilman enchants her audience with her version of the Knights of the Round Table.

Johnny and the Dead
Terry Pratchett
ISBN: 0060541881, $15.99

The town council wants to sell off the historical cemetery to a developer. They insist that no one except an old woman visits the place and it is expensive to keep it up. They do not know that twelve years old Johnny Maxwell uses it as a short cut and that he has personally met and talked with some of the vertically challenged residents such as the Alderman. The deceased people interred there are irate that their final resting place is to be bulldozed and refuse to lie around letting it happen. They draft Johnny as their spokesperson. Johnny enlists his friends like Wobbler Johnson, who thinks the whole thing is nuts but will help his pal. Their efforts to publicize the history are ignored as no one remotely famous is buried there; in some ways even with names on stones it is sort of a Potter's Field. The dead are no longer going to take it so they plan to kill the project before their bones are rattled except that they cannot agree on a plan. Only Johnny can bring the two parties together, but neither the dead nor the living heed the words of a preadolescent. The sequel to ONLY YOU CAN SAVE MANKIND is a terrific amusing satirical fantasy that is fun for readers of all ages. Johnny is the center of the story line that holds together the graveyard humor with his family escapades and the townsfolk plots of future development. Perhaps the only quibble for adult readers is the fast climax, but remember the targeted audience is the preadolescent crowd who will laugh out loud at the ironic dark humor.

Hello, Stranger
Virginia Swift
ISBN: 0060543337, $24.95, 272 pp.

University of Wyoming Professor Sally Alder always start her Women's Rights in America class with the English common law "Rule of Thumb" that a man must use physical force to correct anything he deems is misbehavior by his wife or children; even the bible affirms that this is God's decree. In the twenty-first century, Sally points out that we are more enlightened, but some still hold to the rod and sword. Student Charlie Preston stopped attending class about a month ago, but now sits outside Sally's office battered; she refuses to go to the cops, her family or even a hospital to insure no internal damage. Sally provides Charlie with some money while assuming the coed's dad Brad, who has harmed her before, beat her up. Charlie vanishes again and not long afterward Sally learns that someone killed Brad. The obvious suspect is Charlie so Sally with the help of attorney Dave Haggerty investigates the homicide as she firmly believes her abused student is innocent. In her fourth academic mystery (see BYE, BYE LOVE) Mustang Sally places herself in danger in an effort to prove the innocence of an abuse victim. The story line starts off very interesting as Sally lectures her class of mostly zombies on the Rule of Thumb that fascinatingly is never mentioned by Fundamentalists when quoting scripture as the rationale behind a social poison. The investigation is fun to follow while the heroine's relationship with Hawk is jeopardized by the attention Dave gives her. Fans of strong resourceful female sleuths will enjoy the Professor's latest escapades.

Sinister Shorts
Perri O'Shaughnessy
ISBN: 0385337973, $21.00

Starting with the challenge by the O'Shaughnessy sisters in their introduction to guess who wrote which tale, this terrific crime based anthology consists of eight new stories as well as eleven others previously published elsewhere but not together. The tales are fun to read especially the delightful Nina Reilly's sleuth story Paul van Wagoner stars in "Success without College" and Gertrude Stein heads two others. Each tale is fun to follow especially when the audience learns of the crime. In addition the award winning The Long Walk is also part of the compilation. Fans of the O'Shaughnessy siblings will appreciate their salute to the criminal mind while new readers will seek their Reilly legal thrillers, but everyone will take their fifty-fifty shot at guessing authorship.

Boudica: Dreaming the Hound
Manda Scott
ISBN: 0385336721, $23.00

In AD 57 Britannia, Breaca of Mona agrees with what others including the Roman Standard Bearer Vindex have said that fighting alone means eventual defeat. However, uniting the tribes against the brutal outsiders seems impossible especially since her potentially best ally her brother Ban the Valerius lingers in prison. Ironically in spite of her sibling switching sides several times betraying his people and the Romans, he remains her only hope to help her unite the still bickering clans even after fourteen years of occupation by Emperor Claudius' legions. Over the next couple of years Breaca remains steadfast feeling strongly that she must continue to take the fight to the Romans. That is why she kills Vindex and leads the rescue of Caradoc. Her success brings hope to her and her Eceni people who now call Breaca the Boudica, "Bringer of Victory". She wonders if perhaps her new husband Prasutagos could expedite the removal of the Romans from Eceni. However, the Romans also have heard of the legendary warrior woman and plan to attack the island of Mona where she is allegedly leading the insurgency. The third Warrior Queen historical tale (see BOUDICA: DREAMING THE EAGLE and BOUDICA: DREAMING THE BULL) is an exciting look back at Ancient Britannia during a two-three year period in which Boudica tries to rally forces against the Romans. Manda Scott enables her audience to see much deeper inside her key protagonists so that motives are apparent especially Ban, who's hard to fathom his honor system from a modern day perspective. Though the story line at times feels padded and subsequently slows down, for the most part this is a terrific addition to the epic saga; fans of the series will appreciate this entry while newcomers should read the previous two thrillers first.

The Secret Life of CeeCee Wilkes
Diane Chamberlain
Mira Books
ISBN: 0778322750, $24.95, 384 pp.

In the Triangle area of North Carolina Corinne Elliot and her lover reporter Ken Carmichael discuss her pregnancy when he learns he has been yanked from the Gleason murder trial coverage. Angrily he puts on the TV news only to have Corrine, once she sees the victim's face, tell Ken that the accused is not guilty of killing pregnant Professor Genevieve Russell, wife of the then governor, because she was there in 1977 Chapel Hill, twenty-eight years ago. Corrine's mom therapist Eve Elliot also knows that Gleason never killed Genevieve. However, if she admits the truth she will spend time in jail, shatter her marriage to dear Jack, and destroy her loving daughters Dru and Corrine and that of Genevieve's surviving family. For the truth is she guiltily abetted in the abduction of Genevieve that still haunts her husband, now the University of Virginia President Irving Russell, and their daughter Vivien. If she fails to speak up an innocent man will die. As she ponders what to do, Corrine is coming home seeking the truth from the woman who lovingly raised her. Though similar suspense laden family dramas have been told before, readers will appreciate Diane Chamberlain's deep take due to a strong cast and the smooth transitions between today and what happened in 1977. The exciting story line grips the audience once Corrine recognizes the dead woman, never slows down while Eve thinks back to the mountains of lies that make up the foundation of her life and relationships, and the final confrontation between the members of two families tied together in tragedy. The emotional realism of reactions by the various cast members makes THE SECRET LIFE OF CEECEE WILKES a delightful character driven thriller.

The Sheriff
Nan Ryan
ISBN: 0778322726, $6.99, 384 pp.

In 1855, impoverished twenty two year old Kate VanNam leaves Boston to start over in Fortune, California where she has inherited a mansion and a gold mine from her Great-Aunt Arielle VanNam Colfax. When her Uncle Nelson, who raised her and her brother dies, she decides to find her fortune out west. However, when she arrives on the West Coast she finds her situation not golden as the house is so dilapidated it may be dangerous and there is no gold left in her mine; ergo no fortune. Sheriff Travis McLoud does not hide his fear that the beautiful easterner means problems keeping her safe from the horde of miners wanting her. Also arriving in town is Winn Delaney, who decides the Bostonian is the perfect complement to him as the only true gentleman in Fortune. However, Travis soon finds he wants to step to the head of the line courting the kissable Kate even as that makes the owner of the Golden Nugget Valentina Knight jealous while someone wants the "worthless" gold mine at any cost to others especially the well being o f the transplanted Bostonian. This is an amusing western romance starring two amiable protagonists. Travis has a strong foreboding that the arrival of Kate is trouble for him, but initially he thinks as a law enforcement official, but soon revises his estimation to that of his heart in jeopardy. The zany story line makes for a fun mid nineteenth century tale. Nan Ryan always writes an exciting and delightful romance novel.

The Cotton Queen
Pamela Morsi
ISBN: 0778322696, $12.95

In McKinney, Texas Babs reaches the finals of the Cotton Queen Beauty pageant. There she meets and eventually marries air force mechanic Tom Hoffman. However, the happy couple remains together a short time as he dies in a maintenance accident during World War II. She returns home to raise their daughter Laney by herself though she has no employable skills as she was not trained for anything but marriage. Years later Laney resents her June Cleaver 1950s mother. Instead Laney revolts holding her mom in contempt. To her chagrin, her seventeen years old daughter Rachel has entered the Cotton Queen pageant that Laney has always boycotted as demeaning. While Rachel understands both her mother and grandmother, she walks the middle wanting both to make peace and be there for her while knowing her father Stan and her two younger brothers will support her endeavor. The story line rotates between Babs and Laney so that the audience obtains a close look at a generation gap wider than the Grand Canyon. The only common ground between the two females seems their love for Rachel (and her two brothers though they play minor roles). Interestingly both Rachel and Stan believe that Babs and Laney are two peas in a pod. Pamela Morsi provides an interesting look at a huge generational war.

The Devil's Waltz
Anne Stuart
ISBN: 0778322734, $6.99, 384 pp.

Viscount Christian Montcalm needs to pay his bills off soon or face disgrace. He decides gambling will keep the collectors at bay for a short time; instead he needs a biddable wealthy wife. He chooses seventeen years old Hetty Chipple, daughter of a rich shipping magnate Josiah who wants his offspring accepted into high society. Josiah hires Annelise Kempton to teach his daughter how to behave amidst the Ton and serve as her escort. Annelise believes she is on the shelf because she is too tall, too smart and too outspoken for her male peers. When she catches Hetty trying to sneak off with Christian, she intercedes and rips his skin off. To his surprise he finds himself attracted to the "Dragon" and plots to wed her charge and bed her. Annelise knows her job is to keep the undesirable fortune hunting wolf away from Hetty. As Annelise and Christian battle, they fall in love, but they both know they are too poor to marry besides which neither trusts the other. That is until she rescues him from the teen chatterbox. This Regency gender war is a well written romantic romp starring two wonderful enemy combatants fighting over a spoiled teenager. The story line is at its best when these two strong protagonists go toe to toe and lip to lip. A late smuggling suspense is also well-written, but seems unnecessary as the skirmishes between the lead couple makes for a delightful historical romance.

Deadly Kisses
Brenda Joyce
ISBN: 0778322688, $6.99, 384 pp.

In 1902 New York amateur sleuth Francesca Cahill gets her father to agree to support her marrying notorious businessman Calder Hart, who he fears will break his daughter's heart one day but dad stipulates she wait one year to wed him. Not long after compromising with her caring father, Francesca receives a note from Rose who asks her to come quickly to Daisy Hart's home. Though she is reluctant to visit Daisy, Calder's former lover, who hates her, Francesca comes anyway. A near hysterical Rose asks Francesca to investigate the homicide of Daisy as she does not trust the police. Francesca would prefer to team up with Commissioner Rick Bragg as she has done several times recently. However, her mind is made up for her when she sees Calder, who was supposed to be in Boston on business, staring at the battered corpse. The evidence points at her fiance as the killer. Everyone assumes he committed homicide except Francesca who refuses to believe her beloved would kill so viciously though she knows he is concealing something from her. The latest Cahill historical amateur sleuth tale (though not paid can you remain classified an amateur sleuth after eight or nine investigations?) is a terrific tale as the audience obtains a fine murder mystery and further insight into how Francesca's parents feel about Calder as a son-in-law. The inquiry is interesting because everyone assumes that Calder killed Daisy except Francesca who sets out to prove she is right in spite of her beloved not cooperating. Brenda Joyce freshens up her Cahill capers with this fine who-done-it that also moves forward on the two male fronts that had seemed stagnant in recent books.

A Necessary Evil
Alex Kava
ISBN: 0778322742, $21.95, 416 pp.

In DC and in Nebraska someone is killing men who have abused power with an emphasis on priests. Though the M.O. is similar and the victims all tainted, FBI profiler Maggie O'Dell begins to think two different perpetrators are at work with a common bond. That assumption leads her with the help of her mentor Dr. Gwen Patterson and Detective Julia Racine to search for the link between the killers, which she believes, is an Internet role-playing game for those who have suffered abuse at the hands powerful males. As Maggie worries about her friend Gwen who is acting strange and wants distance from Julia, the case takes a weird spin when the man she hates most in the world, brutal Father Michael Keller, is forced to return based on a package he received while hiding in a remote part of South America, with an offer to help her stop the killings in return for his ability to vanish once again in Venezuela. Maggie debates making a Faustian deal with the child killing devil while vengeance continues. Alex Kava's latest exhilarating O'Dell thriller showcases the profiler struggling with a complex case made more difficult by the actions of her beloved teacher Gwen, whose fears of field work hampers her ability to help. The fast-paced story line for the most part contains the two subplots that move back and forth between Omaha and DC before tying together in an exciting action-packed tale. Fans of the series will enjoy Maggie's dilemma as to whether to deal with A NECESSARY EVIL or not.

Hearts Divided
Debbie Macomber, Katherine Stone & Lois Faye Dyer
ISBN: 0778322122, $7.99, 304 pp.

"5-B Poppy Lane" by Debbie Macomber. In Cedar Cove, Washington, anti-war protester Ruth Shelton has been exchanging letters and email with USMC Sergeant Paul Gordon. However, he is coming home from Afghanistan on leave and wants to meet her in person. She has doubts because of his occupation. "Liberty Hall" by Katherine Stone. Former sergeant Jake Morrissey visits his friend Dan at the University of Washington Medical Center's rehabilitation Medicine Department where his brother in arms is getting an artificial leg installed. Jake meets English Professor Chloe Abbott whose group the Seattle's Women's Club has donated much of the medical equipment. They are attracted to one another form the start, but someone with a grudge plans to use her as a throw away pawn to get at Jake. "The Apple Orchard" by Lois Faye Dyer. In Sarah's Orchard, Washington though he knows he will be punished by his mother's latest boyfriend, Nick rescues the toddler. Elizabeth's grandparents Charles and Clara are grateful. Years later, an adult Nick returns to Sarah's Orchard where to his shock Clara knows him instantly as Elizabeth's hero. He stays there basking in the grandparent-like love of Charles and Clara. When Charles dies he remains there for Clara. When Elizabeth returns home, she and her hero fall in love but he keeps his military experience secret from her so she has doubts. These three terrific Washington State novellas star heroic military men and realistic women with doubts about a relationship with a soldier/veteran. The key to the tales is that diverse opinions on the Global War Against Terrorism is treated with respect and not wrapped inside phony for or against patriotic fervor while honoring the soldier.

Carla Neggers
ISBN: 0778322378, $7.99, 384 pp.

In Washington DC Quinn Harlowe left the Department of Justice to become a consultant. In a park, her friend DOJ attorney Alicia Miller starts screaming at Alicia that she need her help. They go to a nearby restaurant where Alicia loses it entirely and runs off only to enter a black Lincoln Town Car. Unbeknownst to Quinn, inside the vehicle is another DOJ colleague Steve Eisenhardt accompanied by two goons. They warn him to be quiet before dropping him off as they have pictures of him with a fifteen years old daughter of a senator. Quinn and her former boss Gerald Lattimore worry about Alicia. When she goes home to her cottage in nearby Yorkville where Alicia has been staying Quinn finds her friend's corpse. Not long afterward Quinn meets and is attracted to undercover US Marshal Huck McCabe and his partner Diego Clemente, who are infiltrating the violent Breakwater Security that the department believes is a terrorist vigilante group and probably behind Alicia's death. Though Quinn's doubts about her estranged friend committing suicide seem on target, her need to investigate appears off kilter even if she worked for DOJ. Her suspicions that Huck is more than just a security guard prove accurate, but not in the way she expected as she assumed he was a thug though she likes his kisses. Their relationship is fun to follow as he cannot give away his cover while she believes her heart has betrayed her. Fans will enjoy Quinn's investigation in which Huck struggles to keep her safe without destroying the case or endangering his partner.

Crimson Code
Rachel Lee
ISBN: 0778322718, $6.99, 480 pp.

Christmas is being celebrated around the globe when the simultaneous terrorist attacks occur. In every time zone a Catholic Cathedral is devastated. At the same several economic points like an oil rig and the New York Stock Exchange data base were also hit. Whereas the former left thousands dead; the latter killed no one. Additionally, an anomaly in Baden, Baden happened when a small church was targeted. Saudi moderate Ahmed Ahsami feels betrayed. He set up the economic terrorism to hurt the west without causing deaths, which is why he chose Christmas. However, when you partner with the devil anything can happen and this case did. He plans vengeance for Islamic and Catholics as he tells Vatican Monsignor Vectroni of Stewards of Faith. In France, history aficionado General Jules Souet celebrates the first step he fostered towards his taking over as the world's leader. At the same time UN Office 119 operative Renate Baehle is filled with rage over the Baden, Baden murders as her family was eradicated in her opinion to get at her. She plans vengeance on those who committed the atrocity. Renate and Lawton Laine begin tracking the Internet banking that was needed to support this pandemic terrorism even as the nuclear genie appears on the verge of escaping the bottle. This exciting doomsday thriller smoothly ties two modern day conspiracies from competing groups vying for world domination back to Moses. The story line leaps around the globe as numerous subplots bring across the vast scope of the secret societies to dominate the planet. Initially difficult to follow with so much happening seemingly everywhere, the regional actions tie back together to forge the main exhilarating plot. Fans will appreciate this fast-paced powerful conspiracy thriller.

Skin Deep
Tori Carrington
ISBN: 0373470509, $4.99

In Tampa, Florida, though he hides his feelings, Michael Romano, a partner in an architect firm, knows that he wants the company's bookkeeper his best bud Kyra White as his own though he fears risking their friendship in any attempt to romance her. Following her latest rejection from some office loser, Michael takes Kyra to her favorite spot, a bookstore. Tired of male rebuffs, Kyra buys Sex Kitten 101 planning to remake her image from competent numbers manager to sexy siren. From her hair to lip gloss to clothing, Kyra radically changes her appearance. Men, including a recent rejecter, desire her, but one kiss makes Kyra realize that she wants Michael. As they fall in love, Kyra quits her job because of an embezzlement charge hanging over her head. Additionally, Michael detests introducing his beloved to his parents because he feels ashamed of their old country ways. Thus, what easily should be a love of a lifetime built on passion and friendship appears doomed. SKIN DEEP is a well-written torrid romance that reminds this reviewer of a General Hospital sub-tale (included Carl Anderson's song Friends and Lovers). The story line is what readers expect from the talented writing team Tori Carrington as the plot emanates heat from the two delightful lead characters. Though the embezzlement is interesting, the tension between Kyra and Michael is so hot that the money stealing becomes a minor nuisance rather than a strong subplot. Fans of equatorial relationships will want to read this tale because no one turns up the solar heat quite like this author team does.

Wild Fire
Debra Cowan
Silhouette Intimate Moments
ISBN: 0373274742, $4.99, 300 pp.

Presley, Oklahoma firefighter Shelby Fox hears a scream from the nearby home of M.B. Perry. She races over to insure the schoolteacher is okay only to find the woman on fire in her bed with a man watching. The apparent arsonist attacks Shelby. Police Detective Clay Jessup visits his close friend Shelby at the Presley medical Center where she recovers from her beating, but cannot remember the assault or why she was found unconscious in the home of M.B. by her crewmates working the fire at that house. Shelby plans to find out one way or another what her selected amnesia hides from her. As they follow clues at new arsons that use microwave ovens amongst other devices to set deadly infernos she begins to recall bits of the atrocity she observed and how she became a victim. The arsonist killer wants his only witness dead while Clay wants the woman he loves safe and sound by his side. Rightfully so, the romance takes a back seat to the well written arson investigation that has the two protagonists seeking a serial killer who in turn is seeking the heroine before she identifies him. The action-packed story line grips the reader from the moment that Shelby intrudes on the horrifying burning of her friend and never slows down through a series of fires until the final confrontation. Though the romantic relationship never heats up, the third Hot Zone thriller (see MELTING POINT and BURNING LOVE) is an exciting tale worth reading.

The Medusa Game
Cindy Dees
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373513933, $4.99

The Top Secret Medusa Group is assigned to protect Anya Khalid at the Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. Born in the Emirate of Bhoukar, but raised in Brisbane, she has become a world class figure skater who with the blessing of the Emir represents her birth country in the games. However, instead of being a heroine, many of the Bhoukar residents believe she is an abomination flaunting her sexuality and defying Islam. Medusa Isabella Torres is assigned as the lead to protect the skater because there is a viable assassination threat including a suicide bomber who could take out innocents as well as Anya. Delta Force Commander Dex Thorpe leads the overall security to quietly insure Munich does not happen in upstate New York. He detests working with a female, but soon changes his mind as he observes how competent Isabella is. As they team up to protect a skater carrying the world on her shoulders, the two operatives fall in love; but each knows keeping Anya safe and preventing a tragedy takes priority over their personal needs. Timed perfect with the Olympics in Torino in February and with the Spielberg movie, the latest Medusa tale is a strong novel that will excite the audience at any time of the year. The thriller stars a strong proficient female and a chauvinistic male who quickly becomes a born again supporter of women in dangerous missions due to the brave skillful work of Isabella. Part of the fascination in this novel resides with Anya who has pressures few if any (perhaps Jesse Owens in 1936 or Israeli athletes after Munich) have ever faced. The story line is driven by this wonderful support character as Cindy Dees provides the deepest best Medusa thriller yet because of Anya.

Radical Cure
Olivia Gates
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373513941, $4.99

Following the Russian incident, Calista St. James vowed never again to depend on Damien DeLuna who swears he loves her and acted out of her best interests; she thinks he chose the mission over her and can live with that, but not his method. However, Calista has a new problem when her medical team devastates her team sending kind hearted people like Jake into a rage. She needs to find the cure to an illness whose symptoms defy medical knowledge as the indications behave contradictory. Calista learns that a potential elixir is in a dangerous part of South America so she enlists the only man she believes can get them in and out, Damien who will lead her. Damien agrees, though he has some safety stipulations, as he will do anything to prove his love to his cherished Calista. RADICAL CURE is an exciting medical thriller with a touch of romance. The story line starts at a fast-paced speed with Calista and her team trying to free a girl from white slave traders, shifts into a higher gear with Jakes turning into a lunatic, and finally accelerates even more as the lead couple goes to South America. Fans will feel the sexual tension between Calista and Damien who, if they survive this mission, still have plenty to overcome as love is not enough as she trusts him with her life but not her heart.

Bulletproof Princess
Vicki Hinze
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373513925, $4.99

Gotham Rose member Chloe St. John, the Princess of Astoria of Denmark was engaged to attorney Marcus Sterling III, but he died in an explosion. However, Chloe knew the truth that her fiance was setting her up for a kidnapping so she is not mourning her loss. Though Chloe has moved in with Architectural Restoration reporter Jack Quaid, Gotham Rose President Renee Dalton-Sinclair insists she attend his funeral to cut down the questions from reporters. Afterward, Renee informs Chloe she has her field assignment for her. Apparently the international criminal mastermind the Duke runs an escort service that fronts a while slave market. They abduct young Russian women with no family ties to sell to willing buyers. Marcus somehow was tied to the group. Though it will upset another Gotham Rose member to be yanked from the case someone fluent in Russian needs to take over. Renee wants Chloe to be a "victim" of an abduction so they can trace the trail and capture the elusive Duke. Though she anticipates the danger the case will entail, neither she, her best friend Emma nor Renee come close to the reality. The latest Gotham Roses thriller is an exhilarating action-packed suspense tale that never slows down from the moment that Chloe learns her assignment from Renee. The story line is fast-paced once the heroine prepares herself to be abducted and once done realizes how the best laid plans can go astray. Though some of the escapades seem over the top, fans will appreciate this strong look at surprisingly a real problem, the international slave trade.

Something Wicked
Evelyn Vaughn
Silhouette Bombshell
ISBN: 0373513917, $4.99

Katie Trillo comes home to the house she shares with her sister Diana the witch only to find her beloved sibling murdered. Se realizes the killer is about to hit her with a hammer, but she deflects the blow with her hand. She learns her assailant's name is Benny Fisher so she invokes Hecate and curses him before he flees. The police arrest Benny, who has an alibi, but is still placed on a line-up with his twin brother Victor. Katie selects Victor whose fingerprints are all over her kitchen as her sister's killer. She realizes she cursed the wrong sibling. As Benny finds himself in several car accidents, Victor is freed as his lawyer makes Diana, Katie and Benny look like crackpots. Still she knows who murdered her sister and why, the Hecate Chalice. With Benny at her side, she travels to Greece where Victor has previously gone in his efforts to join the evil Comitatus secret society that searches for Goddess chalices ultimately looking for the Grail. SOMETHING WICKED, the latest Grail romantic fantasy, is an enjoyable tale starring two likable protagonists falling in love with one feeling guilty for cursing the wrong man, her beloved instead of his sibling. The cast makes the tale as fans will take immense delight with the relationship between the lead couple and hiss at the diabolical Comitatus members who cleverly make Katie and Benny look like crackpots and give Victor an opportunity to join. Fans will appreciate the adventures of Katie and Benny as they do battle with his brother supported by wealth and influence.

Twelfth Night Proposal
Karen Rose Smith
Silhouette Romance
ISBN: 0373197942, $4.25

In Avon Lake, Texas, Verity Sumpter compensates for her grief over the recent death of her twin brother by giving everything she can to her charge little Heather Montgomery, whose mother passed away and whose father Leo spends all his time working at the Montgomery Boat Company. When Heather gets hurt, Leo realizes how much he has failed his daughter as she refuses to let go of her nanny to go to him. He vows to change that. As Leo spends more time with Heather, he also finds he likes having Verity by their sides. Leo quickly realizes how much Verity loves Heather and that his child feels the same way as if the nanny was her mommy. Soon though he knows he should not, father like daughter falls in love with the nanny in spite of her efforts to remain in the background and hiding her beauty. Verity reciprocates those deepest feelings with the Montgomery duo though she knows how much love hurts as she still mourns the death of Sean. The TWELFTH NIGHT PROPOSAL is a warm compassionate contemporary romance that closes out Karen Rose Smith's delightful Shakespeare in Love series on a high note. The three prime players suffer from loss, but with each other gain strength making a strong case that the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Verity is a fabulous protagonist struggling with life until she realizes how much Heather needs her. Leo hides behind his work to avoid emotional attachments. Finally Heather is confused by the death of her mom and the abandonment of her dad. These three wounded souls come together to forge a terrific family drama that truly celebrates the Bard.

The Hobo Chronicles
S.E. Schenkel
Wings ePress
ISBN: 1590885899, $TBA

As he watches his mother slowly die, Acey Tapp knows he owes a ton of money so when he finds a card advertising McMunn and Son Investigations he goes there hoping to score a job. He meets elderly Webster Munn, the "son" in the company, but before they can talk the sleuth collapses and is rushed to the hospital. Meanwhile a client Karen Grout arrives wanting to hire Webster to find her missing daughter. Acey does not correct her identity misconception and accepts the case for Webster. Karen explains that when her daughter Tina Lynn was sixteen she vanished but clarifies that the last time she saw her daughter was in 1956, forty-nine years ago. Webster splits the fee with Acey, telling him to go earn it. Acey starts with Tina Lynn's high school buddy Shelly Norton nee Weiss who gives him a picture of her best friend with a young man; insisting they ran off together. Acey recognizes the tattoo on the man as the same as one recently found dead hobo. As he follows the trail handicapped by a local law enforcement official who discourages his cold case investigation, but encouraged by a possible new squeeze, Acey uncovers more than just a missing person who fled to Canada; he finds a series of homicides over the last five decades. A tongue-in-cheek hard boiled detective story, THE HOBO CHRONICLES is a delightful mystery that works because of the relationships between Acey and several other important players especially his sleuthing "mentor", who preps him on what he must do. The whodunit is cleverly written to fool readers (and Acey) though clues are in plain sight. However, besides a terrific action-packed tale the keen humorous barbs between McMunn and Tapp make for a fun time.

On This Day
Melody Carlson
ISBN: 1578568412, $12.99, 352 pp.

The five women are at the Lakeside Inn to attend the wedding of Jennifer to Michael. Each has differing feelings about marriage and relationships with men in general. All feel they are in some form of a personal crisis. The bride's Aunt Elizabeth Anderson plans to confront her seemingly indifferent husband Phil after the ceremony as she sees nothing positive with their quarter of a century together especially since she assumes he loves his jogging partner Delia. The wife of Michael's boss Suzette Burke thinks her spouse Jim is cheating on her. Jennifer's widowed paternal grandmother Margaret Simpson misses her Calvin, who died almost a year ago. The groom's sister-in-law Laura Fairbanks suffers from postpartum depression, but her husband David, their family and her friends refuse to see her mental troubles as their two month old daughter Amy is perfect. Finally Ingrid Campbell suffers from doubts about tying the knot to Jason; she fears she agreed to his proposal as a knee jerk reaction to her best friend's wedding. This character driven tale contains a female ensemble effortlessly rotating chapter leads. The shifting view point is easy to follow as each of the fivesome differs in relation to the bride and that brings some depth to the troubled quintet. Though readers will empathize with each of the lead players, what initially seems like anguish built up over varying time periods, resolves relatively too easily though not all remain as couples by the end of the day; expediting the issues make the quintet seem somewhat shallow. Still this is a fine relationship drama starring likable people in trouble.

The Healer's Heart: A Modern Novel of the Life of St. Luke
Diane M. Komp
ISBN: 1578569133, $13.99, 352 pp.

Yale University Medical School Infectious Disease specialist Dr. Luke Tayspill visits his dying father in Ohio. Being there makes him wonder how his currently estranged journalist wife Theo is dong in London, where she deals with a strange physical diagnosis that she hides from Luke and from the post-traumatic stress disorder caused when she covered war ravaged Sarajevo. He further reflects back on his childhood when his father showed no positive emotions while his grandfather gave him a zest for life. Inside a secret compartment of a locked desk, Luke finds a hidden manuscript "The Deaths of Lukas Tayspill" written by his late loving grandfather Giles, he is shocked not just by the title, but also by the revelations of two ancestry Luke Tayspills dying martyr deaths and the tale of a third to be completed in the near future. He decides to finish the story his grandfather set forth in the journal. Seeking closure, Luke travels to war wracked Sierra Leone where his grandfather's story started but he will "write" the ending with his actions in this devastated African nation. THE HEALER'S HEART is a strong modern day retelling of the St. Luke story that fans will appreciate. Luke is a terrific protagonist whose discovery of the journal opens his mind to all sorts of possibilities when one believes in Jesus while performing good deeds. Though the story line contains too many subplots in too many different periods that at times makes it difficult to follow, Diane M. Komp provides a strong character driven look at faith in the modern age.

Patrick Sanchez
ISBN: 0758210000, $12.95

Kamille Cooper believes that the best way to stay young is through nips and tucks that keep her lips full, her stomach lean, and even her elbow fashionable. Everyone who knows Kamille think she is a success because she has it together emotionally and mentally, but she knows inside otherwise fearing a wrinkle will ruin her. Nora Perez loves a good time especially hopping the night clubs every night with a different man in hand. However her age has begun to show on her face and other body parts with men starting to ignore her. Nora can not live with herself without a man so she decides as she nears forty she must recapture the youth she is losing via a face lift and more. Motherhood, apple pie, work and age have devastated Brenda Harrison's once lithe body. She fears her husband no longer desires her as he increasingly comes home late from work. She decides to reverse the aging process with a nip and a tuck to entice her spouse to come home for nooners. In DC these three women begin attending plastic surgery 101 with all the modern day treatments to tighten their bodies, help them recapture their lure and beauty, and slow age creep. A cosmetic friendship forms in which each wonders will this be enough to keep men salivating? These three interwoven subplots concentrate on how much America is into the youth culture willing as much to destroy one's body to push back the aging line. The three female stars are unique protagonists with different fears and needs that each one believes cosmetic surgery will cure or at least delay the inevitable. Patrick Sanchez provides a deep harrowing character study of how far someone is willing to go to look young.

Girls Who Gossip
Theresa Alan
ISBN: 0758207603, $12.95

Helaina Denner mourns the death of her beloved mom when she decides to end the estrangement and reconcile with her wealthy dad because she needs family at this moment. Thus she travels to Colorado where she tries to hide her feeling of appall from her aloof father and her aunt, who are having an open affair while the relative who connected to both of them lies warm in her grave. Unable to cope Helaina turns to alcohol, but that only leaves hangovers. Her friends feel for her but she detests the pity she senses behind their sympathy. She knows she must find closure with her mother's sudden mysterious death and move past her rage at her dad and aunt for desecrating her mom. Helaina finds some solace with poet Owen, who helps her inch closer to emotional harmony, but the weights on her back make progress seem snail-like. GIRLS WHO GOSSIP is a deep character study of a despondent grieving young woman feeling all alone since her mother died trying to connect with her father, but makes no progress on that front, which in turn depresses her further. Helaina's relationship with Owen seems very realistic with its ups and downs as both have problems, but the emotionally battered female finds herself in the crosshairs of needing and wanting a loving relationship but fearing to embrace one as love hurts. Fans of contemporary fiction will want to read this strong insightful tale.

The Manolo Matrix
Julie Kenner
ISBN: 0743496140, $13.00, 352 pp.

The Internet game "Play-Survive-Win" involves three participants: Target, Protector, and Assassin. The Protector must prevent the Assassin from killing the Target who seeks to obtain a code that if entered before death, they survive rich; but if killed the Assassin earns the award money. Someone has brought PSW to the real world with permanent death as a strong possibility. Manhattan waitress and wannabe performer Jennifer Martin signed up years ago to play PSW online, but never did. Now she is notified just like her former roommate had been (see THE GIVENCHY CODE) that she is playing the game in the real world as a Protector of suspended FBI Agent Devlin Brady, who was involved in the last game. Jen takes the threat serious, but a guilt laden Devlin feeling remorse over killing his partner, welcomes the Assassin's bullet. That is until he realizes Jen could die for him. The Target protects the Protector while they work together to solve PSW before the assassin can kill either of them; making matters even more dangerous, the Assassin has a grudge against her Target. The latest PSW thriller is an action-packed yet character driven romantic suspense tale that never slows down once Jen, who takes the PSW notification email seriously, struggles to get the Target motivated. In fact the only reason Devlin plays is he feels a need to protect his protector. The Assassin is perfect as she sees an opportunity to avenge Devlin for doing his job by locking her away. The MANOLO MATRIX is magnificent.

Killing Neptune's Daughter
Randall Peffer
ISBN: 1933108053, $14.00, 249 pp.

After all the bad things she did and the things that were done to her, Tina left Woods Hole on Cape Cod when she finished eleventh grade. She totally remade herself into another woman named Noelle and married a famous rock star who was a heavy drug user and wife cheater. Their exploits were featured in the media at every opportunity as tabloid favorites. One night Noelle leaves her Greenwich Village apartment and goes to her favorite spot, the St. Lukes in-the-Fields where a man rapes her before killing her with a marlinspike. Also living in the Village is sports reporter Billy Bagswell and even though he only met her once since they both began residing in New York City, he returns home to Woods Hole for her funeral. When Tina was living in Woods Hole, she was a slut, having sex with who she chose and reveling in the power it gave her. Unlike NYPD, mutual friend Catholic priest Father Zal and Billy think the killer lives in Woods Hole and has nothing to do with Noelle's New York lifestyle. The friends reminisce about the bad old days and begin to piece together the various puzzle parts of Tina's life, trying to conceptualize who had a motive to kill a former Woods Hole resident. KILLING NEPTUNE'S DAUGHTER is not a pretty book but it accurately reflects the darker goings on between high school students. One can't help but feel sorry for the victim because circumstances forced her to behave the way she did and each of her "friends" have their own guilt to bear. Randall Peffer is a talented writer who gives new meaning to the phrase vigilante justice.

DeKok and the Death of a Clown
A.C. Baantjer
ISBN: 1933108037, $14.00, 184 pp.

In Amsterdam fifty-five years old real estate broker Julius Vlaanderen explains to Inspector DeKok that someone stole a million Euros worth of his jewelry collection, but the safe that contains them shows no evidence of a break-in and only the owner and his lawyer have access. The only other person aware of the collection's location is the victim's son Maurice. Though he works homicide, DeKok tells his partner Dick Vledder they will investigate the jewelry theft since no murders are under review at this time. However, before they can begin digging, DeKok and Vledder learn of a dead clown floating at nearby Crier's Tower. The victim has a knife obtruding from his back. Vledder immediately recognizes that the deceased is Pierrot a popular Dutch performer. As the cops investigate this murder and interrogate the members of the troupe that Pierrot belonged to and to a lesser degree look into the Vlaanderen robbery, DeKok begins to see a link. Although Vledder insists there is no connecting of the dots, the senior Inspector wonders whether what he believes happened in both cases can be enough to uncover the identity of a clever killer. The third translation of a DeKok Dutch police procedural (see DEKOK AND MURDER BY MELODY) is a fabulous tale that sub-genre fans will want to read in one delightful sitting. The story line grips the audience from the moment the Inspector questions the realtor about the theft and never slows down until the final "butterfly" effect. DeKok is an excellent cop while his partner and others bring out the best in the sleuth. This is must reading for fans who appreciate a strong European investigative tale.

Champagne Rules
Susan Lyons
Kensington Aphrodisia
ISBN: 0758214065, $12.95, 304 pp.

Twenty years old Suzanne Brennan met Jaxon Navarre on a nude beach on Crete. They felt an instant attraction and went up to a cave where they made love. However, both agreed to a one night stand with no exchange of names. Four years later Vancouver, Canada resident Suzanne tells her friends that her last night in Crete was the best sex, perhaps the best moment of her life. At the same time in San Francisco Jax thinks back to the beautiful blonde in the cave. He regrets he failed to get her personal information; he now knows that his marriage that occurred just after that incredible one night was a farce, which is one of the reasons it ended in divorce. Encouraged by her pals, Suzanne puts out an Internet ad asking for her "Chocolate Man" to respond; Jax reads her personal and knows she has to be her. He responds and soon they agree to meet again. Will they have a second one night stand or will they go for much more as neither has forgotten that night in Crete? Though the probability seems slight that Jax will happen to look at personal ads on the net coincidentally at that moment, fans will enjoy this second chance at love, erotic style. The story line is fun to follow whether in Crete or on the Pacific coast as the lead duo is likable and seem to belong together. The support cast, especially her buddies, add to the fun and hopefully will do that and much more in their own tales. Readers of torrid contemporaries will enjoy this hot romance.

Pleasure Beach
P.J. Mellor
Kensington Aphrodisia
ISBN: 0758214405, $13.95, 320 pp.

"Pretender". Sunshine International accuses employee McCall Lindsay of embezzling funds from the Summers Group. Her friend arranges for the beleaguered woman to hide on Pleasure Beach on South Padre Island. Derek Summers, CEO of the Summers Group also arrives at Pleasure Beach. After assuming she is a hooker, they make love, but she fails to correct his mistake. Over that weekend they fall in love, but once their names surface their fantasy will end. "Same Time Next Week". At Pleasure Beach single business consultant Kinsey Carlyle is thinking of accepting a proposal from boring dentist Zachary Taylor when she meets reconstructive surgeon Marcus Wallace, who suffers from cardiac problems. They exchange first names and no more as they make love. However he wants more as he loves Kinsey, but becomes angry when he learns she is married with kids as he wants her everyday not just next week, but a punch in the eye makes him see double while revealing the truth to him. "Jack of Hearts". Cardiologist Jack McMillan travels to his vacation house on Pleasure Beach to forget being dumped by Mardee. However, living next door is the best friend of Mardee's sister, talk show hostess Royce St. Clair. As the two argue over everything in life, they make love and fall in love, but he suffers from commitment phobia caused perhaps by his wondering if he could be fickle or rebounding. These three fun erotic romances will heat up readers as the lead couples seek pleasure initially, but gain so much more.

Married to the Mop
Barbara Colley
ISBN: 0758207646, $22.00

In New Orleans, Maid for a Day owner Charlotte LaRue agrees to service Emily Rossi's emergency request for help. Emily is hosting a gala for out-of-town guests attending the Mardi Gras, but her personnel maid left on a family emergency. However, Charlotte has doubts and not just because she is shorthanded as Emily's husband, Robert is reported to be a cold-blooded crime boss, who will kill anyone in his way including the cops suspect, his father. Charlotte tries to concentrate on doing her job even when she sees and hears a raging Robert screaming at everyone as some of his Faberge eggs are missing. Still the fee is top dollar though Charlotte does not want to know the source so when Emily asks her to also fill in for a server, she agrees. The masquerade ball proves lethal to the mob king as he is WIPED OUT with Emily holding the murder weapon. The cops assume the spouse did in her husband, but Charlotte thinks the police want to sweep the dirt under the rug with Fat Tuesday about to begin. Reluctantly she investigates the other family members who hated the patriarch as well as his opportunistic rivals and ambitious gang members. Adhering to her policy that she was not hired as a MAID FOR MURDER, Charlotte vows to stay out of the homicide investigation. However, being who she is when she notices little things that only a forensic expert or a cleaning person would see, she feels she must at least prove that the prime suspect is innocent. Fans will polish off her latest New Orleans adventure though with Katrina and now the controversy over hosting or canceling Mardi Gras the tale has an eerie feel to it. This is an excellent mystery.

What Men Want
Deborah Blumenthal
Red Dress
ISBN: 0373895690, $12.95

For several years, columnists Jenny George of Street Beat and Slaid Warren of Slaid in the City have competed in public and especially in private email and phone calls repeating the same message of beat you so top this. Surprisingly, considering the rivalry and the same coverage of city politics, these journalistic warriors have never met in person. Both work the same story that links the mayor's office with obtaining illegal kickbacks and prohibited expensive freebies in exchange for favors. Jenny and Slaid race to St. Croix where the CEO of Reilly Films, Jack Reilly, is hosting New York City officialdom especially the decision-makers from the Office of Film, Theater, and Broadcasting. Her live-in lover Chris seems happy she will be away for the holidays as he looks forward to working with "model thin". When Slaid and Jenny meet in person for the first time sparks fly as she realizes he is much nicer than her goading opponent image she has of him and he concludes she is wonderful person so much more than the shallow reporter he treasures teasing. WHAT MEN WANT is a fine journalist investigative romance starring two "wrestlers" wanting the other to concede that they are the superior reporter. Following the same beat on the same fourteen miles in length small island makes it difficult to believe they never met in person until they go to the Caribbean. That aside, the story line is fun and filled with antics and stinging barbs between the likable lead couple. The investigation adds to the rivalry while serving as the matchmaker between two enemy combatants falling in love.

Slightly Engaged
Wendy Markham
Red Dress
ISBN: 037389564X, $12.95

All her friends seem married except her. Instead Manhattanite Tracey Spadolini lives with her lover Jack, but he seems to suffer from commitment phobia. The worst incident occurs at the wedding of Jack's former Brooklyn roommate Mike Middleford, Tracey's boss at Blair Barnett Consulting, to nasty Dianne. Not only did Jack not want to go he is negative about tying the knot in general. Tracey is mortified as she wants to be Jack's wife. Tracey gains some hope when Jack's mom tells her that her son has taken out a family heirloom ring that he will surely give to her as an engagement ring. Tracey is excited because she loves Jack and wants to raise a family with him, but days turn into weeks and finally months with no ring forthcoming. Tracey has lost all hope and wonders if she must move on beyond the man she loves. Jack's "blindness" to Tracey's concerns make for a fine chick lit tale even though the heroine's grieving over her single status can send the audience wanting to smack her oblivious beloved that is until the readers learn we don't know Jack. The story line centers on Tracey's lament as the last single in Manhattan. Wendy Markham provides a lighthearted romp starring a young woman wondering why everyone but she and Jack assume she is on the verge of becoming engaged.

Above Suspicion
Lynda La Plante
ISBN: 074327685X, $14.00

Having just graduated from Oxford with no experience, Anna Travis knows that the only reason that Detective Chief Inspector James Langton hired her as Detective Superintendent is who she knew. When James was a newcomer, Anna's late father Detective Chief Superintendent Jack Travis mentored him so the DCI pays homage to the man who made him a cop by hiring his daughter. Anna plans to work diligently to prove that James was right to take a chance on her. A serial killer has murdered six prostitutes over twelve years, but apparently the seventh victim has no record of selling herself. DSI Langton and DS Travis find a suspicious link between the latest fatality, a seemingly innocent teen, and film actor Alan Daniels. Widening the geography of their inquiries, Anna and James analyze homicides at Daniels' movie shoot locations where similar deaths to their case occurred in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago. Though the evidence is impelling against the actor, no beyond a shadow of a doubt proof surfaces; instead the charming Daniels turns his attention on Anna. This is a terrific British police procedural that pulls no punches on why Anna gets the job. The investigation on both sides of the Atlantic is fabulous as both cops and other law enforcement types feel that Daniels is their killer, but there is nothing substantial to take before a jury. The triangular relationships add suspense as the audience wonders whether the naive rookie will fall for the seductive charm of the polished actor or will she act on her admiration and attraction to her superior. Lynda La Plante, author of the delightful Prime Suspect series, provides a marvelous first act to the elation of the sub-genre.

The New Animated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Leslie Klinger (editor)
ISBN: 039305800X, $49.95

Last year's perfect holiday gift for the mystery readers were the Holmes 56 short stories with illustrations and notes that provided incredible insight into the author and the great detective. Leslie Klinger, who pulled off the miracle of Christmas 2004, does it again for 2005. This time the Holmes scholar provides illustrations (some came with the original novels) and astute footnotes and more to the four Holmes novels (SEE A STUDY IN SCARLET, THE SIGN OF FOUR, THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, and THE VALLEY OF FEAR). As with the shorts, besides having the novels (this reviewer read the last one for the first time recently) the tome contains anecdotes and definitions to Victorian era terms and lively Holmesian debates and treatise on related subjects. The third stand alone homage to Mr. Doyle is the holiday present of this year and not just for the Baker Street Irregulars.

The Dream Life of Sukhanov
Olga Grushin
ISBN: 0399152989, $24.95

Russian avant-garde artist Anatoly Pavlovich Sukhanov once admired the freedom and boldness of western art; his early work reflected that "decadent" influence. His inspiration changed when he married Nina, daughter of Soviet sponsored painter Malinin. That marital connection gets Sukhanov a bureaucratic job as a state critic of western decadence and cheerleader of Communist endeavors. Quickly Sukhanov rises up the bureaucracy to become Editor-in-Chief of Art of the World, a publication that ridicules Western art. With his rise, he receives the elitist Moscow apartment and other perks. By the late 1980s and in his fifties, Sukhanov knows his wife and daughter have no respect for his sell-out while his ambitious son disregards him because he has no polish to rise any further. Sukhanov also suffers from writer's block and is unsure whether to cheer or fear that Gorbachev will change his upper class lifestyle. His past and present collide when he meets a former artist friend who didn't sell out so never gained material advantages, but the edge is reached when someone else's positive freelance review of Russian painter Marc Chagall replaces his diatribe on the decadence of Dali. This is an insightful biographical fictionalized account of an individual who by selling his beliefs in the Soviet bureaucracy receives all the perks, but has lost his self-esteem and knows his family belittles him. Interestingly Sukhanov senses his lifestyle is about to end, but his feelings are mixed; as he welcomes this, but also fears he can never go home. Olga Grushin writes a fantastic insightful look at a man broken by a system.

The Tavern on Maple Street
Sharon Owens
ISBN: 0399153438, $19.95, 336 pp.

In Belfast Jack and Lily Beaumont fell in love from the moment they met in 1984, but were so poor she could not afford a winter coat. Both felt then and still do that a miracle occurred when he inherited Beaumont Tavern from his grandmother's brother though all their relatives dumped them out of either jealousy or opposition to their relationship. They have lived in love there for two decades while the relatively small in size when compared to most of the city's bars Beaumont Tavern remains popular amongst the locals who frequent the Victorian modeled edifice. Now the government wants to renovate Maple Street tearing down the historical Victorian-gothic edifices and replacing them with a large mall. The couple initially refuses to sell, but the contractor Victor Halloran is a capable nice person making a more than reasonable offer that would allow the Beaumonts to retire. The government pressures the couple threatening eminent domain if they fail to agree to Halloran's kind offer. However, Jack and Lily hesitate as they have had loyal customers for two decades plus this has been their life together. Sharon Owens third contemporary Irish fiction novel is a stunning tale in which the decisions between urban renewal vs. heritage are difficult and realistic for everyone, making for a tense deep character driven drama. Neither Victor nor Jack and Lily are bad people and they negotiate in good faith though that does not lessen the impact of to sell or not to sell for that is the question. THE TAVERN ON MAPLE STREET is an excellent modern day story that fans will marvel over the simplicity of the plot yet relating a complex societal issue.

Sara Gran
ISBN: 0399153454, $21.95, 256 pp.

In 1950 in Manhattan, Josephine Flannigan has stayed off the drugs for about two years while working at Tiffany's where she pilfers jewelry to sell, supplementing her income. She meets Nathaniel and Maybelline Wilson of Westchester County in the law offices of Jackson, Smith & Alexander. Nathaniel tells her that Nick "the Greek" suggested she could help them find their nineteen years old daughter Nadine, a Bernard drop-out hooked on drugs, who vanished three months ago in the city with a boyfriend Jerry McFall. They provide her with a retainer of, $1000 and another, $1000 if successful. Though she has never done anything like this and has no idea which Nick the Greek recommended her as that is a common street name, she accepts the case. Joe begins searching the mean streets of hell's Kitchens seeking out the pimps on the assumption that would be the only way Nadine could pay for her habit as he knows form first hand experience. However, danger lurks on every corner and with every stranger as well as the threat of returning to the environs where she first embraced drugs. Set just after World War II, DOPE is a gritty look at the underside of Manhattan where the drop-outs from the Blackboard Jungle die easily with no one to grieve them. The story line pulls no punches with its in your guts glimpse of the mean streets where drugs and prostitution are king and queen while the euphoria of victory in Europe and the Pacific is someone else's celebration. Joe is a fabulous heroine who knows the peril that walks everywhere she goes in search of the Westchester runaway as pimps and sellers do not want anyone interfering with their assets.

American Legend
Buddy Levy
ISBN: 0399152784, $25.95

For us boomers raised on the remarkable 1950s Disney production, AMERICAN LEGEND substantiates much of the Davy Crocket TV shows, but also augments it with insight into how much more complex a person the frontier legend was regardless of Buddy Ebson's summarizing ballad. Buddy Levy fills much of the gaps including mildly negative commentary. For instance, there is insight into Crockett's two wives, five children and four step-children in which the hero's itchy feet kept him on the road a lot; both his strong spouses took care of the home front with iron wills, but the hero was not home that often (regardless of offspring count). Interesting to this reviewer's memory of the Disney show has Mr. Crocket going to Washington as a success story, but the biographer paints a more balanced picture of a somewhat failed politician. However, the most interesting new items (at least to me) is Crockett wrote a bestselling autobiography in which he barnstormed the country selling it and his dispute with his former Commander in the Creek War President Jackson over the abusive Indian Removal Act of 1830. This is an intriguing look at an individual who in the first half of the nineteenth century was a living legend that authenticates how accurate the Disney portrayal was; one worth reading and the other worth watching.

How to Sleep with a Movie Star
Kristin Harmel
Five Spot (Warner)
ISBN: 0446694479, $12.95

Earlier that day, twenty six years old Mod Magazine entertainment editor Claire Reilly interviewed movie star Cole Brannon. Soon afterward, she goes home to find her live-in boyfriend Tom sleeping with another woman. She throws the womanizing moocher out of her home, but is upset so decides to get drunk on tequila shots. Cole happens to be at the bar too and listens to Claire's tale of woe. After she consumes too much alcohol, Cole insures she gets home safely and if Tom remains there he will kick him out. The editor and the film hunk make love. However, Claire's enemy at Mod, beauty and fashion director Sidra DeSimon informs the tabloids that Claire and Cole are an entry and writes an article on that one night stand under Claire's name. Cole feels betrayed until a gala confrontation between the two editors seems heading to a vicious cat fight. HOW TO SLEEP WITH A MOVIE STAR is a lighthearted chick lit romp starring a nice, perhaps too nice, Cole and a too bubbly even when depressed Claire. The story line focuses on Claire's skirmishes with the ever mean spirited Sidra with Cole being a side skirmish in this eternal conflict. In spite of stereotyping, sub-genre readers will appreciate this battle of the female gladiators as they war over editorial supremacy with the winner obtaining a fine prize, Cole.

Train from Marietta
Dorothy Garlock
ISBN: 0446695319, $12.95, 374 pp.

In 1933 Katherine Tyler heads from her home in New York to work for her uncle as a nurse in a San Francisco hospital. However, her father's business partner William has his nephew Eddy Jacobs, boyfriend to Kate's sister Susan, abetted by two thugs (Hayden and Squirrelly) kidnap her in West Texas during a train stop. William plans to use her as a pawn to extort money and other valuables from her affluent dad John. Kate's desperate father ignores the warnings of bringing in the law; he contacts the Texas Rangers. In turn craggy rancher Tate Castle searches for and rescues Kate. Tate is shocked by his attraction to the seemingly frail city girl; she reciprocates his deep feelings. As they flee together she proves stronger than she looks, but his handicapped daughter Emily rejects her father finding a new love; even if Katherine is willing to give up everything for a ranch life in Texas. TRAIN FROM MARIETTA is a terrific Depression Era romantic suspense starring two likable protagonists, a realistic child with physical and emotional problems (though both are resolved too easily), and antagonists who range from insane to avaricious to desperate. The action-packed story line never slows down from the moment that William begins his plan until the final altercation with a crazed Squirrelly. A final twist will surprise the audience, but fits the key relationships between the cast and hopefully leads to another Dorothy Garlock 1930's thriller.

Lyn Cote
ISBN: 0446694371, $10.99

Linda Leigh Sinclair was born in 1947 to an overprotective mom. When the teen watches the civil rights and other monumental movements on TV news during the 1960s, she knows she wants to become a reporter. Over the objection of mom, she covers the 1963 rally led by the Reverend King in nearby Washington, D.C. for her high school paper. Five years later Leigh covers the Democratic National Convention in Chicago when riots break out. When her best friend Mary Beth vanishes, Leigh uses her still fledgling investigative skills to trace her to the anti-war counterculture in San Francisco. She falls in love, but that does not work out though he returns her feelings. Not long afterward she meets someone else and gives birth to Carly, but she and the father go separate ways. Leigh knows how her mom felt as she wants to protect Carly from life's precarious nature. When Carly turns up missing, Leigh turns to God for solace just as she has done before when tumultuous events made no sense. The third generation Women of Ivy Manor (see CHLOE and BETTE) is a kaleidoscope look at major events mostly during the 1960s and 1970s. The story line moves quickly from the Freedom March to the Chicago Convention to Give Peace a Chance rallies as Leigh proves she is in deed an Ivy Manor descendent with her survival instincts. Interestingly her faith in God comes from a no atheist in the fox hole perspective as she worries about her daughter just like her mom used to agonize over her. Lyn Cote writes a warm entry starring an interesting protagonist, but it is the backdrop of events that ignite the tale.

Catch Me When I Fall
Nicci French
ISBN: 0446578487, $24.95

In London, twenty-seven years old events planner executive Holly Krauss seems to have it all. Her business is not only a major success; she is the driving force behind it. She is married to a nice man Charlie who cherishes her and has close friends like her business partner Meg who want to be there for her. However, Holly cannot see how much her inner circle care for her because she suffers from bipolar disorder; a condition she assumes will one day consume her just like her father. Thus regardless of whether she is in her manic or depressive stage she lives over the edge at work, at home, and in between with alcohol and drugs her prime partners. One particular over indulgence leads to a one-night-stand with dangerous Rees, who she afterward believes is stalking her. Other incidents of out of control behavior push Charlie and Meg away from her as they assume she is paranoid; Holly insists that being paranoid or as in her case bipolar does not mean someone is not following you to do harm. Still Meg tries to be there for her. CATCH ME WHEN I FALL will remind readers of the film Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? Readers will wonder if Holly's self destructive nature is the real cause behind her fear or whether Rees is really stalking her. The tale loses some of the early tension caused by Holly's behavior as Nicci French switches emphasis to the suspense (is she being stalked by someone planning to harm her?) over the impact of untreated bipolar disorder. Thus what starts as a potentially powerful psychological character study turns into a well written thriller.

The Sisters Mortland
Sally Beauman
ISBN: 0446578193, $24.95

In 1967 in Suffolk, England, the three Mortland sisters and their mom Stella move into a medieval abbey following the loss of the family patriarch. Though in their twenties Julia and Finn have somewhat moved on, but Stella and thirteen year-old Maisie still grieve. Stella hires local artist Lucas Feld to paint a portrait of her daughters. Meanwhile for Julia and Finn, it begins as a summer of love with the middle daughter seemingly sharing trysts with Lucas, childhood friend Daniel Nunn or perhaps pre-med student Nick Marlow while Julia considers running off to London. However, the summer turns bitter when tragedy occurs. By 1991, Lucas is a renowned famous artist whose highly regarded painting The Sisters Mortland will be the center of a retrospective showing of his works. Daniel never recovered from the tragedy of what started as his greatest summer, but ended as his hauntingly worst as he fixated on the three sisters and the tragedy that shaped all their lives. THE MORTLAND SISTERS is a fabulous character study that grips the audience who want to know what happened to destroy the idyllic summer of 67. The perspectives cleverly shift with the changing eras. Maisie providing her viewpoint of the goings on in 1967; Daniel takes over in 1991 with his point of view of the "present" and what he recalls from the most wonderful and most devastating summer of his life; finally Julia brings closure to the drama. Each of the key players seems different and reacts accordingly to the events that Sally Beaumont lays out throughout the gripping story line. Readers will cherish this powerful character driven tale.

Working for the Devil
Lilith Saintcrow
ISBN: 0446616702, $6.99, 416 pp.

Interrupting the soaps, Tierce Japhrimel, a demon, visits highly regarded necromancer Dante Valentine to meet his Prince or die. Put that way, the tough Dante agrees to go along with the gun toting demon to a meeting with Lucifer to learn what the Prince of Darkness wants from her. They catch the subway to Hell where Lucifer offers Dante a contract that she cannot refuse or she dies; of course what the Prince wants her to do probably means she dies anyway. Dante is to capture a rogue demon accompanied by Japhrimel, who is more than a kick butt demon; he is a demon assassin. Accepting the kind offer made in good faith, Dante begins to search for the rogue though she is distracted by other items not directly related to her investigation. Japhrimel somewhat keeps her focused as they argue over everything especially when she spins into sidebars. WORKING FOR THE DEVIL is a fun urban noir paranormal thriller that stars a bristly courageous loner, a no nonsense demonic sidekick, and a horde of paranormal and human cretins who make the mundane things like riding a train into a supernatural event. As the glue to the plot, Dante turns the story line into a fine investigative tale though her inquiries do not go into first gear until the latter half of the novel, but her capers occur throughout. Fans will want more starring this acerbic street tough necromancer.

C.I.: Dark Target
David DeBatto and Pete Nelson
ISBN: 0446615749, $6.99, 416 pp.

After he lost his sister on 9/11, Boston Police Officer Dave DeLuca reenlisted in the army and went to Iraq as a counter intelligence officer where his performance was deemed excellent. After returning with his team to the states, Dave received a promotion to Chief Warrant Officer 2 and leader of "Team Red, a special operations counterintelligence unit. His first assignment is to find Cheryl Escavedo who while working at the underground base in Cheyenne Mountain allegedly stole classified material. The search leads to the Arizona Desert where Dave and a tribal policeman track Cheryl's footprints until they suddenly end near a sheet of glass-like material. Realizing that he has not been given the whole story he demands his superior officer tell him what is really going on and learns that she probably stole information on Darkstar, a top secret star wars type weapon that mustn't fall into enemy hands. The clues take the team from a cult that believes that a UFO is coming to Mexican drug lords and Cheryl's roommate. Deluca feels that it isn't the woman he's really after; that proves right because someone has taken control of Darkstar and is using it for his purposes that run counter to what it was originally designed for. C.I. DARK TARGET is a novel that has plenty of action, excitement and James Bond type adventures. The authors clearly prove the point that without accountability the political-military-industrial complex can do what it wants without the public being the wiser. It also means that when things go wrong, the people who work in the shadows are called upon to fix things up or die trying. Readers will look for more capers starring the protagonist and his Team Red.

From Potter's Field
Patricia Cornwell
ISBN: 0684195984, $26.00

As Christmas arrives, serial killer Temple Gault leaves a special present for law enforcement, a naked female left dead in Central Park. The FBI calls in consulting forensic pathologist Kay Scarpetta to help on the case even as Temple leaves another gift, a transit cop in a subway tunnel. However, Temple's chutzpah hits a new high when he delivers the dead body of a local sheriff to Scarpetta's morgue in Richmond, Virginia. The ingenious Temple has shaken Scarpetta with this bold move at a time when the Virginia state medical examiner has personal problems with her family and with a lover. Still after almost losing control and nearly killing her niece, Scarpetta takes a deep breath before entering in the game of cat and mouse that will take her back to the New York subway tunnels. As always in a Scarpetta thriller, the heroine and her crew perform brilliant forensic work that brings to the forefront the science of criminology. The visit to Gault's kin is an emotional stunner as they are as much victims as are the loved ones of those he kills. The cat and mouse game that leads to the New York subway tunnels is gripping and exciting. The only drawback is Gault, who in spite of his genius at setting the stage even on his opponent's turf and using those he kills as props, he never comes across as a plausible grandmaster serial killer on a par with the ME; her messes-up personal life brings her down to his level. Still this is a fast-paced tale that the Scarpetta crowd will appreciate.

The Scarpetta Collection: Volume 1
Patricia Cornwell
ISBN: 0743255801, $26.95

"Postmortem". In Richmond, Virginia, Chief Medical Examiner for the commonwealth of Virginia, Dr. Kay Scarpetta struggles with stopping the serial killer, "Mr. Nobody,'' who strangles young women. Her seemingly 24/7 tireless efforts searching databases and seeking forensic clues are taking its toll on the ME while a bitter chauvinistic male tries everything to insure this high powered female fails even if it means more women die. This is Scarpetta's terrific debut tale filled with intriguing forensic science woven into the serial killer plot while an irritable heroine struggles with testosterone officialdom as much as with finding the culprit. "Body of Evidence". In Richmond, Virginia someone brutally slashes to death historical romance writer Beryl Madison in the woman's home. The crime scene evidence points towards the victim knowing her killer as no forced entry appears. State medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta also investigates other seemingly related deaths; that of writer Cary Harper and the suicide of his sister. Meanwhile, the FBI looks into the activities of Madison's lawyer though Scarpetta cannot see the link to her case. As she follows the forensic clues in Virginia and Florida, someone threatens to kill Scarpetta. This second Scarpetta thriller is one of the best forensic tales written in the past decade or two, as the heroine works a difficult case with intelligence and aplomb while the readers obtain deep insight into the working of a medical examiner. Both terrific thrillers hold-up well though published in 1990 and 1991 respectively as they showcase the early Scarpetta using forensic science to investigate homicides. Worth the price to fans and anyone who wants to read Scarpetta's roots.

Consider the Lobster and Other Essays
David Foster Wallace
Little, Brown
ISBN: 0316156116, $25.95, 384 pp.

Though this reviewer rarely reads essay collections, this form of literature is both my favorite and my most detested format (corollary to the 50 page rule of why keep reading if it so bad, for essays a 20 page rule). When satirically amusing and filled with irony on "postmodern" life, nothing beats an essay such as classics like the "postmodern" "How to Cook Roast Pig" or "A Modest Proposal". David Foster Wallace provides ten delightful articles on a variety of topics ranging from the relativity of pornography to generalizing the insipidness of sports autobiographies extracting from Tracy Austin's perfect tennis adventure (Bill and Ted for a set anyone). In Mr. Wallace's delightful way, if one wants to know whether a lobster feels pain while undergoing scalding water treatment, don't ask the cook, the lobsterman, or the zoologist; go to the source (not sauce): ask the lobster who obviously is not dancing their life away. Same goes to McCain's presidential bid lost during a failed debate with a fundamentalist demanding the senator turn no cheek insisting Christ condemned homosexuality. Though the asides can be difficult to follow with abbrev, they are fun to follow up on with their deeper explanations and Americanization of the English language through ibid. Readers will appreciate the deep look at "postmodern" American life as a fabulous INFINITE JEST.

The Kindness of Strangers
Katrina Kittle
ISBN: 0060564741, $24.95, 400 pp.

When Roy Laden died, the impact on his family was devastating. His widow Sarah struggles with her catering business and raising their two troubled sons. Teenage Nate has been suspended twice skipping school to visit his dad's gravesite. Her younger son fifth-grader Danny struggles with the loss too becoming more reticent. Sarah visits their neighbors Mark and Courtney Kendrick, but finds by himself eleven years old Jordan who seems very sick. Worried Sarah rushes Jordan to the nearest hospital where the doctors treat what was a suicide attempt, but also shockingly diagnose that the preadolescent suffers from gonorrhea. The cops obtain a search warrant to look inside the Kendrick home where they find plenty of pedophile evidence against Mark who has vanished; nothing implicates Courtney, a physician treating her son's sexual transmitted illness on the sly, except covert submissive omission as a parent. The three Ladens now have something else that needs healing though each realizes nothing like what Courtney must require. Though at times preaching, THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS is a powerful family drama that looks at the impact of child sexual abuse on next door neighbors. The Ladens are wonderful characters as they alternate respective of the Before and After while readers and the trio will feel for Jordan, loathe Mark as a devil, and detest Courtney as a monster for not interceding. The story line is crisis driven as each Laden struggles with what they knew Before in different ways from the guilt of Sarah to the titillating amazement of Nate and to the shocked Danny of what happened to his peer by so called loved ones. Katrina Kittle hides nothing with this dark well written but not easy to read tale of abuse.

More Than Friends
Barbara Delinsky
ISBN: 0066214599, $18.95, 416 pp.

Next door neighbors in the Boston suburb Constance on the Rise, the Popes and the Maxwells have been close friends to each other seemingly forever even sharing a summer place in Maine fittingly dubbed "Popewell". Annie Pope and Teke Maxwell were college roommates while their future spouses John David "J.D." Maxwell and Sam Pope have been best buds since childhood and work as full partners at a Boston law firm whose top gun is the Maxwell patriarch John Stewart. Nothing could rip apart the loving friendships between two generations of Popewells. However, nothing until tragedy occurs. Thirteen years old Michael Maxwell is shocked when he sees Teke and Sam making love. Stunned and feeling betrayed, Michael races outside without looking in front of a pickup truck driven by Teke's former childhood boyfriend Grady Piper. Michael remains in a coma from the accident while J.D. angrily wants to take out his frustration on everyone involved especially Grady. That is until the infidelity surfaces leading the Popewells to war with one another while Michael lingers in a comatose state. The key that keeps this fine family drama from becoming a melodramatic emoting soap opera is the reactions of the key cast members to the tragedy as each in a restrained way feel as if they caused the accident. Thus the ensemble Popewells and Grady seem genuine while coping poorly with what happened to the youngest. Barbara Delinsky is at her best with this sobering look at friendship.

The Deep Blue Alibi
Paul Levine
ISBN: 0440242746, $6.99, 496 pp.

Monroe County, Florida police believe business mogul Hal Griffin shot his yacht guest EPA official Steve Stubbs with a spear gun into the chest. Griff calls attorney Victoria Lord, daughter of his former partner, to represent him. Victoria cuts short her vacation with her partner Steve Solomon to rush back to Key West to help her "Uncle" Griff though she wonders why he stopped calling her a few years ago. As Victoria adhering strictly to the law tries to uncover what went down at sea without the interference of Steve, he insists on helping her in his nuke the rules style on the case. The evidence is overwhelming that Griff shot the dying Fed with greed as the motive. The yacht contained 100 grand. Though Solomon is somewhat tied up trying to learn why his father has been suspended from the judicial bench, he still finds time to battle with Lord in and out of court while her inquiries take her back to the partnership between her dad and Uncle Griff. The latest SOLOMON VS. LORD legal thriller is a fun tale mostly because of the amusing battles between the lead couple. Whether they are in a courtroom or at dinner, Steve and Victoria exchange barbs and rips skin off as few partners can. The investigation is cleverly done so that the attorneys believe they have a losing case, but what makes THE DEEP BLUE ALIBI so entertaining is the humorous second war of the lawyers.

The Myth Hunters
Christopher Golden
ISBN: 0553383264, $12.00, 384 pp.

In wintry Maine lawyer Oliver Bascombe suffers from cold feet not just because he went outside in the snowy weather, but more because tomorrow he is to get married. He explains to his older sister Collette that he has doubts as he cannot think of one happily ever after marriage though he further explains that he thinks he loves Julianna; yet wonders how can you be sure even if his fiancee is wonderful, intelligent and beautiful? While reading The Sea Wolf to pass time, the outside storm smashes through his Victorian home door carrying something inside a vortex. Suddenly "the winter man" staggers from the middle of all that snow now inside Oliver's home. The newcomer pleads with his host to help him even as he informs Oliver he is known as Jack Frost and that he needs him to save his life from a deadly Myth Hunter from beyond the Veil. Ignoring his wedding, Oliver agrees. While Oliver enters the Veil on his quest to save the life of Jack Frost, his sister Collette investigates his disappearance and the murder of their father with the help of Police Detective Ted Hallowell. This terrific fantasy grips the audience with the abrupt change from the calm of a reluctant groom pondering how he can be sure to when Frost busts through the door. The story line is action-paced but plays out with two subplots: a fantasy quest beyond the Veil and a murder mystery disappearance on mundane earth. Both work because of the strong cast that makes believers out of readers that Jack Frost, THE MYTH HUNTERS and the land of the fae exist.

Tim Lebbon
ISBN: 0553383647, $12.00

The Cataclysmic War ended the reign of magic with mages fleeing for their lives. Over the next three centuries, in spite of the demise of magic as a combat tool and the thought that the Cataclysmic War was the war to end all wars, battles continue using savage mundane methods to kill or maim your adversary. In 2208, the Year of the Black, Kosar the Thief watches the rider in red serendipitously comes to the village Trengborne. He is stunned as the stranger begins a slaughter killing the young and anyone else offering resistance even the militia while taking blows that should have left him dead. Kosar notices one teenage boy escapes up the dark hillside. That lad Rafe Baburn saw his parents and others murdered by what had to be a demon. Evidence has surfaced that magic has been rebirthed in the young; the Red Monk and his minion plan to eradicate it before the one soul possessing the skill can mature enough to use it against them. Kosar meets and teams up with A'Meer the Shantasi warrior in a search to find and protect Rafe from the Red Monk, but first must expedite him from Hope the witch. This epic coming of age fantasy grips the audience from the moment the Thief fearfully observes the red-robed killing machine and never slows down as Kosar finds allies to protect the dying world's perhaps last hope Rafe. The exhilarating story line paints a dark gloomy Poe like atmosphere throughout especially when the adversaries take center stage. The key characters in particular the teen and his champions are unique individuals that make their realm seem even more nightmarishly real. Tim Lebbon paints the darkest DUSK that will have readers keeping the lights on until dawn breaks.

Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral
Kris Radish
ISBN: 0553382640, $11.00

When fifty-six years old Annie Freeman dies from ovarian cancer she sends her ashes inside her red shoes via UPS to her friend Katherine Givens. Annie's instructions are to lead around the country funeral procession of her closest pals starting at Sonoma, California to Albuquerque, the Keys, Manhattan, Lake Superior and an island near Seattle, at each site her best friends are to sprinkle her remains. Katherine would do almost anything for the woman who understood her better than anyone. After a reluctant start and a bottle of courage labeled as Shiraz, Katherine begins to put together the odyssey of the last request of the San Francisco State University English professor. Under two weeks later, Katherine joined by Annie's university colleague Jill Matchney, women's crisis worker Laura Westma, neighbor Rebecca Carlson and hospice aide Marie Kondrinsky trek along Annie's given route. The women bond sharing secrets of their late zany pal who not only lived life to the fullest and encouraged others to do likewise, but she was also there to help the downtrodden do so. Using flashbacks to when Annie first met each of her pall bearers, readers obtain an intriguing character study inside a sisterhood bonding. The story line reflects mostly on Annie, but also provides insight into the greatness that she saw and supported in her cronies. Though the tale at times turns too melodramatically angst-laden, contemporary fiction readers will want to journey around the country tossing the ashes of a fine person.

Prior Bad Acts
Tami Hoag
ISBN: 0553801988, $26.00, 384 pp.

It was such gruesome murders that hardened police officers, had nervous breakdowns, heart attacks and felt shattered. Two children were tortured, butchered and hung by their necks from the ceiling. Their foster mother who hoped to adopt them was eviscerated from her throat to her groin. Karl Dahl was arrested for the murders because his fingerprints were on the scene, a neighbor' son saw him looking in the window, and the victim's necklace was on his person when he was arrested. At a hearing, Judge Casey Moore refused to let Dahl's prior crimes be introduced at the trial, a call that made her many enemies. When she goes to the garage to get the car she is assaulted and left unconscious. Detective Sam Kovac starts off disliking the judge and ends up caring for her. He vows to protect her from people who might want to harm her including the former lead detective who demands justice. Her enemies also include Dahl who is obsessed with her and broke out of prison and her husband who has a secret life and might think she is in the way. Four more deaths occur before Casey is kidnapped and it is up to Kovac to save her if he can get to where she is being held captive in time. Fans of Kay Hooper, Iris Johansen, and Linda Howard will find Prior Bad Acts a chilling thriller with a surplus of suspects. Although Dahl is a killer, there is another murderer on the loose and his identity will come as a surprise to the audience. Characters from ASHES TO ASHES AND DUST TO DUST make a repeat performance giving the police procedural a sense of continuity. Tami Hoag is one of the best crime writers in the new millennium because she makes her audience believe that the storyline is possible.

Sour Puss
Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown
ISBN: 055380362X, $25.00, 246 pp.

After Fair cheated on Mary "Harry" Minor they separated as she nursed her anger and hurt for years. Fair spent years trying to reconcile with Harry and after a few years his perseverance finally paid off. They remarried in a church with all their close friends as witnesses including their pets Mrs. Murphy, Pewter and Tucker. Many of the residents, including Harry are growing grapes so that they can make wine from them. Professor Vincent Farland lectures on how bioterrorism can be used to destroy crops. He once taught two vintners in the area; Toby Pittman, an unstable person, who thinks people are out to destroy Rockland Vineyards, and Arch Saunders who become the partner of Rollie Barnes, the owner of Spring Hill Vineyard. Arch had an affair with Harry when she divorced Fair and he wants her back. Professor Farland disappears and the police think foul play is involved. Toby calls Fair to look at his donkey's cut on his hind leg, but he finds him murdered, by a gunshot. When the professor is found buried on Harry and Fair's land, suspicion falls on him. Harry thinks the two murders are linked and the same person who killed them is responsible for the deadly insects planted on their land. When a third vintner is killed, Harry struggles to put the pieces together even if it means exposing herself to danger. Once again Rita Mae Brown and her collaboration with Sneaky Pie Brown has written a delightful, charming and intense amateur sleuth mystery. Part of the charm of this series is that the animals can communicate with each other across species lines and their conversations and actions win the hearts of the audience. Now that Harry and Fair are married the love they feel for one another is obvious and adds to the tale. Ms Brown has written another enthralling mystery that makes her readers feel enchanted with her storyline.

Grape Expectations
Tamar Myers
ISBN: 0451214854, $19.95, 240 pp.

In the Amish-Mennonite town of Hernia, Pennsylvania, population 1877, Penn Dutch Innkeeper Magdalena Yader is not having an easy time of it. Her sister's husband, the former chief of police, is in jail awaiting trial for allegedly murdering the local preacher. Her sibling is torn between still loving him and wanting male companionship. Her fiance Gabe, a Jewish man, who settled in Hernia to get away from New York City, can't find anyone who will marry them because of their conflicting faiths. Since Magdalena is the richest and nosiest person in Hernia she wins the election for mayor and promptly appointed two Californians to replace the former chief and his deputy Zelda who is in love with him. To make matters worse, Magdalena has recently found out Zelda is her half sister. However, the greatest calamity to unfold in Magdalena's mind is learning that the GRAPE EXPECTATIONS Resort is opening up. They are going to serve liquor which is going to incense the locals and they are going to be fierce competition for her, which makes her furious. It makes somebody else more outraged because somebody kills one of the owners. The new chief of police smartly turns Magdalena loose to investigate in the hope that she can ferret out the killer. Any Pennsylvania Dutch Mystery is a special treat but GRAPE EXPECTATIONS is especially fun and funny. The wise cracking innocent heroine interrogates people seeking clues that will eventually solve the case but for the most part she is insulted and ignored, but she does make a new friend, the town gossip who gives her the final puzzle piece that brings the whole picture together. Tamar Myers is at her audacious best and her local recipes are the icing on the cake.

Monkey Love
Brenda Scott Royce
ISBN: 0451217543, $12.95, 304 pp.

To supplement her income, Manhattanite Holly Heckerling takes in typing while she hopes to make it big as a stand-up comedian with her partner Danny, whose girl friend Carter is her best buddy. Holly's mom died years ago and when her father deserted her so she moved in with her demanding Aunt Kuki until she was old enough to move out on her own. She cannot say no to anyone so ends up in messes trying to be the Good Samaritan. In Starbucks, Holly feels sorry for Tom a father and his precocious daughter Nicole as he has an immediate elementary school crisis as only a little kid could cause. Holly steps in takes charge and saves the day. A grateful Tom asks Holly out explaining he is getting a divorce. She accepts, but struggles with her cousin stealing and selling celebrity socks, his girlfriend demanding she cut off her leg cast and a writer leaving a deep manuscript for her to type that feels close to home. Now she rooms with a monkey, a snake, a cat, and a rodent while wondering about the writer and about her Starbucks man even as Aunt Betty joins the menagerie forcing Holly to hide the freeze dried mice. This zany contemporary tale stars a nice young woman who wants to help everyone, but her efforts usually end in worse disasters except when she helped Tom and Nicole. The ensemble cast including Tallulah the monkey have distinct personalities and seem like every person's friends and relatives, but because of the multiple happenings at times it can get difficult to keep track of who is stealing socks. Still fans will appreciate this amusing modern day version of You Can't Take It With You that contains the serious undertone of to thine own self be true.

Have Your Cake and Kill Him Too
Nancy Martin
ISBN: 0451217632, $19.95, 272 pp.

Ex-heiress Nora Blackbird is not having an easy time of it as she is still trying to pay the taxes on the family estate while looking for money to do so. She broke up with Michael Abruzzo, the son of a mafia don because he went back into the family business but she is pregnant and dating Richard, a crime reporter for a respectable Philadelphia newspaper. Neither her sister nor her friends know she is pregnant and she doesn't intend to tell anyone who the father is. Although she has to avoid stress because her pregnancy is high risk, she becomes involved in the murder investigation of Zell who married the widow Fitch; when she died he inherited the estate and the money. Nora goes to the Fitch estate to meet her friend Delilah Fairweather and sees Pierpont Fitch angrily leaving the premises and nearby is Boykin Fitch, a state legislator running for the senate. Zell refused to let them in the house. Delilah is the last person to see Zell alive and she fears because she is black, the police will zero in on her as a suspect. Knowing her friend isn't guilty; she agrees to help Delilah by finding the real killer. Once again Nancy Martin writes a serio-comic who done it featuring a protagonist who always goes from the frying pan into the fire. Not only is she investigating the many suspects who hated Zell, but she has to force herself to keep away from Michael; who might be involved in the kidnapping of the son of his family's enemies. Nora slowly realizes that all is not what it seems with Michael's activities and the police investigation. The author has written a who done it that is sassy, exciting and impossible to put down. The heroine has a charm and a vulnerability that endears her to the audience.

The Serpent Dreamer
Cecilia Holland
ISBN: 0765305577, $24.95, 336 pp.

Late in the tenth century, Norsemen raided his Irish home killing his most of his family, and raping and kidnapping his twin sister May. Corban Loosestrife, obsessed with saving his sister, avenges the Viking brutality and withstands the blood retaliation (see THE SOUL THIEF and THE WITCHES' KITCHEN). By 993 he returns to his new home in Vinland only the colony is razed, his spouse dead, and May is an ephemeral creature living more in a spiritual realm. He gains shelter with the nearby Wolf clan due to his sibling, but, is not fully accepted because Chief Miska is jealous of his sharing a special psychic bond to the woman the clan leader loves; Wolf tribe healer Epashti is the lone exception cherishing the outsider with her soul. Before she turned fae-like, Miska sired a daughter with May. Their offspring Ahanton contains some of the paranormal skills that May possesses. The child informs her sire that the Sun People are invading so Miska heads east to forcibly unite the feuding tribes; she also tells her uncle that he and pregnant Epashti must escort her west to the land of the Sun People. Soon east meets west when the Miska-Corban feud explodes. The third Corban Nordic mythological historical tale is a terrific thriller that brings to life the tenth century in North America. The story line is loaded from the start, but the action explodes from the moment Corban heads west and never slows down until the final twisted confrontation. With a strong cast that brings the bygone era alive, fans will fully enjoy this stand alone tale, but will also want to read the previous novels in what is one of the best Dark Ages trilogies in years.

Irish Crystal
Andrew M. Greeley
ISBN: 0765303361, $24.95, 304 pp.

Dermot, the husband of the beautiful, enticing and caring Nuala Annie McGrail, adores his fey wife. Her mystic powers have led them into solving mysteries that have saved lives and brought criminals to justice. When Nuala Annie wakes up screaming about spies being around them, Dermot knows that her dream is a vision and they will be plunged into another mystery very soon. At a party celebrating that Nuala Anne has finally becoming a citizen, an explosion rocks the foundation of the building; Nuala knows that the home of John and Estelle Curran just blew up. Having recently had dinner with the Currans, Nuala and her husband want to help them; they get a chance to do so when the couple, on the advice of a detective (who knows Nuala's history), ask for their assistance. Two more attempts are made on the family and Nuala realizes someone is spying on them. With the information Dermot collects from the various family members she tries to figure out who it is but there is a plethora of suspects. There is plenty of action and excitement in this exciting who-done-it. Andrew M Greeley's heroine, a mystic, singer, wife, mother and investment counselor accountant is a total charmer with her husband as totally enamored of and bemused by her as is readers. There are enough colorful suspects to keep the reader guessing who the spy is until the author the chooses to reveal that person's identity in this fast paced paranormal thriller.

The Tokaido Road
Lucia St. Clair Robson
ISBN: 0765305208, $15.95, 528 pp.

In 1702, betrayed and dishonored by Lord Kira, Lord Asaro commits suicide. Kira's warriors force Kasana, daughter of Asaro via an outside-wife, to become a courtesan in Edo. She vows vengeance starting with restoring her father's name and honor; she wait for the opportune moment to flee the brothel that imprisons her so she can journey along the Tokaido Road to find and obtain the support of her late father's chief samurai Oishi Kuranosuke. Disguising herself as a poor priest she escapes the brothel and begins her quest to travel from Edo to Kyoto with Kira's minion pursuing her. Also assigned to bring her back to her brothel is Ronan Hanshiro. As he watches her perform in disguise and as good as any samurai, Hanshiro falls in love with the runaway whom he has not yet met. However, he knows she has no reason to trust him and besides honor calls for him to fulfill his contract of returning her to her master. THE TOKAIDO ROAD is a fabulous look at early eighteenth century Japan in which aristocratic and samurai classes adhere to a deep rooted honor system that include suicide when one "breaks" the code and a need for offspring to do whatever is necessary to regain lost respect, as without honor there is no esteem. The action takes a back seat to the historical details of feudal caste Japan so that the audience obtains a better understanding of Zen philosophy and the rigid rules of society that places honor above all else. More historical fiction (based on a real account) than a thriller, fans who appreciate a vivid powerful look into a different culture will appreciate this glimpse at a bygone era in Japan.

In the Shade of the Jacaranda
Nikki Arana
ISBN: 0800730496, $12.99, 336 pp.

Her family, especially her parents, and her friends still wonder why Angelica Amante, daughter of a renowned wealthy heart surgeon, would marry an illiterate poor Mexican stable laborer (see THE WINDS OF SONOMA). In spite of the whisperers that he is fortunate to have her, she feels lucky to have an honest caring partner as her spouse as Antonio is that and more to her. However, this is not a fairy tale in which the Perez duo lives happily ever after. Life is filled with setbacks. As defense attorney Angelica becomes pregnant, Antonio's landscaping business looks doomed to failure. When her doctor tells her she needs to rest more and work less or jeopardize the health of her unborn, her boss demands more of her. Even her parents have doubts about having a grandchild that could serve as the anchor to a marriage they oppose while Antonio worries how he will feed his two charges with his business on the brink of bankruptcy. Love no longer seems enough, but their belief in God might give Angelica and Antonio the inner strength to get through a marital crisis. As with THE WINDS OF SONOMA, IN THE SHADE OF THE JACARANDA is inspirational the way it should be told. The insightful story line contains a fabulous cast struggling with bringing a baby into the world at a time when finances are low and loving relationships are falling apart under pressure. Nikki Arana provides a fascinating character-driven tale of multifaceted faith in oneself, loved ones, and God that enable light to shine when everything seems darkest at a time that should be filled with euphoria.

Wings of Morning
Kathleen Morgan
ISBN: 0800759648, $12.99 288 pp.

In 1556 heiress Regan MacLaren marries her childhood friend Drummond, but halts their lovemaking when her drunken groom acts brutish in front of his equally intoxicated friends and brother Walter. The next day Regan learns that Drummond was murdered by the laird of Clan Campbell Iain when he went on a raid to obtain a bride gift for her, was caught, surrendered, and was cowardly killed. Walter demands justice, but insists their poor clan cannot obtain such from the likes of the mighty Campbells. Instead he waits to abduct Iain at an opportune moment when they can bring him stealthily to justice at their keep. Regan worries when Walter leads a party to snatch Iain so she follows. She stumbles and is found by Iain's men who bring the injured woman to their chieftain. Regan suffers from amnesia, but quickly Iain and her fall in love. However, once she learns who she is, she will need to decide between her clan in marriage or the Campbells not realizing that Walter plans to take away her choices. WINGS OF MORNING is a terrific sixteenth century Scottish romance starring a delightful cast that brings to life the feuds and pacts of These Highlands Hills. The story line contains a bit of a mystery as to whether Iain really murdered Drummond and if not who did, but clearly the relationship between the laird and the amnesiac make for a fun tale as he wonders what will happen to them once she regains her memory. The return of the lead couple from CHILD OF THE MIST augments a fine historical tale that will have readers pondering how the diabolical Walter will bring justice to Iain and take Regan as his.

Lady X's Cowboy
Zoe Archer
ISBN: 0843956666, $5.99

In 1883 London, Colorado cowboy Will Coffin intercedes and rescues Lady Olivia Xavier from assault of three punks. She thinks the hunk who saved her from Lord Pryce's hired thugs could have been the front cover model of the western dime novels she loves to read. Lady Olivia hires Will to help her save the brewery that she inherited from her late husband; her unscrupulous rival Lord Pryce will do anything to either destroy or preferably steal her firm. Meanwhile Will has come to England to find his family here. He has no plans to socialize with people he does not understand nor is able to communicate with; yet somehow he and Lady X who speaks a foreign language that sort of sounds like English, communicate through their hearts. Though the lady and the cowboy are in love, their respective social classes are more than just oceans apart. This is a terrific Victorian romance that focuses on cultural differences between a tea toting English aristocrat and a cow poking American cowboy. The story line emphasizes the Grand Canyonesque gaps that the loving pair must surmount if they want a permanent relationship; a concept both desire and fear. Humor via stereotyping presumptions add to the fun as Olivia cannot understand how he can be gentle instead of a rough hooligan like in the dime novels; while Will struggles with how his English rose can be understanding and kind instead of haughty as he assumed all aristocratic ladies pretend a loftiness that make dudes like him feel like sewage. Fans will enjoy Zoe Archer's superb historical driven by two obviously in love characters that live light years apart in lifestyles.

Savage Arrow
Cassie Edwards
ISBN: 0843952725, $6.99

Her parents and now her spouse are dead so a despondent Jessie Pilson heads to Tombstone, Arizona Territory to live with her cousin Reginald. Along the trek, outlaws attack her stage, but Sioux Chief Thunder Horse saves her life. He insures she makes it to town safely though he knows better than to escort her all the way. The arrogant Reginald demands the beautiful Jessie serve as his trophy hostess to impress his affluent friends. With seemingly no choices she accepts her role of being on display. Meanwhile she misses the kind Thunder Horse and soon sneaks out to be with him. When Reginald finds out how she humiliates him with a savage, he decides to incarcerate his relative, allowing her no freedom; her only hope to escape the gilded cage resides with Thunder Horse. Cassie Edwards always writes a strong Indian romance that her fans devour; her latest endeavor, SAVAGE ARROWS will receive a warm welcome from her readers. The story line is exciting and the lead couple likable courageous individuals. However, as with most of Ms. Edwards' warm nineteenth century physicals, the lead trio come out of Edwards casting 101. The Native American male has no flaws as he is noble, nurturing and kind while the white male is selfish and egotistical to a Shakespearean tragic fault. Still few can provide as stirring a tale as Ms. Edward's consistently provides.

A Moment on the Lips
Phyllis Bourne Williams
ISBN: 0843956593, $6.99, 320 pp.

On his seventieth birthday, John Price will be forced to retire as the CEO of the Boston based Price Investment firm. He has groomed his son Grant to take over though his other child Thomas is still in the running. All Grant has to do to obtain the job is persuade Melody Mason, a Wall St. legend to come back from small town Tennessee to run one of their portfolios. Grant offers her an incredible deal, but she blithely says no. A desperate Grant travels to Tennessee to ask Melody in person. She still says no, but admits his company's help to college students is a good thing. Melody provides a counter offer. He stay in town for one week while she works her new knitting store and she will come to Boston for one week to train his team and to evaluate the portfolio. Grant agrees, assuming he will win her over. He will soon get what he wants as he wins her heart, but she leaves anyway as Melody knows Price Investment is more important to him than she is. A MOMENT ON THE LIPS is an interesting glimpse at a workaholic and a former workaholic who have had no balance between their money-making lives and their personal lives until Melody no longer can deal with the headaches, ulcers and other physical symptoms. The work-obsessed Grant is the more intriguing individual as he has not yet found that equilibrium between work and play while the born again Melody achieve this by quitting Wall Street. Their changing relationship is fun to follow as fans wonder whether Grant has the courage to modify his goals when he falls in love.

Beloved Stranger
Patricia Potter
ISBN: 0425207420, $7.99, 352 pp.

In 1513 guilt-ridden Lachlan Maclean never wanted to become a soldier, but does because he holds himself culpable for the death of his father when he failed to kill an enemy; redemption is what he is willing to die for. He hopes to restore honor lost by replacing his brother at the side of King James in the upcoming battle with the English at Flodden Field. During the skirmish Lachlan fought like a man possessed, but ultimately was wounded and buried underneath his steed. Widow Kimbra Charleton supports herself and her daughter by scavenging for the values of the war dead along side her late husband's odious family. Her in-laws demand she kill any Scot who remains alive. She finds Lachlan still breathing but wearing a costly plaid and a valuable jeweled brooch so she assumes he is of noble birth. Unable to kill him, Kimbra rationalizes that she will nurture him before ransoming him. However, as he heals, he suffers amnesia, unable to remember his name. Worse she finds that instead of dumping him or informing her in-laws that she houses a Scot so they kill him, she wants her patient like no one ever before not even her late husband. BELOVED STRANGER, the sequel to the superb BELOVED IMPOSTER, is a fine early sixteenth century romance. The tale stars a beleaguered ethical hero seeking to redeem his honor though amnesia makes him wonder if he has done evil things and a fabulous lioness willing to do anything for her cub except turn in her patient to certain death as she clearly sees he is an honorable soul. The action packed story line moves forward at a fast pace, but it is the lead pairing that drive a fine return to the MacLean clan.

Blondes Have More Felons
Alesia Holliday
ISBN: 0425208923, $6.99, 368 pp.

December Vaughn was a high powered corporate attorney working in Ohio but she got tired working for a big company and moved to Florida to open up her own private practice. Her first real client is Charlie Denver who wants to sue BDC Pharmaceuticals for killing his wife. They released bad insulin into the market place causing some deaths and even more injuries. A class action suit is being brought by the victims of the bad insulin in the court system and representing the plaintiff is P. Addis Langley the third and representing thedefendants is Sarah Greenberg. Both plaintiff and defense attorneys Addison and Sarah want December want to drop out of the case and let Sarah represent Mr. Deaver not knowing that December is more than adequate to represent her client because she worked for a law firm for eight years in the products liability case specializing in pharmaceuticals. Soon after this conversation takes place, she gets a threatening phone call to drop the case or else, her car has profane draw graffiti drawn on it in acid, someone starts breaks into her home and an alligator is found in her office. A whistle blower who wants to meet with December is murdered. Someone wants December to drop the case but she refuses and with the help of some friends and a hunk of a PI, she figures out the puzzle but not in time to extricate herself and those she loves and herself from danger. This chilling thriller is an exciting, enthralling and exciting murder mystery. Readers will laugh out loud at some of the outrageous escapades the heroine lands herself in and it is thanks to the PI that she survives the assaults that come of her from all directions. Although it is easy to know who the villains are, the real mystery is why they trying to chase the heroine off using dangerous and dirty tactics. Alesia Holliday has a hit series that will keep readers coming back for more books in starring a charming him-hop heroine.

The Queen in Winter
Claire Delacroix, Lynn Kurland, Sharon Shinn & Sarah Monette
ISBN: 0425207722, $13.00

"A Whisper of Spring" by Lynn Kurland. Lothar kidnaps elfin Princess Iolaire. Human Symon attempts to rescue the female who haunts his dreams. "When Winter Comes" by Sharon Shinn. Sosie believes she needs to keep her numinous nephew Kinnon and his mother, her sister Annie, safe as many want to use the youngster for selfish gain. However, she soon needs help; Darryn provides that assistance though Sosie wonders about his motive. "The Kiss of the Snow Queen" by Claire Delacroix. Gerta the seer sets off on a quest to rescue Cai the sorcerer from the evil Cath Pulag. She receives mysterious aid from a spirit. "A Gift of Wings" by Sarah Monette. Agido the mercenary protects her former lover Maur, but soon needs his help when someone is killed at an inn as she is the prime suspect. These four romantic fantasies are fine tales with delightful lead protagonists who depend on one another to survive their respective quests. However, none of the fantasy realms are fully developed in spite of some characters having paranormal powers and using them. Still this is a fun time for fans who appreciate romances of a different sort.

Goddess of the Rose
P.C. Cast
ISBN: 0425208915, $6.99, 345 pp.

Mikki feels out of synch with the world around her and the only thing that pleases her is her award winning roses that she cares for by giving them her blood during the new moon. She begins having dreams of a man-monster and a woman gives her rose scented anointing oil. In a play about Medea, she is asked to read some lines about Hecatate. Afterward she then visits the rose garden in the park and uses her blood to heal the sickening roses. Her blood accidentally is smeared on the statue of a minotaur creature and he suddenly comes to life, chasing her until she loses consciousness. Mikki awakens in the Realm of the Roses and her handmaidens tell her that she is the High Priestness of Hecate. She awoke the Guardian who was entombed in the statue in the garden in Tulsa. Now he is back to protect the realm while the Priestess is to care for the roses so that the realm will survive and magick and dreams will be sent out to all the worlds. The Guardian is forbidden by Hecate to love the high priestess unless she can love the man inside the outer visage of a monster. Mikki brings new life and changes the realm and in return the denizens love here include the Guardian but can beauty love the beast and if so when tragedy strikes will eternity keep them apart? PC Cast who is well known for her blending of mythological tales and romance creates in GODDESS OF THE ROSE a beautiful adult fairy tale when the heroine teaches the Guardian to see himself through her eyes and is willing to sacrifice herself to save the realm. Mikki feels at home in her new world because she is connected to it through her blood and the roses. Readers will be enchanted by GODDESS OF THE ROSE.

Bound and Determined
Shelley Bradley
ISBN: 0425208516, $6.99

Kerry Sullivan needs a computer security expert to prove her ailing brother Mark did not embezzle three million dollars from his employer the Tampa Standard National Bank. The FBI believes they have a perfect case as the web forensic evidence points in every way towards Mark. A desperate Kerry tries to plead her case with techno-guru Rafael Dawson, but he hangs up on her. When Rafael arrives at the Tampa Airport Kerry and her sibling's best friend Jason trick him into thinking she is his hostess and he his chauffeur. Kerry takes the drugged Rafael to the love shack of Justin's womanizing uncle. Tied up and naked Rafael looks perfect to Kerry, but first she wants her sibling's freedom. Rafael frees himself and ties up his hostess. However, he soon finds he needs to help her; willingly he does an illegal transaction in order to prove to the Feds that they have the wrong man locked up. However, commitment to Kerry is asking too much of a person who does not believe in relationships after observing his acrimonious father destroy his mother. Though the lead couple breaks the law, fans of romantic suspense will appreciate this fine thriller starring likable protagonists, whose motivations in their lifestyles are further described by a strong support cast. A final confrontation seems over the top for the clever culprit even though the audience like the hero will consider the individual one of the prime suspects. Still Shelley Bradley writes a fine contemporary that besides trying to nail the felon will leave the audience wondering can Rafael overcome his deep rooted belief no one can love him to make it with the woman who does.

Flesh and Stone
Vickie Taylor
ISBN: 0425209059, $6.99

Undercover gargoyle Connor Rihyad "kills" his former Chicago leader Nathan Cross in order to join the Minnesota sect that recently tried to raid his home group. He is to learn from inside why they wanted to steal the male children. He succeeds to a degree though his new associates do not trust him. His covert work has several immediate hitches as he detests that this gargoyle sect has kidnapped women to rape as breeding sex machines so that they can have many male offspring and he feels especially connected to human Mara Kincaid. From the start, she impresses him with her courage that the other gargoyles fail to notice as she like all women are beneath them. He vows to protect her even as she too is furtively trying to learn what happened to her friend Angela. To his shock Connor soon concludes that an unknown mastermind has a plan to use the Minnesota group to change the world as gargoyles will no longer follow their ethical reason for living by protecting humanity and instead rule the world. FLESH AND STONE is an intriguing paranormal romantic fantasy that makes believers out of readers that gargoyles exist. The action-packed story line starts off with a shocker at least to fans who read the previous novel (see CARVED IN STONE for his tale) when Connor "kills" Nathan and never slows down until he knows what his desires are and confronts mano a mano the nasty Devlin. Vickie Taylor (apropos name for a writer of gargoyle thrillers) provides her audience with a fabulous suspense filled thriller.

Awaiting the Moon
Donna Lea Simpson
ISBN: 0425208494, $6.99, 368 pp.

In 1795 Englishwoman Lady Elizabeth Stanwycke journeys to Wolfram Castle in Germany to become a tutor to Charlotte, niece to Count Nikolas von Wolfram, as she has nothing else. Near the estate she notices a man chasing a woman in the woods, but her escort, Katrina Leibren, insists they not stop and tells her to forget what she saw. At the castle, she meets her new employer, his two sisters and an uncle as well as the visiting Count Delacroix. Elizabeth soon finds herself wondering what is going on as she hears strange noises and witnesses eerie events. The weirdest is her growing feeling for Nikolas, who at times is coldly aloof while on other occasions, is passionate as if he feels the heat between them. Still unable to resist the mystery of the occupants of Wolfram Castle and especially the wolf-like howling just outside, Elizabeth begins to investigate not realizing how dangerous that is to her well being including her heart. AWAITING THE MOON is a fast-paced historical romantic suspense that will keep the audience wondering whether the sub-genre is gothic or supernatural. The key element to Donna Lea Simpson's clever prose is whether a werewolf is running loose in Germany and if so is that creature Nikolas? Elizabeth as she falls in love with her employer ponders which is worse; that he is a murderous shapeshifter or that he is a homicidal lunatic. Fans of either sub-genre will treasure this strong Regency era thriller.

The Hunter's Prey
Diane Whiteside
ISBN: 0425210359, $14.00, 192 pp.

These ten erotic tales showcase the erotic tales exploits of three Lone Star vampires, Don Rafael, Ethan and Jean-Marie starting in Reconstruction Era Texas to modern day trysts. These are not romances with happy ever after endings, and the key characters, the vampiric trio and their one night stand women are never fully developed. However, the escapades are torrid, passionate, and run the gamut of much of the range of sexual encounters including bondage. An interesting twist is that the females recount their most ardent capers with their supernatural lovers though once told lose the memory of their greatest night of lovemaking. These stories are Venusian hot, perhaps even pornographic, yet well written; fans of vampiric sexual escapades will enjoy this collection while looking forward to feature starring roles of the Texas vampires.

Adriane on the Edge
Paul Mandelbaum
ISBN: 0425208036, $23.95

At twenty-eight Baltimore area single, Adriane Gelki struggles with her existence caused by her deep rooted feelings of being unwanted and unloved by anyone ever since her parents committed a double suicide. She works at City Hall's Office of Neighborhood Enhancement, but feels like a member of the living dead as her gut wrenching loneliness reaches every aspect of her soul and in a self prophecy Pygmalion Effect prevents her from reaching out to others, which in turn isolates her further. Digging into her heart for courage, Adriane vows to live life on the edge, which in her case is a very tiny but critical step towards meeting someone. Joking, a new concept for Adriane, she solicits an undercover cop only to be arrested for prostitution; sentenced to counseling, Adriane feels at home when her therapist drops dead during their session. Every effort to join the living seems to lead to a further setback; even her adopted dog bites her during the night. Still Adriane continues her pledge to live albeit not to successfully. ADRIANE ON THE EDGE is an amusing yet deep character study of a young woman trying desperately to find herself beyond the shadow life she lives by connecting with others; a daunting task for an individual never recovered from her parents' suicides. The series of incidents that Adriane fumbles and stumbles through are hyperbole that leads to a dark serio-comedy as beyond the laugher is the fundamental need to belong. Paul Mandelbaum uses graveyard humor to provide a picture of hope even when the darkness engulfs seemingly every molecule that makes up a person who just wants to connect with anyone.

Dead Men Don't Lye
Tim Myers
ISBN: 0425207447, $6.99, 240 pp.

As the eldest Benjamin Perkins watches out for his siblings and mother and is the troubleshooter for the family owned specialty shop, "Where's the Soap?" Upon leaving the store, Ben finds a corpse on the backstairs of the shop. He recognizes the victim as the soap supplier to their store and the squeeze of his sister Louisa. Louisa had just learned that her Jerry was stepping out on her, which led to a very public spat so Ben insists she retain a lawyer before he calls the police because she had a motive, a means, and an opportunity. He calls his police friend Kelly to help them but she is not soft on her pal's family. She intends to identity. the culprit even if it turns out that the prime suspect Louise actually committed the murder. Ben is as determined if not more so to find the real killer as he believes his sister is innocent. So far Tim Myers has produced three successful amateur sleuth series in which each tale is an exciting entertaining cozy. His latest winner as always has the violence offstage; yet without any graphic detail readers can picture the results of lye placed on a face (think Phantom of the Opera). The family members are likable and seem genuine especially with their relationships, but this who-done-it belongs to the sleuthing pair Ben and Kelly.

Axel of Evil
Alina Adams
ISBN: 0425206858, $6.99

In 1977 Moscow, fourteen years old Russian figure skating superstar Igor Marchenko defects to America. A few years later, he wins the only American gold figure skating medal at the 1982 Winter Olympics. After he retired Igor became a coach, but never returned to his homeland until now at forty-two years old, as coach of the 2005 U.S. Ladies' Silver Medalist, Jordan Ares competing in the "U.S. vs. Russia: A Figure Skating Challenge" event. On the first day of practice in Moscow Igor collapses and dies in the Natzionalnaya Arena. 24/7 Sports Network researcher Rebecca "Bex" Levy agrees with officials MURDER ON ICE occurred. The evidence points towards Igor's long time American rival Gary Gold, coach of Jordan's prime U.S. challenger Lian Reilly. However, Bex thinks that is hometown judging so she makes inquiries of the Russian skating team and the facility management and staff. As Bex skates closer to the truth, she finds herself ON THIN ICE from an unknown assailant. The third Bex Levy figure skating cozy is a terrific tale that highlights the changes since the late 1970s between Russian and American relations subtly displayed by two New York Times headlines (in the novel that is): 1977's "Defection" and 2005's "Murder". The first showcases the glee and despair of the Cold War adversaries while the second represents the western media's present ability to investigate what happened to Igor. As the evidence piles up making Gary the golden suspect, only Bex has doubts as she looks at who else would have motive; anyone in the facility had means and opportunity. Fans will score Alina Adams with 9s and 10s for her superb figure skating murder mystery.

Becoming Latina in 10 Easy Steps
Lara Rios
ISBN: 0425207552, $14.00, 384 pp.

Twenty-seven years old Mexican-American Marcela Alvarez enjoys her single life making plenty of money as a highly regarded animator at Panoply Studios. However, at a family wedding, nasty cousin Sonya states that Marcela is a half-breed. When her aunt and grandma say nothing; Marcela seeks out her mom, who affirms that she met a "guero" (white) at a prayer group, had a tryst and became pregnant. Her spouse forgave her and has always treated Marcela as his own. Stunned, Marcela, who has had little to do with her roots even though she is close with her family, is obsessed to prove she is a Latina especially after her two half-sisters rationalize her lack of interest in things Mexican is caused by her white blood cells. She draws up a list of ten items to prove she is Mexican to the core starting with dating. However, the only available remotely Mexican male she knows is Panoply accountant George Ramirez, who cannot speak Spanish. As they date and she tries to fulfill the list though not easily, he wants more as he loves Marcela, but she chooses less as she fears her feelings for him. Though this reviewer normally detests the dreaded chick lit list, it makes sense for the delightful BECOMING LATINA IN 10 EASY STEPS. The story line focuses on the antics of Marcela as she previously was totally assimilated into American culture, but once she learns she is not a purebred has a need to straddle her Mexican heritage. Fans will appreciate this solid character study that showcases the third generation, the "McD" hyphenated crowd that is so Americanized much of the roots are gone even with the two older generations still alive and kicking.

Write It Up
Elizabeth Bevarly, Tracy Kelleher & Mary Leo
Signature Collection
ISBN: 037383683X, $5.99

Preface. Tess Truesdale, founder and editor in chief of Tess magazine, assigns specific projects to her three lead writers to provide articles on how to find the right rich male. "Rapid Transit" by Elizabeth Bevarly. Julia Miles is assigned speed dating. The sweet woman finds her first few partners boring within nanoseconds. However, she does find Daniel 9 quite interesting; he reciprocates as Julia is the only one whose company he enjoys that night. Neither knows the other's occupation, but each is attracted to the other. Daniel Taggert is a contributor to Cavalier Magazine writing an article on speed dating. "The Ex Factor" by Tracy Kelleher. Abby Lewis is to write on second chance at love. She contacts her former boyfriend Brad Wahlberg who dumped her. They begin a relationship, which her long time friend photographer Ned Devlin disapproves of. "Brewing Up Trouble" by Mary Leo. Samantha Porter tests coffeehouse dating. At Rio Jackson's place she meets wealthy realtor Jason Rocket. They sizzle, which she tells her email pal chemist Anthony Bertuzzi who lives in Milan, Italy. However, when someone sends white roses and obtains her a seat at a special Italian designers' fashion show, she assumes it is her new lover; it turns out it isn't, but who then? These three interrelated novellas are fun contemporary romances starring likable protagonists and friendly male rivals with each female not realizing that love has arrived.

Dead Wrong
Janice Kay Johnson
Signature Select
ISBN: 0373836902, $5.99

Following the brutal rape and homicide of his girlfriend Gillian and the conviction of her killer Ricky Mendoza, Will Patton returns home hoping to heal. However, another murder with the same MO of being strangled by a jockstrap and the cup pulled over the face as the Gillian case occurs. The police assume it is copy cat even as more homicides happen. The deceased Amy Owen and Gilliam share something in common with Gilliam. It is a connection to a beleaguered Will; he dated both. Police Detectives Meg Patton and her partner Trina Giallombardo lead the investigation, but both know they should be excused as they have ties to Will. Meg is his mother while Trina is half in love with him having never overcome her high school crush. As they follow clues, the two female cops try to keep Will safe even as he rejects their protection; instead he begins his own inquiries. The sequel to PATTON'S DAUGHTER: RENEE\PATTON'S DAUGHTER: MEG is a fine police procedural romance with the emphasis on the investigation including its impact on the relationships between the three prime players. The inquiries cause a strain between mother and son and slow down the budding romance between the partner and the son. Though why Meg remained on the case with her obvious conflict of interest seems off kilter, fans will appreciate this strong suspense thriller.

The Pleasure Trip
Joanne Rock
Signature Spotlight
ISBN: 0373836821, $5.99

Rita Frazier dreams that one day she will be a highly regarded costume designer, but for now she earns her keep as a seamstress on the cruise ship Venus where her sister performs as a showgirl. When her sibling Jayne fails to show up to prance down a runway, her employers inform Rita she will take her sister's place though she insists her talent is designing the clothes not showing the clothes. Fuming she wonders who will want to watch a red-haired Swamp Thing. FBI Agent Harrison Masters is on leave taking the PLEASURE TRIP as a combination vacation and a personal hunt to find his former girlfriend Sonia who vanished while on the Venus last month with a lot of his family's money needed for his ailing father's medical bills. However, concentration on the case proves futile as all he wants to do is have Rita perform solely for him. Rita feels the same way she does not mind performing for Harrison only. The lead couple is a delight as both are shocked when attraction erupts the first time they see one another. Though Rita and Harrison wonder if this is part of the charm of a sea cruise, both knows otherwise as she has been working on the Venus for a year and he is a special agent. As they fall in love, the high seas dramatic suspense takes a back seat to a fine contemporary romance between two genial lead characters who find their respective muse on a superb sea cruise.

And the Envelope, Please
Barbara Bretton, Emilie Rose and Isabel Sharpe
Signature Select
ISBN: 0373836937, $5.99

"Ever After" by Barbara Bretton. Single mom of preschool twins, Julia Monahan attends the Reel New York Film Festival awards ceremony where she meets Hollywood's top action hero Jack Wyatt. However, though she enjoys her time she knows that happily ever after is in fairy tales not in real life. "An Affair to Remember" by Emilie Rose. Though he attends the Reel New York Film Festival awards ceremony as a recipient Hollywood actor Conrad Carr feels miserable because he misses his better half the late Tara Dean; even his craft fails him as he believes he lost the skill when she died. At the bar he meets wannabe actress, North Carolinian Jenna and invites her to tell him her dreams. Instead she helps him end his freefall and soon soar again as he has found a new inspiration, but she refuses to believe him as his first marriage was fairy tale legend. "It Happened One Night". Lindsay and Gavin fell in love, but the magic of Hollywood hype broke them apart as he only desired fame. She left for Vermont. Now one year later they meet at the Reel New York Film Festival awards ceremony with both realizing the attraction remains perhaps even stronger, but he must persuade her that she means everything to him; much more than Los Angeles, movie roles and scripts and awards even living with New England chickens if necessary. These three fine contemporary romances catch the ambience of Hollywood at an awards celebration though the guys have their work cut out to convince their ladies they want a lifetime of co-starring.

Shadow Touch
Marjorie M. Liu
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505526301, $6.99, 368 pp.

Artur Loginov was once a Russian mobster with the uncanny skill of "hearing" other people's memories by simply touching them. Perhaps it is the sadness and nostalgia in some of the recollections he hears or more likely the rampage of terror that murdered so many, but Artur turns himself around by becoming a private investigator, working for global Dirk & Steele. When he is abducted, Artur assumes his previous life has caught up with him, but also knows to adhere to his vow to keep silent at the cost of his life about Dirk & Steele, who provided his first reason to live by allowing him to belong to something. He changes his mind about why he was kidnapped when he meets the other "guests" at the facility where he is being held. They, like him, have psychic skills. He especially finds himself attracted to Elena Baxter, whose feelings of being alone touch Artur's soul. Her gift of healing amazes even a tainted soul like Artur. The duo team up with shapeshifters to escape the prison only to realize that only Elena and Artur as a team can stop their former warden host from achieving a most malevolent objective. The sequel to the wonderful TIGER'S EYE, SHADOW TOUCH, is a great romantic fantasy thriller that is must reading by sub-genre fans. The story line makes believers of the audience that X-Men like people exist. The action is fast and furious, but it is the characterizations that make this such a wonderful read. When Kirk & Steele enlisted Artur they fulfilled a basic human need to belong, but Elena provides him with an even more basic need. Maslow aside, Marjorie M. Liu provides a fabulous tale that will bring her plenty of kudos and award nominations.

The Reluctant Miss Van Helsing
Minda Webber
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505526387, $6.99

Her family is as renowned as their enemy, but Jane Van Helsing does not have her heart into hunting and staking vampires. At times she wonders if she shares the same blood as her famous kin as the thought of killing an abomination makes her queasy. Lady Jane assumes nothing could propel on the hunt. That is nothing except her beloved brother is Transylvania so someone has to carry out the family business in England. Reluctantly she decides to stake an earl Neil Asher whom she believes is a vampire. Her plan is simple seduce and stab. Neil, known for the beautiful women he escorts about town, is shocked that he finds the freckled loud mouth attractive. He enjoys the verbal battles though his valet detests the ruined wardrobe that is becoming his norm. The stab jabs he can do without, but he is not so sure he can claim the same about Plain Jane. However, when they are caught in a compromised position, the alleged vampire and the vampire-slayer must marry. Jane sees this as an opportunity to go after Dracula while Neil just wants to kiss her senseless. In a short time, Minda Webber has staked out a unique segment of the paranormal romantic fantasy sub-genre with her delightful late 1820s tales. Her current story focuses on the Van Helsing offspring who like the heroine in her previous novel, Clair Frankenstein, seeks out vampires though their reasons are different. This sensational screwy satirical sequel will have readers laughing at Jane's capers and Neil's reactions to her antics. The action-packed amusing story line also is loaded with literary references that are fun to follow as these witticisms augment a zany well written tale that howls for more.

Goddess of Eire
Janeen O'Kerry
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505525879, $5.99

At the moment of his greatest triumph, being anointed the High King of Eire, the euphoric Parlan vows to make the Goddess Eriu his queen. Angering the Druids with the affront to the Goddess, Eire is placed under a curse that only he can break by fulfilling a quest. Ironically if he succeeds he might also win the hand of Eriu who he loves with all of his soul. Parlan has one year to accumulate four magical artifacts hidden in dangerous locales. If he succeeds in collecting the sword, spear, cup, and stone, he then must fight and defeat the Black Dragon using the artifacts correctly. If he fails at any point, the Black Dragon will turn Eire into a wasteland. GODDESS OF EIRE is an intriguing fantasy with some limited romantic elements supporting the prime story line of the misguided champion trying to save his people from the lethal wrath he brought upon them in the name of love. The action-packed story line will enable readers to believe in the magic of the Druids and the supernatural powers of the Gods. Parlan, filled with both love and guilt, is an interesting star as he strongly feels that when he succeeds he will achieve his two, at least in his mind, compatible goals. He makes the quest for the artifacts and the Goddess Eriu a fine read.

Colleen Shannon
Love Spell
ISBN: 0505526115, $6.99

Lady Arielle Blaylock has lived a somewhat sedate protected upper class life until she wore the Egyptian cat amulet. Now during the day she remains that prim and proper Victorian lass, but at night she dreams erotic seductions that frighten her when she awakens because they seem so real. In that dream realm where sorcery rules two men desire Lady Arielle. She wants both of them as each somehow holds a lovemaking spell that has ensorcelled her, but she also distrusts Luke and Seth not knowing what either truly desires of her. However, Arielle realizes she is in trouble in this alternate dream world where she may remain forever if she chooses the wrong man; one will help her regain the light of day while the other dooms her to eternal darkness. This is a terrific paranormal romance that will remind the audience of Frank Stockton's classic The Lady or the Tiger placed in a fantasy realm. If Arielle selects the wrong champion she will have closed the door to her going home permanently. Arielle is a wonderful protagonist while the two males competing for her affection make the dream realm genuine. Colleen Shannon provides a fine thriller that will elate sub-genre readers.

The Little Lady Agency
Hester Browne
ISBN: 1416514929, $23.00

In London twenty-seven year old office assistant Melissa Romney-Jones learns she is redundant when the Americans buy the firm she works at. Her best friend Gabi and her flatmate Nelson meet Mel at Bluebird. At the bar is Bobby, a classmate of Mel, with an older man. Bobby suggests Melissa call their former teacher Mrs. McKinnon for work. Mrs. McKinnon arranges a "date" with a bachelor that goes reasonably well. However, another "date" turns ugly as the man demands sex. Nelson's friend Roger has problems with his mother who wants to see him come to social events with a woman when he just wants to be left alone. Nelson mentions Melissa is available so Roger hires her to be his dinner date at his mom's seventieth birthday party. This proves successful so Melissa opens up the Little Lady Agency to help bachelors with their relationship problems and invents Honey. Gabi invites Melissa to the office party welcoming American Jonathan Riley. Mel arrives as Honey so no one will recognize her and impresses Jonathan. He hires her to arrange a party find him a "permanent" date to keep the female vultures away. They begin seeing one another on a professional level and fall in love, but she assumes he cherishes Honey not old fashioned "Saint Mel". The strong lead female supported by a solid cast holds the fun story line together. Interestingly it is after Mel is fired that the office recognizes her true value; something that Jonathan sees early in Honey. Though Mel's father is unbelievable with no redeeming qualities, fans will appreciate this fine contemporary romance starring a likable heroine reinventing herself after learning she is redundant.

The Lost Get-Back Boogie
James Lee Burke
ISBN: 1416517065, $9.99

Korean War veteran turned country-and-western musician Iry Paret spent a couple of years in Angola for manslaughter. He survived prison by staying on lethal alert knowing that the guards and the inmates are dangerous to anyone who depends only on hope, prayer, or drugs. Upon his release, Iry heads to New Orleans where he plans to play the honky tonk and drown his life with alcohol. However, the haze of drink does not keep Iry from feeling depressed. He concludes he needs to leave Louisiana if he to get back his lost boogie. He treks to Milltown, Montana near Missoula where his jazz playing former cell mate Buddy Riordan's father Frank owns a ranch by the Bitterroot River. Once there, he observes Buddy is always on LSD while Frank wars with the local pulp mill that is polluting the area. However, Iry finds himself attracted to Buddy's slightly overweight estranged wife, Beth, who wants both men to go straight, drop the drugs and booze and stay out of Frank's war. Iry can do two out of three, but feels obligated to be at Frank's side as David's sidekick against the goliath lumber companies. This is a reprint of a terrific early James Lee Burke thriller that brings to life the 1960s through mostly the downtrodden Iry. Frank, Buddy and Beth are fabulous support characters who enable the audience to understand what motivates the lead protagonist. With the backdrop of development vs. environment debate before Nixon established EPA, fans obtain a fabulous thriller wondering which side the antihero will join.

Master of Darkness
Susan Sizemore
ISBN: 1416513345, $6.99, 384 pp.

In San Diego, renegade vampire Laurent knows Tribe Manticore pack leader Justinian placed a bounty on his head. As he flees Laurent regrets coming out from beneath the vampiric radar screen to make amends with Justinian. Laurent senses two Tribe Primes are closing in on him and thinks a human hunter may be nearby also. Vampire hunter Eden Faveau cannot believe she gave up Hawaii to hunt vampires just because her father and brothers are at a security conference. When the two Tribe primes attack Laurent, Eden intercedes thinking he is Sid Wolf a member of Clan Wolf, their vampire client. He fails to correct her. As they work together, Justinian captures Eden and dangles her as a pawn to get Laurent to come for her. Laurent cannot allow harm to come to the mortal he loves though he fears her reaction when she learns he deceived her. He also realizes history is to about to repeat the slaughter of the late nineteenth century with a dangerous war coming between humans, werewolves, vampires and others with no one trusting anyone not even family. Susan Sizemore's latest vampire romance (see I BURN FOR YOU and I HUNGER FOR YOU) is an exciting thriller starring an interesting female hunter, who does not like the occupation, and a rogue vampire who knows he has enough troubles, but cannot resist the lure of his partner. The pairing is a delight as they fall in love, but he hides who he is and his agenda from her; once she knows the truth he fears that his burning hunger for her will not be enough to overcome her thirst for the blood of her "Gambit" flowing from his corpse. The action-packed story line contains a twist that will make readers thirst for more of these delightful supernatural tales.

Cruel and Unusual
Patricia Cornwell
ISBN: 1416505407, $9.95

Henrico County, Virginia Detective Joe Trent calls the state Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta because of a situation involving thirteen year old Eddie Heath shot in the head with potential sexual components involved. At the same time the Commonwealth executes Ronnie Joe Waddell convicted of the murder of anchorwoman Robyn Naismith ten years earlier on evidence founded by Scarpetta. Scarpetta's autopsy of Heath uncovers the fingerprint of Waddell on the corpse. As anti capital punishment lawyer Grueman turns up the heat with the media claiming Scarpetta is incompetent, files are stolen from her office. More murders that apparently were committed by a dead Waddell lead Grueman orchestrating the press even further that perhaps the smoking gun of capital punishment has occurred, an innocent person executed. Other evidence against Scarpetta leads to a grand jury investigation into the possible criminal activities of the medical examiner. CRUEL AND UNUSUAL is a solid Scarpetta police procedural in which the beleaguered heroine is struggling to understand how a dead man could be murdering people and what happened to her once thriving career. The story line is filled with twists and turns that makes sense afterward but will surprise the reader while the grand jury inquiry is insightful and a bit shocking for instance the "defense" cannot bring in witnesses. Patricia Cornwell provides a strong Scarpetta thriller with the star in jeopardy of more than just her livelihood going down the tubes.

Blue Valor
Illona Haus
ISBN: 0743458095, $6.99, 367 pp.

Baltimore homicide detectives Kay Delaney and Danny Finnerly are partners on the job and in their personal lives even though she has commitment problems that will not allow her to move in with her lover let alone marry him. Their latest case starts off bizarrely when a human heart is left near the posh private Langley Country School. During the interviews of the staff, the two cops learn that a student Leslie Richter was murdered two months ago. Kat has a hunch that the heart and the murdered girl are connected, which makes her wonder if they have a serial killer on their hands. A few weeks later, another young woman is raped, beaten, and left for dead near a highway; she dies in the hospital. Forensic evidence affirms that the same person killed the three coeds and when a fourth has been abducted Kay is in a race against the clock to find her before she too dies. Fans of police procedural thrillers like those written by Kay Hooper and Leslie Glass will want to read the tense BLUE VALOR. The story line that provides the tormented internal soul of police officers especially how their struggles with a nasty case involving youngsters impact their emotions and subsequently their personal lives. Illona Haus is a talented author who provides many twists to the homicide investigation that will keep her audience wondering what will happens next. However, it is the humanizing of her heroine and her partner that makes this a very worthy read.

The Highlander's Stolen Bride
Melanie George
ISBN: 074344275X, $6.99, 384 pp.

Highlander Laird Derek Hardwicke is settling his late mother's English estate while also visiting a friend where he meets English Lady Rosalyn Carmichael, who is fleeing her nasty step brother Calder Westcott. After Derek rescues Rosalyn from an intruder, she explains that Calder plans to wed and kill her to gain her inheritance. For her safety, Derek takes her to his keep Castle Gray though he knows he must ignore his attraction to her as he is expected to wed childhood friend Megan Trelawny whose brother is lord of a rival clan. However he fails at keeping his emotions in check and soon Derek falls in love with the woman he vows to protect; Megan reciprocates. Still duty and the expectations of his clan that he forges an alliance with the Trelawany brood by marrying Megan serve as powerful inhibiters. To wed an English rose could prove an affront to Megan's clan and enable his step-brother Ethan to foster further dissension within his clan and gain an edge to take over. Meanwhile the diabolical Calder sets in motion a scheme that will enable him to gain access to the keep and ultimately Rosalyn. Though the antipathy between the half-brothers is somewhat irritating, the relationships between the lead couple and the disapproval of everyone (except Megan) especially his clan coupled with the sinister brilliance of Calder comes together in a tense wonderful historical romance. The exciting story line is clearly character driven with Derek as the center struggling between duty and love. Calder is a fabulously sociopathic villain whose final plan is lethally brilliant. Scottish historical romance readers will appreciate this fine "Pleasure Seekers" tale by George.

Body of Evidence
Patricia Cornwell
ISBN: 0743493915, $7.99

In Richmond, Virginia, someone brutally slashes to death historical romance writer Beryl Madison in the woman's home. The crime scene evidence points towards the victim knowing her killer as no forced entry appears. In fact she seems to have let the culprit into her home though she feared an unknown assailant threatened to kill her, which is why she cut short her Key West trip. State medical examiner Dr. Kay Scarpetta also investigates other seemingly related deaths; that of writer Cary Harper and the suicide of his sister. Meanwhile, the FBI is looking into the activities of Madison's lawyer though Scarpetta cannot see the link to her case though she believes there must be one. As she follows the forensic clues in Virginia and Florida, someone threatens to kill Scarpetta. However, the courageous M.E. refuses to back down from uncovering the truth behind the Madison murder and the related deaths of the Harper siblings. This early Scarpetta thriller is one of the best forensic tales written in the past decade or two, as the heroine works a difficult case with intelligence and aplomb while the readers obtain deep insight into the working of a medical examiner. The action-packed story line grips the audience from the moment the culprit slices and dices the writer and never slows down as Scarpetta and her team seeks clues to identify the killer. Patricia Cornwell, who has written a myriad of terrific thrillers, may have written her best with the powerful entertaining BODY OF EVIDENCE that holds up as a top gun in spite a rash of imitators on TV and literatures.

All that Remains
Patricia Cornwell
ISBN: 074349153X, $7.99

When Deborah Harvey, the daughter of the National Drug Policy Director, and her boyfriend fail to return home, the FBI investigates based on the assumption that there is a link to her father's job. When their remains are finally found, the media, linking it without substance, to eight other dead in pairs of two near Williamsburg, Virginia, dub the culprit the Couples Killer. State Medical Examiner Kay Scarpetta joins the investigation into the latest killings. Not much data can be gleaned from the skeletons though the killer leaves a glaring jack of hearts at each crime site. The Feds, state, and local law enforcement trip over each other like the Keystone Cops. Meanwhile Kay and Richmond homicide detective, Pete Marino, follow the paths, many of which dead end in cul de sacs, left behind by a devious killer made even more complex by a reporter and the Harvey family. This reprint of an early Scarpetta thriller is a fine entry as a difficult case turns ugly and convoluted by so many participants especially the interference by cops and amateurs. Kay, her Valkyrie cohorts, and Pete are at their best working through a myriad of potential clues obfuscated by politicians, reporters, cops and family members who devastate crime scenes and more. Fans of the great M.E. will enjoy this fine forensic police procedural.

In the Thrill of the Night
Candice Hern
ISBN: 0451217845, $6.99

In 1813 the five wealthy Merry Widows serve as the board of trustees for the Benevolent Widows Fund. Though their late spouses were kind individuals each has vowed to not marry again as they like the freedom death provided them. One of the quintet, Lady Gosworth tells her companions that she spent the winter warmed by a youthful lover. Grace, Beatrice and Marianne are shocked while Wilhelmina just smiles. The ladies agree to consider lovers and to continue to support one another regardless. Marianne turns to her late husband's best friend Adam Cazenove, a noted rake, for guidance. He detests the thought of Marianne with a lover though he rationalizes that the memory of David may be why he rejects the idea. She persuades him to go over her list of possible candidates, but he finds a reason to eliminate most; those he cannot cross off in good conscience he plans to stop any tryst from happening. If anyone is going to sleep with Marianne it will be him though he is betrothed to Clarissa Leighton-Blair and he fears he is not the man that David was. IN THE THRILL OF THE NIGHT is an amusing chick lit regency due to the wild antics of the lead male. Though Adam is engaged and rejects the notion of twenty-nine years old Marianne remaining celibate the rest of her life (he assumes marriage one day), he cannot tolerate any of those pretenders sleeping with her so he performs humorous intercessions to prevent the men from doing so. Fans will enjoy his zany escapades as he eventually realizes that he loves Marianne, but doubts she reciprocates because he assumes David filled her soul.

Privileged Witness
Rebecca Forster
ISBN: 0451217772, $7.99, 384 pp.

Although Josie-Baylor-Bates was unable to convince a jury in criminal court that Kevin O'Connell beat up his wife Susan within an inch of life, she won a huge monetary settlement for the victim in Civil Court. After leaving the courtroom, she is accosted by Grace McCreary, the sister of Matthew who Josie was intensely in love with and thought was her soulmate until she discovered he lied about having any family. Matthew's wife jumped off the balcony and was killed and the coroner ruled it a suicide. However, the police, especially the surprisingly caring Detective Babcock refuses to close the case because he believes that it is not quite as cut and dried as the coroner believes. Nobody is more shocked than Josie when Grace is arrested and reluctantly she agrees to defend her. This puts her back in Matthew's orbit who seems more concerned with his campaign than the plight of his sister's defense. Josie makes a good case at the probable cause hearing but as more and more secrets are revealed, Josie begins to wonder if either her client or her brother is telling the truth. While she is dealing with the McCreary siblings, Kevin is terrorizing her and her ward while looking for Susan. One day if there is any justice, Rebecca Forster will be a household name because her legal thrillers are on a par with John Grisham, Scott Turow and John Lescroart. Her stylized and intricate plotting and her realistic characterizations make for a fantastic story while her ability to incorporate several sub-plots including one about the protagonist's personal life makes this so much more than an outstanding legal thriller.

Did You Declare the Corpse?
Patricia Sprinkle
ISBN: 0451217802, $6.99, 288 pp.

Georgia Magistrate MacLaren Yarbrough is visiting the Scottish Highlands for two weeks but her companion is not her beloved husband Joe Riddley but her friend Laura MacDonald. Joe thinks it is safe to take a fishing vacation with his son and two grandsons because Mac won't have any mysteries to solve or trip over dead bodies. Little does he knows that his worst fears will be realized when a heartless killer tries to murder Mac. The mystery begins when Mac overhears a person on their tour arguing with the brother-in-law of the laird of Auchnager about a business deal. Before that incident that argumentative individual acted like he was another tourist on a holiday jaunt. While visiting a local church one of the tourists is found lying in a coffin inside the holy facility, the victim of murder.. Mac immediately assumes the laird's brother-in-law did the deed until that poor soul winds up in a second coffin. Without meaning to, Mac observes her fellow tourists and asks questions to try to bring the culprits to justice though she ends up feeling sorry for them even though they killed somebody. Patricia Sprinkle's latest Thoroughly Southern mystery, although placed in the Scottish Highlands, is still a down home, at times hilarious cozy. This is a mystery Agatha Christie would be proud to claim as her own. The intricate plotting and the eccentric cast of characters are just two of the reasons that DID YOU DELIVER THE CORPSE? is a one sitting reading experience. The heroine is eminently likeable and her homespun wisdom instantly endears her to the audience who will want this grandmotherly person to adopt them.

The Second Chance
Jaclyn Reding
ISBN: 0451217861, $6.99, 320 pp.

Scotswoman Flora MacCallum is a widow raising her three small children by herself ever since her beloved Seamus died in an oil rig incident in the North Sea while working for expatriate American Libby Mackenzie. When a pregnant Libby asks her to do a favor that means being away from her children for a few weeks for the first time Flora wants to say no. However, her kids, her friends and family insist she travel to Ipswich-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts to open up Libby's new B&B as the hired hosts declined at the last minute. In the small New England town, Flora meets renowned composer Gavin Matheson who stopped writing music since his ex-wife Miranda ran off with their now six-year old son Gabriel. As he has told his partner Alec Greyson he lost his inspiration Gabriel and no Claptonesque muse has come forth; that is until he meets Flora. As they fall in love, neither Flora nor Gavin are confused about their feelings and whether they want to take the next step in their relationship, but a perilous situation will force the duo to learn what is important in life. The lead couple and much of the support cast make for a deep contemporary romance that has a late suspense spin. The story line is terrific when the tale concentrates on the SECOND CHANCE at love confusing Flora and Gavin, but he hears the music for the first time since his son was snatched from him. Though the Gabriel-Miranda subplot seems over the edge, fans of a wonderful contemporary romance with a tense climax will appreciate Jaclyn Reding's return to Ipswich-by-the-Sea (see THE SECRET GIFT).

Beyond the Wild Wind
Sasha Lord
ISBN: 0451217853, $6.99, 352 pp.

Sea Captain Istabelle O'Bannon of the Adventuress steals loot from pirates to redistribute back to their victims. However, she has been captured by her enemy Horik who takes her greatest treasure from her; something that she needs to have returned if she is to regain her confidence. Desperate for help she sends a note to a monastery where her best childhood friend Mangan O'Bannon is spending a year of reflection. When mercenary Ruark Haagan arrives at the monastery seeking help for his badly injured companion Sven, Mangan cuts a deal. Ruark goes in his place to assist Istabelle in exchange for no fee for caring of Sven. Ruark assumes that Istabelle is just a silly lady with no real troubles. She thinks he is Mangan who she has not seen in a decade; so is stunned when he refuses to help her. He changes his mind, but fears he must not reveal his identity for he will scare her off. As she keeps secret her treasure from her champion, Ruark and Istabelle fall in love, but first with his help she must confront her devil Horik while her beloved must reconsider his theory that there is no place called home. BEYOND THE WILD WIND is an intriguing historical romance that takes off from the moment that Istabelle tosses the bathing Ruark's breeches high on a tree and absconds with his sword. The story line never slows down as she mistakes his identity as her anointed hero, a role the mercenary does not want to be, but his desire of her gives him no choice. The final exhilarating confrontation provides a too convenient solution to part of Istabelle's dilemma, but also climaxes a delightful romance.

Cupid Inc.
Michele Bardsley
ISBN: 0451217578, $12.95, 272 pp.

"Prologue". Aphrodite visits the office of CUPID, INC. run by her favorite offspring Eros and his wife Psyche. The business partners explain to his mom that these modern times pose difficult problems in the art of turning lust into love. Though believing an old fashion arrow remains the best remedy, Aphrodite agrees to help. "The Accountant and the Virgin". Sara tells Psyche she wants her boss Zeth or his doppelganger to remove her from the virgin club. Instead she is given the wrong address and ends up seeing Nic the accountant, who wants to count her ledger from the moment he sees her. "The Stars in Her Eyes". Action thriller star Kevan wanted to say no, but he owes Psyche for saving his life. He changes his mind when Janie arrives and cleverly dispatches an annoying reporter. Though an alleged one time fantasy, both wants each other for dessert. "One Mile Up … A Little to the Left". At a Max-Out magazine event celebrating Monet, Karee and Bret meet. Cupid, Inc. invited both on a mile high flight in their specially arranged jet-erotica. The pair shares a flying fantasy with each wanting to soar again without a plane. "The Spy Who Rubbed Me". His mother demands Paul, a retired jewel thief, steal Aphrodite's golden apple at the Vegas Troy Casino under the auspices of Cupid, Inc. Paul is chased into Manzana Cafe where the owner and her daughter Helen protect him. Paul and Helen team up to steal the apple, fall in love, but compete with Greek Gods for the prize. These four amusing erotic contemporary romantic fantasies cleverly apply the theme of the Greek Gods interfering (in these cases matchmaking and more) in the lives of mortals.

Murder Can Run Your Stockings
Selma Eichler
ISBN: 0451217810, $6.99

On the flight back from Minneapolis to La Guardia, private investigator Desiree Shapiro meets attorney Ben Berlin. Desiree was returning from her friend's wedding while Ben was heading to the funeral of his beloved Aunt Bessie Herman. The grieving Ben mentions that she fell down a set of stairs in her home breaking her neck. Over a week later Ben calls Desiree to hire her to investigate the death of his aunt, whom he believes was murdered. He explains that NYPD Sergeant Spence stated that elderly women should not wear high heels; Ben says his aunt no longer wore high heels since breaking an ankle last year. Happy to have a paying client, Desiree questions the victim's younger son Joel, his fiancee Frankie, and his older brother Donnie. She touches base with Spence and treks across the Hudson to Aubrey, New Jersey where realtor Cliff Seymour detested the fact that Bessie refused to sell him some choice land there. Finally she discusses the situation with a long term friend of Bessie. As she digs deeper, Desiree agrees homicide occurred, but the killer hides amidst friends, family, and business cronies of the septuagenarian victim. Readers will agree that chance enabled Desiree and Ben to fly to New York together, but it was his comment that she seemed too soft and feminine to be a PI as opposed to overweight that leads to their discussion on the plane and the case (the fee helped). The investigation is clever as Desiree ponders who might kill to obtain Aunt Bessie's assets even as she understands that as time vanishes, solving the case becomes increasingly problematic. With her personal life having a few spins too, fans will enjoy the latest Manhattan caper of Bloomingdale's finest sleuth.

Mr. Monk Goes to the Firehouse
Lee Goldberg
ISBN: 0451217292, $6.99

In San Francisco Natalie Teeger is used to taking care of her boss private investigator Adrian Monk; so when the sleuth informs her that his house is being fumigated she suggests the world renowned Belmont Hotel. That place proves not good enough so she kindly offers to take him into her home, rationalizing how bad it will be to have Monk and her twelve years old daughter Julie under the same roof. Of course, Monk has to modify her abode to fit his acceptable level, the white glove cleanliness test. Julie informs Monk that someone murdered the beloved fire dog Sparky. Monk offers to investigate in exchange for Julie to pick up her discarded tissues and place them in a plastic container before the EPA arrives. He begins his investigation into the canine homicide by visiting Sparky's Fire Chief, Captain Mantooth, who informs Monk that they were working a fatal nearby fire when someone killed the Dalmatian. Soon Monk links the canine murder to the "accidental" human fiery death, but has no suspect let alone a motive; still the case has just begun. No way could anyone bring an anal lunatic like Monk from the TV series to a novel because his idiosyncrasies would become boring, but this reviewer failed to account for the talent of Lee Goldberg to adapt the sleuth to the written word. Enhancing Monk's eccentricities without slowing the plot, Mr. Goldberg spins a terrific who-done-it that will excite fans of the show and bring the quirky sleuth to a new audience. The investigation is fun to follow as the detective thinks so differently than anyone else as Monk is simply Monk in his first novel.

Smoky Mountain Tracks
Donna Ball
ISBN: 0451218027, $6.99, 272 pp.

Hanover County, North Carolina, nestled in the Smoky Mountains, is home to Raine Stockton, the estranged wife of Deputy Sheriff Buck Lawson. She is a dog trainer extraordinaire and used to go on search and rescue missions but since her beloved canine Cassidy died, she hasn't had the heart for it any longer. That is until she receives a frantic phone call at three in the morning from Buck asking her to take her SAR dog Cisco to help in the search for Cindy Winston and her daughter Angel. When they fail to find them, she starts to return home when Cisco and Raine trip over the murdered body of Luke Pickens, a drug user and alcoholic, who kidnapped the two females but no proof of Cindy or Angel, is nearby. Cindy walks home to her mother's house injured by a bullet Luke put in her with no idea where Angel is. Upset that Cisco failed to find the missing girl, Raine starts asking questions, discovers that the whole episode might have to do with a land deal and continues to use her SAR canine to hunt for clues in Angel's disappearance. Donna Ball is a famous multi-faceted author who has written compelling novels in the horror, romance, paranormal and women in jeopardy genres. Now she turns her considerable talent to mystery writing and has provides an exciting, original and suspense laden who-done it that will please her myriad of fans who have been waiting too long for her to publish another book. SMOKY MOUNTAIN TRACKS is a simply fabulous mystery starring a likable dedicated heroine; anyone who reads it will eagerly await the next book in the series.

Zero to The Bone
Robert Eversz
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743250176, $23.00, 271 pp.

Ex-con Nina Zero a freelance photographer for the tabloid newspaper the Scandal Times, is realizing a dream by having a showing of her photographs in a respectable gallery. The model she used in the photographs never shows up but Nina thinks Christine is just going to be fashionably late. A CD sent to the newspaper that she never viewed turns out to be a snuff film and her co-worker Frank who watched it brings it to the showing for Nina to see. The woman who was killed has a tattoo of Betty Boop on her left shoulder just like the Christine has. A hiker stumbles over Christine's body in the Santa Monica Mountains. Both Nina and Frank decide to follow the story. Nina because she cares and would like to find the killer and Frank because he thinks he can gain much mileage from the murder which has all the ingredients for a sensational story including the darkest side of S&M, where one is almost to the point of death. From the dark world that Christine inhabited and enjoyed, the investigation takes them to the corridors of the Hollywood elite where everyone has a price except for Nina. Robert Eversz is a dark gritty urban noir thriller writer who imbues his characters with the full spectrum of human emotions and reflects that back to the reader who sees them in a disturbing light. The author brings every emotion out of the audience from joy to sorrow and everything in between. Yet this stark novel has its light moments involving Nina's dog Rott and its moving moments (Nina's father trying to reconnect with her). ZERO TO THE BONE is in a class by itself.

John J. Nance
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743250524, $25.00, 278 pp.

In 2009 private after winning a contest, Kip Dawson wins a free seat on an American Space Adventures Spacecraft. He is ecstatic but his wife left him and took the kids with her to her powerful father's mansion in Texas. Five passengers were slated to be on board the flight but due to varying reasons, only Kip and the pilot make the voyage. Kip is enchanted by the view of Earth from space but a micrometeorite hits the ship killing the pilot before the shell works to close off the hole. Kip expects to die up there because there is no communications from Earth to the ship. The various world space agencies know someone is alive because someone is manually moving the ship but Kip can't get the rocket thrusters to work. To pass the time he writes a diary of his life on the hard drive of his computer not knowing that every word he writes is read by the people on Earth. This work makes a profound impact on the people of Earth as billions listen to the thoughts of an everyman who has them rethinking their priorities abut what is important in life even as he rays this is not his epitaph. Kip's ordeal changes him and makes him realize he has to make some changes in his life if he survives his ordeal. He becomes a man hailed as a hero by billions of people on Earth who expect him to die with grace and courage. Kip Dawson becomes an unforgettable character, one that won't be forgotten anytime soon. John J. Nance always writes an exciting thriller and ORBIT is no exception but this time he humanizes the character and lays his soul bare through his writings on the computer. Kip is special because he doesn't expect to survive yet refuses to give in to despair.

The Two Minute Rule
Robert Crais
Simon & Schuster
ISBN: 0743281616, $24.95

Ten years ago Max Holman was caught robbing the Studio City Pacific West Bank. He was convicted and went to prison, but today he is being released. All Max wants to do is see his son Ritchie who he has not seen since the kid's twelfth birthday. While Max was a guest of the state of California, Ritchie became a cop. However, on this day when he should be rejoicing in his freedom, Max learns ironically that his son and three other cops were killed in Los Angeles. The LAPD accused gang leader Alejandro Juarez. Stunned and needing to avenge his loss, Max begins his own inquiries and quickly concludes that Juarez may be scum, but neither he nor his associates and employees killed Ritchie or the other cops. Unable to let go, Max digs deeper and begins to uncover police corruption that could easily cost him his life or at a minimum his freedom, but he refuses to back down as he has to do this for Ritchie. Though the romance with an FBI Agent seems more obligatory than plot needed, action thriller fans will appreciate this terrific tale of revenge. Holman knows he failed his son in life so he fixates on bringing justice to the real killer. Thus Max's obsession and his criminal past make him a dangerous adversary, but against who is his problem as the Juarez's gang and the cops want him dead. A final plausible twist will shake readers as much as it does Max as Robert Crais hooks readers with THE TWO MINUTE RULE between life and death.

An Ominous Death
Annette Mahon
Five Star
ISBN: 1594143595, $25.95

In Scottsdale, Arizona part-time member of the St. Rose Quilting Bee, Candy Breckner breaks her legs in a car accident. Since no one is available or willing to care for her, Candy checks into the Palo Verde Care Center. When her quilting bee partners visit her, she hysterically tells them she fears for her life from an "angel of death" employed at the nursing facility. Her friend write off her trepidations as drug induced until Candy is found dead by bee member Louise Lombard. The Scottsdale police believe a homicide occurred with Louise as the prime suspect. Maggie Browne and the other Bees, already horrified and feeling guilty over Candy's death, vow to find the real culprit before Louise is locked away. Though the Quilting Bees know not to investigate after their previous homicidal escapades (see A PHANTOM DEATH), led by magnificent Maggie they cannot leave Candy's death alone especially when one of them is the suspect. Thus readers obtain a picturesque cozy as the Bees swarm all over the Arizona desert in between a stitch or two. The who-done-it is cleverly devised, but that takes a back seat to the busy Bees butting into police matters.

Kevin J. Anderson
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144761, $25.95, 414 pp.

This speculative fiction collection contains twenty two short stories that run the gamut from fantasy to science fiction but all share in common, Kevin J. Anderson's ability to paint seemingly realistic backgrounds regardless of genre. The width of Mr. Anderson's talent is showcased by the differing landscapes that make up his tales (and two essays) of which fourteen are labeled sci fi; seven fantasy; and three "The Great Outdoors". Ten of the stories are from the 1990s while three first appeared in the latter half of the 1980s; the rest are from this decade. The contributions are all fun with some being collaborations with Benford, Beason and Moesta. Two interesting essays round out this strong anthology so that readers will want to rush out to obtain it. Frogs, werewolves or Santa star in alternate universes or our world which adds great fantasy to this is first-rate pert compilation.

Immune Response
Steve Perry
Five Star
ISBN: 15949144456, $25.95, 323 pp.

Physician's Assistant Rick Scales lives in a small Washington State town near the Makah Reservation. His precepting physician Dr. Howard P. Reuben visits once a week delivering medication and signing charts that he never stops to read. Rick notices something odd happening to his terminally ill patients such as Tom Inch's lung cancer that went into spontaneous remission. AIDS patient Jimmy Lewis died when his car crashed into the river, but an autopsy showed no trace of his illness. More strange remissions occur to include a leukemia sufferer and a liver diseased person, but both test healthy. Rick informs tribal deputy Jasmine Hughes what he has observed. They visit Howard only to find him murdered in his home and his lab blown up. Now an unknown assailant targets Rick and Jasmine to insure what is going on at the Makah Reservation remains concealed even as a former terminal patient has a blood test that reveals something unusual. This medical thriller with science fiction elements will appeal to the fans of Robin Cook and Michael Palmer. The harassed heroes have a strange puzzle to resolve at the same time someone wants to silence them permanently. There is plenty of action, a touch of romance, and a fine medical mystery that comes together to make a breathtaking suspense thriller.

Fit to Die
Karen Hanson Stuyck
Five Star
ISBN: 1594143692, $25.95

In Houston after twenty-seven years of marriage without any warning, Rob Prescott vanishes, but before the dentist disappears he wipes out his joint bank accounts and absconds with the values from their home while his wife Lauren did volunteer work at a nearby hospital. At fifty, overweight Lauren needs work. Her friend Meg arranges an interview for her at City Magazine where the editor offers her a chance to write an article on the recently demised health nut Stan Harris, but concentrate on the Svengali claims he made of turning his two spouses from overweight losers into confident healthy perfect specimens and on rumors of supplement abuse. As she interviews Stan's associates and his family, Lauren begins to ponder whether a homicide disguised as a heart attacked induced by a potassium overdose occurred. At the same time as she searches for her spouse accompanied by her two daughters, they come across a corpse and other illegal activities by Rob the dentist to the mob. Either inquiry could prove hazardous to Lauren's health. Though how Lauren can become a reporter seemingly overnight seems a stretch, fans will enjoy this fun amateur sleuth tale in which the three Prescott females search for their father and what really happened to Stan. The story line is fast-paced as the Prescotts leap into one bind after another, but keep on trucking in their efforts to solve both investigations. The Harris case has some interesting twists while the Prescott disappearance is a bit of a surprise as to why he vanished. Readers will enjoy the antics of the Prescott women as they go from one caper into another escapade not fully realizing the danger of either of their inquiries.

Outlaw's Brat
Lee Scofield
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144370, $26.95

When Mattie Adams was fourteen her mother with the aid of an outlaw managed to get her daughter safely away from the Nate Dorsey gang, but failed to escape. Rancher Will McCarthy and others find Mattie wandering lost and take her to the safety of nearby Wayside Station where she assumes her mother died in the escape attempt. When she overhears the locals gossip about her being an "Outlaw's Brat and a whore, Mattie decides to move to St. Louis to live with her Aunt Elizabeth. Over the next six years Mattie never forgot her rescuer, but she knows that Will can select any woman so he would never settle for an Outlaw's Brat. When Will tells her that her mother may still be alive, she returns to Wayside Station. She negotiates with Will and other ranchers who want to assault the Dorsey gang hideaway to stop the rustling. As she rides with Will to rescue her mom and end the rustling, Mattie knows that her puppy love for Will is as strong as ever, but she assumes it is unrequited. Though readers will wonder why the law waited six years to close in on the Dorsey gang (the increase in rustling activity does not seem enough), OUTLAW'S BRAT is an exciting western romance. Mattie is a fabulous protagonist treated by many residents of Wayside Station with contempt. Will is a fine champion who proved his love for her when she was fourteen by doing nothing as he knew she was too young and besides she was recovering from a trauma. This couple turns Lee Scofield's nineteenth century tale into a fine read.

Freeze Me, Tender
Michael A. Black
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144710, $25.95

The tenth anniversary of the death of the king of hillbilly rock and roll Colton Purcell is coming soon. In Vegas where Colton frequently performed just before his death, there are several galas planned including a sound alike contest. As many of his fans plan to attend the events, Colton's manager "Big Daddy" Babcock is murdered with the King's scarf from his farewell show. Regency magazine CEO Bishop sends his reporter Harry Bauer to follow up on the homicide since he interviewed Big Daddy just last week; Harry assumes Bishop wants him out of town when he marries the reporter's ex-wife. At the same time, Colton's only daughter Melissa is to marry Latino superstar Pablo while her mother Ladonna known by all as "Ladzilla" objects. Harry meets Gabriel Freeman in the Vegas airport; he claims to be an offspring of Colton at the same time rumors fly of a related nursing home abduction in Memphis by Nurse Marjorie Versette whose home is a shrine to the King. When his journalist pal is murdered, Harry investigates the dark secrets of the King and his retinue ten years after the performer died. Obviously everyone knows who the King is, but Michael A. Black provides an intriguing refreshing spin filled with twists that take some getting used to (just ask Harry) as the story line moves forward on several flanks. Harry's inquiries, like the plot, follow several directions including the deaths of Big Daddy and a reporter friend (that left Harry All Shook Up) as well as Freeman's claim; all converge in Memphis. A delight for the Elvis crowd, fans of a journalist investigative thriller will also appreciate this fine Love Me Tender not homage to the King of Rock and Roll.

Sweetie's Diamond
Raymond Benson
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144559, $25.95

In Lincoln Grove, Illinois popular highly regarded high school teacher Diane Boston lives with her Marfan syndrome inflicted teenage son David. Her former spouse Greg detests her for hiding secrets from him and for coddling their son, who he wants custody over. David's best friend Billy Davis finds a stash of his father's hard core porn movies from the late 1970s. The two young teens recognize the star Lucy Luv as David's mom. Billy's dad catches his son watching and recognizes her as Diane too. He gleefully informs the tabloids as a way of avenging her beating him out for a job at the school and her rejecting his sexual advances. California porn producer Aaron Valentine learns that Lucy Luv is in Illinois and sees this as the break in a two decade old betrayal that he plans to correct. He sends his muscle Emo Tuff to take care of business. Corpses begin appearing in the diamond centers of New York and Chicago and in Lincoln Grove until Emo abducts David. The past comes back to haunt Diane as her secrets become public. Besides her concern for her son, she needs to worry that Aaron will demand the gems taken from him. The story line is at its best as a deep character study of an ethical middle class paragon suddenly held in contempt by those who named her teacher of the year. The Aaron-Emo spin adds action and excitement, but takes away from the choices that Diane has to make as the lioness instead must go after her cub. Still Raymond Benson provides a fine tale starring an ethical individual who has enough on her plate without Aaron and Emo seeking to break her bones one at a time.

Returning to Taos
Lois Gilbert
Five Star
ISBN: 1594144370, $26.95

Ten years ago Elena Water left her husband Tom in Taos, New Mexico taking her son Johnny with her. A few years later, Johnny left her to study music and live in Taos under the tutelage of family friends Jack and Maggie Dalton, who run a musical production company. As Johnny is becoming a success, someone shoots and kills him. Elena, who had not spoken to her son in months or seen him in five years, is stunned by her loss. As the cops fail to break the case, Elena arrives in Taos vowing to bring justice to her son's murderer. Tom and Maggie are worried about her mental state as she insists she is talking with Johnny who is giving her some clues to his homicide though her findings are uncannily accurate. Because Johnny refuses to tell her who killed him, she assumes he is protecting someone, perhaps a loved one, but who had the motive to commit homicide? RETURNING TO TAOS is a haunting amateur sleuth tale in which the audience wonders whether Elena is losing her mind though she seems to easily converse with Johnny. Thus, fans will ponder paranormal or psychological; either way the audience gets a deep look inside the grieving mother who finds no closure perhaps because she was somewhat estranged from her son who she cherished, but failed to let him know that when he was alive (underlying message: don't wait - tell your loved ones while they live). Regardless of Elena's state of mind, RETURNING TO TAOS is a powerful mystery with a terrific twist that grips readers from the first "mother-son conversation" inside her head until their last.

Countess Confidential
Barbara Dawson Smith
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312932391, $6.99, 368 pp.

In 1817, aristocratic detective Simon Croft arrests Shakespearean scholar Gilbert Hollybrooke as the notorious jewel thief the Wraith, who leaves behind quotes from the Bard at his crime scenes. Gilbert's daughter, Claire, a teacher at a girls' boarding school, knows her dad is too busy with his studies to purloin jewelry though the diamond brooch found in his home is difficult to explain. Claire believes someone from her late mother's estranged family found a means to punish the tutor for marrying their daughter. She vows to learn the truth so taking a leave of absence from her job Claire obtains a position as a servant at the home of the Marquess Warrington. Her plan to be an invisible servant falls apart from the start because Simon sees her as a desirable woman with a secret that he plans to uncover one kiss at a time. To her chagrin Claire is attracted to the male; justice aside why she wonders of all the men in England does Simon make her love. Still in spite of her cheating heart, Claire continues to seek evidence that her father is not the Wraith. COUNTESS CONFIDENTIAL is a tremendous Regency romantic amateur sleuth tale. The exhilarating story line smoothly combines the undercover initially ineffective inquiries of the invisible granddaughter with the romance by the one aristocrat who notices her. Claire is a delight as she tries to stay focused while avoiding sleeping with the enemy. Fans will wonder who the Wraith is with even Claire becoming increasingly convinced that her dad did the dastardly deed. Barbara Dawson Smith provides a fun historical that deserves a sequel investigation starring the sleuthing combo.

False Impression
Jeffrey Archer
St. Martin's

ISBN: 0312353723, $27.95, 384 pp.

On the night of September 10, 2001, Englishwoman Victoria Wentworth plans to ship Van Gogh's classic Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear that she owns to Bryce Fenston, CEO of New York based Fenston Finance; Victoria expects Fenston to sell the masterpiece to a Japanese collector. That same evening someone breaks into Victoria's home, kills her, and slices off an ear; the Van Gogh is stolen. On September 11, 2001, a plane crashes into the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Fenston Finance employee Anna Petrescu manages to escape from the edifice before the tower collapses. She knows that Fenston was planning to keep the Van Gogh painting and that everyone assumes she died in the tragedy. Not correcting the latter, Anna intercepts the Van Gogh. However, goons chase her as she flees London for Hong Kong; FBI Agent Jack Delaney is also in hot pursuit as he sees a link between Fenston and the homicides of three collectors besides Wentworth who were employing him as an intermediary. The globe converges on Anna who now tries to vanish in Bucharest with a Fed and an assassin after her. This exciting thriller goes over the top, but no reader is going to care as the escapades of Anna fleeing with the painting with a Fed and a lethal female assassin on her trail makes for quite a tense duel. The story line is ultra fast-paced never slowing down from the first impression especially once Anna realizes that everyone assumes she died in the North Tower tragedy until the final triangular confrontation between the good, the bad and the ugly.

Mr. Satisfaction
Brenda Jackson, Delilah Dawson, Joy King & Maryann Reid
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312349017, $13.95

"Extreme Satisfaction" by Brenda Jackson. Cathleen admits to her best friend and business partner Lisa that all their success means nothing without a good man at home; Lisa remarks she has one while Cat confesses she made one major error when she dumped Rory to further her career. She vows to get him back. Though he still loves her, Rory no longer trusts her with his heart. "Satisfy Me" by Delilah Dawson. Max worked in her father's garden as a teen, but though they began falling in love, Shauna, under parental pressure, rejected the boy who left her roses. Five years have passed and they meet with her hosting a bachelorette party and he the bachelor's gala. After he "rescues" her when her car fails late that night, they sleep together, but she wonders if he wants her or more revenge points over her late dad's labeling him "Ghetto". "Ice Princess" by Joy King. Madison is the Ice Princess though she has sex with business associates. That is until she meets the landlord of the Manhattan building in which she just purchases a loft. However, as love flows between them, Madison turns to her male comfort candies out of fear. "The Morning After" by Maryann Reid. After feeling she wasted her time with Leonard, Alexis wants out of the BMW (Black men Working) suicide dating game when she meets Rasheen, who as a Bed-Stuy teen lived a violent life, but is a good person. After a great night in bed, Alexis has doubts the morning after because Rasheen is not a BMW. These are four superb cotemporary tales starring likable strong protagonists.

Murder on the Oceanic
Conrad Allen
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312342853, $23.95, 288 pp.

This time ship detectives George Porter Dillman and Genevieve Masefield work the cruise vessel the Oceanic debarking from Southampton, England, briefly stopping in Cherbourg, France before crossing the Atlantic with a final destination of New York. The two sleuths are concerned with the world's leading financier J.P. Morgan coming on board with a retinue of art, antiques, and other valuables; their trepidation is increased by learning that Mr. Morgan keeps his collectibles in his room, making it a somewhat easier prey for thieves than say locking it in the ship's vault. George tries to plead with Mr. Morgan to better safeguard his valuables, but is unable to get close to the wealthy banker as his bodyguard allows no one near his charge unless told otherwise. A few days out to sea, someone kills the bodyguard with a slash to the throat and much of the collectibles are stolen. With Genevieve tied up investigating a rash of small thefts, George works the Morgan murder-theft by himself until an inadvertent comment by a robbery victim leads the two detectives to link their previously thought of exclusive cases together. The latest ocean going historical mystery is a fabulous tale filled with terrific twists that will surprise the readers (and the two stars). At over thirty knots speed, the fast-paced tale moves rapidly forward along two wonderful currents (though George's is the prime investigation) until they merge into a fabulous who-done-it. Conrad Allen remains captain of the ocean cruise mystery with this refreshingly original intricate plot, new secondary characters providing plenty of color and insight into the era to include real persona from the period, and a wonderful relationship between the protagonists inside a strong investigative story line.

Lovers and Players
Jackie Collins
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312341776, $24.95

Aging billionaire Red Diamond orders his three sons to come see him if they want their name to remain in his will. All three know their father never messes around when it comes to money as they learned first hand with his take that hill business dealings; so each rushes to attend the summoning though it interferes with their lifestyles. Realtor Max, entertainment lawyer Chris, and supermodel Jett pay homage to the great one because no one wants to be left out of the will. Meanwhile Red's ex-wife Mariska has ties to the Russian Mafia and is willing to use them to get what she wants. Jett's one night with New York heiress Amy Scott causes chagrin and guilt as unbeknownst to either she is engaged to marry his brother Max. Finally the daughter of Red's housekeeper, singing wannabe Liberty is willing to do anything to move up the ladder of success. While the monarch holds court with his princes in attendance, all their extraneous activities threaten the king and his court especially when someone brutally murders Mariska and the evidence points to the King and his retinue of jesters. Initially LOVERS AND PLAYERS contains multiple story lines starring the four male Diamonds and their female interests; yet Jackie Collins keeps her players and their enjoyable segments reliably consistent until she brings them together into a cohesive delightful thriller. Readers will wonder if one of the Diamonds aced Mariska and how will the Max, Jett and Amy soap opera triangle play out. On top of all that is larger than life Red who is in everyone's knickers (in the case of females that is literally; his sons figuratively). Ms. Collins as always entertains.

Crescent Moon
Lori Handeland
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312938489, $6.99, 352 pp.

Frank Tallient hires Chicago based cryptozoologist Diana Malone to investigate strange killings in the swamps near New Orleans. Her new client wants Diana to capture whatever is murdering the local populace; both expect a mundane serial killer is at work, but also understand the underlying reason he chose her is the possibility that a more esoteric murderer, an ABC (Alien Big Cat) like a wolf or even a werewolf is behind the slaughter. Former Special Forces soldier and native son Adam Ruelle is the best person to guide Diana through the bayou jungle, but if he is even alive, which is doubtful, he is the posterboy of recluses and probably will reject her request. Still she tries and he reluctantly agrees when he cannot persuade her that the only animals she wants to see is a cub at a baseball game in Chicago. At night in the eerie Louisiana swamps, Diana begins to fall in love with her strange guide; an emotion she thought dead since her beloved Simon Malone passed away. Against all he understands about his heritage, Adam reciprocates though he believes the "curse" needs to end with him. In daylight she believes he hides the truth about himself and what he knows about their prey, who stalks the scientist and her escort. The fourth paranormal romantic suspense fantasy Moon tale is a terrific entry in what is one of the better running sub-genre series of the last few years. The lead couple is an exhilarating pairing as they fall in love, but both have monster doubts about any relationship that is if they survive being the hunted. Readers who appreciate a strong one sitting thriller will want to read CRESCENT MOON and the other Lori Handeland lunar tales (DARK MOON, HUNTER'S MOON, and BLUE MOON).

Talk Nerdy to Me
Vicki Lewis Thompson
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312939078, $6.99, 368 pp.

While riding his Harley to go shoot pool at the nearby Rack and Balls in Middlesex, Connecticut, electrical engineer Charlie Shepherd hears the explosion in his new neighbor's garage. He goes to insure no one is hurt; inside a female insists she is okay. He remains concerned that the New York model, who moved next door to him, rejects his pleas to call 911 but Eve Dupree does agree to shoot pool with him. He is the best in town until she wins their wager rather easily. However, Charlie handles his defeat gracefully even though he feels he was handicapped by his wood. He becomes upset when his cousin Rick Banister of the modeling world arrives, but Eve showers her attention on the engineer to his shock and euphoria. Eve needs his help with her inventions while Charlie desires her but is heading to Hoover Dam for his next job. As he cannot resist her lure and helps her with her gizmos, someone hovers in the background ready to sabotage any device that appears ready for the experimental design stage. At the same time the kisses between the ingenious model and the engineering nerd send both to the moon without a craft. The fifth NERD GONE WILD romance is a fun often amusing romantic suspense with beauty needing to show her brains while Nerdy needs to simply be with her. The story line is terrific when Charlie behaves as a NERD IN SHINING ARMOR and Eve chooses GONE WITH THE NERD over the hunks from her modeling world. The sabotage intrigue provides action, but that seems forced, especially in a tale when the model relishes her beloved talk nerdy to her in the bedroom and the garage.

Peter Bowen
St. Martin's
ISBN: 0312312075, $23.95, 224 pp.

Metis Indian Gabriel Du Pre is happy his granddaughter Pallas is home even for a short visit while on hiatus from her studies in DC. Also back in Montana is Chappie, the son of Gabriel's friend. The lad lost a leg, an eye, and a wife while serving in Iraq; Du Pre thinks the veteran lost his mind too. While the family reunions are going on, Pastor Flowers, a fundamentalist from Texas, and his extended family move into the area. Not long afterward, a young girl calls the cops asking for help as she is a runaway, but insists if they find her they will kill her. At the same time graffiti criticizing the local church ministered by Father Van den Huevel appears on the walls of that facility. As Du Pre, in between shots of whiskey and smoking his rolled cigarettes, and others search for the missing girl that he believes connects to the zealous religious fundamentalists who violently attack others with their my way is the only way theme. Du Pre's latest Montana tale is a terrific thriller, but it is the tons of sidebars that reflect on many of today's issues such as the health of returning veterans from Iraq, a slowly dying small town, and religious fundamentalism that make the story line fascinating. For instance, the impact of real sacrifice (not BuSh claims of Americans giving up so much to support the war) on a solider in which the government fails to pay for an artificial leg - someone has to fund the tax cuts. Peter Bowen is at his best as he NAILS down much of what disturbs Americans with Du Pre's delightful thirteenth Big Sky thriller.

Total Waste of Makeup
Kim Gruenenfelder
St. Martin's
ISBN: 031234872X, $12.95

As a personal assistant to Drew Stanton, a top movie star, Charlize "Charlie" Edwards seems to be living the good life in Southern California, but she is beginning to feel her age as she closes in on thirty due to her younger sister's upcoming marriage. Her family continues to drive her nuts as always, but the nuptials especially reminds her she is alone and will never have any children calling her mom. To comfort her self with the empty nest syndrome, Charlie begins writing advice notes for the imaginative niece that has not been perceived, but she will one day hold though the kid will read her expertise probably in the next century. She also begins going out on dates after a male moratorium. To her amazement though most were calamities, she falls in love with set photographer Jordan though she also admits to her two confidents, Dawn and Kate, that she does not like him. The key to this fine chick lit tale is the camaraderie between the three friends that seem so genuine that it serves as the plausibility anchor to the cast and the story line. The advice notes to a future niece are fun to follow as the audience also sees what makes Charlie tick while she can name her hemorrhoids after her family and her boss. However, the friendship between the three women who instinctively know first hand when a relationship is a TOTAL WASTE OF MAKEUP make Kim Gruenenfelder's tale fun to read.

A Case of Imagination
Jane Tesh
Poisoned Pen
ISBN: 1590582209, $22.95, 344 pp.

In Parkland, North Carolina, her former employer and the person she leases her office from, Reid Kent blithely informs Madeline Maclin that no one would hire a former Miss Parkland as an investigator, but she plans to make Madeline Maclin Investigations a success though she has no clients. Her friend psychic Jeremyn Fairweather asks her to accompany him to inspect his new inheritance a home in nearby Celosia that he obtained from his late Uncle Val Eberlin, who the locals classified as a nut. Mac agrees while thinking Jerry looks sexy, but fears a rebound love following the debacle of a marriage to her former husband selfish Bill. In Celosia Jerry thinks of converting his new house into a psychic shop. Meanwhile beauty pageant director Evan James tells them he is having problems with protestors and ghosts so naturally Jerry and Mac become involved; he on the spiritual plane while she on the mundane realm. While his acrimonious girlfriend Olivia hates seeing Jerry and Mac together, they investigate allegedly otherworldly interference though the homicide seems more human spawned than supernatural. This is a charming regional who-done-it filled with eccentric characters including if one believes Jerry a ghost or two. The relationship between Jerry and Mac is terrific as fans will expect romance to blossom, but both also carry baggage, hers being her former husband and his being a dark secret. Once the audience meets the key players enough to understand much of their respective motivations the Celosia mystery takes charge of the story line leading the reader to wonder if there are spirits at play and will the two stars become a romantic entry or not. This is a first-class Carolina caper.

Out of Order
Charles Benoit
Poisoned Pen
ISBN: 1590582527, $24.95, 234 pp.

Though they see life differently and only know each other less than a year, loan processor Jason Talley and married couple Sriram and Vidya Sundaram have become friends. Sriram asks Jason to hide a red sari he is bringing as a present to his mother when he visits her in India; he has not told his beloved wife yet that he plans to return home without her for a few days. The next day Jason returns to their apartment complex in Corning, New York to find his two friends dead in what the cops believe was a suicide murder. On the spur of the moment, Jason decides to deliver the sari to Sriram's mother; he sends an email to all those on Sriram's list telling them he comes to pay homage. Jason flies to India where he finds everyone else on the tour a geriatric except for Canadian Rachel Moore who won the trip with a lottery ticket. She bullies the reluctant Jason into leaving the formal tour to ride the trains to see the real India though she insists they skip the Taj Mahal. As they journey together, Sriram's former India computer associates and his American based employer want the sari that they believe contains a "magical" program stitched on it. OUT OF ORDER is a fabulous thriller starring an individual whose entire life has been planned to the nanosecond until he goes to India. Suddenly, the sane, safe, and secure lifestyle that Jason has lived for twenty-seven years vanishes especially when he meets the spontaneous Rachel. Fans will appreciate the beleaguered Jason struggling to determine friend from foe and the RELATIVE DANGER of each as everyone except Rachel seems to have an agenda involving the sari.

Foolish Undertaking
Mark de Castrique
Poisoned Pen
ISBN: 1590582276, $24.95, 264 pp.

In Gainesboro, North Carolina, just before dying from cancer Montagnard expatriate Y'Grok Eban informs Boston cop Kevin Malone that the "Raven has come home" scaring the street tough police officer though he is not totally sure why. The brave Y'Grok saved many American lives during the Viet Nam war, but the exile never went home once he fled for the Carolina hills. Now a grand funeral befitting a genuine hero is planned that has caught the attention of the national media. However, someone enters the Clayton & Clayton Funeral Home, knocking unconscious director Barry Clayton before apparently stealing the corpse of Y'Grok. Barry's friend local Sheriff Tommy Lee Watkins is upset for personal reasons because four decades ago Y'Grok saved his life when he served in Nam. Kevin, coming south for the funeral, joins forces with Tommy Lee and Barry an ex-cop to locate the body, learn the meaning of Y'Grok's last cryptic message and find out why something that happened forty years ago suddenly haunts those still living today over an ocean and a continent away. Using a contemporary mystery, Mark de Castrique provides an intriguing look (through the memories of those gathering for the funeral) of the Viet Nam War in which the Montagnard served as loyal allies to the American troops. The search for the stolen corpse and the efforts to break Y'Grok's enigmatic last words turn into a strong investigative tale that spins into much more as the war still haunts these men while they each reflect back to try to define what the final words of their late brother in arms meant. FOOLISH UNDERTAKING is a fabulous thriller that grips the audience from the moment the corpse is purloined and never slows down until Raven comes home.

Kiss From a Rogue
Shirley Karr
ISBN: 0060834110, $5.99, 384 pp.

In 1816 Dorset, the estate of Lady Sylvia Montgomery's late husband is bankrupt. Sylvia feels she must take action not out of some aristocratic obligation, but because she worries what will come of the locals; some families have already fled to Canada. Thus, the ingenious Lady assumes leadership of the local smuggling operation. While his brother served in the Napoleonic War, Lord Anthony Sinclair properly behaved as expected of the spare. However, now Benjamin the Earl has returned safely to London and married "Joe" (see WHAT AN EARL WANTS), a brilliant investor, who has made a fortune for him and the family, Tony has no idea what to do in life. He decides to become a rake while he ponders his future. Tony's skirt-chasing leads him to Dorset where he meets the beguiling widow who he knows has a secret that he plans to uncover and exploit to get Sylvia in his bed. However, he falls in love with her and he believes she reciprocates; but she is an earnest woman working at saving her villagers. To earn Sylvia's respect he must stay at her side, but is unprepared for the illegal events that unfold at Lulworth Cove. This sequel returns Tony on his romantic caper with another equally strong take charge female. The Regency story line is filled with plenty of action, but the real adventure is Tony's efforts to prove to his beloved Sylvia he will be there for her regardless of the escapades she leads them into; she assumes he is a wastrel. With her second wonderful historical, Shirley Karr shows she is no one hit wonder as readers will take immense delight in the gender bending battle of the smuggling sexes.

Bark M for Murder
J.A. Jance, Virginia Lanier, Chassie West, and Lee Charles Kelley
ISBN: 006081537X, $6.99, 320 pp.

"Red Shirt and Black Jacket" by Virginia Lanier- Two robbers kill a convenience store clerk and the police send Jo Beth Sidden, Jasmine Jones and their bloodhounds to scent out the killers. The dogs steal the show in this exciting mystery that has a very big chase scene. "Nightmare in Nowhere" by Chasse West. Duke the German Shepard wakes A.J. up by licking her; she carefully gets out of the backseat of a car that looks like it is going to drop into a deep river. She has no idea where she is or why she was in the car or who was the driver. The dog takes her to Jake, a police officer vacationing in Maryland but he has no phone to call for outside help. Jake tries to help the amnesiac but someone keeps shooting at them forcing them to run from the cabin. Chassie West has written an exciting tale with realistic characters. "The French Poodle Connection" by Lee Charles Kelley. Former cop turned homicide detective Jack Field is at Cady Clark's home teaching her dog not to bite people when her ex-husband turns up with a gun because he just robbed a bank. Cady gets the gun after Jack knocks her ex unconscious and holds it on Jack forcing him to go to a deserted area while she frees her ex. This is the beginning of a crime spree that ends with four dead, five if you count Cady, who Jack doesn't because he believes she is alive. Lee Charles Kelley has written an entertaining mystery filled with twists and red herrings. The Case of the London Cabbie by J.A. Jance- Septuagenarian Maddie Watkins plans to prove that the twenty nine year old man her sister loves is a con artist after her fortune. She hires him under a false name to drive her around to look at properties that supposedly belonged to her later husband. Catching him in many lies, she follows him in her car only to be threatened by him when he catches her and her sister becomes his hostage. JA. Jance has written a fantastic mystery with a heroine who deserves her own series.

It's Never too Late to Be a Bridesmaid
Heather Estay
ISBN: 0060596139, $12.95

As she closes in on her fiftieth birthday, Angie is at the point of no return and needs help as she is behind on planning her daughter Jenna's wedding. She turns to her best friends, but soon worries about them as she realizes none are in a mental state to assist her; instead they need help. Marie's marriage with Jack appears over; grandmother Jess dates men younger than her children; and Gwen seems like an early Alzheimer's victim with no ability to recall anything which in turn has led to a lack of self confidence which in turn leads to more forgetfulness. She soon concludes that menopause has struck making her realize nature must take its course. At the same time, she wonders if menopause can be used as an alibi if she kills the bimbos dating her son and her former husband; they offer her help with the wedding, which means more work for her as these female morons have individual bra sizes greater than their combined IQ,. In her second adventure to regain control of her life, Angie struggles with the upcoming nuptials of her daughter, but as she seeks help from her three amigas she deduces they each face big crises. Her pals were there for her when Bob dumped her (see IT'S NEVER TOO LATE TO GET A LIFE) so Angie plans to reciprocate, find time to put on a wedding and cope without killing the double teaming bimbos. Though a serious undertone with the troubles facing the aging boomers, this is a lighthearted amusing romp starring a woman who struggles to regain control of her life at a time when everything seems out of control.

Spin Doctor
Leslie Carroll
ISBN: 0060596139, $12.95

Amy the new mother, Meriel the bored West-Indian housekeeper, Naomi part of a different lifestyle couple with Claude (though they each clean the dirty linen), Faith the new widow, Talia the injured ballerina, and Susan the therapist all live in the same Manhattan apartment house. At the laundry room Susan listens to their individual woes and offers sage advice to help each one cope with their personal crisis. However, no one is there for Susan. She believes her once picture perfect family is near collapse. Her spouse spends way too much time in the office as if he needs to avoid her or has something better there to occupy his time; her daughter is a rebel with a fast food cause; finally her son is on the verge of puberty, but each step forward leads to two steps back as she thinks he will be eligible for Medicare by the time his body changes. Susan needs a psychiatrist, but what she has is friends willing to listen to her woes and advise her now how to clean the dirty laundry. SPIN DOCTOR contains an intriguing premise as the audience sees the woes of the apartment six and a half (Naomi and Claude get one and a half) mostly through the eyes of Susan, the professional member of the rinse cycle club. The story line shifts focus from one of the sextet to another though Susan remains the glue that holds the plot together. Leslie Carroll deftly insure her ensemble has differing personalities and tsuras, but there are too many to keep score of and that shrinks the shrink's effectiveness. Still this is a fine Manhattan character driven drama that uses laundry vernacular to clean away one's troubles.

In Between Men
Mary Castillo
ISBN: 0060766824, $12.95

In Los Angeles though she and her husband Carlos recently divorced high school ESL (ENGLISH AS A SECOND LANGUAGE) teacher Isa Abelian enjoys her work and is proud of her son Andrew. Life is good that is until she is voted the least sexy teacher in the school, which includes some educators old enough to be the twenty-nine years old Isa's grandmother. Adding to her humiliation, Carlos reveals in detail on national radio what a failure in bed she is. When she is knocked unconscious by a soccer ball, she finds coach Alex looking into her eyes asking if she is all right. She decides then and there pushed by a beautiful sexy guardian angel to do a complete makeover from frump to siren to score with Alex. However becoming a glamour queen is hard work when teaching and raising a teenage son while Alex seems immune to her advances when in fact he debates with himself whether he should drop his pride to date the sexiest woman in the L.A. school system. IN BETWEEN MEN is an amusing lighthearted romp starring a wonderful Latina-Americana protagonist who became complacent failing to care for herself and in turn lost respect. Her guardian angel is a cute aside that allows comparisons between the two beauty enhancing-detracting extremes while the hunk, who corner kicked his way into her life, provides the incentive more so than the school sexometer scoring system. Fans will enjoy Mary Castillo's satirical glimpse at sex appeal of a working mom.

The World According to Mimi Smartypants
Mimi Smartypants
ISBN: 0060786361, $12.95

She is license-less so she rides the train in her morning Chicago commute. Thirty year old Mimi Smartypants decides to keep a journal of her thoughts on any topic. Mimi might type on her web blog a tirade about her family or friends, especially those Y carriers, raves on the latest punk rock group, or just how well her pension plan and other investments are doing. Nothing is sacred to Mimi except perhaps Browned Eyed Girl Van Morrison at least before he became famous. Mimi Smartypants sees the world from her 5' 1" towering height as medicine chests worth exploring or her take on home decor (aside to Mimi: try being a book reviewer - worse on the home than rugrats or terriers). Ms. Smartypants amusing reflections on life are fun to follow (easier to read in book form when riding the C-TRAN than using a computer on the Clayton County public bus system) as she pulls no punches when she knocks an icon down, but does so with humor. Readers will be amused by her observations and those who want more can do so at her bloggering site which is filled with droll musings on the world according to Mimi Smartypants.

The Best Kept Secret
Kimberla Lawson Roby
ISBN: 0060734434, $23.95

Reverend Curtis Black feels blessed as the third time is the charm. He vows to God that he will ignore life's temptations and set a pious example while running Deliverance Outreach and tending to his flock in Mitchell, a small town near Chicago. He also swears to remain faithful as he has for the two years of their marriage to his third wife, Charlotte and be a real father to their seven years old son, Matthew. However, Charlotte, on the other hand who is fifteen years younger than her spouse, wants a taste of the wild life that she thought she would gain by marrying the womanizing preacher who jumped her bones when she was seventeen. She overspends to compensate for his sudden middle class holiness and when that proves insufficient turns to his best friend Aaron Malone for uninhibited sex. Curtis learns about her cuckolding him and confronts Charlotte, who confesses and pledges never again. However Aaron wants Charlotte back in his bed and starts a nasty campaign to succeed by telling his pal about all the transgressions committed by his wife including hinting that Matthew is not Curtis' offspring. The reformed born again Curtis holds Charlotte culpable for his fall back to womanizing. The three-peat of the life of Curtis Black (see CASTING THE FIRST STONE and TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING) is another well written tale starring individuals who refuse to take responsibility for their actions; it is easier to blame someone else for one's sins. The story line is driven by the devilish triangle as the behavior of each one spirals them into questionable activity. Fans of the series will appreciate the continual soap opera saga that stars three intriguing no soccer mom or football dad characters whose raunchiness make for a fun read.

For Better or Hearse
Laura Durham
ISBN: 0060739045, $6.99, 272 pp.

Washington DC wedding planner Annabelle Archer is hosing a wedding at the Fairmont Hotel but she is having a problem with one of the chefs. Chef Henri came after her with a knife when she went into his kitchen to talk about changing the serving of an appetizer. Working around the problem, Annabelle awaits for the newly married couple to arrive from the church at the reception from the church when she sees Chef Henri impaled on the ice tiger. Georgia Rhodes, the catering executive at the Fairmont for years is afraid the general manager, who hates her, will use the murder as an attempt to fire her. Nobody is more surprised than Annabelle when Georgia is arrested because the police have evidence, a motive (they argued just before he was killed) and plenty of opportunity. She asks Annabelle to help clear her name. In the course of the investigation evidence Annabelle collects and give to he police mysteriously disappears; two more employees of the Fairmont are killed and her car disappears in the valet parking lot. FOR BETTER OR HEARSE is an awesome Annabelle Archer mystery because everyone who knew the victim hated him so there are a lot of suspects for the heroine to eliminate. The plot is filled with humor especially during scenes when the newlyweds decide on wedding details. Annabelle's loyalty to Georgia is strong because her friend helped her when she first started her company even if it means putting her own life in danger. Laura Durham has a hit series on her hands.

Scandal of the Black Rose
Debra Mullins
ISBN: 0060799234, $6.99, 384 pp.

Her parents expect her to concentrate on marrying the Earl, Marcus Deveraux, but Anna Rosewood is distracted; she vows to bring to justice the unknown assailant who murdered her twin brother Anthony. Her only clue is a letter Anthony had containing no words just a circle with pictures of a sword and black rose inside. At a Vauxhall Gardens masquerade party, Anna pretends to be a light skirt so that she can enter a pavilion with the same symbols as the letter contains. Working undercover for the government to uncover the person responsible for the dueling deaths of young aristocrats, Marcus' cousin, Roman Deveraux, sees Rose and makes a bid for her; both are stunned by his kiss, but she flees. At a family dinner to introduce Anna to Marcus' family, "Rose" and Rome recognize one another. He wonders if she is taking his cousin for a ride so he investigates her while she continues her inquiries into her sibling's death while they also fall in love. However, he rejects his feelings because he refuses to cause the same type of scandal that his father once caused; besides which he does not trust the enigmatic Rose. This exciting Regency romantic suspense catches the reader's attention on two levels; that of who leads the mysterious sword and black rose gang and how the lead couple will come together without hurting the nice Marcus. The former is what brings Anna and Rome together though that also includes a strong dose of distrust; while the latter turns into a delightful triangle and more. Historical romance fans will enjoy this fine thriller with a final shocker of a twist that leaves a secondary protagonist deserving a future tale.

The Barefoot Princess
Christine Dodd
ISBN: 0060561173, $7.99, 384 pp.

She always dreamed of slaying dragons, but at nine she and her regal siblings Clarice and Sorcha fled their war-ravaged kingdom to live in separate exile in England. Princess Amy Rosabel vowed to fight real dragons not fairy tales creatures as she ardently feels she must intercede when injustice occurs. In 1810 living on the isle of Summerwind, Amy is irate that the gentry stole elderly islander Miss Victorine's beading machine invention that is now the rage of London high society. Amy holds culpable the Marquess of Northcliff for causing this affront. She vows to teach this arrogant aristocrat a lesson on neglect of duties and injustice, and get Miss Victorine the money she earned.. Her plan works perfectly when she and Miss Victorine kidnap the Marquess, Jermyn Edmondson. Amy chains him in her basement and sends her demands to his uncle Harrison to pay a ransom for his nephew's safe return. She thought wrong as his uncle wants Jermyn dead so he can inherit everything. As his anger cools, Jermyn and Amy begin to fall in love, but she wonders how her heart could betray her with the enemy. The second Lost Princess Regency is a terrific historical romance that starts off with SOME ENCHANTED EVENING that includes an abduction, chains and manacles. Stockholm syndrome aside, the lead couple are a delightful amusing match-up who fusses and fights, but falls in love with one another. Fans will enjoy their rousing battles even as his uncle betrays him by ignoring the ransom demands with the fondest wish they kill his nephew (think Ruthless People). Book two is a winner with the Crown Princess Sorcha's tale still to come.

Driven To Murder
Judith Skillings
ISBN: 0060583207, $6.99, 368 pp.

Rebecca Monroe own Vintage & Classics, a car restoration shop in Head Tide, Maryland, which is the prime reason Racer Peyton Madison's chief mechanic hires as part of the crew in the open-wheel race at Indianapolis. She is glad to get away from home after learning the people who raised her aren't her biological parents and she has a grandmother she knows nothing about. Being at Indie is a dream comes true for Rebecca who loves driving vehicles from the sixties, seventies, and eighties. The dream turns into a nightmare when a rash of accidents happen including a cut break-line, watered gas and stripped lug nuts occur. The car originally supposed to race is so torn up that Peyton replaces that car with the more expensive and glamorous Lotus 49C. Rebecca is positive that the accidents were really sabotage in disguise; her assertion is confirmed when someone shoots at them hitting the windshield. Needing the money and not wanting any negative publicity, Peyton refuses to call the police, a decision that will cost him when the saboteur comes after him. Rebecca is determined to find out who the criminal is and why Peyton is the target; a choice that puts the life of an innocent child, who attached herself to Rebecca, in danger. In DRIVEN TO MURDER, Judith Skillings provides a racing mystery that is complex and cleverly constructed with so more crossroads readers won't know which path is the right one. The protagonist charges into danger knowing doing nothing will not make things safer. Rebecca is spunky, kind and independent, which brings her the affections of two very different men. Readers will thoroughly enjoy this enthralling mystery.

Jude's Law
Lori Foster
ISBN: 0821778021, $6.99

Hollywood superstar Jude Jamison is not used to being rejected, but Stillbrook, Ohio gallery owner May Price declines his no longer subtle attempts at seduction. She refuses to believe that the famous hunk wants some Middle America spinster like her. Desperate he decides to play hard ball with his polite rejecter, however swinging his hard bat fails as he strikes out once again. Ready to lick his wounds as a loser and return to California defeated, Jude gets a break when May tells him she has a problem involving her brother. He insists on helping her and keeping her safe from her problem, but definitely not from him. However, as he closes in on the kisses of the century, his past arrives to cause the couple more trouble. JUDE'S LAW is a fun screwball romantic farce similar to the madcap movies of the 1930s. Jude is hilarious as every time he is about to hit a home run, interference occurs. May is his innocent beloved who denies the Hollywood hunk is in love with her; she assumes he is playing and joking though she admits his knowledge of art is a pleasant surprise. The suspense adds tension, but also amusement as once again interference occurs into the seduction efforts of a former love machine who feels he is too young to be walking on three legs. Lori Foster provides a delightful lighthearted romantic romp.

Desire After Dark
Amanda Ashley
ISBN: 0821776835, $6.50

In Pear Blossom Creek, waitress Victoria Cavendish works the late shift at Ozzy's Diner. A customer leaves with a red haired woman without eating his meal. The next day this occurs again. The next morning Victoria learns that two red haired women have been murdered; both left the diner with the stranger. She is a bit concerned because she has red hair. That night the stranger offers to take Victoria home. Surprising herself she agrees. He explains that he is Antonio Batista and that Victoria needs to keep her door locked. She invites him inside, but instead he leaves. He stays nearby concerned that the vampire Dimitri Falco might come for Victoria. A third woman is dead and a new stranger arrives in town, vampire hunter Tom Duncan, who warns her to beware of the man with the yellow eyes as he is killing red headed women. That night Victoria sees yellow eyes; Antonio arrives and advises Falco to leave or else. Soon the three strangers converge over Victoria. Antonio is willing to fully die for the human he loves; Yellow Eyes is obsessed with adding her to his red-haired dining pleasure; and Tom distrusts anyone who sups on human blood. The strong lead couple and the solid support cast (including the return of the heroes of AFTER SUNDOWN) make for a fine vampire romance. The story line feels more like a mystery than a horror thriller though the war of the vampires is anticipated by the audience. Though Falco's red headed obsession is never explained and some readers might not appreciate the simplicity of the final conflict (this reviewer thought it was on the mark and apropos), supernatural romantic suspense readers will enjoy reading this fine tale.

In the Groove
Pamela Britton
ISBN: 0373770987, $6.99

Due to the publication of semi-nude pictures she took to pay off her college tuition several years ago, Sarah Tingle loses her kindergarten teaching position. Needing money, she obtains a job to drive NASCAR racer Lance Cooper's RV to Florida from North Carolina. When her vehicle breaks down, she begins walking towards his house on an isolated road only to have Lance run her over. She suffers no injuries, but he is concerned for her though he pretends to be a worker and not the racing star. When she learns who he is she wants to leave, but needs the money so agrees to complete the job. Lance, who has been in a slump, is attracted to Sarah who tingles all over when he seductively looks at her. As they fall in love while she learns what a driver and his crew do, Sarah has doubts as she feels her already negative PR will only hurt Lance. However, her leaving him hurts him much more as he wants to share a life of driving with her. IN THE GROOVE is a fabulous sports romance that is better than most entries into the athletic arena because Pamela Britton brings to life the milieu of the car racing world from an insider's view of the pit and not just as a convenient backdrop. The romance between the lead duo is warm and tender, enhanced by the exciting NASCAR circuit. Fans of car racing will enjoy this driving look inside the sport as much as readers who appreciate a strong love story.

Jewel of Atlantis
Gena Showalter
ISBN: 0373770960, $6.99

Otherworld Bureau of Investigation supervisor Jude Quinlan assigns his best field agent Grayson James to retrieve the Jewel of Dunmaris as referenced in the recently found ancient tome Ra Dracus. All Gray has to do is go through a portal in Florida waters that leads to the underwater city of Atlantis, find the item that has incredible paranormal powers, and return home. Jude insists this is a cakewalk for the OBI top person in the cold or in this case under the water. However, Gray immediately finds himself battling and killing vampires, dragons, and demons. None of those creatures scare him as much as the sexy woman speaking inside his head. She tells him she has no name, but he should call her Jewel. As they team up against all odds, they fall in love, but she believes she can never leave Atlantis while he knows he does not belong there. JEWEL OF ATLANTIS is a terrific romantic fantasy that sort of reads like Die Hard enters a supernatural Shangri-La as the fabulous hero sounds so much like John McClane while trying to complete the mission yet stay alive against creatures that come across as so real in Atlantis. Jewel brings mystery as to whom and what she is. Fans who appreciate something a bit different but quite entertaining will want to trek with these two fabulous protagonists as she escorts him to the portal, but during that dangerous hike they fall in perhaps the vastest star-crossed love conceivable. JEWEL OF ATLANTIS is fun for fantasy and romance fans.

Hers to Command
Margaret Moore
ISBN: 0373770952, $5.99

In 1243 Martin informs Sir Roald De Sayre that he has insured that the garrison at Ecclesford has the worst weapons and ill trained knights in England, setting it up for failure. Roald pays off the former Ecclesford Commander by killing him. Not long afterwards, with their father dead due to the betrayal of his Commander Martin, sisters Mathilde and Giselle know their home Ecclesford is in jeopardy of odious Roald taking it over though the older sibling inherited the castle. They need a knight to protect them so they venture to a nearby inn where they enlist the drunken Sir Henry D'Alton. He agrees to help because he loathes Roald. He changes his plans especially after learning that the beautiful quiet Giselle is quite a prize catch since through her he also can be the lord of Ecclesford. To his chagrin, the mouthy protective younger sister Mathilde heats his blood, but first he must deal with the odious Roald who will do anything to take Ecclesford including taking the new owner without her agreeing. HERS TO COMMAND is a pleasurable medieval romance that contains a wonderful romance between the knight and the "termagant." The relationship between Henry and Mathilde is delightful as she rips his skin for even considering her sibling while he rips his skin for considering her. Though Roald is too nasty of a sociopath, fans will enjoy the "shrew's" taming of the knight. No one writes a medieval romance quite like this talented author.

The Runaway Bridesmaid
Kaitlyn Rice
Harlequin American
ISBN: 0373751087, $4.99

In Augusta, Kansas Isabel Blume believes it is only a matter of time before her boyfriend Roger asks her to marry him. However, her dream is shattered when she catches the wedding bouquet tossed by his cousin only to have Roger's two children, eleven years old R.J. and six years old Angie, make it clear that their father has no plans to wed anyone in the foreseeable future. Hoping to bring him up to the mark, but also escape her disappointment that she is no more than an unpaid babysitter to him, Isabel travels to Colorado to help her friend Darla run Burch Lodge. There she meets law professor Trevor Kincaid, hosting a wilderness experience for teenage boys. As Isabel and Trevor fall in love, she wonders if she is fickle as she thought Roger was the one. The second Heartland Sisters story (see THE LATE BLOOMER'S BABY) is a warm contemporary romance starring a nice nurturing Isabel who soon has two men chasing after her, which leaves Blume in love and confused. Trevor and Roger are two opposites in many ways yet also share in common a fear of commitment. THE RUNAWAY BRIDESMAID is a fine tale.

Room Service
Jill Shalvis
Harlequin Blaze
ISBN: 0373792360, $4.75

Though three strikes normally means you're out, TV producer Emma Harris is given one last chance to prove that high stands of quality in shows can be a success. She chooses to put on the air a cooking show and knows who she wants as the host chef, dynamic sexy Jacob Hill who runs the Hush Hotel's highly regarded Amuse Bouche. However, Jacob wants nothing to do with TV cooking as he believes the hosts are entertainers not chefs. However, he finds saying no to the pretty Emma an impossible task as he is attracted to her from the start. He believes she reciprocates, at least that seems to be the vibes emitting from her to him. Thus, Jacob agrees to do her show, but plans to have her for dessert. ROOM SERVICE is a passionate contemporary romance starring two protagonists who believes the other one is a personalized banquet made exclusively for them. Emma and Jacob are nice hard working individuals who the audience will like. While the support cast adds spicy dessert, the lead couple's romance over TV cooking (and a few hotter locales) makes for a fun repast that the audience will enjoy.

The Payback Club
Rexanne Becnel
Harlequin Next
ISBN: 0373880758, $5.50

On the surface, upper crust Joan Hoffman and beauty salon owner Liz Savoie have nothing in common except spouses who not only cheated on them, bankrupted them. Both are outraged and thirst for vengeance. The scorned pair meets at a gym where they relate their horror story about unfaithful mates. They agree to form the PAYBACK CLUB with each seducing the other's ex until he becomes so emotionally devastated their penis figuratively falls off. The plan is set in motion to have the ex-wives exchange former husbands. Liz would seduce the now married Ed and Joan Dennis; turn them into jelly and dump them. The plan was executed perfectly except for the grousing of other women and adult children until one of the formers vanishes without a trace. Has the Payback Club gone too far throwing daddy from the train? THE PAYBACK CLUB is a terrific romantic suspense filled with wonderful out of nowhere yet plausible twists. The tale feels like a crossing of Throw Momma from the Train with the First Wives' Club. Joan and Liz are a delight from the first time they meet mumbling cut off his head like phrases. When they pair up to avenge the affront caused by their respective spouses, the tale takes off bringing the audience along for a fun time.

What Happens in Paris (Stays in Paris?)
Nancy Robards Thompson
Harlequin Next
ISBN: 0373880766, $5.50

For almost two decades Annabelle Essex thought her marriage was pretty solid. Their son was in college. That all changes when her spouse is arrested in an incident that makes it into the newspaper with a picture worth a thousand words informing her that her spouse is gay. Since she hates her job and her husband has been outed and wants out of their marriage, Annabelle wonders if this might be a good time to fulfill the dream of three months in the Left Banke in Paris. She begins to paint and encouraged by her sister travels to Paris where she meets a younger sculptor Jean Luc Le Garric who stirs her hormones, but she remains raw from her spousal debacle. Annabelle is an intriguing protagonist struggling with what she perceives is a betrayal that makes her reassess her values starting with men, employment, and what she really wants out of life. The romance in Paris is fun to follow though some of the fortyish Annabelle's reactions to other women in Jean Luc's life seem to fast for someone whom was happily married for eighteen years just a few weeks ago. Fans will enjoy this tale of a woman trying to rediscover herself following a shocking revelation that turns her belief system upside down.

Treading Lightly
Elise Lanier
Harlequin Next
ISBN: 0373880782, $5.50

Not known for a layback approach to life, bestselling writer Janine Ruvacadois is stunned with Dr. Harvey's medical finding that she suffers from sever osteoporosis that could easily lead to her being wheelchair bound. She feels this is not an opportune time to worry about breaking bones as her son is turning into an evil teen and her mom is driving her crazy; alas part of the woes of the sandwiched. Even her ex is trying to cook his way back into her life. However, Dr. H forces Janine to do more than just reassess her lifestyle of taking the hill at any cost. Besides diet and medicine, she begins an exercise program to at least prevent any further damage to her skeletal structure especially her spine. As she works out, she meets Tom Kennedy who finds her attractive and brings encouragement to a still upset Janine. TREADING LIGHTLY may be a Harlequin Next tale, but it is not a romance; instead the story line focuses on a fortyish woman needing to adjust how she lives due to osteoporosis. The story line provides the audience plenty of information on this somewhat common crippling illness though at times the amount slows down the pace of a solid character study. Janine is terrific with her efforts to change from a drill instructor into a mellow mushroom as she tries to learn to tread lightly.

Party of Three
Joan Kirby
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 037371324X, $5.50

In Tipperary Springs, Australia, a small resort town near Melbourne, Ally Cummings finds her fiance sleeping with another woman in her home. She tosses the philander out of her house and her life. Ally vows no more men until she can decide what type of male excites her as her ex was a bloody bore anyway. Her new tenant, Chef Ben Gillard vows he wants no women in his life as he needs to be a full time dad to his twelve-year-old-son, Danny. However, though he wants nothing personally to do with his landlady, he offers her a job at the restaurant he works at. Abby and Ben agree to be only friends and to help one another in a pinch. Neither expected the attraction nor his son playing matchmaker as both swore off for at least a decade not a week the other gender. PARTY OF THREE is a lighthearted frolic starring two nice likable norms surrounded by families of zany maniacs. The story line is often amusing when the feuding families take center stage while Ally and Ben play peacemakers by falling in love, a most unwanted devotion while his son seconds that emotion. Fans of a fun romp between two individuals in denial will enjoy this fine Aussie romance.

Not Without the Truth
Kay David
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 0373713215, $5.50

Sixteen years ago Lauren Stanley's mother, the consul in Peru, inexplicably committed suicide. Lauren has tried to move on, but has not had closure on the tragedy so decides it is time to head to the South American country to learn what caused her mother, who seemed to have it all, to suddenly kill herself. In Peru, Lauren nearly dies in what seems like a questionable accident. Only the quick action of local psychiatrist Dr. Armando Torres saves her life. He tells her she should go home as it is not safe for her here. She wonders whether he wants her to leave for his own reasons as she demands he tell her what he knows about her mother's death as he was there when she took her life. NOT WITHOUT THE TRUTH is a fast-paced romantic suspense tale that starts at hyperspeed when Laurena arrives in South America and never slows down until the final altercation. Lauren is a terrific center holding the plot together with her need to know, which in turn provides some insight into her mother (at least from her memories). Armando in some ways is the more interesting character as the audience wonders what was his relationship with the mother including how involved was he on the night of the accident. Kay David writes a strong enjoyable action-packed romantic thriller that readers will devour in one sitting.

Past Lies
Bobby Hutchinson
Harlequin SuperRomance
ISBN: 0373713258, $5.50

In Valdez, Alaska helicopter tour guide owner Ivy Pierce assumes upon meeting Alex Ladrovik that he is another vagabond looking to temporarily work for food. However, he shocks her when he stays around to continue to help her after her partner-uncle has a heart attack. Already attracted to Alex before his kindness, Ivy sleeps with him. Alex has no time for romantic alliances as he follows the route his father took three decades ago before vanishing. However, he cannot leave Ivy at a time she needs help. Even harder for him is that he falling in love, but he has a mission to complete and a home in California waiting for his return. She wants him to stay, but can understand why he would not want to remain in a cold pristine wilderness. This is a fabulous contemporary romance with a touch of a mystery (what happened to his dad?) that emphasizes falling in love in a remote area, the stark beauty vividly described. The lead couple is a delightful charming pair as Ivy and Alex are every attracted to one another though her initial impression is that he is a homeless hobo and his is of a frontier woman who needs no man. The suspense is actually in the romance as fans will wonder whether he stays, he goes home alone or she goes with him.

Angels and Outlaws
Lori Wilde
Harlequin Blaze
ISBN: 0373792344, $4.75

Police Detective Manolo Blahnik sees the woman dangling on a precarious ledge outside the eighth floor window and assumes suicide, probably due to man trouble. He helps Cass Richards back in and tells her no man is worth her life. She call him an idiot for jumping to the wrong conclusion about her jumping instead insists she was not killing herself, but her scarf got caught and yanked her out the window. She is thankful to be alive after the freaky accident. Meanwhile Sam continues to search for a high class thief who burglarizes upper class homes during parties. Coincidentally Cass has been at every one of the robbery galas. As he wonders if she could be the thief, he also ponders how she purloined his heart. ANGELS AND OUTLAWS is an interesting police procedural romance that starts off on the wrong foot when Cass follows the momentum of her designer scarf out the window while Manolo thinks the rich fox was trying to kill herself probably over some male trouble. The story line is hot and humorous as the lead duet wildly battle in and out of bed. As always Lori Wilde provides an entertaining humorous romantic suspense thriller.

Jennifer LaBreque
Harlequin Blaze
ISBN: 0373792328, $4.75

Known as a player, his best friends bet Nick O'Malley that he can not be without a woman for thirty days; Nick is on the honor system. He figures his new job will help him fill much of the time and keep his head off of females. Detective Serena Riggs is on the trail of a criminal, who rumors say, is an S&M freak. She dresses up as a dominatrix and enters Nick's hotel room. He is stunned as he has never been aroused like this; he knows it is more than just the outfit as it is the woman. She, in turn feels the heat of his turn-on, the kinky costume, and incredible desire. However, she also thinks Nick is the criminal as he remains ignorant to why he got the job in the first place; he resembles a certain fetish felon. The mistaken identity forged relationship makes for an amusing romantic suspense thriller as Nick, upon seeing Serena becomes a fan of the S&M scene. The story line is tongue in cheek as the two lead characters err when it comes to the other, but soon believe to err is divine in this case. The police procedural elements take a way back seat to a fun heated romance.

Night Train to Rigel
Timothy Zahn
ISBN: 0765307162, $24.95

Two hundred years into the future, the Western Alliance Intelligence Agency fires whistleblower Frank Compton for exposing the Yandro colony, a fiscal fiasco that allegedly was to turn earth into an interstellar superpower, but only lined pockets of the wealthy. The alien Spiders assign the courageous Frank to stop a pending war on Yandro. Accompanied by the female human Bayta, a Spider mole, Frank rides the hops to the Quadrail galactic transit system from earth to Yandro. In Jurian space, the Halkas attack Frank and Bayta, but they escape only to learn that the enigmatic Modhra have caused the crisis at Yandro. Meanwhile Bellido insurgents want to destroy the intelligent coral on Modhran. As Frank struggles to figure out who is the enemy, Bayta warns him to avoid contact with the insidious coral while others recommend otherwise if he wants to learn first hand the truth why the coral is the center of a potential galaxy-wide war. Though there are too many twists young adult readers will enjoy this solid science fiction thriller because of the ethical hero's dilemma of sorting the enemy from friend as everyone even Bayta seems like they want to harm him. The action-packed story line has Frank and Bayta jumping from one escapade to another; so fans will have no time for a deep breath. Though the hazards are overdone to hide friend from foe, fans will enjoy this fine caper of one caring person ready to battle the universe to save the innocent, though he does not know from what.

Sean Mcmullen
ISBN: 0765314371, $27.95, 400 pp.

Lupanar sorcerers invade the neighboring planet of Scalticar. The locals are overwhelmed as the superior technological forces of the off-worlders prove victorious in battle after battle. Bows and arrows cannot dent the armor of the Lupanar military and their laser beams cause death and destruction on an unprecedented level. Scalticar Wayfarer Constable Inspector Danolarian Scyverin puts together an odd team to initially harass and hopefully eventually defeat the invaders though they know the chances are nil to none. Still 87pound no-weakling Constable Riellen, feline Constable Waller, and Lavenczi join with the Inspector to forge a counter insurgency. Meanwhile Danolarian hides his desire for a personal relationship with Lavenczi, who's unable to reciprocate due to the guise of a magical spell. When she obtains two Lupanians' fighting machines, the Constable team suddenly believes they have a fighting chance though the enemy still has overwhelming technological superiority. The third Moonworlds' tale (see GLASS DRAGONS and VOYAGE OF THE SHADOWMOON) is a fine fantasy remake of the War of the Worlds in deep space. The story line is fast-paced and filled with plenty of action, but also contains numerous subplots moving back and forth between the various factions making it a bit difficult to follow at times though all this scrambling cleverly augments the core theme of the chaos of the resistance. With more science fiction than the previous two tales yet still loaded with fantasy elements (just ask Scyverin on unrequited love), fans of the series or Wells will want to read the Moonworlds' version of the War of the Worlds.

Christopher Priest
ISBN: 0312858868, $14.95, 416 pp.

Chronicle reporter Andrew Wesley receives the book, Secret Methods of Magic by Alfred Borden, from his adopted father who said a woman asked him to forward it to him. A note from K. Angier is sent to his editor offering information to Andrew on newsworthy Father Franklin. K. is Lady Katherine who sent him the Borden book; she claims they knew each other as children and that her father killed him. He has been haunted by similar memories feeling he shares his body with someone else. They team up looking at their respective family trees seeking the links. Alfred Borden fanatically exposes those magicians he considers a fraud. In 1878, Alfred tries to prove that talented Rupert Angier is a con artist at a seance that the latter and his spouse host. During a melee, the zealot pushes Rupert's pregnant wife causing a miscarriage. Outraged Rupert vows vengeance. As both rise in popularity, Alfred learns how to use the new science of electricity to transport from one spot to another. Rupert travels to Colorado to obtain the help of reclusive electricity guru Nicola Tesla. While Alfred's stunt is a parlor trick Rupert obtains the genuine article. However, tragedy hits their descendents including Andrew and Katherine when Alfred pulls the plug on Tesla's gizmo as Rupert performs the stunt. This exciting time paradoxical award winning thriller hooks the audience once the story line reverts to the mid nineteenth century and keeps readers guessing as to what is going on and will happen. The cast past and present are fully developed so that the feud between Rupert and Alfred feels so real that in turn makes them human and the curiosity of their descendents to learn the truth also feels genuine. Fans will appreciate the amateur sleuth modern day subplot and the companion historical science fiction that blends into a superb thriller.

Ben Bova
ISBN: 0765304139, $25.95, 464 pp.

In 2095, the man-made space habitat Goddard with ten thousand on board also goes into orbit around Saturn. The Goddard sends explorer spacecraft Titan Alpha to the surface of the Saturn moon of TITAN seeking evidence of any form of life in the black ice frozen seas or the island that make up the orb. However, something goes wrong with the probe leaving chief scientist Edouard Urbain to defend what happened and to gain support to salvage the mission. Meanwhile Goddard's leader Malcolm Eberly turns to the rings for what he hopes will prove a strong investment even as he wants to shut down Urbain's wasted project because feels no money can be made from one cell life forms or other endangered species that reside in the way of progress and development. Former CEO Pancho Lane plans to stop Malcolm from exploiting and strip mining the rings even if it means a suicide ride into space to succeed. His sister and Malcolm's ex lover Holly Lane worry over the welfare of the colonists as incidents begin to happen that could ultimately prove lethal. Ben Bova's latest Grand Tour of the solar system is an intriguing tale in which the extrapolation from current scientific information on Titan leads to terrific hypotheses that outstrips in many ways the human aspects of the story line. Fans will gain plenty of understanding about conditions on Titan, the Saturn rings, and to a lesser degree the planet from Mr. Bova's usual delightful theorizing extracted from the known information. Though the conflicts between the Goddard leaders never take charge of the plot and their resolution seems too simple for these fiery adversaries, no one explores outer space quite like Mr. Bova does.

A Fire in the Sun
George Alec Effinger
ISBN: 0765313596, $14.95, 304 pp.

In the twenty-second century, private detective Marid Audran wonders if he gave up too much of his independence when he agreed to delete the adjective private from his occupation and work exclusively for two century old Budayeen kingpin Friedlander Bey. Marid lives much better as the pay is excellent compared to the scraps he earned before he became Bey's man, but he feels guilty, having sold out to the system, dropped all his former friends to become a "cop" with a Christian slave Kmuzu. Taking time off though still on call Marid travels to the Mauretania region of Algeria looking for his family especially information on his North American mother Angel Monroe. However that proves a big bust though he meets her so he quickly returns to Budayeen to investigate the gruesome cases of someone mutilating and murdering children and prostitutes. Having experience with a serial killer (see WHEN GRAVITY FAILS), he feels he can stop the culprit though clues lead to Bey's dangerous and powerful rival Abu Adil and an unwanted partner is fostered on him. This is an intriguing sequel that combines elements of an urban noir inside a futuristic science fiction. The story line is action-packed from the moment Marid returns to the Budayeen following his disappointment upon meeting his mom and never slows down until he confronts the killer, but unlike the first tale, WHEN GRAVITY FAILS, the investigation takes away from rather than enhances the twenty-second century ambience. Still this is a fine who-done-it starring an interesting protagonist whose conscience never lets him fully relish his rise in materialism at the cost of his freedom.

The Well Of Tears
Cecilia Dart-Thornton
ISBN: 0765312069, $27.95, 480 pp.

In Slievmordhu, Jewel lives a wonderful life showered with love from her family until King Maolmordha's troopers kill her parents. Unbeknownst to Jewel, her savior, Step-Uncle Eoin feels remorse for causing this tragedy all because he was jealous of her father Jarred for being married to the woman he loved Lilith. Knowing he placed his beloved niece in danger, Eoin takes her on a perilous journey through the Great Marsh praying he can get her to safety in the nearby kingdom of Narngalis. He has yet to tell her that he revealed to the king's minion that she and her father were the last descendents of the feared sorcerer Janus, making her a pawn to open the Dome of Strang where the wizard's powerful secrets lie. Eleven days looking over their shoulders, the wayfarers struggle until they clear the marsh. However, deadly unseelie wights capture Eoin. Jewel seeks refuge at High Darioneth where she meets the weathermasters and the Storm Lord Avalloc Maelstronnar-Stormbringer. She soon learns that Eoin is dead and finds solace with the people of High Darioneth until she learns that no one guards the Dome of Strang so decides it is time to learn about her roots. THE WELL OF TEARS, the second entry in the Crowthistle Chronicles (see THE IRON TREE starring Jarred and Lilith), is a fabulous coming of age fantasy starring a wonderful heroine whose world is destroyed by the betrayal of a loved one. Eoin is an intriguing character though his time in the tale is short as the audience feels his ignominy of what he wrought. The story line is character driven with Jewel the focus of a fine fantasy quest to find out what truly flows in her blood.

Platinum Pohl: The Collected Best Stories
Frederik Pohl
ISBN: 0312875274, $27.95

Selecting only thirty tales from the fifty year career of Grand Master Frederik Pohl had to seem impossible as you want representation from the five different decades to show trends as well as quality. Obviously with a science fiction hall of famer like Mr. Pohl several editions of his best stories could easily be produced. No one will have any negative comments on the chosen thirty though some might feel a personal favorite was left out. As he has done throughout his career, most of the selections warn humanity about excesses that lead to a dark catastrophic future using hyperbole to make the case that there is no inclusive in extremism only a deadly future. Personal favorites include the "The Greening of Bed-Stuy" and "The Merchants of Venus". All the contributions are terrific, but stories like "Let the Ants Try" written in 1949 but set in 1960 has an eerie nuclear war time twist that make the audience think what if. A superb collection (based on last week in Montreal - probably banned in the White House as anti-patriotic), science fiction fans will appreciate that the greatness mantle fits Mr. Pohl; as demonstrated by these entertaining thought provoking cautionary tales.

Touch of Evil
C.T. Adams & Cathy Clamp
ISBN: 0765354004, $6.99

Former pro volleyball "Terminator" turned bonded air courier Mary Kathleen "Katie" Reilly travels the globe delivering valuables. However, the glamour and boredom of this jet setter comes from her war with the Thrall, vampires to the illiterate. The Thrall who considers humans as prey want Katie eradicated like a nuisance bug; however classify her as Not Prey following her rescuing her former fiance Dylan Shea six years ago; ironically he dumped her for her best friend Amanda, took her cat Blank and became part of the human herd owned by the Thrall. Most vampires recognize Katie as a formidable enemy who is clearly Not Prey until now. However, the Vampire Queen Monica decides differently sending her Thralls, Hosts, and Herds after Katie, but apparently has other uses for the human because her orders are not to kill the 6'1" athletic Amazonian adversary. Refusing to hide, Katie fights, but instead of her brother Joe having her back, werewolf firefighter Tom tries to keep her safe. However, the odds seem overwhelming in favor of the vampire queen obtaining her desire. The reason supernatural fans will appreciate TOUCH OF EVIL is the orderly world developed by the two authors that make vampires, werewolves, and psychic phenomena seem ordinary even while the supernatural creatures are vastly different from the "normal" bloodsuckers and shapeshifters. The action-packed story line is driven by the heroine who readers will root for as the Thrall and their human slaves and fodder attack her. Besides trying to keep Katie safe though she is quite capable, Tom terrific provides an interesting cross-species romantic element to a strong supernatural drama.

The Golden Hills of Westria
Diana L. Paxson
ISBN: 0765308894, $24.95, 352 pp.

In Westria Prince Phoenix has doubts that he is a worthy successor to his father especially since King Julian never praises him only criticizes his efforts to be regal. On the other hand his best friend Sombra thinks Phoenix is more than worthy as she feels he will run the country with compassion and strength. However, his misgivings rise when she informs him that she will attend the College of the Wise to improve her adept abilities. Slavers abduct Phoenix, who uses the name Johan. While his father desperately searches for him, to survive Johan becomes a gladiator fighting to the death in a traveling circus. As the Red Dragon he enables his berserker rage to turn him into a lethal killing machine. At the same time Mother Mahaliel and an army of fanatics are conquering everyone in their path as they head for Westria. The only hope for the kingdom resides in Phoenix to rise from the ashes to lead the counterattack, but he is nowhere in sight. Sombra senses where he is and begins a quest to rescue the man she loves. One generation has past since the epic fantasy THE JEWEL OF FIRE, but the action and deep characterizations, a trademark of Diana L. Paxson remains solid. The story line is a coming of age thriller as Johan must adapt to circumstances in a mature manner or suffer the consequences, perhaps even die. Readers will wonder whether Sombra will be able to rescue him in time so that he can in turn save his people from the invaders. The return to Westria is purely golden. Every book Diana L. Paxson writes is a winner.

The Ultimatum
Susan Kearney
ISBN: 0765354489, $6.99

To live Endekian females need to mate with the men or their cells deteriorate and quickly die. The men control life literally on Endeki as every other year a woman must have a man to prevent the cellular deterioration caused by the Boktai defect. Endekian cellular research scientist Dr. Alara Calladar resents the cavalier enslaved citizenry of women and vows to find a cure for this illness. Rystani star pilot Captain Xander abducts Alara because he is in dire need of her uncanny psychic skill of just looking at a person to typecast their DNA molecular structure. He seeks the purebred DNA of the mythological Perceptive Ones as the only potential elixir to prevent a virus from pandemic killing millions or more. However, Alara is in trouble as her biological clock is ticking so she needs what she least wants in life, a man with only Rystani available. He offers to make love with Alara in exchange for her help with stopping the deadly Terran virus. She was unprepared for her cells especially of the heart to adapt to only his lovemaking while he realizes this is his soulmate even if she is a member of an enemy species. Though the third science fiction romance in the Kearney universe) see THE CHALLENGE and THE DARE), THE ULTIMATUM is a terrific stand alone thriller that grips the audience once readers understand Alara's dilemmas especially involving the deaths of her parents and Xander's mission to save the galaxy. The story line is action-packed, but also insures that the lead heroes are full blooded individuals with desires beyond their respective quests. As with the previous two novels, this is a must read for sub-genre fans.

Crystal Rain
Tobias S. Buckell
ISBN: 0765312271, $24.95, 352 pp.

The Wicked High Mountains prevented the Aztecas from conquering the peaceful Nanagadans, a colony of Caribbean refugees because there is no way an army can pass through the only small pass. The Aztecas worship their gods the Teotl and the Nanagadans serve their gods the Laoas; not realizing the "gods" are really aliens who use the humans to war against each other because Loasas and the Teotl want to destroy one another. For over a century the Aztecas have dug a tunnel under the mountains and are poised to invade Nanagada. Only one man can stop them John deBrun but he has suffered from amnesia for twenty seven years and has made a new life for himself with his wife and son. Many people are looking for John including Oaxcytl, who was ordered by a Teotl to get the coordinates of the Ma Wi Jung and his comrade Pepper who has been stranded on this backwater planet for three centuries and wants John to use the Ma Wi Jung to help them go home. On an expedition to the frozen North John is almost killed while the Azteca prepares to break through to the city. Only John can save them if his memories return in time to devise a plan that will force the Aztecs to retreat. Tobias F. Buckell is a fantastic world builder exploring the cultures of the various people living in Nanagada. Through Oaxyctl, readers get a glimpse into the Azteca culture that is much like the Aztec civilization on old Earth complete with blood sacrifices and slavery. John is a stranger in a strange land but he loves his adopted world and is willing to fight to keep her safe. CRYSTAL RAIN is an exciting work of science fiction filled with lush descriptions, a fast paced action oriented plot and characters that are complex and realistically drawn.

Solstice Wood
Patricia McKillip
ISBN: 044101366X, $22.95, 288 pp.

Gram calls bookstore owner Sylvia Lynn to come home as Grandpa Liam just died after wandering outside in the cold night of mountainous Upstate New York. Her lover Madison offers to accompany her, but Sylvia says no. Sylvia returns to Lynn Hall the same day that Gram beckoned her to come home with all intentions to flee as soon as she can. However, as if she never left, the dilapidated house, the forest and the nearby supernatural creatures seduce Sylvia trying to entice her to stay. Gram introduces Sylvia to the sewing club members of the Fiber Guild, women who meet monthly to insure that the magical barricade that keeps Lynn Hall from the deadly Fay remains in tact. However, the magical barrier is showing signs of wear and tear, which places Sylvia, a hybrid offspring of two worlds, yanked from both sides who feel she is the key to victory over the hated abominations on the other side of the barrier. Returning to the landscape of the classic WINTER ROSE, Patricia A. McKillip provides a deep character driven modern day fantasy that stars a harassed heroine who just wants to leave town as she has never understood why her Gram watches her like a hawk observes its prey. The action-packed story hooks genre fans from the moment that Sylvia knows Gram is calling her before picking up her phone from across the country and never slows down through several brilliant twists that will bring accolades to this dazzling author. A stand alone novel, readers will want to peruse this tale and its award winning precedent.

Geodesica Descent
Sean Williams with Shane Dix
ISBN: 0441013783, $7.99, 400 pp.

The Archon, an artificial intelligence created by the Sol system, bred the Exarch to rule over the humans in the Arc systems. The Archon does not want the Geodesica, a hyperspatical network, to allow anyone entering the various entrances to the ancient maze and when people try it, whole systems of colonized planets including Bedlam and Sublime are destroyed. The humans or Naturals as they are called in the year 2438 want their independence from Sol, the Archon and the Sol system. Melilah, a Natural, a fragment of Exarch Isaac Deangelis and cell pilot Eogran Palmer journey in Geodesica where they see wondrous sites, dead zones and exits that lead far from where they want to be. They find no weapons to use against the Archon and wonder how they will get out. Meanwhile, in real space, the disenchanted Exarchs including another fragment of Deangelis, Palmer Horsfall inhabited by another rebel Exarch unite the system to rebel against the Archon. Ironically, another fragment of Deangelis, along with the help of Sol and the Archon fight the rebels until he is instructed to sue for peace with a people who neither trust him or his allies or the Archon's promises. Sean Williams and Shane Dix create a future that is so technologically advanced that readers feel that they are visiting a foreign country with a culture so alien that other humans would have no place there. The authors are great world builders, their prose lush, visual and so descriptive that the audience can actually picture it, especially Geodesica. There are many surprise twists so that the audience never becomes bored as they peruse this enthralling space opera.

Moon Called
Patricia Briggs
ISBN: 0441013813, $7.99, 304 pp.

In the Tri-Cities of Washington State, Mercy Thompson works in her garage on a vampire's car with her payment being no monetary fee for protection money as normally demanded by the bloodsuckers. Besides being a mechanic, Mercy has her own supernatural skills as one of the few souls who is a skinwalker, able to take the shape of a coyote. Her harmonious day ends when fifteen years old Mac, a homeless werewolf, asks for a job. She hires him. Mercy introduces Mac to her neighbor Adam Hauptman, also a werewolf who is the alpha leader of his pack. Mac also meets several of the other top shapeshifters. Not long afterward, Mercy finds Mac's corpse on her doorsteps. She visits Adam, who is drugged and his daughter kidnapped. The alpha of all the packs the Marrok's son Samuel, a mercenary werewolf, a vampire, and Adam's pack accompany Mercy as they search for the teen. However Adams is abducted next with his friends realizing some might die in an attempt to rescue him and his daughter. Fans of Laurel K. Hamilton and Tanya Huff are absolutely going to love MOON CALLED. The delightful heroine is not exactly ruled by raging hormones or her animal instincts as she makes human impetuous decisions to help those she cares about even lf her actions place her in danger as often happens. The story line is loaded with plenty of action, but Mercy makes the plot hum as she enables the audience to feel that Patricia Brigg's fine tale is plausible, vampires, werewolves, and fae oh my.

The King's Own
Lorna Freeman
ISBN: 0451460715, $7.99, 432 pp.

Lord Rabbit, heir to the throne of his cousin King Jusson IV of Iversterre, is in the town of Freston with the royal retinue. The townsfolk and much of the kingdom do not want to see Rabbit on the throne because he was raised in the Border where the fae reside and he has the magical powers of the four elements that will make him a powerful mage once he learns to control his skills. His teacher, Lurel a sentient mountain cat who walks on two legs, and the elf Wyln are with Rabbit adding to the local fears as most remember losing the war of acquisition to these species. Rabbit is also claimed by his His Grace Loran of the Border making him a bridge between the two cultures and a weapon to be used if the Taurlian Empire tries to annex Iversterre. When invisible hands touch him in the town square, Rabbit uses his powers to repel the attack frightening the townsfolk even more. Afterward he is sent to jail, but freed by his monarch to work under Thadra, Commander of the Army. Laurel fears that someone is trying to bind him so that they can use his magic as theirs. When dark magic kills Rabbit's jailer, the townsfolk assume he committed that atrocity and others. He wonders if agitators are in league with a sorcerer who wants the king dead and to accomplish those ends conjured a soul eating demon that only Rabbit might be able to stop. Fans of Shannara and the Lord of the Rings will relish this richly descriptive and enthralling high fantasy saga. Fully developed characters and an action oriented story line keeps readers' interest at extraordinary high levels. Rabbit is a wonderful principled protagonist, who is an innocent but is learning quickly to be politically savvy soul. His efforts will endear him to the audience who will demand more thrillers starring this likable hero.

Anne Bishop
ISBN: 0451460731, $23.95, 448 pp.

In a distant past beyond the handed-down memories of humanity, the Eater of the World was devastating Ephemera. To stop this global assault, a desperate plan was developed by the most powerful magic practitioners, the Guides of the Heart. The planet was split into numerous lands connected by strange magical bridges while the Eater of the World was "imprisoned" without a land base. Over time the pandemic attack by the Eater of the World became part of mythology though the Landscapers knows of his presence and continue to insure his isolation. At the Landscaper's School, angry at the world student Nigelle enters a forbidden zone that everyone fears. Her action is the prelude of what the Landscapers hoped would never happen under their watch, the first opening of the prison that restrains the Eater of the World. At the same time, Sebastian the Succubus is bored of sexual fantasies, a bad condition for a sexually charged being. His only pleasure comes from his nocturnal visits to Lynnea the maid, who dreams of love. However though he wants to pursue her even in daylight he fears his kind only destroys her kind. Meanwhile a Landscaper and a Bridge enlist his help on a quest to prevent the Eater of the World from returning. This terrific romantic fantasy rolls out on two delightfully interrelated subplots: save the world segue and a star-crossed love story. The story line is fast-paced once the quest begins, but takes a wonderfully original twist involving Lynnea. The title character is an intriguing protagonist who at almost thirty is bored with sex games, which is the essence of a succubus. Fans will treasure Sebastian's duel sagas.

Knighthood of the Dragon
Chris Bunch
ISBN: 0451460677, $15.00, 416 pp.

The war of attrition between the kingdom of Deraine and Roche has been bloody with both sides willing to send pawns to death to gain a slight edge. Entire units are treated as fodder to move a position forward a few miles. Neither side will grudgingly give an inch though the decision makers remain comfortable far from the deadly front lines. Dragon Master Hal Kailas knows first hand how bad the war has depleted his forces as his side slowly loses the entrenched ground war and Roche begins to show superiority in the skies with their black dragon riders. Kailas has to find an answer even as he squabbles with his superior officer Asir the King who refuses to listen to supply inadequacies including a dragon shortage and a lack of trained soldiers. He must emulate the enemy and take the war to their civilian populace. Meanwhile his adversaries make a concerted effort to catch the Deraine war hero with plans to lock him away in magical binds inside a death camp as a demoralizer aimed at his people. As with the first Dragonmaster tale (see STORM OF WINGS), there are obvious comparisons to the trench warfare and aerial fights of WWI and the civilian attacks of WWII, but set in a fantasy realm. The story line showcases the fortunes and foibles of armed combat; highlighted by the concept that peaceful solutions are for the naive while the realist errs on the side of someone else's death. However, as the tale spins its moral issues, the key characters even Hal never seem to have learned anything from their previous adventures. Still KNIGHTHOOD OF THE DRAGON is a superb military fantasy that will have the audience looking forward to the reprint of the LAST BATTLE.

Harriet Klausner
Senior Reviewer

Laurel's Bookshelf

Epic Cures: A Collection of Stories
Tom Sheehan
P.O. Box 30314, Winston-Salem NC 27130
ISBN: 0977228320, $20.00, 335 pages

While reading this latest collection of Sheehan stories, I wondered if the title was a play on words. Epic Cures does feature stories involving cures for human failings and desires. But "epicure" also applies, thanks to this writer's glorious treatment of words, his devotion to the sensuous enjoyment of words. For certain, Tom Sheehan is a master craftsman of words.

In these 22 stories, Sheehan skillfully eases readers into the lives of his characters. Barriers are broken and lessons learned in true Sheehan style. His world of stories is one of small miracles and unexpected blessings, the wonders of dawning sexuality and bird-broken silences, earthy humor and ironic revenge. In Sheehan's stories, "The impact of words often lasts well beyond the sound of them…The energy of them is sometimes indestructible." (From "Flesh of an Unwanted Fish") He allows his words to renovate houses and lives, to exact a fitting vengeance, to reprise love. In profound ways, Sheehan softens with the sweetness of life those hard knocks that often leave humans reeling. He shines a light on humanity's raw edges and in that process of revelation allows us to experience "the marvelously imponderable things of life."

To illustrate my points, I've chosen one character from one story as a sample. Meet Duke, from "The Duke's Black Bag:"

"Drake Ulban Kincaid (Duke to all), forty two, looked like a bag of razor blades, tough as a bag of nails and for almost ten years running had been the Navy middleweight boxing champ. His face was a series of acute edges and angles… The boxing leavings were permanent, but worn badge-like, and lifted his eyes. All first impressions made him, at once, serious and of keen interest. He came to Idaho's foothills from twenty-seven years in Uncle's Navy hardly trusting anybody who didn't pack it up as he did himself (like comrades in deck-hidden gun mounts, knowing each other's sweat, arm strengths, their attention to detail, their own page of saltiness.) Men pass the test or they don't; women might ride the fence."

Tom Sheehan's words, characters, and scenarios are memorable. His work is highly recommended.

Bone Thief
Thomas O'Callaghan
Pinnacle Books
850 3rd Avenue, New York NY 10022
ISBN: 0786018119, $6.99, 377 pages

Bone Thief is one of the best debut novels I've read in this genre. If this suspense thriller does not scare the bejabbers out of you, nothing will. Very few fictional scenarios provide the punch and chills I experienced while reading Bone Thief. Characters and details were realistic and horror penetrated to the marrow.

O'Callaghan's protagonist is Detective Lt. John Driscoll, a cop who dresses with panache and openly grieves his personal sorrows. When he's not working as a cop, Driscoll cares for his brain dead wife in the home they shared. His young daughter was killed in the same accident that left his wife a vegetable. This Irish Catholic cop is an appealing character, not only for his skill as an investigator but for his devotion to a wife whose existence depends on machines. The author skillfully weaves Driscoll's personal life with an investigation into murders perpetrated by a serial killer.

Readers meet the serial killer early on. Colm Pierce is wealthy, intelligent, educated, multilingual, privileged, and hopelessly insane. His public persona is one of urbane normalcy. But Colm learned his insatiable desires and skills from Daddy, and nothing eases those desires like human bones. One boneless carcass after another turns up in carefully chosen sites around the city, and it's Driscoll's job to find the madman. Both Pierce and Driscoll speak fluent Old Irish, an interesting side plot that provides a few small clues.

Bone Thief, in addition to being fast paced and intriguing, was technically realistic. Such realism added greatly to the plot as an experienced investigator tracks his equally adept and intelligent prey. This mystery thriller is highly recommended, but not for young or squeamish readers.

Hell's Interstate
C.H. Foertmeyer
2021 Pine Lake Rd. Ste. 100, Lincoln NE 68512
ISBN: 0595379753, $13.95, 161 pages

C.H. Foertmeyer excels at creating imaginative plots and developing unique characters. For his tenth book, he delivers murder, miracles, and supernatural happenings in the heartland of America.

The county roads of Kansas cut through peaceful prairies, fertile farmland, and tiny rural communities. In the gently rolling hills along each road, everyone knows their neighbors. Life is safe and predictable, until Reed Haskell and Vern Sanger take their stolen vehicle off the beaten path. Reed is a vicious killer, a murderous animal without heart or conscience. Vern is a prison escapee thrown into Reed's path by chance. Vern is a lonely man who loves his wife and child and contemplates revenge against the man who wrecked his life. He sticks with Reed through a rampage of robbery, murder, and arson because he dreads to be alone, but Vern is not a killer.

Ed Brinks is a retired NYPD cop who moved his family to Kansas for a more peaceful life. When a gas leak and fire destroy his home, he finds himself drawn deep into a mystery he can't explain. Topeka detective Ray LaCosta investigates and soon both men join forces to reveal incredible happenings. A stranger named Michael appears at every juncture of their investigation, saving lives and providing hints to Reed and Sanger's whereabouts before fading into thin air. This same man appears to Reed and Sanger with a warning to Vern: "Respect the life."

I don't want to give the plot away. These four men are thrown together, with the mysterious Michael appearing before and after each crime scene. The answers to questions asked by all four men defy logic and come from the distant past to impact their present and future. DNA and fingerprints provide solutions, but only one small part of the amazing truth. C.H. Foertmeyer thinks and writes outside the usual genre box. If you are tired of the same old formulaic genres, I recommend you give Hell's Interstate a try.

If You Could See Me Now: A Chronicle of Identity and Adoption
Michael Mewshaw
Unbridled Books
2000 Wadsworth Boulevard, #195, Lakewood, CO 80214
ISBN: 1932961208, $23.95, 240 pages

Michael Mewshaw is an award winning journalist and best selling author of fiction and non-fiction. This latest book is the personal testament of a man forced to re- examine a past that returns to haunt him. Recalling, exploring, and ultimately making sense out of that past is the framework of If You Could See Me Now. Mewshaw's considerable skill as writer lends heart and spirit to his bittersweet chronicle.

Michael Mewshaw is a successful writer, living in London with his family, when a young woman named Amy contacts first his sister, then him. Amy is an adoptee searching out her birth parents before marrying and starting a family of her own. Mewshaw knows the identity of her birth parents but is reluctant to get involved. That chapter of his past is painful, a troublesome time he'd just as soon not revisit. But he's the child of a fractured family himself and understand's Amy's desire for answers. Out of sympathy and admiration for her, he haltingly, over time, shares what he knows about the circumstances surrounding her birth and subsequent adoption.

In the early 1960s, Adrienne Daly was a beautiful, quicksilver young woman focused on a successful future. More than one young man was slavishly devoted to her enigmatic whims. Michael Mewshaw is one of those men, a naieve kid who sees the charismatic Adrienne as beyond his grasp as lover and wife. Adrienne is pregnant with another man's child when she asks Michael to accompany her to California and stay with her until the baby is born. His devotion is such that he does as she asks, drops out of college and moves to California, gets a job to support her, and helps arrange adoption details. That Adrienne might be using him for her own selfish interests doesn't occur to Mewshaw at the time. He believes her when she says she loves him and that they will eventually marry.

As Mewshaw investigates past happenings and reconnects with Adrienne and Amy's father, the truths he learns are disturbing and unsettling. Adrienne Daly is no longer the dependent, dysfunctional girl she was when Mewshaw knew her. She's become a successful over-achiever, traveling the globe, living in exotic places with her husband and children. Adrienne wants no part of Amy. On the other hand, Amy's birth father is delighted to know the child he fathered with a woman he can't forget. When Mewshaw compares notes with this man, he realizes that the woman they both idealized was one tough cookie -- a coldly calculating, conniving schemer who never truly loved either of them. Once Amy was born and placed for adoption, she left both men behind to pursue her future plans.

If You Could See Me Now takes the opposite perspective of most stories of unwed motherhood and adoption. Adrienne Daly was not unloved and abandoned by the men in her life. She was adored by at least two men left cynical and shaken in her wake. Mewshaw shares his memories poignantly and honestly from the male perspective. The results are powerful, indeed.

Hope in a Nutshell
Keith Cymry
Xlibris Corp.
International Plaza II, Suite 340, Philadelphia, PA 19113-1513
ISBN: 1413485960, $18.69, 227 pages

Keith Cymry says he is an "underground" writer. Critics say he writes brilliantly in postmodern style. Christians, Jews, and Muslims may take exception with this book's portrayal of their God. Big business and its political cronies don't come off smelling like a rose either. And that's just for starters as Cymry provides convincing doses of modern reality laced with sex, symbolism, fantasy, and humor.

Is the after life really a Club Med-like place where all the gods from ancient times form alliances to impact life on earth? And do these consortiums look down upon a dull, wasteful society with boredom and cynicism? In Cymry's book, lesser gods like Ra, Cernunnos, and Buddha are shocked at the influence of Yahweh/Allah/Jesus/Lucifer on humanity. Humans are chosen to change man's destructive path and bets are made by gods on both sides as to the outcome.

Two humans chosen arbitrarily by the gods are Mary Beth Donovan and Uriah "Stoney" Freestone. Mary Beth is a feisty Catholic girl with flaming red hair and a penchant for sexy men. Her constant companion is a black ocelot named Michelob. All her fantasies are fulfilled in one virile package when she stops for a hitchhiker, Freestone. Stoney is a Druid, a powerful, determined man dedicated to providing solar energy to the masses. A pet raven named Rocker accompanies Stoney wherever he goes. When the Celtic god Cernunnos appears and gives Mary Beth an ancient amulet in a gold walnut shell, only she and Stoney can understand symbols transmitted by the amulet. Big business, in the form of Jared Darcy Ambrose, conspires to steal the amulet because it represents total power and unimaginable wealth.

Cymry writes well, with occasionally brilliant flashes of narrative. He wraps compassion and concern for Earth and her people in myth and symbolism, but the underlying message here is the strength of human love and courage. Thanks to lovers like Mary Beth and Stoney, the world may not be doomed. But yes, it's entirely possible that the gods just might be crazy.

Fresh Feathered Eggs
John F. Burgess and George D. Burgess
Infinity Publishing
1094 New DeHaven Street, Suite 100, West Conshohocken PA 19428-2713
ISBN: 074142682X, $16.95, 275 pages

In the 1940s and 1950s, Prof. John Frederick Burgess and Col. George D. Burgess were simply Freddy and George. The Burgess brothers have come a long way since their days of growing up in rural Kansas. Fresh Feathered Eggs is their story. It's packed with the sort of family memories, humor, and love that nurtured a powerful generation of Americans.

As children, Freddy and George learned from their parents and extended family that there are no gray areas in life. Actions are either white or black, right or wrong. As growing boys, they might have strayed into the occasional gray area, but not for long. Life was fun for growing children in the middle years of the 20th century. The Burgess boys were not held captive by high tech toys and television. Imagination lead them into mischief and scrapes and also rescued them from time to time. Freddy was adventuresome, high spirited, energetic, a feisty lad who knew no fear. George was timid, cautious and thoughtful, living in a world of make believe heroes.

It's through the eyes of Freddy and George that readers revisit a nostalgic time when neighbors pitched in to help each other, doors were never locked because it was not necessary, and life was safe for children. The Burgess brothers learn from their misadventures and benefit from structured rules set by their parents. They also learn from exploring the world around them, often with hilarious results. And they learn from their eccentric relatives and friends who are portrayed with tenderness and love. This book is a delight in every way and highly recommended.

Laurel Johnson
Senior Reviewer

Lorraine's Bookshelf

Waterfalls Of Minnesota's North Shore: A Guide for Sightseers, Hikers, and Romantics
Eve and Gary Wallinga
North Shore Press
5188 North Road, Hovland, MN 55606
ISBN: 0974020710, $19.95, 191 pages,

Waterfalls of Minnesota's North Shore is a paperback guide to all the beautiful waterfalls along the Minnesota shore of Lake Superior. It is carefully organized to follow the waterfalls from the St. Louis River, south of Duluth, to the Canadian border, following the North Shore northeast. Each site is judiciously rated and described, with both accurate maps and stunning black and white photos of the scenic falls. Over 130 waterfalls are covered in this guide. To assist the hiker, falls are rated both as to the difficulty of the hike and quality of the trail, and also the "Waterfall Experience" ratings. This is a five- star to one- star descriptive rating system that goes from "Jaw Dropping (five star)" to "Interesting (one star)."

The prose descriptions of falls and hikes are magnificent enough to do justice to the beautiful scenery. They are also very useful and practical, warning the hiker of difficult areas, or places where it is easy to lose the trail fork or take the wrong fork. The reader can benefit from the on-trails experiences of the authors before investing all the time and effort it takes to see some of these gorgeous scenes.

Another helpful and informative feature is the highlighted paragraphs throughout the book that sometimes describe particular flora or other natural occurrences that may be seen in that area in certain seasons, and also information pertaining to the history of the area and often the name of the falls, frequently of indigenous origin. From Gooseberry Falls to Pigeon River Falls, and not omitting my favorite, the Brule River falls and the Devil's Kettle, Waterfalls of Minnesota's North Shore is a great hiker's manual and may open the way to encourage the less experienced hiker to explore this beautiful area.

A final note of interest is in the content of the bibliography, some 15 or more books on related subjects. One that struck my eye was True North: Alternate and Off-Beat Destinations in and around Duluth, Superior, and Shores of Lake Superior, by Tony Dierkens and Kerry Elliot, published in 2002 by Adventures Publications in Cambridge, Minnesota. I see I have another wonderful resource about the North Shore to investigate and will look forward to doing so.

Waterfalls of Minnesota's North Shore is recommended for campers, hikers, nature lovers, scout or nature group leaders, and also armchair explorers because of its beautiful descriptions and photographs. It makes a great gift for someone planning a vacation in the area, or for anyone.

Boudica: Dreaming the Hound
Manda Scott
c/o Bantam Dell Publishing Group
1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019
ISBN: 0385336721, $23.00, 1-212-782-9037,

Dreaming the Hound is the third in a planned quartet of novels about the life of Breaca, known as Boudica, or the Bringer of Victory. Like the two before, Dreaming the Eagle and Dreaming the Bull, it is fraught with mystical imagery and visionquest experiences that color the lives of the Eceni and other tribes in Roman-occupied Britain of A.D. 57. The immense power of this set of books lies in the reverence for "dreaming," a tribal Druidic tradition that guides all decision patterns of the beleaguered Eceni and other tribes.

In the many brutal and bloody conflicts with Romans and allies, Breaca and her half brother, Ban-become Valerius, fight and finally find their way to become allies once again. The fascinating interplay of complex cultures and loyalties common to Roman -occupied Britain is continually highlighted. The terrible ending scenes describing the brutal rape of Breaca's daughters, Cygfa and Graine, and subsequent torture and scourging of Breaca herself are totally gripping and shattering.

Scott is a total genius in her evocation of this dimly historic time and place. Her subtle command of language and use of imagery features nature as a dramatic player, and the communion with ghosts, both loved and fearful is astoundingly evoked. Underlying all is a bone-deep awareness of the intensity of relationships between Breaca and her family, between Valerius and Corvus, the Roman prefect who loved him, and between Valerius and his father, unknown to him until he sits his long nights on Mona with the Druidic warriors. Dreaming the Hound is an absolutely gripping novel to read.

The fourth work in the quartet is in the works and will undoubtedly cover the Eceni uprising led by Boudica in reaction to the events so vividly portrayed in Dreaming the Hound. Manda Scott is truly a great writer and artist.

Nancy Lorraine
Senior Reviewer

Shelley's Bookshelf

Washington Weirdos
Gayle Wigglesworth
Koenisha Publications
3196 53rd St., Hamilton, MI 49419
ISBN: 0975962140, $19.95

A former Senior Vice President in the banking industry did little to satisfy Gayle Wigglesworth's cravings to be, well, creative. So she spent her spare time away from organization and management learning to be a potter. A current resident of Houston, she and her husband regarded the move from San Francisco as a "foreign assignment," but they became attached to Houston. She and her husband love to read and travel, and she is presently working on her third Claire Gulliver mystery, INTRIGUE IN ITALICS.

Claire Gulliver is the proud owner of "Gulliver's Travels," a travel bookstore in San Francisco. She is a former librarian, is in her forties, and so far hasn't been married. But her relatively quiet life is interrupted in the first CG mystery, TEA IS FOR TERROR, where she tangles with foreign terrorists after she agrees to take a travel group for a friend. WASHINGTON WEIRDOS opens with Claire reluctantly emerging form her safe bookstore to accept an award from the grateful owners of Vantage Airlines, Inc. for her part in foiling a bomb on one of their flights. Almost immediately she is mugged on the Washington Mall, and just as the knife of her attacker can do any real damage, her friend Jack tackles the would-be killer:

"The body came out of nowhere, slamming into him sideways with a force which sent them both to the ground. The knife flew through the air; the streetlight gleaming off the blade traced its trajectory. She wanted to run, to scream, to cry for help but she stood mutely rooted. Her eyes were riveted on the men on the ground in front of her. He would-be attacker rolled free and came up on all fours. He was poised, looking at the knife, which lay temptingly only a few feet away. But her rescuer's hand protectively hovered over it, his gaze fastened on the attacker's eyes."

Page one to the end, Claire Gulliver is a librarian with lots of guts, and her friend Jack, an employee of "The Company" mesh together to form an unstoppable team. Wigglesworth has managed to continue the saga she began in TEA IS FOR TERROR and emerge with a plot that is as lustrous as the first tale. WASHINGTON WEIRDOS is a stunning second book.

Dying to Decorate
Cyndy Salzmann
Howard Publishing Co., Inc.
3117 North 7th St., West Monroe, Louisiana 71291-2227
ISBN: 1582294550, $12.99

Cyndy Salzmann is a Christian writer who uses the backbone of her religion to launch a career that includes three Christian nonfiction books on home management, a national speaking career, and work as a radio personality. She is married and has three children.

She hates laundry and love to cook, which has led her to include some really yummy sounding recipes in her book.

DYING TO DECORATE isn't a murder mystery. Instead it uses the word "mystery" loosely to describe a trip that Liz Harris, local newspaper columnist, takes with her friends Lucy, Jessie, Marina, Mary Alice, and Kelly. They have a small club called "FAC" or Friday Afternoon Club, which is a bonding and relaxation time for busy mothers who forget to reward themselves. When Lucy misses club, they rush over to her home to find her in a depressed state after the deaths of her husband and mother. Lucy has inherited a home her Aunt Bette has lived in entitled "Locust Hill house" which needs remodeling and/or selling. They decide to make a trek to see Locust Hill, only to find a cryptic note left by Aunt Bette, who has moved to a nursing home:

"At the same time, I have been praying that you wouldn't make any rash decisions about the disposition of Locust Hill without first exploring the house's history. I knew if you felt strong enough to make the trip to Tredway, you would be strong enough to hear what I have to say."

Aunt Bette's plea begins not only a home renovation, but the discovery of a very special diary that ties the home to Civil War history and enshrines Lucy's relations in the "hero" category. The mystery becomes unraveling the past and bringing courageous and truly religious people back to life.

Salzmann employs a deep sense of humor with a genuine love of her family to take the reader down a fascinating historical path that includes the Underground Railroad. Her idea of human values and religion rings true, and the story she has to tell is one of simple Nebraska settlers who risked everything to help to end slavery. DYING TO DECORATE begins with light banter, but its lessons are sober and inspiring.

Never Say Murder
Geoffrey Walters
Dog Ear Publishing
4010 W. 86th St., Suite H, Indianapolis, IN 46268
ISBN: 1598580507, $15.95

As an alumni of the National Journalism Center and SUNY Fredonia, Geoffrey Walters is your basic crime journalist. He honed his writing as a crime and local politics reporter for the TIMES NEWSWEEKLY in Queens, New York. He has participated in the Gotham Writers Workshop in New York City.

A law firm is the perfect place to find all the elements of crime: corruption; greed; vice; extortion; and murder. The class distinction between lawyers, judges, and secretaries, accounting personnel, and word processors is telling. For Greg Thackery, a normal guy who worked in the word processing pool, his biggest problem was dealing with a personal sex addiction and holding his fragile marriage together. But when his office mate, Marc, is threatened by one of the new Ivy-league lawyers, Stephen Dalrymple, over a document that should be run-of-the-mill, Gregory is the only person in the office who is suspicious. After Marc is found dead and Greg voices his suspicions horrible things begin to happen: he gets fired for downloaded porn on his machine, the fired Dalrymple begins an affair with his wife, and suddenly his own life isn't worth a nickel:

"It's hard now to describe exactly how low I felt packing my bag and hoping somehow Jean would take me back. I'd lost my job. Someone had thoroughly discredited my reputation, probably preventing me from landing a similar job. The police wanted to talk to me again. I'd completely misjudged my co-workers. I had no idea about Marc's secret life, nor of Betty's and Bradshaw's. Betty had lied about me to Detective O'Sullivan. I nearly got into a fight with Dalrymple. Marc's kindly parents threw me out of their house. I could no longer trust my therapist. I'd fallen off the wagon big time. And probably I could no longer trust myself."

NEVER SAY MURDER is almost a pulp detective story, except there is no detective involved. But Walters infuses his tale with all the great qualities of Nero Wolf's Archie. Greg is the hero and narrator of the story. There is a murderer out there and colorful characters who have something to hide. The plot takes place in New York, the Gotham of murder. A great tale!

Aaron Paul Lazar
ISBN: 1413772587, $21.95

Aaron Paul Lazar is an engineer who writes in his spare time in upstate New York. His many interests include dogs and cats; gardening; cooking; photography; cross-country skiing; music; and fine arts. UPSTAGED is part of the LeGarde Mysteries that were introduced in 2005 and include DOUBLE FORTE; MAZURKA; AND NATURE SINGS; DIE FIEDERMAUS; VIRTUOSO; PORTAMENTO; and THE GREEN MARBLE.

In this second Gus and Camille mystery, set in Upstate New York's Genesee Valley, Gus is a college professor who lost his first wife to cancer. He meets his soul mate in Camille, the daughter of his secretary. Camille has her own issues, but Gus wins her heart. In UPSTAGED Camille is staging a school play that Gus wrote, loosely based on the Woodstock experience. Petty jealousies, teen angst, and vibrant talent all combine to create an atmosphere rife with danger:

"My heart skipped a beat as I dashed over and knelt by her side. She had fallen three-and-a-half feet from the edge of the stage and had landed on a music stand on the floor below. A rivulet of red flowed from her temple. Marshall quickly joined me at her side, panting from his downhill sprint. He leaned down to Camille. His face worked with emotion. In the recesses of my mind, I idly wondered if his feelings for her went beyond that of a business relationship. After a few seconds of shock, he roared into action."

Aaron Paul Lazar wastes no time in pulling the reader into this mystery of music and the theater. He deftly weaves his interests into the tale, and the reader is transported into the world of high school action. Lazar knows his music and theater, which provide a wonderful backdrop in and of themselves. But his obvious love of family adds another layer to this sweet and wonderful mystery. In Lazar's world, family, food, music, and love are all important. He provides plenty of action and some very good recipes to break up the tale. UPSTAGED is a first-rate mystery that makes the reader want to immediately grab all the other books in the series. Lazar is a talented writer with a heart and an eye for mystery.

Shelley Glodowski
Senior Reviewer

Shirley's Bookshelf

A Very Special Child
Debra Shiveley Welch
Saga Books
164 Erin Woods Drive SE, Calgary, AB, T2B 2S1 Canada
ISBN: 1894936426, $14.95, 48 pages

In this heartwarming book by author Debra Shiveley Welch, we are privileged to experience the depths of her love and thankfulness for her adopted son Christopher. The author takes you on a journey from her and her husbands head-bent prayers to their God asking for a child, receiving their blessing and the child's growing years. Very touching, very sensitive.

In her work, Ms. Welch tenderly tells of the Lord giving attributes to her yet unborn son while in the womb of the frightened young mother. God takes some sweetness from the Cherubs, sweet music from the birds, laughter from the dolphins, and wraps them in love from the mother placing it all carefully into the spirit of the unborn babe. A beautiful gift of life waiting to be unwrapped and cherished and placed in the arms of a loving mother and father. This is a wonderful work that any adoptive parent, or any parent that truly knows how blessed they are, could give to their beloved child to show them how much they are loved and how special they are. It is filled with wonderful poetry and essays of experiences shared and life lived. A delightful, heartfelt work that I am proud to recommend.

The Origin of Culture
Thomas Dietrich
Turnkey Press
3100 Kramer Lane, Austin, Texas 78758
ISBN: 0976498162, $18.95, 360 pages

I found this book totally absorbing, however, not a simple read, but one that needs to be approached with an open mind, allowing yourself time to reflect and digest the information being given. Author Thomas Dietrich decodes ancient areas such as astrology, mythology, natural disasters and even climate trends and geological evolution and how they intertwine in history. He takes these topics, and more, and shows how they certainly have been instrumental in our past and our future.

Quoting from Mr. Dietrich's press release, he says the following, " We cannot advance scientifically, nor can we form a philosophically-correct image of this world, without the information that the ancient people have so patiently collected for us, and have transmitted over such immeasurable periods of time." This book itself shows the intense research that Mr.Dietrich has done to provide the information within the pages of this work. Incredible!

I found his work to be fascinating and I particularly enjoyed reading the area about the birth of Christ and the signs and symbols foretelling that event. Very interesting. Now understand, this is not a quick read, but one that you will want to make sure you have time to truly give before you begin. The author has packed this work full of information and you will most certainly need time to digest it. A work that is an eye opener and one that will most definitely make you stop and think, read,learn and understand more than you thought possible.

The Wizard the Ugly and the Book of Shame
Pablo Bernasconi
Bloomsbury Children's
175 fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011
ISBN: 1582346739, $16.95, 32 pages

In this book we meet Leitmeritz who is a powerful wizard who uses a Red Book of Spells to help people. He helps toads turn back into Prince's and people who are sick feel better, but he never helped Chancery, his assistant. Chancery is not very handsome, well actually people call him Ugly and this makes him sad. The Wizard told him he must find out himself how not to be ugly so one day when the wizard is away Chancery tries to use his book. Oh no! Things couldn't go more wrong and poor Chancery is still ugly, and the Red Book of Spells is not working, but after Chancery tells the truth to the wizard and the book is back to normal; he finds out how to no longer be Ugly. This is a cute tale showing how we are beautiful inside if we just look. The illustrations are well done and will capture the children's attention as they travel along in this mystical tale.

The Wheelman
Duane Swierczynski
St.Martin's Press
New York, NY
ISBN: 0312342779, $23.95, 240 pages

Lennon has never robbed a bank in his life; he is what they call, "The Wheelman." Lennon knows how to drive, how to escape, that's his job and the service he provides for the robbers. But not this time; something terrible has gone wrong in this heist and now Lennon finds himself in a body bag ready to be dropped in a pipe in Philadelphia. Interested yet? At first I had some trouble getting into the read but once I did it was quite a ride. We have the Russian Mafia and the Italian Mafia and several freelance crooks who are all after one thing, the 650k that has disappeared after the bank robbery and no one seems to know where it is, but heads are stacking up in the search. And we have revenge for several murders which is always an emotion that leads to total destruction and there was no exception in this read. Tightly written, loaded with deceit, corruption, suspense and even loyalty; this book will keep you absorbed from beginning to end. A great storyline, a refreshing differnt swing on anage-old subject with some very interesting characters. Well done!

The Ambler Warning
Robert Ludlum
St.Martin's Press
175 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY
ISBN: 0312316712, $24.95, 528 pages

In this work we meet Hal Ambler, drugged and tucked away in a secret Psychiatric facility called Parrish Island. This is where the government stores their spies when they lose touch with reality, but Hal's case is different. A sympathetic nurse helps him escape and soon we travel with Ambler as he tries to figure out who he is, who he was and why he was imprisoned. This work is packed full of suspense, adventure and mystery. Almost everyone is a suspected enemy and those who aren't end up dead before they can help. The work is fast paced, twisting like a tunnel in a dark tomb with many dead ends. Characters are sinister and what one would expect in such a read, and the ending is not at all what you think it will be. Like spy adventures that wind around like mountain roads? If you do; this one is for you. Great read.

More Memories of Papillon Diary of a Mad Dog
Dennis Fried, Ph.D
Eiffel Press
PO Box 339 Osprey, FL 34229
ISBN: 0967933528, $13.95, 203 pages

As a dog lover I have to say this book is one of the best books I have read in a long time. I giggled my way through it enjoying every single page and every single observation that our dear little canine friend had to give about these things called, "humans," and the way they live life. After hearing her take on a few things I actually wondered if perhaps she wasn't correct. Scary thought isn't it? The chapter on "Marriage," is just plain outrageous and I wonder if my dogs have the same thoughts as Genevieve does on this subject; they probably do. If you want to read a book that will just bring you pure reading pleasure, this is the one for you. You certainly will smile and giggle a lot, but you just might close this work with a new outlook on just why humans do things the way they do. One never knows. Highly recommended.

I'm All Dressed
Robie H. Harris
Illustrated by Nicole Hollander
Little Brown Publishing
1271 Avenue of The Americans New York, NY 10020
ISBN: 0316109487, $7.99, 28 pages

This is an adorable teaching story. Grandpa is having a birthday party and their little boy wants to go in his underwear. Mom and dad explain that it is cold outside and he must put clothes on and they help their little boy get dressed. Unfortunately dad must wrap Grandpa's present and everyone must wait to leave and during this time their little boy decides he is hot and takes all his clothes off again. When it's time to go he decides he will dress himself. He doesn't get his clothes on the way we would expect them to be worn, but he does it the way he feels is right. Mom and Dad allow him to go to the party this way. After all, he is dressed and he will be warm; he is very proud of his dressing job and very happy mom and dad are too. The illustrations are lively and colorful and are very eye-catching to a child. This is a really cute teaching story.

Trust Me Mom
Angela McAllister
Illustrated by Ross Collins
Bloomsbury Children's Books
175 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011
ISBN: 158234955X, $16.95, 32 pages

This is an exciting day for Ollie; it is his first trip to the store all by himself. He listens to his mother as she reminds him of all the do's and don'ts and then he is on his way. However, mom didn't warn him about the witch, the aliens, or the monster that he encountered on the way; but Ollie can take care of himself as you will see in this fun tale of imagination for children. Very cute book with great colorful illustrations.

Every Week A Season
Brian Curtis
Ballantine Books
New York, NY
ISBN: 0345483375, $14.95, 290 pages

In this work we are taken inside the lives of numerous college football coaches as they basically do their job which is no small thing. We share with them as they analyze their games, recruit high school players, deal with the media and take care of the players in all areas. The author does an outstanding job of putting the reader right in the middle of the muddle, so to speak. If you are a football fan and want to know more of the inside workings this book will be a treasure for you. A hard realistic look at the workings of college football and all it entails.

The Devil You Know
Nathan Hale
Walker Books For Young Readers
104 Fifth Avenue New York, NY 10011
ISBN: 0802789811, $16.95, 32 pages

The Fells are living with a small naughty devil and they want to get rid of him so they call upon the services of a Ms. Phisto who promises to get rid of him and has the Fells sign a contract. She does the job but replaces small devil with hundreds of more and turns their house into a devil den. What are they to do? This is a story showing that sometimes it's best to deal with what you know rather than what you don't. The story shows that things can get a whole lot worse if we don't make the right decisions concerning the problem we have. This is a different type of storybook, with a different slant on dealing with situations and will certainly make children think. The illustrations are very, very colorful and definitely bring life to the story.

Flirting With Disaster
Deborah Nicholson
Severn House
9-15 High St., Sutton, Surrey, England
ISBN: 0727862812, $27.95, 250 pp.

Our beloved Kate and Cam are back in this next book of the Kate Carpenter Mysteries, but this one far surpasses the previous. Kate and Cam find themselves at a crossroad in their relationship; one that may well end in disaster and we see Cam leave our heroin to take a trip alone that was meant for the two of them. Kate, now confused and hurting is thrust into a relationship with another and again is plunged into a life and death situation of murder, mayhem and mystery. I feel author, Deborah Nicholson has truly outdone herself in this latest work. Her growth as a writer is extremely evident as she holds your thoughts captive in this read. She brings romance, mystery and adventure expertly into this work and intertwines characters in the storyline that are both loveable and repulsive. You never forget Cam, although he is not present through most of the read and you find yourself in the same emotional dilemma concerning heartstrings to him that Kate is feeling.This is always a mark of an excellent writer when they pull you into the mind of their character. You wonder about Kate; is her spirit truly one with Cam or will her heart belong to another? And who is after Kate and why? I have to say this is truly the best work by Deborah Nicholson yet; grabbing your attention and understanding of the story whether this is your first taste of this series or if you are reading along with each outstanding book as it is released. I honestly give this book my highest recommendation. It is one of romance, mystery, adventure and a storyline with heart. I believe we truly have another winner. Well done!

Body Intelligence
Edward Abram, Ph.D.
McGraw Hill Publishing
Avenues of the Americans, New York, NY
ISBN: 0071442065, $21.95, 256 pages

How many of us have read and tried to follow the advice of countless diet books, and walked away more frustrated then when we began? Inside the covers we read, do this, do that, eat this, don't eat that; and the list goes on. Not so in this outstanding work by author Edward Abram. Yes,there is hope for you and for me. Our author goes to the root of the problem of not being able to maintain a healthy weight by diving into our thought patterns and showing us how they affect the way we eat, see ourselves and live. Believe me he will write about things you have long ago filed in your mind but you really have not forgotten. You will be shocked to see how these memories affect your weight and life. I enjoyed this book; learned a lot and I truly believe it is a real eye opener. If you have tried every diet you can find and feel as if nothing will ever work for you; I strongly suggest you give this book a try. I believe by understanding the information given in this book you will finally breath a sigh of relief and get on the right track to a healthier you. Highly recommended.

Blueprints For Success
Bette Daoust, Ph.D.
Penmarin Books
1044 Magnolia Way, Roseville, CA 95661
ISBN: 0976549409, $16.95, 224 pages

If you have a product to sell this is the book for you. I have never seen a work that is so packed full of ideas and information to help you get ahead and done in such a clear and concise way. On each page you will find a great tip to use to promote yourself and our author explains each one and how to use it to your advantage. Here is an example of a few topics: Under "Event Marketing," Your Pitch; under "What To Join," Cost of Membership; under "Web Relationships," Tips & FAQ, and this is just naming a few that are included in this work. Want to get ahead? This book will surely help you. Very thought-out and extremely well-done.

My Name is Esther Clara
Laurel Johnson
Dandelion Books, LLC
5250 South Hardy Drive-Suite 3067 Tempe, Arizona 85283
ISBN: 189330289X, $16.95, 256 page

"My Name Is Esther Clara," is the story of the life of one amazing woman, one that will touch you in a way you did not think possible, but is true nevertheless. There are times when a work comes along that reaches deep inside of you and feels comfortable, snuggly and warm. As you read the words you settle down with a soothing cup of hot cocoa and share the heart of a beloved grandmother. As she spins the tales of her life, her mark upon this earth, you know you have been privileged to share her existence. This is what you will find within the pages of author Laural Johnson's touching work, "My Name is Esther Clara." As a reviewer I have read works in every genre and enjoyed them; but once in a while I come upon a read that does more than entertain but somehow grabs the true meaning of life and in doing so awakens me to what is and is not important. That is what this book has done for me. Ms. Esther's main attribute was her love and loyalty for family, despite hardships that life presented to her, she never lost sight of that main objective, and somehow through reading her story you also realize the importance of the truths she not only spoke but lived. In this work as you share Ms. Esther's life you will giggle and cry at the many wonderful tales she tells; you will sigh at the coming and going of a woman who was the glue of her family, one that the world may not remember her name, but one whose memory will never be far from the hearts of those who knew and loved her and still live within the precepts and dignity that she bestowed upon her family. "My Name Is Esther Clara" , is a story that is sure to warm your heart, help place your priorities in order and will be stored in your memory forever. I am so glad that I too was touched by Esther Clara and I look forward to sharing Eternity with her. Wonderful work Ms. Johnson.

Night Laws
Jim Michael Hansen
Dark Sky Publishing Inc.
218 S. McIntyre Way, Golden, CO 80401
ISBN: 0976924307, $13.95, 363 pages

At the onset of this outstanding work we meet Denver's homicide detective Bryson Coventry, a no-nonsense cop who is head over a chilling murder investigation, one that has roots as deep as a giant oak that twists and turns in the darkness of the earth. Attorney Kelly Parks, a young lawyer working for a large elite law firm in Denver is involved, but she does not know how nor does she know how she could possibly be connected to the murderer, but she is.

A woman is murdered; another is missing and linked to a series of murders committed in the past, now they know they are dealing with a serial killer. One who knows his business, his victims, his enemies and seems to always be one step ahead of the frustrated but determined Detective Coventry.

The author builds the case, adds his characters carefully, fitting each one into the theme of the story, building upon their personalities, their faults and strengths arranging them in a way that continues to breath life into each page of the read. The FBI is involved, agents joining forces with Denver police in a race for time to save the life of a young woman and the darker side of humanity is projected as we meet strippers and drug addicts and those who kill for the thrill. What a ride!

In this work, author Jim Michael Hansen, works every angle that a thriller read should have. Skillfully he defines his characters; so precise is he, that you are actually in the mind of the killer, the victim and those desperately fighting to save them. His twists and turns are mind-boggling brining you to one level of suspense, whipping you around to fear and anger, plunging you into frustration and horror and leaving you in a heap of reading ecstasy. Night Laws in my humble opinion is a Masterpiece, a story that you will long remember after putting the book down, and I give it my highest recommendation.


I have to tell you right now, without putting my review in here, that Mr. Hansen's book is outstanding. I had to know something about the person behind these words. I believe that you will find this interview fascinating and have a giggle along the way. Jim Hansen is a man with many talents. I believe his is one book and this is one interview you will not soon forget.

SHIRLEY: First, let me say that I absolutely loved your book. Would you please tell us what made you decide to write this book?

JIM: Shirley, I'm blushing - stop that! Counting me, that now brings the total people who like Night Laws to two, which is more than I ever expected or hoped for. I'll be back later. I'm going out to celebrate!

(Two hours later, slightly intoxicated). Why did I decide to write it? As a lawyer (a lawyer with a mortgage and a family), I have almost no time to read books and probably haven't read more than five since I graduated from high school. But several years ago I happened to pick one up - a crime thriller - and read it for reasons that now escape me. I thought it was pretty cool and decided right then and there to write my own some day. (That's why I do most things - because I think it would be cool.) It didn't seem like writing a book would be that hard to do. Boy was I wrong about that.

SHIRLEY: Well Jim, hope you had a good time celebrating! Now, if you are sober enough would you please tell me about the storyline, how you came up with it. It certainly is unique.

JIM: Part of the storyline involves a law firm that purports to go the extra mile to retain an important client who needs help, the extra mile being a slightly illegal act. Anyone inside the legal business, myself included, knows that most law firms are extremely aggressive about obtaining and retaining clients. Thus the fact that a law firm might take this one additional step, and do something slightly illegal to help out one of its important clients, doesn't require a quantum leap in logic. This situation appealed to me because it is so believable. That sets the stage for what the firm might be forced to do if it's illegal conduct leads to bigger and more drastic problems than it ever imagined. The predicament is especially interesting since the firm can't go to the police. When the firm gets tangled up with a serial killer, things really take off.

SHIRLEY: Indeed they do, what a ride. Please tell us if the characters in your book were fashioned after people you know or have come in contact with.

JIM: Bryson Coventry is fashioned after me, except that he's way cooler, taller, younger, gets all the chicks, and doesn't have to bother will little things like cutting the grass, changing the oil or filing out tax returns. We also drive the same vehicle - a Toyota Tundra.

Other than that, all the characters are fictional. However, I tried to ensure that the basic structure of each character is consistent with real people who occupy those types of positions and professions. For example, the young associate attorney, Kelly Parks, has a stellar pedigree, works her ass off, but also has a bit of a wild side. I know lots of real people who fit that mold.

SHIRLEY: Readers, Jim's characters are very well defined and except for a few, very likeable. Of course there has to be some 'nasty, un-likeable,' people in this type of book. Jim, how did you choose the locations in your book?

JIM: Easy, they're the only one's I know.

One of the first rules of writing is to write about what you know (which, unfortunately, limits me drastically!) I do know Denver and Colorado, however, and wanted the book to be real and believable in all aspects. So I went out of my way to set the scenes in recognizable landmarks. Denverites reading the book will instantly recognize the 16th Street Mall, downtown's financial district, LoDo, the foothills, etc. I must apologize to readers outside Colorado, however, because I don't describe these places very well.

SHIRLEY: You did a fine job Jim. How long did it take you to complete your book?

JIM: All freaking day.

SHIRLEY: That long? Who would have known! *smile*

JIM: Actually, I started Night Laws in 2000 and wrote about 200 pages. Then my law practice got in the way and I had to set the book down for more than three years. In fact, I even forgot about it. Then I pulled it out in 2004, dusted it off, scrapped about half of what I had written, then finished it off in about six or eight months. I'm guessing that I have over a thousand hours in it. If someone told me 2000, though, I couldn't argue with them.

SHIRLEY: What was the most difficult part in writing your work?

JIM: The most difficult part in writing the book was getting all the words in the right order. I had them all there in front of me, in a dictionary, but arranging them in a pleasing manner was like trying to solve a ten-dimensional Rubic's cube.

Another difficulty was continuity. I often had to put the book down for days and weeks and attend to the real world of fighting the good fight for my clients. When I picked it back up, I had to reorient myself. Worse, I usually found that I now didn't like what I wrote before, and ended up rewriting that rather than moving forward.

SHIRLEY: What was the most enjoyable part?

JIM: Finishing the manuscript and then throwing it to the ceiling in celebration. I immediately wished I had numbered the pages.

Actually, I was really exciting to start off in the morning with a fresh piece of paper and see where the book would go. The story wasn't scripted, so I never knew where the plot would go or what the characters would do. I enjoyed putting them in situations and tried to figure out what they would really do, if this were a true story. I also enjoyed throwing them as many curves as I could. An example is when the bad guy, David Hallenbeck, returns to the farm house one evening to find out that a couple of bikers had taken over the place. This is the kind of concept that might come to me in a ten second flash and then turn into its own chapter.

SHIRLEY: Let's talk promoting, exactly what are you doing to promote your work? Any tips for other authors?

JIM: I'll be promoting Night Laws until everyone tells me to sit down and shut up. Promotion is a necessary continuation of the buzz. I would be disrespectful to ask other authors and book reviewers to devote their time to get the buzz going, and then not devote the additional time myself to keep the momentum going through publicity such as book signings, author interviews, radio talks, etc. Plus, I'm insecure, so I need the attention.

SHIRLEY: Do you belong to a writer's group?

JIM: I'm sure I could learn a lot of new tricks from writer's groups, but unfortunately have no time to join any group, writing, bowling, base-jumping, concrete-knitting or other wise. Besides, I already learned how to write from that famous book: Read Gooder, Write Gooder, Speak Gooder. I heard it's now in its 20th printing.

SHIRLEY: Let me ask you this, what has writing this work done for you and what do you hope it will do for your readers? What do you hope they will take away with them after reading your work? Was it written for pure reading entertainment or is there a hidden message?

JIM: The primary objective of a novel, in my opinion, is to entertain the reader and to let the reader experience the thoughts, emotions, actions and situations of others, without dying. By writing Night Laws strictly in point of view (POV), the reader sees things from the viewpoints of several different characters. The reader is in on the action and gets to compare his or her own makeup to the people in the book. That type of comparison allows the reader to learn more about his or her inner-self and thus grow as a person. I think.

SHIRLEY: Is this your first work or do you have other books published? If so, would you tell us a little about them. Also, do you have any other works in progress? If so in what genre and when will they be released?

JIM: I've written some other books, namely Gone With the Wind, The Old Man and the Sea, Hawaii, The Grapes of Wrath, stuff like that. I've also had several legal articles published, but Night Laws is my debut novel under my own name. It represents the launch of the Laws series featuring Lt. Bryson Coventry. The second Laws book should see a late 2006 publication date. I have the basic plot laid out and have to say, all modesty aside, that no reader will be left disappointed or unshaken. Visit me at for updates. If you like Night Laws, you will love the second book in the series.

SHIRLEY: You did a really great job with "Gone With The Wind!" I'm sure you are proud. How many hours a day do you write?

JIM: 27-28, usually.

SHIRLEY: May I borrow your clock?

JIM: If I have a whole day to set aside, my ideal schedule is like this. I head down to Einstein Bro early in the morning, drink coffee after coffee and sketch out the chapter - where, when, who, beginning problem, resolution, hook at the end, etc. Then head home to write the entire chapter, usually 5-10 pages, which takes most of the day. After super, I read and edit it for an hour or two. By the end of the day I have 10 hours in it and 5-10 pretty good pages. The next day I reread it, discover it's junk, and scrap all but three pages.

SHIRLEY: Where do you hope your writing career will be in 3 years and what are you doing to achieve that goal.

JIM: In three years I hope to be only one year older.

SHIRLEY: May I borrow your calendar?

JIM: It's my wife's, actually. I also hope to produce another two or three high quality Laws novels with interesting plots, memorable characters and captivating prose. I personally like Bryson Coventry so he's going to be around for a while. My basic goal is that when someone reads one of my books, they were glad they did so on a number of levels. It's all about the reader.

SHIRLEY: A question a little off the beaten track, do you read and if so what genre is your favorite?

JIM: I read the instructions on the fire extinguisher every time I catch on fire. Other than that, though, I don't read much, except law stuff.

Running a law firm, being a family man and trying to write my own books leaves me absolutely no time whatsoever to scratch my head or read books by others. I've probably read five books in the last twenty years, a flagrant breach of one of the cardinal canons of being a good writer according to Steven King and many others. While I know I'm missing a wonderful universe of words, there is a small silver lining. I don't get enamored by anyone else's style and don't try to emulate them. My voice stays my voice - for better or worse - and doesn't end up being someone else's voice coming out of my mouth. How's that for a visual?

SHIRLEY: Ah! I need to get you busy reviewing. Would you tell us a little about yourself, outside of being a published author?

JIM: Before becoming a lawyer, I had a real job, namely teaching math to inner-city junior high school students in the Cleveland Public Schools for ten years. If the pay hadn't been so crummy, I probably would have done it forever. Kids are great and the satisfaction of helping them is more than you can ever get being a lawyer or an author.

Now I have my own law firm, Jim M. Hansen, P.C., and practice law in the Denver, Colorado metropolitan area. I represent a wide variety of corporate and individual clients in civil matters, with an emphasis on civil litigation, employment law and OSHA. Visit me at There's more boring stuff about me there than you'd ever want to know about in a lifetime. Honest.

The second book in the Laws series - Shadow Laws - will be released in late 2006 or early 2007. Information on this title is posted on my website.

SHIRLEY: Jim, thank you for doing this interview with me, it really has been fun getting to know you. Readers, I'll tell you all right now, I have just read Jim's new book and you will not be disappointed in it. Another winner that is for sure. I think we will be hearing a lot about Mr. Hansen in the future and I wish him the best and many blessings on his work.


Shirley Johnson
Senior Reviewer

James A. Cox
Midwest Book Review
278 Orchard Drive
Oregon, WI 53575-1129
phone: 1-608-835-7937

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