FRIDAY AFTERNOON REGASM >> 6.30.06

friday afternoon regasmAs you might know already, it’s Friday here at the spacious BOOKGASM headquarters. As the office assistants have a water balloon fight and some guy in an ape suit slides down the pole leading to the first floor, here I am, working to give you, the reader, the best semi-humorous weekly wrapup available on this site.

I don’t need your pity – just your eyeballs, people.

doc savage magazineMONDAY >> 6.26.06
Our interpid reporters for the NEWSGASM feature are still hard at work, which is amazing considering the pay (low-20s) and the benefits (limited beatings). I, for one, am pleased as punch about that, because now I know that there are going to be Doc Savage/The Shadow two-in-one reprints on the way. Who’s your favorite of Doc Savage’s super crew? Mine’s "Rennie" Renfield, the expert engineer with ham-sized fists that could punch the panels out of doors. He didn’t take part in all of Doc’s adventures, but when he did, you knew he was going to punch somebody.

There was other news, too, (the Stoker Awards, Hard Case kudos, Alan Moore’s X-rated fantasy series), and I applaud our writers’ restraint in mentioning M. Night Shyamalan without making fun of his name. That’s played out, but making fun of his movies never gets old.

Rod Lott can’t get enough of Christopher Fowler. He lavished heaping praise on TEN SECOND STAIRCASE, the latest novel in the Peculiar Crimes Unit saga, saying that Fowler deserves recognition on the level of the very greatest mystery writers. Well, if he wants that to come true, the titles of Fowler’s books need the words "murder" or "death" pronto. TEN SECOND STAIRCASE? That’s on the Home and Garden Network, right?

see no evil kaneTUESDAY >> 6.27.06
Movie novelizations and movie spin-off novelizations have been on the upswing here at BOOKGASM, and that fairly unsettling trend continued with Rod Lott’s review of SEE NO EVIL, the novelization of the horror movie starring apparent wrestler Kane. Despite having all these strikes against it, Rod saw good prose and solid horror. I’ll take his word for it.

The BOOK WHORE let us in on the week’s new releases – a fairly dull lot, with the exception of the summary for James Rollins’ BLACK ORDER. The person who writes these summaries should write the novels, because Rollins is one of the most overpromising and underdelivering mothers of the publishing world.

Before he sold his name to a shaving gel company, EDGE was a hard-ass ultra-violent Western anti-hero. Who knew? Bruce Grossman did, and he laid it out for us in glorious, violent technicolor for this week’s BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS. Edge’s real name is Hedges, and mix in the fact that he has a razor secreted somewhere on his person, and viola! A snappy nickname is born. Add to that so much violence it became a selling point (now with two times the bloody just desserts!), and I have no idea why these aren’t sought-after collector’s items. They’re colorful, violent and, best of all, cheap to get out there and consume!

WEDNESDAY >> 6.28.06
fin fang foomMARVEL MONSTERS is exactly what the industry is looking for right now. Nostalgia for somewhat average titles is running high, as are reimaginings of classic characters and themes. The melange of both provided plenty of good readin’ at the Lott household, although I think saying "Fin Fang Foom" too much could stunt his kids’ growth.

And no, I don’t know why I think that.

Moving on, Mark Rose made his debut on this week’s hit parade with a look at the holy thriller THE THIEVES OF HEAVEN. Rose had effusive praise for Richard Doetsch’s style and ambition, and seeing as how everybody’s crazy for books involving those Catholics lately, I’m sure it’ll be an absolute smash hit. I bet it doesn’t happen here, but it’s time that one of these kind of books shows the world the hand grenade that the Pope keeps under his hat. That would be awesome. He’d be all like, "Kiss this, sinner!"

manta rayTHURSDAY >> 6.29.06
Practicioners of water sports beware! The flying mutant manta rays are here! So goes the premise of NATURAL SELECTION, a science-driven thriller that’s a bit too heavy on the science and a bit too light on the hovering mantas of death, according to Rod Lott. I ate ray at a seafood restaurant once, so here’s to hoping that this is fiction.

This is the part of the REGASM in which I am startled at my seeming bad taste: Yes, I liked WIDDERSHINS. Yes, I got sucked in despite its Celtic/bohemian hipster stylings. Yes, my name is spelled funny. Ha ha. Laugh all you want, laughers. But I know that when I discover the Fairy Overlords that rule us all, I get to play the pipes at the fairy prom, and you’ll just be slaves, forced to follow my fairy minion orders. So there. (Fun fact: When Rod first mentioned he was sending this book to me for review, he couldn’t remember the title and called it WONDERSHITS. Ha ha! How does he do it?)

FRIDAY >> 6.30.06
charo nude nakedChecking out the top search terms that lead people to our humble site is the best feature we’ve got. You just can’t dream up things like "mrskin.com password latest june 2006" or "rituals involving semen." Also, when’s the last time a Google search for someone automatically turned up photos of their boobs? I mean, I look for nude shots of Charo all the time, and I get nothing. Nothing.

And the week is wrapped up with Rod’s take on Dean Koontz’s THE HUSBAND. What would you do if your wife was kidnapped and the criminals demanded $2 million? I think that in a lot of cases you could just wait it out, RANSOM OF RED CHIEF-style.

Rod tells me Monday’s posts will come late in the day instead of the usual early morning. So have a great holiday, everyone. Don’t blow off any limbs with illegal fireworks purchased in neighboring states (or nations), and get in some substantive summer reading. Until next week, I’m out. –Ryun Patterson

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The Husband

the husband reviewRight from the start of THE HUSBAND, Dean Koontz barely gives you time to breathe. When the book in question is a thriller, that’s a very good thing indeed.

In accordance with the zero-to-60 style of Koontz’s recent VELOCITY, it begins with a jolt as a happily married, mild-mannered Everyman named Mitch Rafferty receives a call on his cell phone informing him that: a) his wife has been kidnapped, and b) he has 60 hours to pay a $2 million ransom in cold, hard cash. The demand seems excessive, given Rafferty is just a self-employed landscaper of a two-man operation with $11 grand in the bank, but to show they’re serious, a man walking his dog across the street is then assassinated by a sniper’s bullet. Those flowers can wait, Mitch.

Under strict orders not to involve the police, Mitch is desperate. But also desperately in love, he does what he can, playing by their rules and exacting instructions. One of his orders is to visit a specific family member who agrees to pony up the money. However, this being Koontz and the book’s halfway point not yet reached, you know Mitch isn’t getting off the hook that easily. In fact, the next couple of days will involve an ever-escalating stress case of multiple murders, deception and a bizarre religious vision.

One wonders if Koontz wrote THE HUSBAND to challenge himself, because it keeps putting Mitch into seemingly impossible corners, even moreso than characters in previous books. Yet Koontz manages to write his way out at every turn, and do so plausibly. The plotting is tight, and the suspense tightly wound, with each chapter ratcheting the already unbearable tension. And before you know it, 400 pages has flown by as if it were 40. That speed brings an end that’s a little abrupt (as is the midpoint twist), but it makes more sense than VELOCITY’s out-of-nowhere reveal. If there’s anything to really dislike about the novel, it’s the atrocious Harlequin-looking cover. I mean, THE HUSBAND may close with one of the most moving descriptions of love I’ve ever read, but this is no romance – it’s one excellent kidnapping tale, and a major return to form for Koontz. –Rod Lott

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OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THIS AUTHOR:
DEAN KOONTZ’S FRANKENSTEIN: BOOK ONE – PRODIGAL SON by Dean Koontz and Kevin J. Anderson
DEAN KOONTZ’S FRANKENSTEIN: BOOK TWO – CITY OF NIGHT by Dean Koontz and Ed Gorman
DEMON SEED by Dean Koontz
THE FACE OF FEAR by Dean Koontz
FOREVER ODD by Dean Koontz
ODD THOMAS by Dean Koontz
VELOCITY by Dean Koontz

Fun with Bookgasm (and Poseidon rape)

poseidon dvd downloadJuly is so close, we can spit and hit it from here. (And yes, we’re taking Tuesday off for Independence Day, but will be back on Wednesday, lest our fingers suffer a firecracker mishap.) All that means is June is all but gone, making it time for our monthly roundup of search terms that bring web surfers to the BOOKGASM – you know, that genre fiction review site with the funny name.

And we read you loud and clear: You want to see Evangeline Lilly nude and/or naked, even if you can’t spell her name. And you’d also like the same of Kristin Chenoweth, Jessica Biel, Uschi Digard and … hey! What’s this? Where are Mimi Rogers’ boobs?

Yes, for the first month in our nearly year-long history, that popular search term has fallen off our fabled list in favor of “murder stabbing,” a little something called “Poseidon rape” and “rituals involving semen.” (I decline to make the really crude joke I just thought of, but really, how do these phrases point people our way?) It’s enough to make you wonder if BOOKGASM has anything to do with books anymore. But then, at the bottom of the list, one smart person shines through and gives us hope for the future…

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49 http://www.bookgasm.com/category/reviews/classics/
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2 narnia
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2 jack ketchum’s off season spoilers
1 killraven
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1 books

Natural Selection

natural selection reviewEver since JAWS, each summer seems to have its own underwater thriller; this year’s beach-ready entry is NATURAL SELECTION, a debut for Dave Freedman.

His story deserves points from the start for not being about sharks. In Freedman’s book, sharks are breakfast (as are bears) for his creature of choice: manta rays which have mutated and adapted not only the ability to fly and hover, but to grow big, breathe air and kill. Flying fish capable of biting off people’s heads. I’ve never read that before.

This discovery is made by a team of manta ray researchers after reports of sightings, initially derided for smacking of the stuff of urban legends. But when physical evidence proves the new species’ existence very real – an AIDS-like virus is considered the trigger for the mutation – the scientists have to rush to save the oceans and its shores from turning blood red. You get one guess as to whether they succeed.

NATURAL SELECTION itself succeeds in the action sequences, right in the heat of the hunt, and especially the scenes of attack. (One wishes they would have kicked in sooner; all the upfront talk of decreasing plankton levels isn’t exactly a page-turner.) Because of this, you kind of root for the fish. Where the book fails is giving us compelling characters; in particular, the lead character of Jason is almost a non-entity – a brainy but socially inept type who’s all business, quiet and wishy-washy. This in turn makes the romance angle between him and the far livelier Lisa crack under pressure; their mutual attraction is not only unbelievable, but laughable. Witness this seduction scene:

He paused, glancing into the bedroom. Then he noticed what Lisa was wearing. One sexy outfit. Tight low-rider jeans with a black sequined rock-concert T-shirt. “Lisa, my … hard drive hasn’t run in a very long time.” She cleared her throat, reddening slightly. “Neither has mine. And just so there are no misunderstandings, I’m not just looking for … a quick reboot.”

But NATURAL SELECTION is focused on science, not sex. The Ivy League-educated Freedman is obviously a smart guy, with the proof being on the page in passages dealing with the ins and outs of manta rays and the ecosystem of the deep. But the text is missing the sheer zing of a Peter Benchley, a Michael Crichton, a Steve Alten – all of whom the work apes. For it to be as fun as those, it would require some trimming. At half the length, it’d be double the book; as it is now, it’s simply decent. –Rod Lott

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Widdershins

widdershins reviewNew Age fairy romances are some of the worst examples of fantastic fiction on bookshelves today. Fairy courts, timeless love, spunky characters that have to balance their real lives with mystical crises, blah blah Renaissance Faire blah.

But WIDDERSHINS is different. Strangely enough, all of the above elements figure into the book, and yet it’s good. Charles de Lint has done such an exceptional job with his setting, plotting and characterizations that it smashes preconceptions and puts some old-fashioned wonder and fun into things.

Fairy jokes aside, WIDDERSHINS is – at its most basic – a romance woven into a tale of fairy intrigues and personal demons. Essentially it’s an object lesson in loss and redemption, of sins and forgiveness. There’s nary a nihilistic anti-hero, no absolutely evil force bent on destroying 100 percent pure good heroes. WIDDERSHINS is (dare I say it) a delight. It can be dark and twisted, but de Lint’s book is a fairy tale in the classical sense. It’s not so deconstructed as, say, AMERICAN GODS or JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR. NORRELL, and it’s a little bit shiny-happy, but all things considered, it is a pleasant surprise amid a paperback wastelend. –Ryun Patterson

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The Thieves of Heaven

thieves of heaven reviewIf Dan Brown’s THE DA VINCI CODE is the anti-matter of Catholic and Christian fiction, then Richard Doetsch’s THE THIEVES OF HEAVEN is the matter. And it does matter because it’s a superb debut novel, a gripping thriller crossed with a strong emotional grid that should make it appeal to a large section of the reading public.

I think what amazes me most about this book is not its sheer ambition for a first novel (the forces of the Lord meet Satan head on in a battle for a religious artifact), not the humility of the author and his writing style (Doetsch’s main claim to fame in the blurb is that he’s the head of a real estate company, and his style is straightforward without tics or ornament), but that Doetsch is really quite good at laying the subtle groundwork of hints that play out later in the book. You read something, and an experienced reader goes, “Hmm, I wonder if…” and then 40 pages later, it plays out. But it’s not always predictable, and that really is quite a feather in the author’s cap.

Doetsch’s characters strike one at the emotional core even though they are clichés. Michael St. Pierre is the felon thief who has gone straight due to the love of his life, Mary. The two are befriended by a brusque and burly parole officer who has a heart of gold. Yeah yeah yeah, we’ve seen it before. But it works here in the milieu of Christian belief and Catholic symbology. And Doetsch works hard to give everyone in this book a background, a motive, a life beyond the page.

Now don’t go getting your knickers in a twist. This isn’t some version of the LEFT BEHIND series. Nor is it Christian dogma masquerading as an action-adventure novel. It’s an exciting tale of a brazen theft that has implications far beyond what the thief originally expected. And when the thief must get re-involved in the caper, the stakes ratchet up another notch. This might be a bit too over the top for those who like their mysteries colored with the pomp and circumstance of the Catholic church (think G.K. Chesterton, Ralph McInerney and hundreds of others), but the muscle of the church and the strength of its believers shines through in this book, and if that doesn’t scare you, then this perhaps should be on your buying list. –Mark Rose

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Marvel Monsters

marvel monsters reviewMarvel Comics simultaneously pays tribute to and pokes fun at their monster books of the 1950s and 1960s with the must-have MARVEL MONSTERS collection. As befitting of that era, Marvel’s creatures were Godzilla-inspired, oversized creatures of the post-atomic age, brought to city-smashing life in tryout titles like WHERE MONSTERS DWELL, STRANGE TALES, JOURNEY INTO MYSTERY and TALES TO ASTONISH (in contrast, DC’s monsters of the time were largely horror).

Five of those “classic” stories are reprinted here in vibrant color, featuring the monsters Fin Fang Foom; Droom, the Living Lizard; Titano; Hulk (no, not that one); and Experiment 247, aka a snapping turtle turned giant thanks to an experimental growth hormone. All of these stories follow a distinct formula – the same as the eerily similar B-movies, incidentally – but are enjoyable for their very antiquated nature. Plus, all but one are drawn by the legendary Jack Kirby. And without those as a point of reference, you wouldn’t be able to appreciate the rest of the book, which is where the real meat lies.

For that reprints four 2005 one-shots, each taking on one Marvel monster of the past with a decidedly comedic bent. First, THE GOON‘s Eric Powell has the red DEVIL DINOSAUR spar with Hulk (yes, that one), while WHERE MONSTERS DWELL features three shorter tales, with talent like Peter David and Mike Allred spinning stories of the Bombu (think Tiki gods from space), Monstrollo (invading Hollywood, albeit as a suit) and Manoo (in the book’s one story that most resembles yesteryear’s material).

Writer Steve Niles wrings lots of mileage out of his MONSTERS ON THE PROWL issue, having Hulk and The Thing team up with Beast and Giant-Man (of the X-Men and the Avengers, respectively) to rid their fair city of a whole shitload of creatures, accidentally loosed by Mole Man. It contains the finest, funniest Blythe Danner reference in comics history. But Scott Gray’s FIN FANG FOUR is the best of the lot – not to mention laugh-out-loudy – with the Fantastic Four helping to rehabilitate the monsters and have them serve society as valets and chefs. Aided immensely by Roger Landridge’s wonderfully cartoony art (not to mention a cameo from that annoying Herbie), it takes the proverbial cake.

A chunky “from the files of Ulysses Bloodstone and the Monster Hunters” guide is also included, providing lots of info about Marvel’s horrific horde, presented in the form of blog entries, e-mails and various clippings. But I skipped that, because I like my comics with not many words and a whole lotta pictures. Oh, and big-ass monsters. –Rod Lott

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OTHER BOOKGASM REVIEWS OF THIS SERIES:
MARVEL ROMANCE

See No Evil

see no evil reviewIf Dan Madigan decides the screenwriting thing isn’t for him, I hope he doesn’t give up horror novels. Because SEE NO EVIL, his novelization of his own script of the current fright flick starring WWE wrestler Kane, suggests a major talent.

The villain of the piece is Jacob Goodnight – though mostly referred to as “the monster” – a simple-minded, mute torturer of humans who sin. Y’know, mostly teenagers. Four years after surviving having a bullet put in his brain by a cop (and then killing that cop’s partner), Jacob resides in the hidden hallways of an abandoned, nine-story hotel. There, the man society would never understand can retreat and be left alone. Except for the weekend when eight juvenile delinquents are brought in to clean it up as part of a community-service program. Jacob doesn’t see eye to eye with visitors … mostly because he enjoys popping said eyes out in collecting them in jars.

Usually in horror fiction, the bad guy’s pool of victims includes one each of all types – the smart kid, the jock, etc. But in SEE NO EVIL, they all pretty much fill the “troubled kid” slot, and Jacob is eager to use his knowledge of the hotel’s secret passageways to his advantage, spying on them from behind two-way mirrors, popping out of elevators and dumbwaiters like a trapdoor spider, capturing them via hooked chains.

Madigan’s story contains many scenes that are suspenseful and unsettling, described quite visually to the point where I cringed. It’s a little long for something sporting a WWE logo on the spine (do we really need to know the backstory of some of these kids’ parents?), but his prose is solid and written with more polish and promise than is usually seen in the genre, and I read a few new horror novels each and every month. A grim sense of humor never hurts, either, and Madigan delivers there as well: “That frantic three-word expletive was universally the second-to-last thing that went through the brains of people who encountered the monster. The last thing entering it was usually an axe blade.” Wicked. –Rod Lott

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Spaghetti Westerns, Pulp-Style

bullets broads blackmail and bombsAre you a fan of Sergio Corbucci films like DJANGO or THE GREAT SILENCE? What if someone put those in book form? That’s the EDGE series in a nutshell, folks. It proudly calls itself the most violent Westerns and who am I to disagree? George G. Gilman’s books are not for the fainthearted, and this is printed on the front of each book! So let’s get this started with three early adventures of Josiah Hedges or, as he will be referred to from here on out, Edge. He’s called Edge since he carries an old type of razor that would flip open, which he hides in a secret pocket in the collars of his shirts.

edge ten grand reviewEDGE #2: TEN GRAND – Since this 1971 entry is the second in the series, the book opens with Edge working as a sheriff for a town called Peaceville, having ended up there after avenging his brother’s death in the first book. Don’t get too settled with the peace; it only lasts a few pages when the bank is robbed by a group of Mexican bandits led by a short man called the Matador. (Stereotypes galore in the descriptions of these thieves – we’re talking Frito Bandito-level.) Before Edge can even make it to the bank, two of the bandits stop him in the sheriff’s office and take his hidden stash of $2,000. This is not a good thing to piss off Edge like that.

Edge is taken as a hostage so they can escape town, and once they do, he heads back to get his rifle and go after him. (This is where we are told that Edge also is a wanted man; no real details are given, but since the series goes on a for a while, I’m not really concerned.) Edge is shot at by a female would-be bounty hunter and two marshals, none of whom live. We’re also treated to the exploits of the bandits, who pretty much rape and kill anything that moves, except one old man who successfully hides.

Edge forces the old man to take him to their hideout, but the Mexican army is waiting for the bandits as well. As the story progresses, Edge meets up with them on a search for the TEN GRAND that the cover promises. I can’t go further, since I’ll ruin more plot points then I want to. I’m just mad at myself for discovering this series so late in the game.

edge killers breed reviewEDGE #4: KILLER’S BREED – Now here’s a first for this type of series: a book that actually delves into the character’s backstory. I’m not just talking about “oh, this happened so now he is The Punisher”-type stuff. This 1972 tale deals with the Edge’s days in the Civil War. Actually, it starts out with Edge trying to make it to his boyhood home after a bullet has grazed the back of his neck. Once there, he passes out in front of the family that now lives there. From here, the book is told through flashbacks for all the Hedges history, while the mother and daughter try and save him from whatever is causing his fever.

As a history major in college, I can attest the author plays around with dates (which he even admits it in a brief note at the start), as our trusted hero takes part in three big events: Shenandaoah Valley, Bull Run and Shiloh, which would make him a mighty busy soldier. But these are the events that shaped Edge into the man he is.

First, he’s a fresh lieutenant who comes across a young girl being accosted by a fellow soldier. Being an honorable man, he comes to her help by knocking the man unconscious. The girl, Jeannie, gives undying gratitude to our “hero,” losing her virginity to the rough-and-tumble solider later in the book. From here, the violence takes a hold of him slowly, bearing witness to brutal killings of all kinds, from people’s eyes being shot out and homes being set ablaze to seeing his own men kill their own commanding officer. I could go on and on, but just know it gets gorier as it goes.

We learn Edge is actually wanted for two deaths, one being a former Civil War veteran. I just wish more authors would have taken this approach. Think about it: What do you really know about James Bond, Matt Helm, Sam Durell or even Nick Carter? Yes, I do know there is a book about Bond’s school days, but since it’s not by Ian Fleming, it doesn’t count.

edge red river reviewEDGE #6: RED RIVER – Another EDGE tell to whet my thirst for pulpy goodness, this 1972 title is actually a sequel to KILLER’S BREED, but with Edge having fever memories when he runs into someone. The story mainly deals with Edge being accused of killing the son of the wealthiest woman in San Francisco at a card game, even though he’s innocent and is played for as a patsy.

While he awaits trial, the story switches between Civil War memories and the search by the deputy to prove Edge’s innocence, as it seems the sheriff is a bit crooked. We are introduced to most of the crew from his company in the war, who are taking over a town in the deep south. Once that’s done, they celebrate, but – guess what – a group of Southern raiders attack the party, laying waste to all and grabbing Jeannie as a hostage.

This drives our hero on a chase, finding her dead, having been tied to a tree and burnt alive. This is officially the last straw, sending him out on a killing spree more like a one-man war. His troop is then captured by the South and sent to Andersonville (which is probably one of the biggest low points in our history, as this “prison” is just horrific). The story continues with Edge and the boys trying to escape, and the deputy finding the one witness to prove Edge’s innocence.

As with the others, RED RIVER is a great, breezy read in this amazing saga. These books have no first gear – they’re all in fifth and overdrive. To reveal more would just take away all the fun for you. –Bruce Grossman

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MISS EARLIER INSTALLMENTS OF ‘BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS’? REGASM THESE:
#9: Me Tarzan, You Remo
#8: Spillane … ‘Nuff Said!
#7: Still No Martini Drinkers Here
#6: No Martini Drinkers Here
#5: Cheese ‘n’ Sleaze

BOOK WHORE >> 6.27.06

book whoreThis week’s notable new releases, ready for you to read!

black order reviewBLACK ORDER by James Rollins – A sinister fire in a Copenhagen bookstore ignites a relentless hunt across four continents. Arson and murder reveal an insidious plot to steal a Bible that once belonged to Charles Darwin, the father of evolutionary theory. And Commander Gray Pierce dives headlong into a mystery that dates back to Nazi Germany … and to horrific experiments performed in a now-abandoned laboratory buried in a hollowed-out mountain in Poland. A continent away, madness ravages a remote monastery high in Nepal, as Buddhist monks turn to cannibalism and torture. Lisa Cummings, a young American doctor investigating the atrocity, is suddenly a target of a brutal assassin working for clandestine forces that want the affair buried at any cost. Now it is up to SIGMA Force to expose a century-old plot that threatens to destroy the current world order … and alter the destiny of humankind forever.

ten second staircase reviewTEN SECOND STAIRCASE by Christopher Fowler – It’s a crime tailor-made for the Peculiar Crimes Unit: a controversial artist is murdered and displayed as part of her own outrageous installation. No suspects, no motive, no evidence – it’s business as usual for the Unit’s cantankerous founding partners, Arthur Bryant and John May. But this time they have an eyewitness. According to twelve-year-old Luke Tripp, the killer was a cape-clad highwayman atop a black stallion. As implausible as the boy’s story sounds, Bryant and May take it seriously when “The Highwayman” is spotted again, striking a dramatic pose at the scene of his next outlandish murder. Whatever the killer’s real identity, he seems intent on killing off a string of minor celebrities while becoming one himself. Bryant and May find themselves sorting out a case involving an unlikely combination of artistic rivalries, sleazy sex affairs, the Knights Templars, and street gang feuds. To do it, they’re going to have to use every orthodox – and unorthodox – means at their disposal, including myth, witchcraft, and the psychogeographic history of the city’s “monsters,” past and present. (Read our review here.)

traitor reviewTHE TRAITOR by Stephen Coonts – Abu Qasim was the perfect spy. He was the man who could bring down Bin Laden, the man who could smash Al Queda. Surrounded by fanatics in the heart of the beast, he believed in himself beyond any shadow of a doubt, believed in what he knew to be right with a faith that could withstand all adversity. He lived by his wits and played the double game to the last drop of blood. Or did he? Assigned to Paris, CIA officer Tommy Carmellini finds himself working for his old boss, Jake Grafton, who is the new CIA operations officer in charge of Europe. Grafton has a mission: He believes that the director of French Intelligence has a secret agent among the leaders of Al Queda and the Americans want access to that intelligence. Yet the director denies it! Trying to ferret out the truth, Grafton and Carmellini are quickly entangled in a mare’s nest of espionage, deception and murder.

danse macabre reviewDANSE MACABRE by Laurell K. Hamilton – Anita Blake needs to be concentrating on a dangerous situation: the ardeur, the sexual power that flows between Anita and Jean-Claude, Master Vampire of the City, and Richard, the volatile werewolf who loves her passionately, is reaching new levels, perhaps evolving into something altogether new. The ardeur seems to be choosing new lovers for Anita, acting with a will of its own. As Jean-Claude says, the ardeur is hunting powerful prey. The unexpected effect of this is that Jean-Claude’s own power as a master vampire has grown to new levels — and Richard, never predictable, is changing too. But as the days pass, Anita’s less interested in vampire politics than in an ancient, ordinary dread she shares with women down the ages: she may be pregnant. And, if she is, whether the father is a vampire, a werewolf, or someone else entirely, she knows perfectly well that being a Federal Marshall, known for raising the dead and being a vampire executioner, is no way to bring up a baby…

natural selection reviewNATURAL SELECTION by Dave Freedman – A mystery. A chase. A vast expansive puzzle. A team of marine scientists is on the verge of making the most stunning discovery in the history of man. In their quest for answers, they engage a host of fascinating characters. The world’s premier neurology expert. A specialist on animal teeth. Flight simulation wizards, evolution historians, deep sea geologists, and so many more. Along the way, the team of six men and women experience love, friendship, loyalty and betrayal. Together, they set off to exotic locales. Literally to the bottom of the ocean. To a vast and mysterious redwood forest. To an unknown complex of massive caves. When people start dying, the stakes are upped even further. Then the real hunt begins… (Read our review later this week.)

spider-man darkest hours reviewSPIDER-MAN: THE DARKEST HOURS by Jim Butcher – When Peter Parker learns that his old enemy the Rhino is on a rampage in Times Square, he suits up as Spider-Man to stop the destructive villain in his tracks. But he’s unexpectedly foiled in his attempts by the Black Cat, a former ally and old flame. The Cat informs Peter that the Rhino is just a distraction – the real threat comes from a group of Ancients, members of the same race as the being called Morlun, who Spidey defeated in battle years earlier. The Ancients are now looking to exact revenge – and hope to steal Spider-Man’s life force in the process.

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