Friday, February 11, 2011

Reviews from Harriet

Karl Schroeder
Tor, $25.95
ISBN: 0765315459

In Virga, Admiral Chaison Fanning learns no good deed goes unpunished. His bodacious foray prevented an assault on his orb Slipstream; he was imprisoned for his actions, but he is liberated by he assumes his daring subversive wife Venera who when he was first captured he saw fleeing.

Returning to his town, to his amazement, Fanning is considered a traitor by those he saved; he expected the ruler who initially betrayed him to paint him as such but not his neighbors. As revolution, civil war, and outside invasion threaten the Virga spheres, he fights alongside Antaea Argyre, who is from another orb of the “system” near its edges. There he begins to understand there is much more to the universe than just what is connected to Virga’s central sun Candesce.

As with the first two books of the Virga chronicle (see SUN OF SUNS and QUEEN OF CANDESCE), it is the variety of town-spheres that make for a complex exciting science fiction saga in which anything seems possible under the sun (of Candesce that is). The story line is fast-paced from the onset as Fanning, though scorned and swiftboated continues to do what he thinks is the ethically right thing for the good of his people. His escapades never slow down as Karl Schroeder provides a strong outer space opera thriller. Harriet Klausner

Atlantis and other Places
Harry Turtledove
Roc, $24.95
ISBN: 9780451463647

The super dozen alternate history tales were all previously published in the past decade, but never together. The one volume speaks loudly as to how skilled Harry Turtledove truly is when it comes to the sub-genre where he is the champion grandmaster whether it is a saga, a novel, a novella, or a short story. In the first entry, "Audubon in Atlantis", the naturalist arrives on the island seeking rare birds. The second tale satires Bush and Bin Laden who make strange “Bedfellows”, who need each other like yin and yang. All the "News from the Front" is the news not worth printing during WW II, as Mr. Turtledove rips the main stream media. Whether it is the American leaving the ducks swimming in Central Park to attack a German castle as in “The Catcher in the Rhine”, soldier “Uncle Alf” writing from occupied Paris in 1929 to his niece about thr lazy French, r Socrates role in the Peloponnesian Wars ("The Daimon", fans will agree this anthology affirms Mr. Turtledove’s abilities whether he lampoons or just changes a pivotal moment he remains the top guru of the alternative historical universe.
Harriet Klausner

The Messiah Secret
James Becker
Signet, $9.99
ISBN: 9780451412980

British Museum supervisor Roger Halliwell sends one of his staff ceramics conservator Angela Lewis, who is not as assessor to evaluate the value of the collection left by recently murdered aristocrat Oliver Wendell-Carfax. She convinces her former husband police detective Chris Bronson, to meet with her at Carfax Hall in Suffolk as she feels unsafe. Angela finds a crate of pottery with one containing the find of the century; a parchment written by noted first century Jewish Scholar Hillel who makes the first known reference by a peer to Jesus outside of the New Testament.

The conservator and the cop find other clues that point to the ancient treasure the pair has previously sought unsuccessfully (see The First Apostle and The Moses Stone). However, once again the road to the artifact is dangerous as a fanatical lunatic priest will kill in the Lord’s name to keep the treasure buried and an avaricious capitalist hires thugs to kill in order to insure he obtains the object.

The key to the third Lewis-Bronson tale is the pair themselves who brings an acceptable level of lightheartedness (sort of like a modern day Nick and Nora the sleuth not the playlist) that makes for a fresh Brownian thriller. The story line is fast-paced from the opening scene when the elderly Carfax thwarts his assailant while going to his death with a smile and never slows down until the final confrontation far from Suffolk. Readers will appreciate the latest escapades of Lewis and Bronson as they follow leads while dodging two groups of assassins.
Harriet Klausner

Port Mortuary
Patricia Cornwell
Putnam, $27.95
ISBN: 9780399157219

Dr. Kay Scarpetta is the new director of the Cambridge Forensic Center in Massachusetts. Working with her at the Massachusetts facility is her niece Lucy and Pete Marino. Kay attends a training fellowship at Port Mortuary in Dover Air Force Base where she is learning the latest technology that she can apply at the CFC. While she is at the Delaware installation, her second in command Jack Fielding runs CFC until he freaks out when a corpse starts bleeding.

Knowing Jack cannot cope with the situation, Kay returns home having finished the course anyway. When she arrives at CFC, she finds the inmates running the asylum. Scarpetta takes 3-D virtual technology x-rays, which shows internal injuries unlike any she has seen before. She has no idea what weapon could have caused such damage. Benton is working a case in which a suspect swore he killed a child, but he believes the confession is false as he thinks the victim’s death is connected to Scarpetta’s odd case. Soon there are two more deaths seemingly separate cases but Scarpetta makes connections that tie her victim to Benton’s case and feels all the deaths are linked but her husband is not talking about the cases as he usually does.

Ignoring that Scarpetta as the director would not have time for bench work and follow-up especially on a new Fed-State-MIT venture; her latest forensic inquiry is a fantastic thriller with the lab work as gripping if not more so as the foot work. Told in the first person by the heroine, readers obtain Scarpetta’s perspective on the case, her marriage, her new job, Dover (past and present), and her feeling about Lucy and Marino. The story line retains throughout a fast pace and is action-packed even in the lab as Patricia Cornwell interweaves state of the art technology (we’ve come a long ways from the Body farm) into a strong whodunit.
Harriet Klausner

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