The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective

suspicions mr whicher reviewIt was the original British country-estate murder case. It was investigated by one of the eight detectives who started Scotland Yard. It captured the imagination of Charles Dickens and directly inspired Wilkie Collins. And it all took place at Road Hill in 1860, with the discovery of the throat-slit body of a 3-year-old boy.

Haven’t heard of the case? Good. Because not knowing how it ended will make Kate Summerscale’s account of it – THE SUSPICIONS OF MR. WHICHER: A SHOCKING MURDER AND THE UNDOING OF A GREAT VICTORIAN DETECTIVE – as suspenseful as any fictional mystery you’re apt to read this year.

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BULLETS, BROADS, BLACKMAIL & BOMBS >> Black Sabbath

bullets broads blackmail and bombskisses from satan reviewThrow up the devil horns, readers, and crank up WAR PIGS. It’s time to worship at the altar of evil, as Anton LaVey has picked out three books for us to read. All right, not really, but they all have a common bond: the devil and his minions.

KISSES FROM SATAN by George B. Mair – Another in the long run of spies who came out of the cold and into focus after James Bond, Dr. David Grant works against the evils of an organization called SATAN in this 1966 paperback. For you laymen, that stands for Society for Activation of Terror Anarchy and Nihilism.

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SEARCH ME >> 4.08

Our monthly depressing look at the search terms that bring pervs to BOOKGASM!

search terms apr 2008

The Del Rey Book of Science Fiction and Fantasy: Sixteen Original Works by Speculative Fiction’s Finest Voices

del rey book sci fi reviewThis is nothing against Del Rey, but certainly there had to be a better title for THE DEL REY BOOK OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY: SIXTEEN ORIGINAL WORKS BY SPECULATIVE FICTION’S FINEST VOICES. That wordy, generic moniker suggests the Ellen Datlow-edited anthology is generic and assembly-line, when quite the opposite is true: This is a standout collection deserving of a more standout title.

Its subtitle contains the most telling phrase – SPECULATIVE FICTION – as, admirably, the stories within don’t fall neatly into either the standard sci-fi or fantasy genres. In other words, don’t go looking for spaceships or elves. Instead, expect the unexpected.

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The New Destroyer: Dead Reckoning

new destroyer dead reckoning reviewWarren Murphy and James Mullaney’s THE NEW DESTROYER: DEAD RECKONING represents the third entry in the reboot of The Destroyer series, and this one goes all the way back to the start of the whole franchise, with its sights set squarely on certain public figures that have been in the news. It might upset some readers, but most people going into a Destroyer novel understand its leanings.

We are introduced to Mustafa Mohammed, the “20th hijacker” on that fateful day of Sept. 11, 2001. Mustafa’s problem is that he overslept and is now sitting in a jail cell with only his family Koran as company. We learn of Mustafa’s family history of never becoming sick, no matter the disease that plagued the area. This led the whole family to be rounded up by Saddam’s scientists to be tested with all sorts of chemicals and other forms of pain.

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The Crystal Skull

crystal skull reviewNo Indiana Jones is present in THE CRYSTAL SKULL, but Manda Scott’s novel still has plenty of archaeology-oriented adventure. The hero here is a heroine: Stella, the scholar who’s freshly married to Kit, a Bede’s scholar who’s obsessed with finding the blue-glowing titular object – his holy grail of ancient artifacts.

After much blood, sweat and tears, Kit has located the secret cave of Cedric Owen, the 16th-century physician to whom the skull once belonged, so the newlyweds are busy spelunking as the book begins. They find the skull almost immediately, but something finds them, too.

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The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900

texas rangers reviewMike Cox – author of THE TEXAS RANGERS: WEARING THE CINCO PESO, 1821-1900 – spent 15 years as spokesman for the Texas Department of Public Safety, which means he got to talk to the press about, among other things, the Texas Rangers. How cool is that? Not talking to the press – no one in his right mind wants to do that. And I don’t mean the Texas Rangers baseball team, either. We’re talking about the real deal here: the Cinco Peso.

If you’ve never seen a Texas Rangers’ badge, where have you been all your life? They’re circular, not pointy like the badges you see in Western movies. The five-pointed Texas star is in the center. The badges were originally carved out of pesos, so the first Rangers to wear them were said to be wearing the “cinco peso.”

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BOOK WHORE >> 4.28.08

book whoreShe’s back, pimpin’ out notable new releases to place on your radar!

cathedral sea reviewCATHEDRAL OF THE SEA by Ildefonso Falcones – This historical novel about medieval Barcelona follows the fortunes of the Estanyol family, from their peasant roots to a son, Arnau, who flees the land only to realize spectacular wealth and devastating problems. Barcelona is dominated by the construction of the city’s great pride – the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar – and by its shame, the deadly Inquisition. Arnau joins the powerful guild of stone-workers and helps to build the church with his own hands, while his best friend and adopted brother Joan studies to become a priest. When Arnau is betrayed and hauled before the Inquisitor, he finds himself face-to-face with his own brother.

codex 632 reviewCODEX 632: THE SECRET IDENTITY OF CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS by José Rodrigues Dos Santos – When Thomas Noronha, a professor of history and an expert cryptographer, is called upon to finish an unresolved investigation involving an aged scholar who is found mysteriously dead in his hotel room, his life takes several unexpected and dramatic turns. As Thomas slowly begins to unravel the cryptograms and enigmas that shroud the old professor’s work, he finds a code that could possibly change the course of historical scholarship. In his quest to decipher it, Thomas travels around the world, immersing himself in the history of the discovery of the Americas, and the one enigma that no historian has ever been able to solve: the true identity of Christopher Columbus.

sepulchre reviewSEPULCHRE by Kate Mosse – In 1891, young Léonie Vernier and her brother Anatole arrive in Rennes-les-Bains, in southwest France, at the invitation of their widowed aunt, whose mountain estate, Domain de la Cade, is famous in the region. But it soon becomes clear that their aunt – and the Domain – are not what Léonie had imagined. The villagers claim that Isolde’s late husband died after summoning a demon from the old Visigoth sepulchre high on the mountainside. A book from the Domain’s cavernous library describes the strange tarot pack that mysteriously disappeared following the uncle’s death. But while Léonie delves deeper into the ancient mysteries of the Domain, a different evil stalks her family: one which may explain why Léonie and Anatole were invited to the sinister Domain in the first place.

where world osama bin laden reviewWHERE IN THE WORLD IS OSAMA BIN LADEN? by Morgan Spurlock – Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Morgan Spurlock is a jittery father-to-be with a simple question: If Bin Laden is behind 9/11 and all the ensuing worldwide chaos, then why can’t we just catch him? And furthermore, why is his message so compelling to so many people? So the intrepid Spurlock kisses his anxious wife goodbye and – armed with a complete lack of knowledge, experience or expertise – sets out to make the world safe for infantkind and find the most wanted man on earth. After boning up on his basic knowledge of Bin Laden, Islam and the global war on terror – and learning how to treat “sucking chest wounds” in a “Surviving Hostile Regions” training course – he hits the Osama trail.

host reviewTHE HOST by Stephanie Meyer – Melanie Stryder refuses to fade away. The earth has been invaded by a species that take over the minds of their human hosts while leaving their bodies intact, and most of humanity has succumbed. Wanderer, the invading “soul” who has been given Melanie’s body, knew about the challenges of living inside a human, but there was one difficulty Wanderer didn’t expect: the former tenant of her body refusing to relinquish possession of her mind. Unable to separate herself from her body’s desires, Wanderer yearns for a man she’s never met. As outside forces make Wanderer and Melanie unwilling allies, they set off to search for the man they both love.

madam president admiral reviewMADAM PRESIDENT AND THE ADMIRAL by Carl Nelson – “Let me play this back,” President Cass said as she scanned her advisors. “Russia and China are poised to fight over a border dispute and an oil pipeline. If war breaks out, they will need to replace that oil. They expand by taking the Spratly Islands, then take control of the mid-East oil trade route and risk a world war? China fights Russia and takes us and Taiwan on at the same time? None of it makes sense.” She took a deep breath. “I have followed China and this is out of character. This could be about oil or property, or both, but my take is it’s about something else. Something we’ve never faced before. As commander-in-chief, I will decide.”

Buy it at Amazon.

Charles Fort: The Man Who Invented the Supernatural / The Book of the Damned: The Collected Works of Charles Fort

charles fort reviewThe most enjoyable biographies, I think, are of the people you’d never expect. Current bestsellers on Napoleon and John Adams are obvious. Then there’s Charles Fort. Who? Exactly.

As Jim Steinmeyer presents in CHARLES FORT: THE MAN WHO INVENTED THE SUPERNATURAL, he was America’s premier chronicler of unexplained phenomena in a series of books that thumbed their noses at practical science. Without him, there might not be an X-FILES or RIPLEY’S BELIEVE IT OR NOT!

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Sandman Mystery Theatre: The Hourman and the Python

sandman mystery theatre 6 reviewAs becomes more and more clear with each trade paperback issued, SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE is the greatest comic of the ’90s that no one seems to talk about. SANDMAN MYSTERY THEATRE: THE HOURMAN AND THE PYTHON is the sixth such collection, with eight issues, two complete story arcs and one damned excellent concept.

Wesley Dodds is like the nerdy version of Bruce Wayne: a bespectacled, mild-mannered, slightly doughy bachelor who moonlights as a crimefighter – in this case, The Sandman, of course, clad in a regular, 1930s-era suit, hat and overcoat, plus the telltale gas mask. His gun emits a gas that acts as a truth serum.

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