The Mandel Files
Peter F. Hamilton
Del Rey, $19.95
“Mindstar Rising”. England like the rest of the world struggles to adjust and rebound from the insidious effect of global warming. In that environs Greg Mandel was once a member of the elitist Mindstar Battalion whose soldiers gained telepathic abilities through implanted glands. His enhanced intuition skill told Greg the time to leave the unit. Event Horizon CEO billionaire Phillip Evans hires Greg to investigate why a successful orbit operation is suddenly losing money. Phillip’s granddaughter teenage heiress Julia Evans believes amoral financier Kendric di Girolamo and vicious former country leader Leopold Armstrong are behind the failure.
“A Quantum Murder”. Two years later Julia Evans assigns Greg Mandel to investigate the brutal murder of Dr. Edward Kitchener. The professor worked at Events Horizon researching quantum cosmology. Julia explains the crime scene was the somewhat paranoid former Cambridge professor’s locked lab at Laudne Abbey. Greg learns that the Physics peers of the deceased envied his reputation as the twenty first century Newton, but who killed him and how remains difficult to resolve.
These reprints of early 1990s futuristic investigative science fiction thrillers remain fun tales that seem timely with the trends in economics, politics, technology and global warming in circa 1990 extrapolated to 2030 or so as much of what Peter F. Hamilton predicted remains on the path he expected. The story lines are entertaining although the endings seem weak while readers will wonder why the last tale Nano Flower is not included (apparently it will be in a volume 2), these Mandel thrillers are enjoyable (now near) future whodunits in the Hamilton world.
Lord of the Vampires
Harlequin Nocturne, $5.50
In Elden, the Blood Sorcerer conducts a bloody coup killing the nation’s rulers. He made two critical mistakes when he failed to prevent the dying king from sending to his offspring an obsessed need to avenge their deaths; and the queen using her last breath of power sends their four children into hiding so they could buy time to complete her husband’s vendetta. Thus the Blood Sorcerer failed to kill the Crown prince Nicolai and his three siblings (Breena, Dayn and Micah).
Two Kingdom of Delfina princesses capture Nicolai who they turn into their sex slave. He uses magic to call out for help. In Oklahoma, scientist Jane Parker recovers from a car accident that killed her family. She “hears” Nicolai’s plea when she finds a tome by her door and reads it. She arrives but looks like the evil royal he killed. Nicolai plans to use Jane to escape but leave her behind. However he finds he cannot leave the intelligent woman behind even as he laments she may be the death of him.
The first Royal House of Shadows is an exciting romantic fantasy in which the paranormal supersedes the romance. The story line is fast-paced from the moment Jane enters the Nicolai universe without blinking. Although her humorous commentary fails to fit in with the sex slave themes (his and hers), fans will enjoy the Crown Prince of Elden’s tale while waiting for a sibling starring in Jill Monroe’s series entry. Harriet Klausner
The Shadow Wolf
Harlequin Nocturne, $5.50
The Draicon Council has incarcerated shadow wolves on Shadow Island out of fear of the sub-species skill to turn invisible. Megan Moraine knows she cannot raise her two younger seven years old twin cousins (Jillian and Jennifer) from a prison cell; so using her invisibility power, she escapes with her young relatives.
Draicon Council Enforcer Gabriel Robichaux hunts escapees. Known for killing runaways as much as bringing them back to lockup, he stalks the three female shadows. However, his reputation for assassination proves false as he tries to take Megan and her wards to a safe house, but someone inside his support cell betrays Gabriel and the three females.
The latest Draicon wolf romantic urban fantasy (see The Immortal Wolf) is a terrific thriller due to the traits of the fearsome foursome while on the lam. Gabriel and Megan are falling in love, but most significant to both of them is getting the youngsters to safety. The twins make the tale as they are frightened but intrepid. This is an exciting entertaining read.
Bonus story: Darkness of the Wolf. For killing his Alpha, Guy Laurent was imprisoned for life in the Savage Kingdom Zoo. Phoenix offers him his freedom if he escorts Brianna the young Draicon girl and her guardian Kayla Morris to the youngster’s pack. He accepts the job while wondering why Kayla ignores her Draicon background. As the adults fall in love, neither loses sight of keeping their young charge safe from insidious enemies. This reprint of an e-byte novella is a fun Draicon urban romantic fantasy. Harriet Klausner
Alan Peter Ryan
Cemetery Dance, Oct 2011, $35.00
Married couple Edwin and Henrietta, are on another of his get rich quick schemes in which she dutifully tags along. This time they sail up the Amazon River floating parallel to the shore. On the vessel with them are natives and Crown who persuaded Edwin to go after the Slave Tree which means sailing further into the dark unknown than anyone reported has traveled on the river. Civilization in terms of a small outpost has been left far behind.
Edwin explains to his skeptical wife that Crown insists the Slave Tree grows creatures that they can control as slaves though these abominations have blood that is green and flesh that feels like fiber. She fears her beloved spouse who displays physical signs of stress has been conned by their enigmatic charismatic partner. Crown orders Henrietta to find a way to keep these creatures alive. Every pod Crown opens produces one of them. Edwin dies and Crown vanishes, which leaves it to Henrietta to find a way to keep the oddities alive so she can sell them as slaves and make a fortune; that is if she can return to civilization. She believes if she can not figure out a way to keep them alive she dies.
Alan Peter Ryan writes a dark atmospheric allegorical horror thriller in which the river and the jungle it flows through take on a sort of supernatural presence; mindful of Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness. The tension is thicker than the nearby rain forest as readers anticipate something bad happening to the travelers especially the married couple as nature is violent and non discriminating whether it is race, gender or mentally competent. Adding to the eerie sense of doom is the audience never quite learns what The Slave Tree is; only what it can do. Harriet Klausner