Monday, August 31, 2009

New Reviews from Harriet

Snakeskin Road
James Braziel
Bantam, Jul 28 2009, $15.00
ISBN: 9780553385038

In 2044 recently widowed Jennifer Harrison is pregnant and desperately needs to return to her hometown Chicago where her mom lives. Currently she is in the vast desert of what was once the southeastern United States; the entire region destroyed by a hole in the Ozone layer. However to become free she needs to escape Birmingham and become an indentured servant for three years in the Midwest.

She travels up the Snakeskin Road used by human traffickers. Her bus crashes and she becomes guardian of thirteen year old Mazy. As they struggle northward on the deadly trail, Rosser the ruthless bounty hunter pursues them as no one leaves Birmingham alive. In Illinois Jennifer is indentured to a brothel where she believes she can survive three years if Rosser is not a customer.

Mindful of his own work, BIRMINGHAM, 35 MILES, James Braziel paints a dark, gloomy future landscape especially the expanding desert widening like a new Ice Age that makes Mad Max look like a still life. The story line is fast-paced because anything less means unburied death for those who dawdle. Jennifer is terrific as a heroine on the run with a teen to protect; but it is Rosser who steals the show as a futuristic Tom Loker before the Quaker revelation in Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Although the too many regional idioms and southern dialect anchor the locale, it detracts from the post-apocalyptic view of the journey north on SNAKESKIN ROAD; a path with no conductors, only killing traffickers and desperate escaped slaves dare venture on this lethal “Underground Railroad”. Harriet Klausner

Zadayi Red
Caleb Fox
Tor, Jul 7 2009, $24.99
ISBN: 9780765319920

Ever since Sunoya was born under an omen of duality either she will be a great enlightener or an even greater darkness bringer. To influence the path, she has been mentored by the medicine man of the Galayi tribe to one day replace him. His mission is to see she goes down the path to help their people. The young shaman sees a horrific vision of the tribe's greatest artifact the magical Cape of Eagle Feathers that helps keep the tribe safe and thriving as the Seer of the People wears it so he (or she) can see the future. Sunoya sees it bloodied and dirty. Her foretelling means hard times for her people.

However, Sunoya also foresees a hero will restore the cape to its previous glory and restore the tribe back to a better lifestyle. She believes the hero is her second cousin, infant Dahzi. The tribe anoints the baby as their savior and over the years he faces much danger including an envious evil loathing grandfather who along with several others who wants him dead. Sunoya keeps Dahzi safe as both will sacrifice plenty for their people.

This is a fabulous fresh Native American fantasy that fans of the sub-genre will fully enjoy. The keys to the story line are the two heroes as Sunoya and Dahzi struggle with what they must personally give up to save their people. Mindful of Aimee Thurlo’s fine tales, ZADAYI RED is a super thriller. Harriet Klausner

Dark Lover
Brenda Joyce
Harlequin HQN, Aug 2009, $7.99
ISBN: 9780373773701

In New York City, Center for Demonic Activity, Historical Crimes Unit demon slaying witch Samantha Rose misses her sister Tabitha (see DARK VICTORY) and her cousin Brianna (see DARK EMBRACE) as her fellow agents married Highlanders and live several centuries in the past. She focuses even more on her work with her latest assignment to retrieve the Duisean, a valuable Celtic manuscript owned by Rubert Hemmer.

International art thief Ian Maclean is known for being able to obtain any masterpiece for his clients. He and Sam had a run in when they met in Scotland that left her humiliated and furious. They meet again as he is seducing the wife of Rupert to foster his plan to steal the Duisean in order to sell to the highest bidder. Sam and Ian team up to try to steal the valuable artifact though neither wants that teaming. Worse they are attracted to one another and begin to depend on one another although both fear the directions their respective feelings are taking them.

The latest Masters of Time romantic urban fantasy is a super complex tale as the kick butt adversaries must unite but both have doubts distrusting the other and even more their hearts. He uses a suave uncaring demeanor to hide his darkest secret that the demons once imprisoned and tortured him for seemingly eternity; she has never forgotten or gotten over his rejection in Scotland. However, they have no choice if they are to prevent an ancient dark one from arising; time is of the essence as they plunge into his worse nightmare that of his own past. Harriet Klausner

Even Money
Dick Francis and Felix Francis
Putnam, Aug 2009, $26.95
ISBN: 9780399155918

The first day of the Royal Ascot horse races gala was like any other opening at the prestigious event and Ted Talbot, his co-worker Luca, and their assistant Betsy are taking book from the punters. Out of the crowd comes an elderly man demanding to speak with Ted. He insists that he is Peter James Talbot, Ted’s father. This is a shocker as Ted was raised by his paternal grandparents who claimed his parents died in a car crash.

Peter informs his still stunned son that he has two half-sisters living in Australia, but before they can get into a car, two thugs demand the older Talbot hand over the money. During the subsequent brawl, James is injured and rushed to the hospital where he dies. Ted goes to his dad’s hotel room and finds proof that his father was involved in an illegal activity. The thugs still demand their loot and the code used on chips that are imprinted and then inserted into the horses. Ted’s life is in jeopardy but he also wants justice for his father and the insurance these punks will not go after him or his loved ones in the future. He ignores the cops because the lead police officer investigating his father’s death assumes he is guilty of something.

Dick and Felix Francis once again affirm that a father-son writing team can provide quality mysteries. Readers are caught up in British horse racing (a trademark of father) and the shenanigans that occur away from the track including some instigated by Ted. Still he receives plenty of empathy as criminals are coming after him as the likely recipient of his father’s legacy, he has a mentally ill wife institutionalized, and a co-worker wanting to be his partner in the family business. With plenty of thrills, chills, and spills EVEN MONEY is a sure bet.
Harriet Klausner

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