The Redemption of Holly Dobson
C. Lynn Barton
Dark Willow Books, $16.95
Holly Dobson understands her name quite well. Her simple first name denotes sweet and stable, which she is not and her surname comes from her adopted parents who bestowed her with her basic needs of food and shelter, but nothing else. She is like the Holly trees she planted in front of her Illinois home; or perhaps the red berries of the trees is more descriptive as they look beautiful on the outside but are inedible as twenty of them will kill anyone.
Holly knows one thing: society considers her evil because she will do anything to protect her son and grandson. She knows she takes the family values mantra to an extreme, but so what she rationalizes is that not what the politicians say to do until you do it. As she smokes her Meerschaum pipe, Holly muses about life with George Dobson, who mentors her on all things evil or perhaps it is her who teaches him the evil facts of life. She is the daughter, the mother and the grandmother while he is the son and father.
Told by the title character looking back on her life one puff at a time, The Redemption of Holly Dobson is a deep thought provoking psychological thriller that ponders the essence of what is evil. The story line looks at nurturing vs. natureing while using hyperbole to skewer the family values mojo practitioners who conveniently surface during elections and dark incidents. Holly, her son and her grandson Simon are strong individuals with apparent an evil DNA flowing through their cells. Elderly, the matriarch reflects on her life and its impact on her descendants as it is with them she believes she can claim redemption as a caring mother and grandmother who will do and has done anything for her progeny; as her family right or wrong is her family. Harriet Klausner
James Robert Smith
In a remote part of the Florida rainforest where development has been nonexistent, the Berg Brothers want to open an amusement park in land that is part of the Edmonds Bombing Range. The 450,000 acres are considered environmental treasures so are protected from development. They manage to build Salutations, a town based on American family values.
Billionaire environmentalist Vince Holcomb opposes any intrusion into this pristine area while the developers hire a mercenary militia to clear the opposition. In the middle of this wilderness lives the Flock of prehistoric brilliant pre-aviary beings who will fight against any intrusion into their land. Contemporary humans and Pleistocene Era survivors fight to determine which species is the more predatory with Fish and Wildlife Agent Ron Riggs caught in the middle.
With a nod to Jurassic Park, The Flock is a terrific action-packed thriller in which the dino-birds and the humans prove adaptable when it comes to operational deployments as each side is viciously aggressive. Although the main players are stereotyped as the poster children representing a specific group (mega business, tree huggers, paramilitary, and the Flock as nature), fans will enjoy this strong drama. Ironically The Flock has the stronger moral cause, but that does not prevent humans from claiming economics supersedes animal natural habitats as cynical greed wrapped inside the flag vs. protecting “family” values of home turf lead to a dynamic satirical tale. Harriet Klausner
St. Martin’s, $7.99
Black London is a dangerous place to reside as witches, mages and necromancers fight each other for control with no regard for collateral damage. Adding to the deadly chaos is the deity civil war and the revival of the lethal order of the Malleus who stalk witches with deadly intent.
Trying to retain order are detectives like Pete Caldecott. A Weir she misses her mentor former punk rocker Jack Winter, who took her under his wings when she was sixteen before he apparently died (see Street Magic). When Pete found Jack, she was euphoric. After drying out from his addiction, Jack was turned into a demon so he fled to hell to keep himself from harming Pete (see Demon Bound). Now Jack is back for the third time in Pete’s life as the Commander in Chief of an army of hell’s most odious horde with plans to dominate the world. Pete must assassinate her hero in order to save Black London and the world or else.
This strange but exhilarating Black London urban fantasy (see the anthology Huntress, for a Winter dark novella) takes a third major spin in the Jack-Pete relationship; which gives new meaning to dysfunctional. Although there is an initial déjà vu all over again feel, the twisted fast-paced story line holds reader attention; as Pete is left with the choice of saving the world by killing her mentor-hero. Readers will relish the tale of the heroine’s dilemma as she knows what she must do, but fears she will not be able to figuratively squeeze the trigger as the thought of patricide makes her ill. Harriet Klausner