Showing posts from 2010

An Ancient Prophecy Never Means Good News

There aren’t many constants out there in the world, but one which seems to always hold true is that all of us will never really, truly, get along with each other. Pessimistic, you say? Okay, fine... guilty as charged. Still, history argues pretty persuasively against the likelihood of any sort of widespread, lasting peace. From the days when cavemen stomped the Earth--when the males battled each other with clubs over who got the biggest hunk of meat from a hunt (survival), or got to claim the healthiest cavewoman (both survival and power), to today--when we still fight over survival and power, plus a whole mess of other things, we’ve proven ourselves to be quite the warmongering species. So, just imagine what life on Terra Firma would be like if we threw zombies, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, etc., into the mix. (One big party? Um, yeah, not so much.) Last year we were introduced to just such a mix in Nancy Holzner’s Urban Fantasy Deadtown, the title of which refers to the special…

Marriage or Murder at a Country Manor

A sprawling estate in the English countryside. A wealthy family, bound by the secrets they endeavor to keep from their friends and neighbors. A house party--with an engagement celebration its primary focus--featuring the usual assortment of pompous gentlemen of a certain age, mothers eager to make the best matches for their daughters, preening dandies too aware of their own highly-eligible status, and silly young girls harboring fairy-tale dreams of finding eternal love with their own handsome princes. A sudden, silent communication which sends the groom-to-be hieing off, breaking his engagement without explanation and leaving behind a tearful fiancée who refuses to accept that her perfect world has suddenly gone so very wrong. And, an intelligent and competent spinster, torn between duty to her niece and curiosity about her fellow houseguests, trying to make sense of it all.

All of that might well have been plucked straight out of a Jane Austen novel... were it not for the inclusion…

A Nightmare Without End: Abduction & the Long Road Back

Danger takes many forms. Most of us--once we’ve become rather uncomfortably aware of our own mortality--make an effort to take at least a few precautions to ward ourselves from some of the dangers we face.  At a bare minimum, we look both ways before crossing the street. We inoculate ourselves against deadly diseases. We bolt our doors and lock our windows to all the scary things (and bad people) that go bump in the night. We fasten our seat belts before setting out on the roadways in our little hunks of metal (although statistics show that a lot more of us could stand to be doing that). Taking such measures is empowering; we’re proactively doing something to safeguard ourselves. So many other things, of course, are completely outside the realm of our control. We’re unable to prevent cancers or illnesses that we’re genetically predisposed to getting. We’re at the whims of Mother Nature when it comes to floods, tornadoes, hurricanes, and such. We can’t predict if a random stranger in a cr…

The Real-Life Temperance Brennan: Kathy Reichs on a Case

It's a case of life imitating art--as well as art mirroring life--when it comes to bestselling author Kathy Reichs and her always-engrossing mystery series featuring forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.
Since first springing onto the scene in 1997 with her debut novel, Deja Dead, Reichs has consistently delivered intelligent, unputdownable tales depicting the painstaking work that goes into piecing together the last moments of someone's life through the study of the bones left behind.
There's an excellent reason for the success of this series; these books are, of course, grounded in real science. Reichs herself holds the same dual positions as forensic anthropologist in North Carolina and Montreal, Quebec as does heroine Dr. Tempe Brennan, so she really knows her stuff. Fortunately for the reader, though, she manages to avoid the pitfalls that sometimes trap other experts who try their hand at writing--that of coming across textbook-dull, or of being patronizing. Inst…

A Game of Cat and Mouse: The Secrets we Prefer to Keep

Inner demons... we all have them. Those things we wish we’d never done/said/thought, the choices we’d unmake (if only we could), and the internal battles we’re constantly fighting--all the things we’re ashamed of, but can’t escape. When it comes to our deepest, darkest secrets, we’ll go to great lengths to ensure they remain  hidden... and with good reason. So, imagine that one day you receive a letter from a total stranger who claims to know your deepest, darkest secrets. To prove the point, you’re instructed to play a little game, something that, in person, would seem like a parlour trick: you’re to think of a number between one and one thousand, then to open a second, sealed envelope and read the contents therein... at which point you discover that the mystery correspondent has correctly guessed your chosen number. Out of a thousand numbers you could have chosen.  Naturally, you freak out, thinking that if the impossible has just happened--if a complete stranger has inexplicably but …

Snowbound: The Frostbitten Fingers of Fear... and Murder

He’s like Yellowstone’s Old Faithful, popping up at the perfect moment to do his thing (which typically entails saving the proverbial day). He’s the Timex of heroes, taking a licking (and another, and another), but continuing to keep right on ticking. And, in true Weeble-like fashion, no matter how many times he’s knocked down, he (eventually, anyway) bounces back up. He is, in a word (okay, two words), Mr. Reliable.  Who is he? Why, he’s Jack Reacher, of course--the no-BS, ex-Army MP who regularly fixes problems and makes things hunky-dory again, all while pursuing a vagabond existence of roaming wherever the wind blows him, carrying all his worldly possessions on his back. There’s never a scrape or a tight spot that Jack can’t--sooner or later--wriggle out of, never a trap from which he can’t spring himself. (Not that he’s invincible or anything; he bears plenty of scars for his troubles.) Years of experience combined with an ability to think and act rationally and to harness his powe…

High Heels, Whiskey, & Murder under the Neon Lights

A pretty young thing does a swan dive into a hotel pool part-way through a splashy (teehee) production number, surprising the hundreds of people watching. Granted, it’s a cool effect. Problem is, she’s not part of the show, and her unscripted entrance--tumbling from a helicopter--is also her exit. (Like, her final exit.) Meanwhile, in another hotel... an enormous fellow is sleeping off a bender in a not-so-out-of-the-way stairwell, clad in nothing more than his pasty-white Birthday Suit.  An uber-rich Japanese businessman--who regularly throws tens of thousands of dollars around each trip on wine and women--has just crashed the brand-new Ferrari that he’d put on his room tab. A national group of swingers is due to arrive any time (for an unbridled week of rowdy spouse-swapping), as is a huge contingent of techno-geeks (ready to get their nerd freak on during that little version of heaven known as ElectroniCon). And absolutely everyone who is--or who aspires to be--”someone” in the adul…