Friday, September 11, 2009

Reviews by Harriet

Man with the Iron Heart
Harry Turtledove
Del Rey, Jul 28 2009, $18.00
ISBN: 9780345504357

In 1942 Reinhard Heydrich, the evil designer of the Holocaust, was assassinated in Czechoslovakia by a partisan who hated the Nazis. However, on an alternate earth, Heydrich survived the attempt on his life and received permission from Himmler to create a guerilla army to harass the allies into leaving Germany so the Reich can rebuild. During the next three years, he dropped out of sight and ammo vanished as Heydrich formed the German Freedom Front secretly.

On VE Day, just like Heydrich predicted, the government signed the declaration ending the war in defeat. However, hostilities were not over as Heydrich and his Freedom Front force began their campaign; their efforts killed thousands of occupying allied soldiers. When Mrs. Diana McGuire receives a call that her son died after VE Day, she started a movement that grew rapidly to bring the men home. German POWs are on trial in in Nuremburg charged with war crimes, but the courthouse is destroyed. The trials move to Frankfort, but a suicide bomber ignites a radium bomb making the city uninhabitable. They turn to the Russian occupation next, but the guerillas succeed in disrupting the trials. Germans do not consider the war lost and the allies fear the Nazis like a Phoenix will return to power to continue the fight.

What happened in Iraq and Viet Nam is transposed to late 1940s Germany in THE MAN WITH THE IRON HAND. The German people help the Freedom Front because they seek the removal of foreign occupiers from their soil. The treaty is a piece of paper that proves worthless while the allies ponder a surge of more troops and for how long or withdrawal. Heydrich is sinister and brilliant as he will do anything to force the occupation army to leave. This alternative historical showcases Harry Turtledove at his thought provoking best as the question is how long does a surge (by definition temporary) remain in place and what happens afterward if conditions fall back? Harriet Klausner

Criminal Karma
Steven M. Thomas
Ballantine, Jul 28 2009, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345497833

In Southern California, two bit crook Robert Rivers wants the diamond necklace valued at $250,000; he does not plan to pay for it, but instead plans to steal it from its owner socialite Evelyn Evermore. However, his perfect gamut is nuked by a competitor wanting to claim the same prize and somewhat by his all brawn no brains partner Reggie England; the cops home in on Rivers and England.

Rivers like his surname flows to another scheme. He knows the lightweight Evermore is a New Age freak and in fact is a disciple of popular guru Baba Raba. Rivers figures how hard can be to infiltrate the base of a charlatan in Venice. However, as he begins to learn more about Evermore Rivers he begins to like her as she is not the dimwit socialite he thought , but has substance; and for that matter so does the guru. As typical of his capers, all hell breaks loose as he and his sidekick are protecting their targets from a diabolical crime ring.

This is a zany satirical crime caper that hooks the audience from the first failed plan to the last. The story line is brisk and amusing as Rivers figures his crime karma is so negative, his time is due to balance his cosmic scales. Instead he finds himself deeper in the cosmic ooze as once again (see CRIMINAL PARADISE) the best laid plans of mice and licentious souls go astray. Harriet Klausner

The Cavalier in the Yellow Doublet
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Putnam, Sep 3 2009, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399156038

In the seventh century Captain Diego Alariste, his loyal protégé Inigo Balboa Aguirre and their friend author Francisco de Quevedo are in Madrid, a city known for its duality. On the one hand there are numerous wonderful theaters and exquisite palaces while on the other hand there are duels seemingly over nothing affronts.

Diego is setting up a tryst with the lovely but married actress Maria de Costa only to learn so is King Philip IV amongst other salivating suitors. The mercenary blades-man walks a line thinner than his sword as the monarch is his only source of revenue since the Hundred Years War ended too soon for him. As he ignores threats to his life and his purse, Inigo pursues Angelica de Alquezar, who maneuvers the young man to do her bidding. However, Diego and Inigo soon find themselves caught in a brilliant scheme to assassinate the king; whether successful or not means the gallows for the mentor and his apprentice; all because they both thought with their wrong blade.

The latest CAPTAIN ALARISTE saga is filled with the usual terrific daring do, great sword play (in and out of the boudoir), and over the top of the Pyrenees escapes and escapades as the hero and his now ready for prime time apprentice land in one problem after another, because each was led by their respective wrong heard. The story line is fast-paced and filled with action; a trademark of the entire saga as historical Spain comes alive in this tale and previous translations like THE KING’S GOLD and THE SUN OVER BREDA. Harriet Klausner

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