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Starred Review: Ask Not by Max Allan Collins

October 9, 2013 Leave a comment

“A master at thoroughly believable historical re-creations of unsolved or covered-up crimes, Collins is the perfect fiction writer to tackle the JFK assassination, and he does so brilliantly, working the edges of the story by focusing on the little-known raft of questionable suicides—all documented in the historical record… Even readers who aren’t conspiracy theorists will find themselves utterly drawn into the story and convinced by Collins’ version of what happened. And, best of all, it’s a terrific detective novel, compelling and well constructed even without the historical connection.”

Max Allan Collins’ Ask Not got a starred review in Booklist!*

Here’s the full review, from the August issue:

 The third in Collins’ trilogy of Nathan Heller novels about JFK, this one jumps from a few weeks before the assassination (Target Lancer, 2012), when a planned attempt on the president’s life in Chicago was aborted, to several months after the events of November 22, 1963. Heller becomes involved when he and his son are nearly run down as they leave a Beatles concert. Recognizing the driver as one of the Cubans involved in the Chicago plot, Heller sets out to take his family off the assassins’ radar and soon finds himself even deeper in hot water, as he follows the trail of a host of spurious suicides by witnesses of the shooting in Dallas whose versions of what happened conflict with the official, “one-man, one-shooter” version being promulgated by the Warren Commission. Teaming with TV star and investigative reporter Flo Kilgore (read Dorothy Kilgallen), who is on the verge of exposing the cover-up — and its ties to several LBJ cronies — Heller ruffles feathers at the CIA, in the Mob, and possibly even in (or very near) the White House. A master at thoroughly believable historical re-creations of unsolved or covered-up crimes, Collins is the perfect fiction writer to tackle the JFK assassination, and he does so brilliantly, working the edges of the story by focusing on the little-known raft of questionable suicides — all documented in the historical record — and making great use of the Kilgore/Kilgallen character, who was herself one of the unlikely suicides. Even readers who aren’t conspiracy theorists will find themselves utterly drawn into the story and convinced by Collins’ version of what happened. And, best of all, it’s a terrific detective novel, compelling and well constructed even without the historical connection. — Bill Ott

Ask Not will be published on October 22nd.

*Booklist is a subscription-only publication.

Starred Review: The Cusanus Game by Wolfgang Jeschke

September 30, 2013 Leave a comment

“Jeschke’s epic is a mind-expanding SF thriller that will grab readers and shake them up.”

Wolfgang Jeschke’s The Cusanus Game got a starred review in Publishers Weekly!

Here’s the full review, from the August 26th issue:

 In the year 2052, the world is collapsing after a nuclear disaster in Germany that lethally irradiated parts of Europe and accelerated the ongoing social breakdown. Domenica Ligrina is a young botanist living in Rome, now a violent, nearly abandoned borderland of cultural clashes. She is offered a mysterious job by the Papacy that could restore Europe’s obliterated flora, and soon she learns that the work involves retrieving seeds from the Middle Ages—specifically the age of her hero, the scientist cardinal Nicolaus Cusanus. This is only one piece of a vast convoluted puzzle spread across both her life and the multiverse that constantly drops paradoxical hints from past, future, present, and alternate todays. “What is reality?” the story asks, and the answer is predictably complex and far-reaching. Jeschke’s epic is a mind-expanding SF thriller that will grab readers and shake them up. (Oct.)

The Cusanus Game will be published on October 15th.

Starred Review: Delia’s Shadow by Jaime Lee Moyer

September 18, 2013 Leave a comment

“Both major and minor characters spring to life in this polished historical fantasy/mystery that should appeal to a wide variety of readers and could cross over to mainstream readers as well.”

Jaime Lee Moyer’s Delia’s Shadow got a starred review in Library Journal!

Here’s the full review, from the August issue:

 Since the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906 that killed her parents, Delia Martin has been able to see ghosts. Accepting a teaching job in New York City helped keep the spirits at bay for a few years, but now one persistent presence, a young woman Delia calls Shadow, is demanding that she return to San Francisco to bring the spirit — and, perhaps, Delia herself — the peace she seeks. The city Delia finds upon her return, though, is a more sinister one in which a killer who stalks the streets may, in fact, be the same person who murdered the young woman who is now Delia’s ghostly companion. Moyer’s first novel captures the feel of San Francisco in 1915, with its genteel upper class and ambitious working class, as well as the excitement for the future brought about by the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. VERDICT Both major and minor characters spring to life in this polished historical fantasy/mystery that should appeal to a wide variety of readers and could cross over to mainstream readers as well.

Delia’s Shadow published on September 17th.

Starred Review: The Wrong Girl by Hank Phillippi Ryan

September 12, 2013 Leave a comment

“Investigative television reporter Ryan fulfills the promise of her first Jane Ryland mystery The Other Woman (2012), as she blends a social issue — the cost to young children of an overworked and underfunded foster care system — into a crisp, fast-moving police procedural featuring reverberating illegalities, increasing danger and suspense, and crackling sexual tension between Ryland and Brogan. Another winner from Ryan.”

Hank Phillippi Ryan’s The Wrong Girl got a starred review in Booklist!*

Here’s the full review, from the August issue:

 Reporter Jane Ryland is on the trail of something big enough to ensure her continued employment on the downsizing Boston Republic when an anonymous threatening phone call makes her editor pull her off the story. Sidelined, she takes time to help former colleague Tuck Cameron, an adoptee just paired with her birth mother, who’s distressed that the private Brannigan adoption agency that placed her made a mistake and that she’s “the wrong girl.” Jane still continues to ferret out angles of the story of an unidentified woman killed in a house with two young toddlers present and evidence of a missing baby, a case being worked by her not-quite-lover Detective Jake Brogan. As Jake tries to avoid Jane on the job, he also has to deal with a case involving two top Brannigan administrators found dead days apart under questionable conditions. Investigative television reporter Ryan fulfills the promise of her first Jane Ryland mystery, The Other Woman (2012), as she blends a social issue — the cost to young children of an overworked and underfunded foster care system — into a crisp, fast-moving police procedural featuring reverberating illegalities, increasing danger and suspense, and crackling sexual tension between Ryland and Brogan. Another winner from Ryan. — Michele Leber

The Wrong Girl published on Tuesday, September 10th.

*Booklist is a subscription-only publication.

Starred Review: Antigoddess by Kendare Blake

September 11, 2013 Leave a comment

“Blake presents a gory, thrilling vision of the twilight of the gods, in all their pettiness and power, while letting readers draw their own messages and conclusions.”

Kendare Blake’s Antigoddess got a starred review in Publishers Weekly!

Here’s the full review, from the August 5th issue:

 Blake has a real affinity for the way history shapes the present. In Anna Dressed in Blood, a ghost from the 1950s touched an alienated teen in the present; here, the gods of ancient Greece are living out their final days in agony and war, and taking modern mortals down with them. Cassandra Weaver is an ordinary teenager, aside from her psychic abilities, and she struggles to understand the bloody visions that plague her. She senses a connection with the dying characters in them, but why? And why does her boyfriend, Aidan, so readily accept what’s going on? The action is riveting as tattooed and pierced incarnations of Athena and Hermes close in on Cassandra and Aidan; the more context one brings to the images, the eerier they become. Demeter as a leathery skin stretched across the American desert is creepy; in the context of climate change, she is tragic. Blake presents a gory, thrilling vision of the twilight of the gods, in all their pettiness and power, while letting readers draw their own messages and conclusions. Ages 12–up. Agent: Adriann Ranta, Wolf Literary Services. (Sept.)

Antigoddess published on September 10th.

Starred Review: The One-Eyed Man by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment

“Intriguing mysteries, subtle plots, vividly drawn female characters and nuggets of hardheaded wisdom are scattered among the narrative strands. One of Modesitt’s best, which means, don’t miss it.”

L. E. Modesitt, Jr.’s The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds and Accompaniment got a starred review in Kirkus Reviews!*

Here’s the full review, from the July 15th issue:

 Independent science fiction from the prolific, talented and versatile Modesitt (Imager’s Battalion, 2013, etc.).

Planet Bachman houses many huge corporations that depend on colony world Stittara’s production of anagathics, drugs that have powerful life-prolonging and cosmetic effects. Political expediency requires Stittara to be inspected, and consultant ecologist Dr. Paulo Verano is hired. On the interstellar voyage to Stittara, Verano meets his fellow passengers—most of whom are extraordinarily cagey about their jobs and their reasons for visiting Stittara. Due to unpredictable electrical storms that whip up tornado-force winds, the Stittaran population lives underground. In the upper atmosphere drift skytubes, differentiated clumps of microorganisms whose exact nature remains unknown. Disturbingly, Verano finds that many facts are being concealed or deliberately ignored. Why do the local women find him so irresistibly attractive? Can Ilsabet, the sole survivor of a community destroyed in a storm, really be 400 years old? Certainly she speaks in enigmatic rhymes and has some connection with the skytubes and the storms. Why are there no statistics on birth and death rates? Why does the appearance of vast, inexplicable badlands coincide with the extinction of alien colonies millions of years ago? Why do the numerous outland settlements, independent of the company towns and living in harmony with the planet, appear on no official census? Research complex RDAEX has hired a number of high-energy physicists—to do what, exactly?—and admits to having lost planes while investigating the skytubes. And the more Verano resists the political pressures being brought to bear, the clearer it becomes that somebody—perhaps several somebodies—would prefer to see him dead. Intriguing mysteries, subtle plots, vividly drawn female characters and nuggets of hardheaded wisdom are scattered among the narrative strands.

One of Modesitt’s best, which means, don’t miss it.

The One-Eyed Man: A Fugue, With Winds and Accompaniment will be published on September 17th.

*Kirkus is a subscription-only website.

Starred Review: The Incrementalists by Steven Brust and Skyler White

September 10, 2013 Leave a comment

“It’s cleverly constructed, populated with characters readers will enjoy hanging out with, and it’s packed with twists and nifty surprises. If you have to call it something, call it genius at work.”

Steven Brust and Skyler White’s The Incrementalists got a starred review in Booklist!

Here’s the full review:

 A secret society has existed for millennia, operating under the surface of society. The Incrementalists are improving the world by making slight adjustments that make human existence a bit better than it might have been. During the Civil War, they influenced one of General Grant’s right-hand men so that he would keep Grant from succumbing to his affection for alcohol. They had a hand in the invention of the MP3 format, and they practically invented Robin Hood. But now they have a major problem on their hands. One of their own, who recently died, might have been murdered, and the woman who was given her memories, paradoxically, doesn’t seem to be able to remember her. Even worse, it looks like the dead woman has somehow manipulated the Incrementalists (or, to be more precise, Phil, who has loved her for centuries) into putting her memories into a very specific young woman, for a very specific—and quite troubling, possibly catastrophic—reason. It’s difficult to categorize this imaginative new novel from established SF/fantasy novelist Brust and newcomer White. It’s not quite a comedy but bits of it are quite funny. It’s a fantasy, to be sure, but it’s grounded in today’s world and references real historical events. It’s cleverly constructed, populated with characters readers will enjoy hanging out with, and it’s packed with twists and nifty surprises. If you have to call it something, call it genius at work. — David Pitt

The Incrementalists will be published on September 24th.