Wednesday, April 4, 2012


Born Wicked
Jessica Spotswood
Putnam, Feb 7 2012, $17.99
ISBN: 9780399257452

By 1896, The Brotherhood established a harsh Christian theocracy in which the prosecution of witches is a major endeavor. Practitioners are condemned to death or worse: the prisons ships and the asylums. Additionally when a female turns seventeen, they must marry or join the Sisterhood.

Cate Cahill’s mom died trying to produce a male offspring. Her mother made her make a death bed pledge to care for her two younger sisters, but Cate is running out of time as in six months she must choose. Adding to her dilemma is the three Cahill siblings are closet witches, which makes her courtship by Paul McLeod a going nowhere relationship and her dalliance with Finn Belastra possessing even less staying power. As Cate reads her mother’s missing diary, she realizes her time problem worsened with a terrible fate that dooms the trio; forcing her to peruse banned books in an attempt to keep her and her sisters safe while townsfolk suspect them of wickedness. Then Sister Elena arrives to help them.

Born Wicked is an exhilarating alternative New England historical fantasy starring a courageous but increasingly desperate heroine. Her sisters and Elena are top notch characters while their late mom comes across as full blooded also through her diaries and her daughters’ observations. Although the males seem thin, fans will enjoy Jessica Spotwood’s engaging witch hunt. Harriet Klausner

Chasing Midnight
Randy Wayne White
Putnam, Mar 6 2012, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399158315

Marine biologist Doc Ford seems like a mild amiable person who enjoys studying sea life and providing fresh or preserved specimens to schools and labs nationwide from his Sanibel Island base. In his other life, Doc is a brutal agent working for the American government by cleaning up dire ugly situations.

He and his friend Tomlinson attend an eastern waters caviar productivity improvement conference hosted by vicious Russian black marketer Victor Kaslov on Vanderbilt Island. Attendees come from China, Iran and Turkmenia etc., but Doc diligently focuses on Kaslov in order to obtain some Intel. While Ford goes underwater to inspect the Russian’s yacht, six eco-terrorists crash the conference. Just after their assault, an explosion knocks out the electricity and jamming electronic communication on the island. The party crashers demands must be met or one hostage every hour will die until at the stroke of midnight, everyone still breathing will die in an explosion. Doc realizes how precarious the situation is; his goal is simple to get his friends and himself off island, but the execution is impossible as this group acts more like the Russian’s deadliest “capitalist” rivals than environmental extremists.

This is an exhilarating Doc Ford thriller as the meek marine biologist and the ruthless agent makes him seem like a sea version of Clark Kent-Superman. Tomlinson is his usual Zen-self driving Doc crazy, but who though not brave turns competently hyper with ideas when facing danger. He actually is the one who provides the twists to another fabulous Doc Ford tale as he battles to keep alive his friends from cut throat competitors with no business ethics. Harriet Klausner

Force of Nature
C.J. Box
Putnam, Mar 20 2012, $25.95
ISBN: 9780399158261

In the Saddlestring, Wyoming area Joe Pickett and Nate Romanowski are friends though the former knows the latter has concealed something from him. In 1991, Nate was assigned to a Special Forces unit when the “Five” led by Lieutenant John Nemecek did something terrible. He walked away, but knew one day they would come for him. That day of reckoning arrives when a gutted Large Merle tells Nate in his last breath: “The Five. They’ve deployed.”

Nate understands no one stands in the way of Nemecek’s rising political career especially those who witnessed the atrocity. He knows the tactic Nemecek uses to kills those on that infamous patrol. His goons will get at him but won’t go directly; instead they terrorize friends and family. The Five will assault the Pickett family. Upset for what has come to his friends and concluding there is Nowhere to Run, Nate believes that the only way to defeat the enemy is outside the law, but doubts his game warden friend can walk the crooked path. Joe has his friend’s back though he prefers not going “rogue” but a High Noon confrontation with Nemecek’s minion is imminent and he must choose between life and the law.

With a nod to the movie Red, bestselling author C.J. Box has written a fresh fantastic Pickett thriller (see Cold Wind) as fans of the series finally learn what recurring support character Nate has hidden though numerous books. The villain has a powerful network in Wyoming and Idaho that informs him who is where and identifying their loved ones so he can arrange their deaths. It is Nate’s turn through the Pickett clan is a Force of Nature that is not to be trifled with. Each book in the series is better than the one before. Harriet Klausner

Fall from Grace
Richard North Patterson
Scribner, Mar 20 2012, $26.00
ISBN 9781451617054

On Martha’s Vineyard, internationally famous writer Benjamin Blaine is found dead at the bottom of a cliff overlooking the sea. Ben’s estranged son Adam returns home for the first time in a decade to attend his dad’s funeral. Others expected at the burial are the deceased’s widow Clarice, their other son gay Teddy, his mistress movie star Carla Pacelli and Ben former girlfriend Jenny Leigh.

Ben thinks someone pushed his larger than life father off the edge. He knows the revised will is a powerful motive for those who gained wealth and for those who lost wealth. Carla receives $10 million; Jenny gets $1 million; Adam inherits $100,000; and Clarice and Teddy were left out of the new will with each obtaining nothing. Using what he learned as an agricultural envoy in Afghanistan, Ben investigates.

This is a great thriller filled with stunning but plausible twists as Ben’s training and experience in duplicity comes in handy when dealing with the extended Blaine clan. As the protagonist uncovers secrets he wished he never knew, readers will relish his exhilarating investigation. Fall from Grace will be on most short lists for mystery of the year. Harriet Klausner

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