Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The hits just keep coming!!

1356: A Novel by Bernard Cornwell

Kirkus Reviews –

The most notable English victory of the Hundred Years' War turns on the possession of the sword Jesus bade Peter sheathe in the garden of Gethsemane. At least that's how it looks in Cornwell's fictionalization of the events leading up to the Battle of Poitiers, beginning at the moment that a Black Friar breaks into a 150-year-old coffin and steals off with la Malice, the sword he finds inside. Scant hours behind Fra Ferdinand is an enforcer of the Avignon pope calling himself Father Calade and armed with a hooded hawk who serves as his own enforcer. The large-scale opposition between the English and French forces as they skirmish over ransom for hostages and salaries for mercenaries is complicated by the number of key characters who change sides. Sir Thomas Hookton, who begins by serving the Count of Labrouillade, soon breaks with him over (what else?) the money due him for restoring the faithless countess to his hearth and home. Brother Michael, a Cistercian who's come to Montpellier to study medicine, takes up with Thomas. So does Sir Robert Douglas, who's already fought against the English under his Scottish uncle. Few of these characters have any inkling that a pivotal battle in the endless war for France looms ahead. Neither, for that matter, will unwary readers. For, although every intrigue springs to life under the close-up focus veteran Cornwell (Death of Kings, 2012, etc.) has long since mastered, the strands aren't always closely knitted together: Heroes and subplots blossom and fade with no consistent sense of their connections, and readers approaching the tale without the appropriate historical background will have to survive a long probationary period before they realize where this is all heading. Best for fans of historical fiction who have both a taste for the Hundred Years' War and some base-line knowledge that will allow them to enjoy this swashbuckling recreation.

Dream Eyes by Jayne Ann Krentz

Kirkus Reviews –

When Gwen Frazier returns to Wilby, Ore., to investigate the death of her mentor, she knows she's opening up psychic wounds she'd rather forget, and when her best friend sends in investigator Judson Coppersmith to help, she realizes she's met her match, romantically and psychically. Will their attraction, skills and talent be enough, in time, to solve the mystery and save them both? Psychic Gwen Frazier would just as soon avoid Wilby, Ore., since she was nearly the victim of a serial killer two years ago, when she was participating in a psychic research study. But when the researcher, Gwen's friend and mentor Evelyn Ballinger, winds up dead, and names Gwen as her sole heir, she simply can't stay away. Returning to the town opens Gwen up to even more danger, physically and psychically, and turns the sheriff's suspicious mind to Gwen as the prime suspect. Gwen's friend sends her Judson Coppersmith, of the wealthy Coppersmith family, a renowned investigator who has some strong psychic talent himself, as well as a wildfire physical attraction. Judson might as well be the cavalry as far as Gwen is concerned, with his security and weapons skills, plus his psychic intuition toward violent crime. He's just what she needs to solve the crime and stay alive. As bodies start piling up in Wilby, it becomes clear that Gwen is once again a target. Judson and Gwen must race to find a link between the past and the present to solve the mystery and catch the killer determined to take Gwen's life. And as the two work toward answers, they'll realize just how good they are together--in oh-so-many ways. This is the second novel in the Dark Legacy series from Krentz. The master storyteller once again creates authentic, well-drawn characters, a quick-paced, engrossing plot set against a backdrop of a psychic world imprinted effortlessly on our own and a relatable romance one can't help but root for. Romantic suspense with a psychic twist--or, a little bit of everything, all wrapped up in wonderful.

 Kinsey and Me by Sue Grafton

Kirkus Reviews –

The collected short cases of Kinsey Millhone, plus a substantial bonus that wasn't included when the stories were originally published in a limited edition in 1991. The two qualities that distinguish Grafton (V is for Vengeance, 2011, etc.) from her competitors are amply on display here. Her Santa Teresa shamus is beyond question the most likable of all private eyes, and she never writes the same story twice--except when she recycles an ancient trick for telling the difference between an inveterate liar and his truth-telling brother in "The Lying Game." "Full Circle" is a routine account of how Kinsey tracked down the man who shot the driver who was cutting Kinsey off on the freeway. But "Non Sung Smoke" works surprising variations on its fatal drug scam, and "Long Gone" and "A Little Missionary Work" cap their tales of embezzlement and kidnapping with nifty final twists. "Falling Off the Roof" and "A Poison That Leaves No Trace" work impressively different changes on the clients who suspect their loved ones were murdered. The seriocomic "Between the Sheets" is a fast-paced search for the corpse that vanished from the bed of his lover's daughter. And the best of these tales, "The Parker Shotgun," combines the ingenuity of Agatha Christie and the compassion of Ross MacDonald. The bonus is a cycle of 13 slight but piercingly sensitive vignettes about Kit Blue, an autobiographical figure Grafton used to explore her conflicted feelings about her alcoholic parents in the years before Kinsey came on the scene to tilt her world toward felony and set it reassuringly in order. Though the collection is less revealing about Kinsey than her novels are, it offers a rare sustained glimpse inside Grafton--and a fine way to pass the time until W is for Whatever.

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