* urban fantasy, especially kick-ass chicks
* fast-paced chase novels
* good bad guys and bad good guys
* something completely different-surprise me!
* a sense of humor, especially if it's weird and/or a bit twisted
The author of the wonderful “hippo wrangler” stories is back with their first novel, a mystery with magic. P.I. Ivy Gamble is hired to investigate the macabre death of a faculty member at The Osthorne Academy of Young Mages. There are multiple problems with this case. First, her estranged twin sister Tabitha teaches at the academy. Second, Ivy has none of the magical talent that her sister possesses in abundance. And three, none of the other faculty know that Ivy has no magical abilities. Ivy goes forth with quiet determination to solve the case and somehow communicate with and reconnect with her sister. So what if there’s a cute guy she finds attractive and she has to lie to about her family history, magic talent…or lack of any. Ivy is struggling to solve this increasingly convoluted magical murder case, hoping to find love, and maybe even make peace with her sister and herself.
Although the blurb and cover photo on the book indicates that Forever and a Death was based on a possible James Bond story, it was rewritten by Westlake when the script was not chosen for a Bond film. Instead, he turned it into a wonderful espionage, chase thriller with bad guy businessman Richard Curtis seeking revenge on Hong Kong after Chinese rule was restored and he was no longer welcome there. He has hired engineer George Manville to create a method of leveling land on an island using a wave created by explosions. The first use of this technique is on an island to be developed into a resort. It will cause an oscillating wave that will turn the island, basically landfill and coral reefs, into “mud soup”. The results will make it easier and cheaper to develop. Because there is the possibility that the delicate coral reefs will be damaged, Planetwatch, an ecological guardian group, has sent a ship to try and stop the explosions. Kim Baldur of Planetwatch decides on her own to jump off their ship and put herself between the explosions and the reef in the hopes that Curtis will cancel the job. He doesn’t, of course, and she is caught in the explosion. Curtis reluctantly sends out a search party for her body, but she is found alive. He wishes she were dead, as it would cause bad publicity to be directed at his nemesis Planetwatch, so he plots to have her murdered. Enter hero George Manville. He rescues the girl and helps her escape. The chase has now begun, with Manville and Baldur trying to stop Curtis from carrying out his plans for the destruction of Hong Kong while also avoiding the hired guns chasing them. Since Curtis is a respected and powerful businessman, their first goal is to get someone, anyone, to believe them. Pick up this unexpected treat, Forever and a Death, because Donald Westlake was a great storyteller. You won’t be disappointed if you are looking for a fun, escapist thriller.
The basis for this story is a plan that our government came up in the early 1900’s to import hippos into the Louisiana rivers and marshlands to be bred for a possible meat source. Nevermind that they are ferocious creatures with very strong jaws, capable of killing a person pretty darned fast. Bad idea rejected. River of Teeth takes place in an alternate 1890’s America where feral hippos have run amok in the bayous. Professional hippo wranglers are hired to clear out a particular bayou where a gambling ship abides. The leader, Winslow Houndstooth, his faithful hippo Ruby, and his crew are on the job. Yes, we have man-eating hippo mayhem in the old west. The tame hippos are ridden rather like horses and can navigate the waterways so their riders can search for the deadly feral hippos and hopefully herd them away from populated areas. What ensues is a clever and violent caper, where Houndstooth and his crew are trying to make their fortune by taking on a very, very dangerous job. Just go ahead and suspend your disbelief. Your reward is a thoroughly enjoyable caper that comes with a big bite.
In this sequel to Killfile, mind reader John Smith must track down an internet mastermind who has created an encrypted site on the “dark net” called “Downvote”. This site lists names of celebrities and bounties offered for their demise, causing a deadly flashmob almost impossible to defend against. After tracking down an elusive billionaire who is threatened, Smith teams up with the billionaire’s scary tough female bodyguard to track down this nefarious criminal. The chase leads them all over the world, from Hong Kong to Iceland to Laos. This guy is elusive, but it’s almost impossible to hide from a tough guy who can also read minds. I love chase novels, whether the good guy is being chased or doing the chasing. When the bad guy becomes aware of Smith’s pursuit, you guessed it, the chaser becomes the chased. Great fast-paced thriller with scary implications regarding our internet privacy and safety. Recommended for fans of Michael Crichton and James Rollins.
Lydia Smith works at the Bright Ideas Bookstore in an up-and-coming neighborhood in Denver. For those acquainted with this type of neighborhood, they know it means a population of homeless people are usually waiting at the door when the store opens. Lydia knows that some of the BookFrogs, as she calls them, like to hang around, feeling safe within Bright Ideas’ aisles. When Joey, one of the BookFrogs, commits suicide in the store and leaves his possessions to Lydia, she must unravel the clues left behind within the books, a hidden message that Joey left just for her. As Lydia follows the clues, she rediscovers a long-suppressed memory about her own unusual and violent childhood: a killer who was never caught, the obsessive cop assigned to the case, and her estranged father who may have information about her repressed memories. Midnight at the Bright Ideas Bookstore is for readers who enjoy the idea of a mysterious death in a great location, their local bookstore, and clever clues left behind to unravel and keep the reader guessing until the end.
I would advise that you buckle in before picking up The Guns Above. Quoting Josette Dupre, first female airship captain, “They say it’s not the fall that kills you." So true when you are in the middle of a war and on the new and untested Mistral airship, dodging bullets and bombs. Josette is also dodging Lord Bernat, whose secret assignment is to watch her closely and report back to command any time she shows weaknesses or indecision. After all, what does a woman know about war and battle strategy? The Guns Above is a military tale with airship battles, spicy and snarky dialogue, adding a bit of a steampunk feel into the mix. Josette’s goal is to stay alive long enough to prove herself worthy of the role of captain. Bernat starts out as a fop who is clueless about naval warfare, and a bit (well, more than a bit) scared of the gunfire and bombs, who soon discovers the bravery hidden within his narcissistic demeanor. This debut will please those who enjoy military fantasy adventures such as those with Honor Harrington, as well as steampunk fans who enjoy a riveting description of airship manipulation and battle strategy.
This recently discovered novel is based on the rivalry, known as the Bone Wars, between real-life paleontologists Edwin Cope and Otheniel Marsh and takes place in the 1876’s Wild West. Both are heading expeditions to the western territories, and William Johnson, a Yale student of privilege, decides to tag along with Marsh’s group after placing a bet with a rival student. The secretive and paranoid Marsh decides that William is a spy for Cope, and sneaks off, abandoning William in wild and wooly Cheyenne, Wyoming. William ends up joining Cope’s expedition. They make an astonishing discovery, a huge dinosaur skeleton and one enormous tooth. Rivalries are heating up as William attempts to hold on to the find (especially the giant tooth) while fending off the archeologist adversaries, Indians, thieves, and a famous Western character or two. William, once a rich and spoiled student, must grow up fast if he wants to stay alive and bring the bones home for scientific study. As usual, Michael Crichton did extensive research, turning Dragon Teeth into a fast-paced action, science, and history thriller any fan of his previous books (and movies, tv shows, etc.) will thoroughly enjoy. We are told that more manuscripts will be turned into novels, making Michael Crichton a best-selling author almost 10 years after his death.
We could call this a Japanese police procedural, but it is much more. The author was inspired by an unsolved Japanese murder case where an entire family was slaughtered in 2000, and the case is still open. Inspector Iwata, who is reinstated and reassigned to Tokyo Homicide Division, faces combative superiors and a rather stubborn partner in Sakai. Sakai and Iwata are assigned to the multiple murder case after the previous detective killed himself. At the scene, they find ritualistic details, including black smudges and a symbol of a large black sun that lead them to investigate the history of black sun worshipers and cults. Iwata also knows that his superiors want him gone (but he doesn’t know why), and he is racing against time to solve the Black Sun Killer murders, before the killer strikes again. Blue Light Yokohama will appeal to readers who enjoy a unique location for their mysteries, and a believable cop who faces challenges both within and on the job.
Crime boss Max has made crime pay. But he’s getting older and his doctor says to slow down. Max decides to close down the family business and take care of loose ends, including getting rid of anyone who knows too much. Meanwhile, actor Harry Murphy has to pee. He wanders into a restaurant only to be told to get lost. Harry goes around to the alley and does his business. Above him is an open window where Max and his family are talking about who needs to disappear for good. Harry overhears the discussion and decides to take action and warn their intended victim in London. And so, the chaos ensues, with Harry in a foreign country carrying a suitcase full of cash, a killer on the loose, a pretty girl who happens to be a British agent who is sort of helping Harry, and a series of unfortunate coincidences throwing monkey wrenches into the plans of the crooks, the cons, the dames, and the law. A darkly humorous chase novel reminiscent of Elmore Leonard and Donald Westlake.
Lots of high tech details, action and adventure await the reader of Killfile. John Smith has a special gift where he can read people’s thoughts. Maybe this is a curse, not a blessing, since he can hear those pesky songs that go through your head and relive your most painful memories. A former valuable CIA agent, John now works freelance as a private consultant. His latest client is rich software genius Everett Sloan who hires John to check out a former employee for possible intellectual property theft. John’s identity becomes compromised and he finds himself on the run from unknown enemies. He, along with Sloan’s associate Kelsey Foster, goes off the grid where he can hopefully use his special skills to save himself and Kelsey, and also solve the mystery of the data that may or may not be stolen. For fans of the Preston and Child stories with Pendergast as well as James Rollins supernatural adventures.—Linda
A unique debut fantasy taking place in an alternate 1800’s England where magic seems to be on the wane and the new Sorcerer Royal need to fix it fast, if possible. Unfortunately, Zacharias Wythe will not be getting much help from his fellow members of The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers. You see, he’s the adopted son of the former Sorcerer Royal, a freed slave and definitely not a proper gentleman. Zacharias visits Mrs. Daubeney's School for Gentlewitches, a school for suppressing the spells caste by young ladies who have a proclivity for magic. There he meets Prunella Gentleman, a young woman who will change his life forever. Proper ladies do not practice magic as it is too much for their delicate minds and bodies. However, Prunella, an assistant at the school and an orphan whose heritage is also questionable (read “person of color”), has magical abilities far beyond any woman he has met before. She also has a dark secret involving some mysterious stones full of magic. Zacharias takes Prunella as an apprentice, intending to convince the Society to change their policies on women and magic. And so the fun begins! For those who like Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, a dash of Jane Austin, dragons, some vampires, and witches too-well, who doesn’t!
This sequel to The Ice Limit throws Gideon Crew into the mix. The Ice Limit tells the story of a massive meteorite discovered in the Antarctic and the attempt by an eccentric millionaire to salvage it. Well, that idea went to hell in a handbasket. Five years later a science team, with Gideon on board, are going to attempt to destroy this thing, not a meteorite but an organism from deep space, that is now rooted on the ocean floor and growing. Gideon is an expert with nuclear weapons, and along with other scientists, plan to use one-person manned subs to place devices designed to blow up the creature. Well, the best laid plans… Unfortunately for them, the alien creature is not cooperating but fighting back and it appears to be reproducing. It must be destroyed or we’re all doomed. Beyond the Ice Limit is a fast-paced, action packed thriller for fans of Michael Crichton and James Rollins. Reading Ice Limit first will help with the backstory, but is not necessary (I really liked it). –Linda
Arf is the sequel to Woof and continues the adventures of Bowser and Birdie. Bowser is still in charge of home front security for the Gaux family, so when there is a break-in, he starts the investigation to find the intruder with the stinky aftershave and even stinkier cat companion. No one knows why someone broke in, as nothing seems to be missing. Someone is also asking questions about Birdie’s father, a police officer killed several years ago, and the cold case involving his murder. Bowser knows he’s looking for a man with a strong limeade aftershave scent mixed with cat, but why can’t these humans, even Birdie, catch this trail of odors and help him out? If you’ve read Spencer Quinn’s Chet and Bernie series, then you know that the author speaks dog fluently and also writes a suspenseful mystery suitable for all ages.
Spencer Quinn has already proven that he has no trouble getting inside a dog’s head and providing a convincing voice with the Chet and Bernie mysteries. His new young adult series features the just adopted, slightly slobbery but handsome mutt Bowser and his new pal, eleven-year-old Birdie Gaux. When Birdie and her grandmother bring Bowser home to the family bait and tackle shop in the bayou, they find that their prize stuffed marlin is missing. Bowser and his powerful nose immediately sniff out a clue in the form of a cigar discarded by the dock. This sends Birdie and Bowser on the trail to danger. Narrated by Bowser, and similar to the mysteries as told by Chet the Jet, Woof is perfect for adults and kids who like dogs and mysteries. It helps to be easily convinced that our pooches know what’s going on, but are simply distracted by bacon and cats.
I read the premise for this book and thought what a great idea – but will it live up to the hype? It does, it does! Bailey Chen is out of college and looking for work. She hooks up with an old high school friend who gets her a job as a bar back. When she accidentally mixes a drink from a secret stash of booze and then hits the streets, she discovers a demon prowling the dark alleys of Chicago; and the screwdriver she consumed gives her powers to fight this ugly monster. Yup, there is a secret society of bartenders, called ale-chemists, who take to the streets, fortified by spirits, to combat ugly demons. Last Call includes recipes for various mixed drinks with the history of the drink, spirits used, and powers given when the magical cocktail is mixed correctly. This is one of the most fun urban fantasies I have ever read, with a sharp, kick-ass heroine who faces demons, a pushy mom, a possibly unrequited love interest, and a plot to take over the world. You know you should be reading this with a tall, cool glass of your favorite libation close at hand. I can’t wait for the sequel
Kali Ling is the first female captain of Rage tournament history. Every week, she and her team fight to the digital death on TV in the Virtual Gaming League's competition. The Rage tournament is designed to bring top gladiator/gamers together to compete in bloody combat, face virtual death, and most import, to entertain their many fans. Kali and her teammates have died many times. Their weapons and armor are digital, their deaths are virtual, but the pain from fighting and dying is very real. Kali is excited to be at the top of her game until her lover and teammate overdoses. The subsequent cover-up concerning the circumstances surrounding his death makes Kali realize the truth and the lies behind the tournament. She needs to set things right and expose the League's craving for ratings at any cost. She needs to show the world the high cost gladiators pay for fame and fortune. Kali is the center of this story, a strong yet flawed heroine who is willing to buck the system and bring justice for her teammates and herself. You don't have to be a gamer to enjoy Arena. There's lots of action from the get-go with a bit of romance tossed into the arena for those of us who like that sort of thing (me!). For fans of the Hunger Games dystopian society or Ender's Game virtual combat.
The sequel to Murder as a Fine Art, my favorite mystery of 2013, Inspector of the Dead brings back opium-eater Thomas De Quincey, his headstrong daughter Emily and Scotland Yard detectives Ryan and Becker. Based on real attempts to assassinate Queen Victoria, in Inspector of the Dead, a serial killer is targeting the upper crust of British society. With each victim, he leaves a note naming a person who previously attempted to assassinate Queen Victoria, implying she is the ultimate target. De Quincy isn’t the most likable character, nor do the British citizens respect him. Fighting his opium addiction and poor health, he, never the less, is able to look at the murder scenes with an unbiased and unique perspective, seeing beyond the prejudices of an upper-crust society where appearances are everything. Inspector of the Dead skillfully blends fact and fiction, re-creating 1855 Victorian London’s fog shrouded streets. As always, David Morrell’s impeccable research and gifted storytelling elevates Inspector of the Dead to the pinnacle of historical thrillers.
As Raymond Chandler once wrote “Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid.” It is the early 1950’s and Philip Marlowe is back walking the mean streets of Bay City, California. Benjamin Black (aka John Banville) is guiding the quintessential P.I. through a dangerous case involving a seductive young heiress, the black-eyed blonde. She hires him to find her former lover Nico Peterson. We know that the case is not going to be a simple search for a lover gone missing. As Marlowe begins his search, he starts to grasp how far the heiress and her rich Bay City family will go to protect their interests. Full of plot twists to satisfy the most discerning mystery reader, The Black-Eyed Blonde is a sharp, somewhat melancholy, yet compelling novel. To continue in Raymond Chandler’s words “The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor.” Benjamin Black’s Marlowe fits the bill. –Linda
First contact occurred two years ago. Cara Sweeney is grateful for the L’eihr technology that came with the alien encounter. Her mother’s cancer was cured. Now Cara and her family will be hosting a L’eihr exchange student. She envisions her future as bright and shiny, with her blog going through the roof and colleges vying for her attention. Still, she will have to share her home (and bathroom) with an alien.
When Aelyx shows up, she’s confused about her feelings. Sure, he’s the cutest guy she’s ever seen, human or alien, but he’s also cold and annoyingly smart. Soon the town, along with Cara’s classmates, begins an anti-L’eihr campaign, threatening violence toward Aelyx, Cara and her family. Cara and Aelyx are drawn to each other and soon find themselves falling in love. But a plot to have the earth-alien alliance fail threatens not only Cara and her family, but also the future of the entire planet. It’s up to Cara to figure out how to save mankind and the L’eihr’s future too.
Appealing to science fiction and YA readers, a plot with a forbidden love theme involving intergalactic exchange students allows Landers to discuss important issues such as teen romance, peer pressure, trust and acceptance of those a little bit different from ourselves. – Linda
The Fountain of Youth. Does it exist, and if so, where and also when? More important, to what lengths would a person go to find it, keep it, and exploit the consequences of eternal youth? The Eternal World stirs up a cornucopia of times and places, including Spanish conquistadors, a Native American woman out for vengeance, a scientific prodigy specializing in biotechnology, and the conglomerate made up of very youthful men determined to keep and exploit their powerful influence, growing richer while not growing much older. When the corporation’s source of their youth begins to dry up, they call upon biotechnology expert David Robinton to try and recreate their liquid gold. He believes his research will benefit all mankind, but we know better. When Shako, the daughter of the chief whose tribe was destroyed by the conquistadors, comes calling with vengeance on her mind, David must figure out who is using him and why. Oh yeah, and how to survive this epic battle of immortals. For readers who like a fast-paced supernatural thriller mixing fantasy with history.
Upon first meeting Freedom Oliver, I was convinced I would not like this brash, drunken, tough-as-nails woman working in a small town Oregon biker bar. Surprise! Still waters run deep and Freedom is a bottomless well. Placed into a witness protection program after killing her husband, a cop, she puts her kids up for adoption, thinking they will have a chance at a better life. However, it’s tough to choose which family is the most loathsome, her dead husband’s sadistic family unit or the adoptive parents who seem to be part of a bizarre religious cult. When Freedom discovers that her daughter has gone missing, she loses her handlers and heads back to Kentucky, where her daughter was raised. Freedom seeks redemption, some kind of release from her internal demons. She misses her kids so much she becomes physically ill, fights depression, has a group of miscreant relatives out for revenge, and gets some unexpected help from an Oregon lawman. Freedom’s Child is for those who like fast-paced chase novels with flawed characters, likable despite their faults.
Do cats have nine lives and what does that really mean? Cat Out of Hell pursues this idea in a most unique way. Part Sherlock Holmes investigation, part gothic tale, a bit of Interview with a Vampire, Cat Out of Hell is a wickedly funny, creepy, can’t put down tale (tail?). Our story begins at a seaside cottage in England with a cat and a man facing each other across a kitchen table. The cat says “Shall we begin?” This is the story of Roger, who has become immortal by the paw of Captain, killed repeatedly until he becomes the companion Captain has been craving. The Captain, a big black tomcat, can be a bit jealous of others, man and beast, who enter the pairs’ lives. Mysterious deaths occur. Lots of mysterious deaths. A thriller for both cat lovers and cat haters. Not for those who hate to read of murders of animals (and people). Definitely for those who will enjoy a wickedly funny, sarcastic, scary story full of quirky characters, both human and beast. Two paws up (‘cause I’d fall over if I tried to hold up four). Mewow!
The latest winner of the Tony Hillerman Prize, Bad Country is a lean, mean, noir western mystery as harsh and dry as the remote corner of Arizona known to locals as "El Hoyo” where our hero, Rodeo Garnet lives. A former rodeo cowboy, Rodeo gets by as a private investigator, bounty hunter, and warrant server. Rodeo takes on a case involving an elderly Indian woman from his own Reservation who has hired him to help discover who murdered her grandson. Rodeo and his faithful old dog chase the twisted trail of clues in his trusty (and rusty) pick-up as he also tracks down information on related cases involving a series of murders, including one where the body was found in his own backyard. I suspect that fans of Craig Johnson and Michael McGarrity will want to check out Bad Country, making sure to have an icy beverage close by.
India and Pakistan are on the brink of nuclear war; child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara is treating the daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations for her violent visions and speaking in tongues, while a thief steals a strange silvery stone relic from a lab aboard a survey ship in the South Atlantic. How do these occurrences relate to one another? These are the clues to an ancient lost world of human beings who lived on Antarctica before it became a frozen wasteland and before our species developed. Is there a connection between these souls of the past and possessed teenagers in our present? And what about those rats overrunning New York City? This fast-paced mystical thriller will keep you on the edge of your seat until the last ”wow!”
In 2150 genetic manipulation has been forbidden and kids who show genetic “mistakes” are turned over to the government. When Zelia’s chemist father is killed, she and her sister find themselves under scrutiny from some very scary strangers. Zel escapes and finds her way to a safehouse, while her sister Dylia is held captive and used as a human guinea pig for experimentation with sensory weapons. Zel is determined to rescue her sister, with or without the help of her outcast mutant pals. Zel is a great character, a super-smart, science geek with fierce determination who will stop at nothing to save her sister. Control is a smart, fast-paced dystopian adventure with love, betrayal, mutants, auditory ecstasy drugs, science geeks, scary technology and one kick-ass heroine. -Linda
Helen and Troy head out on a road trip. Just your average all-American boy (nearly perfect in every way) and your awkward teenage girl (who is a minotaur) along with a three-legged dog embarking on a mission from an ancient god. Helen is worried because she will be so embarrassed to shed in Troy’s classic car or rip the roof with her horns and she can’t get cute shoes that fit her hooves to save her life! Troy is ever optimistic that all will work out in the end. He doesn’t know about the badass orc bikers on their trail. Or the various challenges they will face at every stop. You know, like a Cyclops and an enchanted Mystery Cottage. Fun as usual from one of my favorite authors. Guaranteed to bring a laugh or two or more!
Let me hear you say “Hooray, Chee and Leaphorn are back”. Tony’s daughter Anne takes up the mantle to bring a new perspective on a classic series. Chee’s wife, Navajo Nation Police Officer Bernadette (Bernie) Manualito, is a witness to a shooting and someone she knows is seriously wounded. Her husband, Sergeant Jim Chee, is put in charge of finding the shooter. So even though Bernie is ordered to step back, since she is a witness, you know she will be in the thick of this very personal investigation. Intrigue in the world of ancient Indian art and artifacts along with the atmospheric locale of Chaco Canyon add to the rich Southwestern atmosphere of Spider Woman’s Daughter. I am looking forward to the next Bernie adventure.
Hooray, Carl Hiaasen is back, bringing us a new Floridian tale of mayhem, greed corruption, voodoo, and a deranged monkey. Andrew Yancey is an ex-cop assigned to roach patrol, i.e. restaurant inspector, after being demoted for publicly assaulting his girlfriend’s husband with a vacuum cleaner hose. I won’t say what part of the anatomy was breached. He is asked by the local sheriff to take a severed arm to Miami for DNA testing. He now has the mauled arm in his freezer. The best-laid plans…Real estate monkey business, as well as a pet monkey belonging to a voodoo priestess in the Bahamas, draws Yancey into a crazy unpredictable adventure sure to leave you laughing.
Wow! I was hooked on Touch from the first page. Kepler recounts watching the body she (he?) had just been occupying die from an assassin’s bullets. Then the gunman turns away from the body known as Josephine, still looking for her. He knows she can switch hosts. Kepler is not safe yet. Touch has the pace of an express train with faulty brakes. A continuous chase novel with accounts of past lives thrown in to bring humanity to characters constantly changing bodies and circumstances. Kepler treats her host bodies well, even coming to care for them deeply, especially Josephine. So when Josephine is murdered, Kepler looks for revenge. What does it mean to be human? What’s love got to do with it? How can a thrilling science fiction novel manage to explore the meaning of life at a profound level while still sending the reader on a roller coaster ride with twists and turns on every page? Be prepared to set aside some time to read Touch because you won’t want to put this book down.
Zoe has just moved to New York City, and is looking to start fresh as a travel editor after leaving her old job because of a disastrous affair with her publishing boss. She spots a quirky ad in a dingy bookstore and sees it again in a strange coffee shop. When she meets the person who placed the ad, she is repeatedly told that she’s just not right for the job. Zoe perseveres and is hired to edit a different kind of travel guide—for the undead. As the only human on the job, she must quickly learn about vampires, zombies, death goddesses, and other undead visitors who require a unique approach to tourist spots. Each chapter begins with a quote from the guide, with restaurant recommendations and hotel accommodations (or whatever is needed, like fresh dirt or a nice park). This is a unique and fun addition to urban fantasy, with Zoe ready to jump into the fray when the delicate balance between the undead and the humans is threatened.
I have always looked forward to reading a new book by David Morrell, knowing it will be scrupulously researched with attention to details, along with fast-paced action, pulling you into the story with a fierce grip. “Must keep reading” you tell yourself at 2 A.M. “To hell with work tomorrow.” Murder as a Fine Art takes us to Victorian London. The story begins with the very accurate retelling of a brutal massacre occurring 40 years earlier known as the Ratcliffe Highway murders. David warns us in the introduction that the description of the slaughter is accurate. He introduces Thomas De Quincey, the famous, or infamous author known for his memoir Confessions of as English Opium- Eater. DeQuincey also wrote an essay detailing the Ratcliffe Highway murders and becomes a prime suspect in a series of copycat killings mirroring the ones 43 years ago that caused panic in the streets. His efforts to prove his innocence are hampered by his need to chug back the laudanum to function. Fortunately he is accompanied by his daughter Emily, a delightfully outspoken, no-hoop-wearing modern woman, who provides moral and physical support for her father when he is weakened. She also manages to contribute to the investigation led by a Scotland Yard detective and a very likable policeman. We learn about techniques of investigation just beginning to be used by the newly formed Scotland Yard and the changing Victorian London verging on the industrial age. Appealing to those fans of historical crime fiction, of course, but also to anyone who enjoys a fast-paced, well-written thriller full of quirky characters and fascinating historical figures.
There is always cause for celebration when a new Discworld novel arrives. Snuff features Commander Sam Vines, taking a vacation with Lady Sybil and young Sam to her ancestral home in the country. Not that Commander Vimes wanted a vacation, especially a country holiday, with trees, animals, fresh air and strange country noises unfamiliar to a city dweller. But never fear, soon a corpse will appear and Sam’s vacation will turn into an investigation full of goblins, magic, murder, kidnapping, and poo. Yes, poo. For while Inspector Vimes is investigating the murder of a Goblin girl, young Sam is deep into poo. He has met a children’s author who writes about the different kinds of poo, and young Sam is delighted to find that the country affords many examples of his new infatuation, ready for sample collection. So while Commander Vimes fights Goblin prejudice and a bit of smuggling by local pirates, young Sam is armed with a bucket and considerable determination to collect samples of the local forest creatures' scat, secretly (well, not so secretly) wishing for an encounter with an elephant. What else can I say except enjoy! --LNT
Welcome to Terry Pratchett’s version of Victorian London, where a guttersnipe by the name of Dodger can rise up out of the sewers to become a (sort-of) gentleman. Dodger gets by as a tosher, one who scours the sewers searching for treasures washed into the murky depths from the busy streets above. One day he rises from a drain to rescue a damsel in distress and finds himself in the middle of a mystery involving the girl’s identity and powerful foes that want her dead. Dodger is soon in the thick of things, partnering with reporter Charlie Dickens and social reformer Henry Mayhew, grappling with Sweeney Todd over a haircut, and hobnobbing with Benjamin Disraeli and Sir Robert Peel. Dodger is an appealing hero, kind enough to issue a warning about “Richards” (cockney slang involving certain dangers from “Richard the Thirds” rhyming with…) while giving the upper crust a tour of the sewers. A well-researched setting, great characters, sly jokes (of course!), action and adventure, and hopefully, true love, make Dodger simply irresistible.
Reading instructions: Pick up Raylan, settle down in a comfy chair, enjoy the ride. My praise for Raylan, a collection of three interlinked stories featuring Deputy U.S. Marshall Raylan Givens, is totally “justified”. Make the stories even easier on your mind’s eye by picturing Timothy Olyphant in the role as Raylan. Each of the three stories involves a very unique bad gal. Layla is a nurse who has come up with a very unique kidnapping scheme involving human organs. Carol Conlan is a viperous vice president of M-T Mining, ready willing and able to deal with coal miner problems any way necessary, including shooting a man who's standing in profit’s way. Then there’s Jackie Nevada, a college student who can outplay anyone at the poker table, and hopes to outplay Raylan, or at least participate in some interesting foreplay, depending on the flop, the turn and the river. Will she have the winning hand? Bottom line…snappy dialog, quirky characters, true grit, totally justified.
What’s a spineless (literally), conquering warlord to do once a planet’s inhabitants have been subjugated? Emperor Mollusk, conqueror and now benevolent ruler of Earth, is bored. He, his loyal pet ultrapede Snarg, and his tough Venusian army commander Zala are hanging out at his lair on Dinosaur Island, experimenting with the earth’s polarity when a new challenge rears it’s ugly head, er, make that brain. No body, just a brain. The Sinister Brain and his nefarious brain gang, the Council of Egos, are fervently plotting to take over the universe. Luckily, Emperor Mollusk has plenty of weapons hidden under his tentacles. That about sums up the plot. Plenty of crazy action, with skewed science, a cool death ray, and robots that definitely don’t follow the rules, Emperor Mollusk Versus the Sinister Brain is for readers that like their science fiction pulpy. Similar to John Zakour’s Plutonium Blonde.
Myfanwy (rhymes with Tiffany) Thomas wakes up in a London park with no memory of who she is. Never mind that she is surrounded by bodies clothed in lab coats and wearing rubber gloves. Luckily, there is a note in her coat pocket with the salutation “Dear You, The body you are wearing used to be mine” and signed “Love, Me”. She’s given a red pill, blue pill choice and decides to go down the rabbit hole. Following the instructions left by her former self, she reports to work with the idea of finding her true identity and discovering who wants her out of the picture. But that job! Myfanwy is an executive, a Rook, in a super-secret organization, the Checquy Group, that keeps the world safe from supernatural threats. The Checquy Group has sort of an X-men feel, with kids attending a school to help them develop their powers, and a hierarchy of agents doing fieldwork, fighting various supernatural forces. The former Myfanwy was a shy, awkward girl, unsure of her supernatural powers and happy to stay in her office, organizing the Group. The new Myfanwy is still unsure, but is not satisfied to hide in her office, waiting for her enemies to come back and finish her off. Using the copious notes and files left by her former self, her confidence grows and she begins the transformation from shy office girl to kick-ass agent. With a backstory told in the unique form of letters and notes, totally unexpected creepy yucky monsters, and surprising plot twists, The Rook makes for a great supernatural spy thriller. Marketed as “On Her Majesty’s Supernatural Secret Service”, Myfanwy is a force to be reckoned with ... and there’s room for a sequel.
For those who like their mysteries Dark and Danish! Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse in Copenhagen, is asked to do a favor for an old friend. Karin leaves Nina a key to a train station locker, and when Nina retrieves the suitcase in the locker, she finds a little boy inside, naked, barely alive and obviously drugged. She encounters a violent man at the train station lockers, leaving her confused, afraid, and hesitant to contact the police. She sets out to discover the boy’s identity and the reason he’s being smuggled into the country. You can look forward to a suspenseful thriller with intriguing characters, a surprising twist and definitely a sequel with nurse Nina.
Way back in 1979, I read Trevanian’s Shibumi. I loved the adventure and intrigue, the almost supernatural skills displayed by assassin Nicholai Hel, along with Trevanian’s snarky sense of humor. Hel is fluent in seven languages, a master of a form of martial arts called "naked kill," has a deep knowledge of Eastern cultures, including the ancient Japanese game of Go and in possession of "proximity sense" that enables him not only to know when someone approaches him but to sense how that person is feeling. Who better to continue Hel’s story than Don Winslow? He has written a prequel, so you can start here if you haven’t read Trevanian. Satori takes place in the early 1950s, with Hel just released from jail for the murder of his mentor. The CIA offers him a deal he can’t refuse: in return for freedom, money and a neutral passport, go to Beijing and kill the Soviet Union's Commissioner to China. Pretty much a suicide mission. But, of course, things are much, much more complicated than Hel is lead to believe, including his involvement with the lovely and mysterious Solange, his trainer in Western ways. Will our superspy survive this insane assignment and achieve his life goal of Satori, understanding and harmony with the world?
Ahoy maties, get ready to buckle your swash. The manuscript for this pirate, make that privateer, tale was found as a complete manuscript after Michael Crichton’s death in 2008. Pirate Latitudes is set in 1665 in the Caribbean. Captain Charles Hunter decides to go after a Spanish galleon and its cargo of riches moored in the bay of a small island near Jamaica. The governor of Jamaica approves the venture, so technically, Captain Charles will not be stealing the treasure (pirateering = death by hanging), but privateering (making a profit off an enemy of England). What ensues is an adventure caper on the high seas, filled with lusty pirates, a kick-ass female warrior, a nasty villain (or two), a hurricane and, yes, a sea monster. Release the Kraken!
I let my husband read Impact first because the cover had a fiery ball of flames hurtling toward earth and I thought, oh yeah, another apocalyptic meteor collision. Call Bruce Willis and full speed ahead to save the world. But my husband said, “Hey, this is great. I think you’ll really like it.” Blast it. Right again! Impact IS a blast! We’ve got three scenarios. First up is former CIA operative Wyman Ford, last seen in Blasphemy, checking out radioactive gemstones mined in Cambodia. Over in Maine, college dropout and frustrated astronomer Abbey Straw spots a meteor landing near one of the many small islands near her home. She wants to cash in by selling fragments on e-bay, so she and girlfriend Jackie begin a search for the impact crater. And then there’s the angry red planet. Gamma rays from Mars? Mark Corso, a Mars mission technician at the National Propulsion Facility gets hold of some very classified and dangerous data. How do these three occurrences tie together? Well, I’m not telling, so you’ll have to read Impact to find out. There are several reasons why I loved this story. The two women searching for the impact make a great team. While they are hunting down the point of impact, a psycho who wants in on the action, even though he doesn’t know what the action might be is chasing them! Wyman Ford kicks ass over in Cambodia in a totally moral way. And the mysterious gamma rays along with a High resolution NASA image revealing a feature hidden in the depths of a crater on Mars reveal some unique surprises about this Impact.
--LNT (and hubby Jan Tonnesen)
A precocious teen girl loves chemistry. She helps Dad solve a murder while plotting to make her sister's lips explode with a new lipstick formula. Gotta love it.