NAL, Mar 6 2012, $9.99
Off the Scottish coast lies the Isle of Night populated by vampires, tracers, watchers, acari and humans. Ronan the vampire tracer recruited from the University of Florida Annelise Drew (see Isle of Night). She is a second year acari student who understands that only the strong survive so she diligently works hard with one goal to get off the island; which means becoming a Watcher even though escape is doubtful.
Alcantara the vampire acts likes Drew enchants him when he accelerates her training so she can be placed on a mission with him. She is to act the part of a serving girl to seven vampires of whom her mentor states are evil. They seek Carden McCloud captured and most likely tortured by these malevolent bloodsuckers. Drew finds the rescue target and gives him her blood. When Alcantara and McCloud meet, Drew realizes they are enemies, which has her wondering why her mentor lied and who the wicked vampire is.
The latest Watchers urban fantasy is an enthralling, twisting thriller in which readers will appreciate the spellbinding in depth look at a vampire island community inside the wonderful world of the Wolff. Since escaping the Isle of Night is more difficult than getting off Alcatraz, Acari accept their role as gladiator students. Sanctioned fights between each other leave some dead; only the best live through the grueling ordeal their instructors call training. Drew is terrific as she completes the mission but learns a lesson to not trust anyone especially vampires as delineating the good, the bad and the ugly is impossible until it is too late. Harriet Klausner
Crucible of Empire
Eric Flint and K.D. Wentworth
Baen, Feb 7 2012, $7.99
A few years ago years ago the Jao invaders conquered the Earth (see The Course of Empire). The two species began forging a united kochan clan. Former resistance fighter Gabriel Tully commands Baker Company whose prime mission is to negotiate a peace between his former resistance allies and the Jao. He attends a briefing concerning the NGC 7293 nebula where three Krant vessels investigated strange data; they encountered hostility with the giant arachnid Ekhat species which ended with the enemy destroyed but the Krant ships not in much better shape.
Terra Governor Aille and Preceptor Ronz assign the Lexington to take Jao and humans to the sector where the Ekhat has violently surfaced and a third race was involved in the recent battle. Jao Captain Danner krinnu ava Terra commands the ship; but she is not in charge of the mission. Instead Wrot krinnu ava Terra runs the mission with Caitlin Kralik as the diplomat to deal with the unknown race and Tully and his unit enhanced by the Krant survivors provide military support against the Ekhat. His team destroys four Ekhat ships with a surviving vessel crippled in orbit around a star; only to learn the Lleix who the Jao assaulted in a previous encounter are on board.
As with the first science fiction “Empire” thriller, the sequel focuses on the species with a deep look at the Jao (especially on board the Lexington) and somewhat the Ekhat. The storyline also introduces a fourth sentient race with its own shtick. Although there is some reiterative commentary that slows down the outer space encounters, fans will enjoy traveling on the Lexington as the combined Jao-human crew go into combat and diplomacy. Harriet Klausner
St. Martin’s Griffin, Feb 14 2012, $15.99
When they roomed in Birmingham while attending the university Luke, Phil, Dom and Hutch were the four musketeers as best buddies. After graduating they went their separate ways with three of the BFFs married as Luke is only one of them still single. The four agree to unite on a camping trip north of the Arctic Circle in Sweden to get away from their respective personal lives.
However, it didn’t take long to realize how out of shape Phil and Dom have become as the foursome trek on their three day hike though Luke and Hutch still smoke. The weather is cold and wet making the walk through the wilderness that much more difficult especially when they take a shortcut that fails to find the river, but instead the dead eerily hanging from a tree. The bickering and resentment become palatable as anger at each other and their miserable situation overtly explodes. They find shelter of sorts from the harsh environment in a cottage containing bizarre, frightening ancient-looking items. None of them yet comprehend the predator that stalks them may be just coming home.
Think of Deliverance and an adult coming of age Lord of the Flies in a stark setting to comprehend this exhilarating thriller. The storyline told by Luke captures the reader from opening line as Adam Nevill paints a harsh environment that sets the tone for what follows. The protagonists possess diverse personalities and different tsuris, but it is their reactions to the evil that hunts them which makes for a tense horror tale. Harriet Klausner
The Anatomy of Ghosts
Hyperion, Jan 17 2012, $15.99
In 1786, Tim Turdman finds the body of young Georgie Holdsworth, who drowned in the Thames. His father John the bookseller is despondent but conceals his grief from his wife Maria whose depression frightens her spouse but is understandable as she helplessly watched her son drown in the river. She insists she speaks to her deceased offspring with the help of a medium. A fire destroys the bookstore that contains John’s investment leaving him broke. Angry and grieving John authors a book to prove to Maria that she cannot communicate with Georgie and her channel is a con artist. His effort leads to Maria committing suicide by jumping into the Thames near where she last saw her child.
Lady Anne Oldershaw hires a depressed John to catalog her late husband's library that she is bequeathing to Cambridge University. Her son Frank, a Jerusalem College student, has a nervous breakdown following his assertion that he saw the ghost of murdered Sylvia Whichcote. Lady Anne asks John, as a paranormal fraud expert, to help her son realize how inane his assertion is. John knows first he must learn what the lad saw as he struggles through the nasty Holy Ghost Club and their Master Dr. Carbury only to find his haunting mission changed.
This is a great late Georgian thriller that will keep the audience wondering whether to believe in ghosts or something more sinisterly human. The storyline starts melancholy in the opening chapters, but changes tone when the bookseller comes to Cambridge as he gets involved with a murder mystery that has him reconsidering his contention that ghosts are delusions of the parasitic relationship between the desperate and the amoral who take advantage of these depressed souls. Harriet Klausner