Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Some Titles for the New Year

Catalyst, Anne McCaffrey and Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, Del Rey, Jan 1 2010, $26.00, ISBN: 9780345513762, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

The Barque Cats are extremely valuable because they keep vermin off space ships and are adept at finding oxygen leaks or other hazardous gases as well as just keeping people on board the vessel safe. Thomas’s Duchess, known as Chessie and her human companion Janina, whose title on the ship is Cat Person, dock on Head Station, where a pregnant Chessie goes for a check-up. Janina and Dr. Jared Vlest fly down to the planet Sherwood to look at the animals that need care.

A con artist Carlton Pontius aka Ponty steals Chessie and brings her to his farm on Sherwood as she is worth a fortune especially with a coming litter of Barque kittens. He gives Chessie to his son Jubal who takes care of her and her litter. Chessie loves all of her offspring, but the kitten Chester bonds with Jubal. Chessie needs to reunite with her Cat Person Janina. Unfortunately, they cannot, as a “supposed” plague has arrived leading to the impounding of all animals and those exposed (even the Barque cats). They will be executed. Janina and her allies try to free their companions, but an alien feline Pshaw-Ra with psionic power wants to take the cats to his planet so they can begin the universal domination of the known universe.

This is the first tale of a duology that contains the usual strong outer space world building, a trademark of the authors who make a whole galaxy seem real. The Sparkles plague is caused by a harmless beetle but the GG scientists refused to accept a simple explanation. The point of view is told mostly by various feline characters, but it comes across as believable and as important not simplistic cute as the cats understand their troubles. The humans are for the most part empathetic especially Janina and cranky Ponty who has his own pet cat. Although the audience will need to wait for the second entry to see whether Chessie and Chester have more than one life each, fans will enjoy the opening Barque Cat caper.

Divine Misdemeanors, Laurel K. Hamilton, Ballantine, Dec 8 2009, $26.00, ISBN: 9780345495969, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

They were crowned queen and king of the Unseelie Court by Faerie and the Goddess, but Princess Merry and her bodyguard lover Doyle choose to return to California and set up her own court. Now they live in Los Angeles where they stay together based on love and trust instead of pain and intrigue. They earn a living at sleuths at the Grey Detective Agency.

Their latest case is horrible. Twenty demi-elves (small Barbie like creatures with wings who look like angels but are anything but the sort) were killed and posed as if they were in a children’s book. The only living witness, a survivor of the massacre of the serial killing of her kind, obviously saw something but flees before the detectives can question her. A few days later, a brownie and her human husband are killed in their home once again posed from another children’s story. The two sleuths learn there are two killers, one with wings, bur many creatures have wings in Faerie. Merry and her retinue know only one way to prevent more ritual murders; she is served up as bait.

Laurell K. Hamilton shows her talent to make alternate worlds filled with mythological creatures living side by side with humans seem real. Merry is a heroine who avoids the Seelie and Unseelie Courts as she detests the intrigue that flows everywhere like light waves do on earth. The Goddess still favors her and creates a new faerie mound in aptly named Los Angeles in an apropos apartment building. The investigation is entertaining as Merry cannot help her people by offering herself as a potential sacrifice to catch serial killers. Even with that as the prime theme, Ms. Hamilton is at her provocative sensual best in Divine Misdemeanors.

Heart Of The Witch, Alicia Dean, Love Spell, Dec 2009, $6.99, ISBN: 9780505528261, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

In Okalahoma City, the Tin Man serial killer abducts witch Rayvn Skyler planning to rape her before he kills her. Irate, she breaks the prime rule of her coven by setting his crotch ablaze before escaping. He survives her counter assault, but is outraged that his chosen prey harmed him and escaped before he could inscribe on her corpse in blood his moniker The Tin Man, irate he vows vengeance.

Meanwhile mortal former homicide detective Nick Lassiter knows he finally has the bait to run down the Tin Man whom he obsesses over ending the psychopath’s terror. He plans to use Rayvn who wonders about this Nick who seems to be nearby every time she blinks. At the same time her former lover Kayne has become apparently insane as his soul is filled with ambitious evil plans for world domination. Between Kayne and the Tin Man ruining her life and anyone close to her like her sister and mom, Rayvn fears most for not so mundane Nick.

This is a fast-paced fun to read serial killer romantic urban fantasy, but has too many major subplots that lead to abrupt transitions. The readers and Rayvn know the bad guys from almost the beginning, but that enhances those two thriller threads as the audience anticipates confrontations. With a deep look inside the politics of a coven on top of the non-stop action, sub-genre readers will agree with Nick that the Heart of the Witch is captivating and bewitching.

Jaclyn The Ripper, Karl Alexander, Forge, Nov 2009, $24.99, ISBN: 9780765318947, reviewed by Harriet Klausner.

After dispatching Jack the Ripper from 1979 to a far future, H.G. Wells and Amy Catherine Robbins travel to his time, 1893, (see TIME AFTER TIME) where they marry. However, so her beloved parents would not worry she returned to tell them what became of their prodigal daughter. In 1906 Wells is worried about his wife who failed to come home, Wells traces her to 2010 Los Angeles.

Meanwhile Jack managed to anchor in 2353 before returning back to 2010 Los Angeles as a woman. While Wells searches for his Amy, he notices an alarming pattern that reminds him of Victorian Whitechapel and San Francisco circa 1979; Jack is back and Wells obsessively believes he must stop the killer for all eternity.

With two fascinating twists since the events of TIME AFTER TIME, JACLYN THE RIPPER is an exciting fast-paced thriller that never quite gels as the key two antagonists never quite come across as the naïve good vs. the sinister evil of the first book. Still fans of TIME AFTER TIME, book or movie, will enjoy the return engagement as JACLYN THE RIPPER still enjoys the kill.

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