April 2006 Same Vein


Superstition by Karen Robards
Hodder Headline

Nicky Sullivan is a cub reporter and correspondent for the "24-Hour Investigates" news magazine, and is out to prove herself so that she can attain her goal of co-host on a New York based morning news program. But sometimes her ambition clouds her judgment and sense of safety...

In her hometown of Pawleys Island, South Carolina, a grisly unsolved mystery still haunts the residents. With the help of her psychic mother, she plans a live on-air séance to bring the dead teens back to solve the crime on national television. The problem is her psychic mom is blocked. But the show must go on, despite protestations of the town mayor and harried new police chief, Joe Franconi. Joe has his own set of issues, including discussions with a long-dead friend, Brian.

Soon, another murder with the same M.O. occurs, and it looks like Nicky is another of the intended victims. Joe does his best to protect her, but she won't have it - she has to be at the crux of the action.

From the moment they meet, Joe is attracted to Nicky. She, on the other hand, is quite surly since no one gets in her way of the story, even to the detriment of an on-going police investigation. Meanwhile, Joe has a checkered past, which threatens his new position if that information finds its way into the wrong hands.

Superstition takes a while to get going, but once it does, the plot twists and surprises will keep the reader guessing. It rushes headlong towards a (too quick?) ending that neatly wraps up events and may surprise even the dedicated thriller reader.


Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley

Allen & Unwin

Easy Rawlins is back in Walter Mosley's tenth novel in the series and he is better than ever.

As the story opens, Easy faces a personal crisis. His adopted daughter needs expensive medical care, which means that Easy must put his hands on some cash, quickly. Two opportunities present themselves. Raymond Alexander -- one of the most intriguing characters in crime fiction -- offers Easy the chance to participate in a well-planned armed robbery in Texas. Alternatively, a detective colleague needs help on a missing person assignment from a shadowy employer in San Francisco. Easy chooses the second, straighter path. Of course, the ensuing twists, turns and homicides make the armed robbery look like an afternoon walk in the park.

Mosley is at the top of his game in this novel. Easy continues to grow and confront issues of love and family. The characters with whom he surrounds himself -- at least those who have survived -- also seem to have mellowed somewhat with age. Previous books in the series have seen Easy "solving problems for people" against a changing social background that has included the rise of black militantism and the Watts riots. This story takes place in the Vietnam era, where Apocalypse Now meets the Age of Aquarius. However, the focus remains where the action is: the inner motivations of complex characters doing what it takes to get by in the world.

This subject matter never grows stale. Readers can delight in the continuation of this finely conceived and well-executed series of detective stories that capture the flavor of recent black cultural history and remind us that nobility is found in many places.

Dragonsblood by Ann & Todd McCaffrey

Random House

Dragonsblood is the first Pern novel not authored by Anne herself. This is bound to make a few people pause for thought before reaching for a copy. But Todd, her son, is more than up to the task.

The narrative shifts smoothly between Wind Blossom, one of the original colonists of Pern, who's struggling to create a legacy for future generations before she dies, and Lorana, a young dragonrider born 450 years later with unusual talents for healing and telepathy.

A genuinely spellbinding set of time travel puzzles and paradoxes is set against the moving backdrop of two populations struggling to survive: the children of the colonists, learning to live in a new world as they lose the technology of the old one, and the dragons of Lorana's time, who are dying of a mysterious plague just when they're needed to protect Pern.

The strength of the two women and the mysterious connection between them is gradually revealed through a number of surprising and sometimes heartbreaking parallel occurrences.

Dragonsblood is a very clever story in many respects - and very ambitious. This was a brave venture, and one that was very worth while.

Pern's future is in very safe hands indeed. Expect sequels aplenty.

Secret Smile by Nicci French

Penguin Books

Miranda's sister, Kerri, has a new boyfriend. He's a raven-haired, handsome charmer who seems to dote on Kerri. But Brendan isn't the man he says he is.
Miranda should know, because she broke off her own affair with him just a few weeks ago when she found him reading her diary.

Now Brendan claims that it was he who ended their short-lived relationship--and everyone believes him. When he and Kerri announce their engagement, Miranda's parents are thrilled for their shyer, less confident daughter. Then Kerri and Brendan beg Miranda to let them live in her apartment until their new home is ready. Against her better judgment, Miranda agrees.

Like a virus, Brendan starts spreading destruction thourghout her life. He invades her privacy and disrupts her relationships with her family and friends. And then the real nightmare begins...

Like the obscenities he whispers into her ear, his onslaughts are as undetectable as they are devastating. Those closest to her begin to doubt her mental stability and accuse her of the very thing she believes drives
Brendan: obsession. When Miranda decides to take off the gloves, fight back, and discover what is behind her enemy's bemused, secret smile, the consequences will be unlike any readers have ever encountered before.

An unpredictable, intelligent, and vastly entertaning tale of one woman's strength and one man's madness. Well worth the read.


Now May You Weep by Deborah Crombie

Pan Macmillan

When an old friend and former housemate invites Detective Inspector Gemma James to her ancestral home in Scotland for a weekend, James stumbles over a corpse and uncovers a mystery that reaches back over a century to a feud between two rival Highland clans who also happen to produce some of the world's finest Scotch whisky. There's a lot Gemma doesn't know about Hazel Cavendish, despite the years they lived together. For instance, the dead man was Hazel's lover and she's the heiress to two distilleries.

In this ninth book of the series, James's lover Detective Inspector Duncan Kincaid has the lesser role, but he manages to make his presence felt, personally if not professionally, in a subplot involving his runaway teenage son. Meanwhile, Gemma, determined to clear her friend of murder charges, makes it her business to learn who killed Donald Brodie and why. Crombie makes the craggy Highland countryside so present you can practically smell the heather, and the slight hint of magical realism that's been creeping into this series seems quite appropriate in such a mist-shrouded setting.

It's a Bitter Little World by Charles Pappas

Capricorn Link

Every once in a while, and it's not often, you run across a book whose contents seem ready to bust its covers. ITS A BITTER LITTLE WORLD is one of those beauties.

Charles Pappas has created a multi-media experience in book form. Not only do you get the best film-noir quotations ever uttered by the most desperate guys and dolls, but you get them surrounded by graphics and design that pull you right into the shadows. Visually, it's a striking book.

And, as if that wasn't enough, you get a healthy dose of Mr. Pappas' own observations, written in a style that has all the bite and brains of the genre he obviously loves so well.

ITS A BITTER LITTLE WORLD is a labor of love, and it pulls no punches. There is no worthier tribute to the film-noir genre, and Pappas has done the job well.

Film-noir has given us the greatest dialogue in the history of cinema, and ITS A BITTER LITTLE WORLD is a feast of imagery and phrases whose like we won't see again. This is a book for every noir-fan's library.

Buy it!

Lethal Dose by Jeff Buick

Leisure Books

When Gordon Buchanan's brother, Billy, dies from an injury in a logging accident because his blood failed to coagulate properly, Gordon seeks an outside cause for Billy's blood disorder, given no family history of hemophilia.

Gordon learns that his brother was taking Triaxcion, a new drug manufactured by Veritas Pharmaceuticals, whose ruthless CEO will stop at nothing to maintain his company's profits.

As Gordon begins to dig into the inner workings of the drug company, he's joined by Jennifer Pearce, a recent Veritas hire who has her own reasons for investigating her employer. Together they uncover a twisted path of corporate conspiracy, greed and murder that reaches into the very heart of American fears.

Buick offers two appealing protagonists plus plenty of fast-paced action and narrow escapes, with a minimum of tech-speak. While several convenient coincidences and overly helpful strangers speed along Gordon and Jennifer's quest, the final product is a quick, enjoyable biotech thriller.

LETHAL DOSE mirrors Robin Cook in his prime, and is well worth the read.

Keepers by Gary A. Braunbeck

Leisure Books

Gil Stewart is a man with a past. He just can't remember much of it. Or maybe he can. The problem is, he doesn't know WHAT he remembers...until he sees a man in a bowler hat being chased by a pack of fierce dogs...and sees that man die in a horrible traffic accident...and hears the man whisper his name...

Then his memory begins to stir.

On that terrible evening, Gil's world falls apart. It is a descent that will take him decades into the past, to when he was just a boy, and to a captivating young woman he once knew.

It is a journey that will lead him to a time before time began, when animals ruled supreme. It is a trip down memory lane from which he might not return...

And it's as scary as hell!

KEEPERS is a twisted, shocking, graffic, and down-right clever: everything a horror novel should be. Braunbeck's writing is crisp and clever when necessary, dirty and daunting at other times. As we've come to expect from a master of the craft.

This is a damn entertaining novel, and not one for the squeamish. You may never look at Rover the same way again...

Highly recommended.

Return Home