Mack Dunston’s Inferno
iUniverse Publishing, $12.95
Mack “Max” Dunstan the actor dies. He will be remembered for his starring roles in The Ten Commandments, Planet of the Apes and Ben-Hur, etc. but also for his rigid stand on gun rights as an NRA spokesman and president.
He enters the spirit world where the “Supreme Court” rules him unworthy though he has problems understanding why. He meets the ancient Roman poet Virgil who will serves as his tour guide of Hades before Max’s day in Judgment Court overseen by Judge Satan. Max’s journey introduces him to a capitalist loan shark and other burning traveling sinners ranging from the infamous like Manson, Dahmer and the Ripper to the sex revolutionaries like Heffner and Flynt to the holier than God pseudo religious like Swaggert, Robertson and Graham. The dead actor also encounters those who died because people like him and his NRA cronies blocked gun control. This group condemns him for enabling violence as people may kill people but guns is an easily available enabler.
Modernizing Dante’s Divine Comedy while also mindful of Billy Joel’s "We Didn’t Start the Fire” with Max as Heston and other twentieth century personal like General Powell and Rowlings making appearances in Paul Collins’ powerful satirical lampooning of righteous American society. The journey into the inferno is filled with mockery and biting humor as Max meets the obvious infamous and a horde of the famous he never would have guessed would be inside the fires. However, it is the victims of guns who bring the poignancy to the parable as they never got to speak when alive; but the muffle of the Second Amendment advocates no longer applies (except as a condemnation) inside of Mack Dunstan’s Inferno. Harriet Klausner
The Traitor's Daughter
On the Veiled Isles, the eighteen year old daughter of affluent Faerlonnis Overlord the Magnifico Aureste Belandor, Jianna travels to the home of her fiancé Magnifico Tribarri. However, she never completes her journey; highwaymen capture the spoiled Jianna and take her to a rebel stronghold.
Jianna quickly realizes she is prisoner to her Aunt Magnifico Onarto. Estranged from her brother the family patriarch, Onarto plans to use her niece to help her take control of the Berlandor fortune and to keep Aureste under her thumb. Though the teen hears horrible tales accusing her father of atrocities, she rejects them as she believes he is a kind person. Meanwhile only rebel sympathizer Falaste Rione the physician is nice to her. As she begins to see her privileged lifestyle though the eyes of the lower classes, Jianna reconsiders what she knows about life on the increasingly treacherous Veiled Isles.
The key to the complex coming of age fantasy is the intricate society that is becoming unglued with one of the cornerstones (magic) beginning to fail. Jianna emulates the changes that are occurring to the veiled isles as open rebellion has begun. With a strong cast including the fully developed Brandon world, sub-genre readers will enjoy visiting the Veiled Isles. Harriet Klausner
Three weeks ago a bomb at the Michigan headquarters of the chain PyeMart left Executive Assistant Kelly Brown dead although CEO Willard Pye escaped unscathed. In Butternut Falls, Minnesota, townsfolk are angrily divided over the superstore company setting up shop there. Environmentalists know the poor record of the firm when it come to anything interfering with the bottom line profits while the small town’s storeowners know they will be driven out of business as has happened elsewhere.
A bomb ignites at the superstore’s construction site killing construction superintendent Gilbert Kingsley. ATF investigates both explosions that have left PyeMart's leadership shaken and behind on the Minnesota project. Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension Agent Virgil Flowers also looks into the homicide at Butternut Falls, but finds many townsfolk remain defiant and hostile towards the company’s “invasion”, but who would take the opposition to such deadly lengths remains hard to determine.
The fifth Virgil Flowers police procedural (See Rough Country and Bad Blood) is a great whodunit as the state cop makes inquires using modern technology and inductive reasoning to try to solve a case with too many suspects. The town already tense before the deadly explosion brings a profound look at development vs. preservation/environmentalism, but does it inside a well written investigation starring the amusingly self deprecating Minnesota cop. Harriet Klausner
Married with children NYPD officer Cal MacDonnell loner photographer Seth Raincrest seemingly have nothing in common. Yet both share something critical in which neither can remember anything about their lives beyond the past thirteen years. The past just seem to never exist for either man.
They soon share a second problem when otherworldly essences stalk them. These malevolent seem to know what happened to Cal and Seth thirteen years ago. Leilani the centaur arrives and asks the two beleaguered males to trust her as she will help them learn what they forgot and why. She escorts them to Aandor, where they performed a major duty thirteen years ago before the amnesia curse made them forget and now must begin a quest for the lost heir who can save the kingdom.
This is an entertaining quest fantasy that starts off as an urban fantasy when the two Manhattan residents are being hunted by paranormal creatures on the streets of the city. Part of the fun is the reaction of secondary characters especially in the city like Cal’s twenty first century wife Cat having doubts that their Kindergarten aged daughter Bree marrying a minor medieval mindset is reasonable for her. Although Aandor is more typical of the genre, readers will relish the two heroes struggling with remembering what happened on their last visit while dodging some nasty beings who are also searching for the lost heir in two realms. Harriet Klausner
Banner religious reporter Christine Temetri had become indifferent to the frequent End of Times until she met even more indifferent than her Mercury the Fallen Angel who believes Rice Krispy Treats is heaven. They teamed up with others to delay Karl Grissom the Antichrist leaving his mom’s attic to start Armageddon (see Mercury Falls) though much of the Banner staff died in the Anaheim earthquake. Meanwhile author Eddie Pratt the demon has a book to write; a tale about a rogue angel and Armageddon.
After negotiating with a heavenly and hellish bureaucracy that makes Congress look proactive, the angel and the journalist have no time to rest on their laurels. While FBI Agent Slater investigates the Anaheim destruction that has ties to Africa, billionaire Karl Grissom using the scientific method prepares them to learn the secret of the universe by smashing the universe to see what happens. At the same time, Ancient Ones claim a higher order than angels and demons. Temetri and Mercury first must stop the end of the universe in the name of the tree of knowledge experiment from occurring and if successful must find a compromise with the Ancient bureaucracy that makes heaven, hell and congress seem cooperatively active.
Once again Robert Kroese satirizes the commercialization and cynical claims of owning heaven while demonizing others with mocking shots at industry, politics, science and religion making sure everyone lives a hellish life. The story line is amusingly fast-paced as time has begun ticking down to the self-fulfilling prophecy of the End of Times. With a nod to Travolta’s Michael inside of Smith’s Dogma, fans will appreciate Mercury Rises as the reporter demands the angel stop snacking on sugared treats as that is bad for your health. Harriet Klausner