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Tintin in the Land of Fervour by Alain Bernard Marchand

Publisher: Xlibris Corporation ISBN: 1413413706

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

Alain Bernard Marchand is a Tintin aficionado- no doubt and his passion for Tintin is clearly revealed in this small work- an easy, but poignant read, running to just 109 pages.

At first when I ordered Tintin in the Land of Fervour, I was expecting a new comic, a parody or a pastiche- but what finally reached my hand was this beautiful tribute to the popularity of Tintin, one that is a must, must read for the Tintin lover, or rather Tintinologists as we are known the world over.

Marchand narrates how Tintin influenced his life, as an adventure traveler, especially while traveling in Asia. The author praises Herge for his total commitment to scientific reality, even when narrating a fictional adventure. This fact is well evinced in Explorers on the Moon, where Tintin, Snowy and Captain Haddock reach the moon, ten years before Neil Armstrong did it. 

A first class read, and an even more worthy buy, and as the author puts it, “the book is a starting point for an intimate experience,” which I fully shared and experienced in Tintin in the land of Fervour. Kudos Eileen Reardon for translating this French work into English, for us fans, in this part of the world to enjoy.

And if the author is reading this review, I welcome you to join www.tintinologists.org, a website devoted for, devoted by and maintained by devotees of Tintin. Highly, highly recommended.

 

Crossing the Meadow by Kfir Luzzatto

Publisher: Echelon Press ISBN: 1590802837

Reviewed by Narayan Radhakrishnan

Crossing the Meadows is a cross between, rather, a fine blend of the supernatural theme of that in The Sixth Sense, the horror of that in Village of the Damned and Twilight Zone, and the suspense of What Lies Beneath…- If you understand what I mean, well, that’s the theme of Crossing the Meadows. George is back in his hometown, but he finds himself a strange there, past friends, do not seem to know him, in fact they don’t even see him- and further he is haunted by a nightmare which disturbs him a lot. The only person, whom he feels he can talk to is Clara, a prostitute. Slowly he realizes that he is dead, and that he is now living in another dimension, a zone where the ordinary mortals have no access to- a sort of Zardozian style of existence. George begins to question the reasons for such an existence, and slowly finds out that they (George and Clara) are linked to a thirty-year-old murder case. What follows is fine mystery, bordering on occult, culminating in an exciting and romantic finish.

I enjoyed it, and is highly recommended.

 

Four Blind Mice by James Patterson

Publisher: Little Brown & Company; ISBN: ISBN: 0446613266

Alex Cross returns, this time involving cases of seemingly unrelated deaths of military personnel that soon reveals themselves to be committed by the same source.  In a clever plot twist, these murders are so ingeniously executed, that only a brilliant detective such as Cross can tie them all together.  Reaching back into the past of the Vietnam war, Cross works his supposedly last case as a detective with skill and style.  A little romance, a lot of  thrills, this is one of better Cross novels in recent memory.         

Almost unwillingly, I ended up thoroughly enjoying Patterson’s latest featuring Alex Cross.  And while not the most character driven novel written, its entertainment value ranks high.  The perfect distraction on a wintry day, this novel provides plenty of simple fun and chilling thrills.  Even its subtle attempt to make us think about the atrocities committed under the guise of patriotism  comes off with just the right tone. The romances played out in the background are also written with a surprising tenderness that strikes a chord as well.  It’s like meeting up with an old acquaintance with whom you’ve shared some pleasant afternoons, familiar, but with just the right amount of the unknown to keep it interesting.  

 

 

The Hades Project by Justin Gustaini

Publisher: Brighid's Fire Books  ISBN: 0971327866

Justin Gustainis' first novel, The Hades Project, is an explosive horror/thriller.  There is no questioning that Gustainis is an amazingly talented storyteller.  The author knows how to create three-dimensional characters, intensely plotted scenes, and then maintains a constant, gut-wrenching pace throughout.  

Michael Pacilio was a military SEAL, trained to handle the toughest missions in Viet Nam.  Years after the war ended, Pacilio's career is working as a federal agent in charge of investigations for the government.  But when he is called to Fairfax, Virginia to look into the brutal massacre of ten scientists, everything in Pacilio's life is so badly knocked out of whack, that nothing from the war or his specialized training could ever have prepared him for all the horrors awaiting him.  Though the evidence suggests that the one scientist who had not been murdered and appears to be on the run could be responsible for the murders, it is the easy-to-follow trail of bodies who suffered similar, tortured fates as the unfortunate souls in Fairfax that keeps Pacilio on the right path.  

When Pacilio learns that the scientists were working on a special, secret project he decides to visit with an old friend for help.  Father Eugene Grady was Pacilio's college professor, and he may know a thing or two about demonic possession.  Together he and Pacilio believe a serious and deadly evil has been unleashed on earth.   Teaming up with ER Doctor, Muriel Rojas, the three think they understand what is about to happen.  And it is possible that if they fail in their mission, the entire world will be sucked into the horrible living nightmares of Armageddon.  

Dark and disturbing, The Hades Project demands the attention of the reader.  You can set the book down, but it will be near impossible to walk away from.  There are not many novels that I would call frightening.  However, this is one of them.  It will keep you up nights, afraid to shut out the lights and fall asleep.  It is that grippingly real.  If you like Stephen King, or Dean Koontz, you'll love Justin Gustainis—and may end up preferring him.  This debut novel will captivate readers and leave them anxious for a second novel.  

© 2003 Phillip Tomasso III

Eve Missing by Ralph Pezzullo

Zumaya Publications        1-894942-37-X   (purchasing info to come)

Ralph Pezzullo's debut novel, Eve Missing, is as hard boiled a noir mystery as hard boiled can get.  The writing is skilled, crisp, raw. The fast pace is constant and rhythmic.

As a New York City police officer Smokey Annicelli and his partner get caught up in a mess.  Smokey is fingered to take the fall and is removed from the force.  Befriended by a mysterious, powerful and well-connected man he continues his career as an unlicensed private investigator.  

Lina is a young fashion model who Smokey once helped when she was a young, troubled girl.  A friendship started and grew.  So when Lina's friend, Eve, disappears she asks Smokey for help.  

His investigation leads to Danielle Girous, a wealthy and independent businesswoman.  Eve worked the streets as a hooker until she met kind hearted Danielle who took in the girl and then called in favors in order to kick off Eve's modeling career.  Though the ex-prostitute became quickly successful, it seems it was hard for her to break old habits.

Forget lover's triangle, a lover's pentagon is more like it.  Smokey's investigation leads him on the trail of one mangled love affair another.  The women he encounters have low self-esteem and have recently been burned.  They are sexy and vulnerable, not to mention aggressive.  He forgets the one important rule he learned from his police captain.  Never get involved.  Easier said than done.  When he falls for Danielle, he loses objectivity.

His search for answers leads him down multiple roads.  Everyone seems to know more than they are letting on.  There is never a lack of clues to keep the scent strong, but he is running out of time.  Eve might be dead and just when he is about to discover answers, Lina wants him off the case.    He is not sure who to trust.  

Like Lawrence Block's Matthew Scudder series, Smokey Annicelli is the type of P.I. readers will want to see more of.  He's gritty and rough, with some sense of morals—at certain times, anyway.  Eve Missing is loaded with action, wild characters, a load of steamy sexual scenes and a carefully plotted mystery.  Pezzullo is a welcomed breath of fresh air in a genre filled with many bland stories.  

                                                                 © 2003 Phillip Tomasso III

Cityside by Willaim Heffernan

Publisher: Akashic Books  ISBN: 1888451475

Cityside, by Pulitzer Prize nominated author, William Heffernan is a heartfelt novel.  It is just as full of tension, passion and compassion as it is conspiracy, god-like-ego and deception.  Though it takes place in the mid 1970's, it is clearly a timeless piece and therefore, shamefully reflective of aspects of American society in nearly any given decade.

Billy Burke is a star journalist for an icon New York City newspaper.  After a scrap with a drunken police officer, the paper bails him out of trouble.  His editor, the ruthless Leonard Twist, wants Burke to cover a story.  Burke is sure the story will be lame as a penalty for jeopardizing the paper's position with the police.  His suspicion could not be any further from the truth.

A disgruntled nurse shows up at the paper wanting to stir up trouble for her employer, Dr. Bradford, an arrogant heart surgeon.  She explains to the editor that he and his cohorts are double dipping.  The doctors claim to be working at two places at the same time, collecting checks from patients and from the state.  To top it off, Bradford has no heart of his own.

Roberto Avalon is a very sick little boy.  His heart has a hole in it.  Without undergoing an expensive surgery, he is sure to die.  Dr. Bradford may be an arrogant heart surgeon, but unfortunately he is also one of the best in the area.  However, he will not perform the operation because Maria Avalon has no medical insurance.  If she can come up with 80% of the 90 grand needed, he will operate.  Working in a sweatshop for peanuts, Maria knows she can never raise that kind of money.  The newspaper is her son's only hope.  

Burke knows better than to get drawn into the personal element of the story.  He needs together facts and report on them.  He and his wife separated years ago.  They had a daughter, Annie, together.  But Annie was severely autistic.  When they had no choice but to place her in a home, their marriage fell apart.  Guilt eats away at him.  He knows he let his wife down, and it kills him to think that he let his daughter down as well.  This story might one chance for him to do something good for someone else's child.  The fear that he might fail is a little overwhelming.

Burke's articles strike a cord within the hearts of the people in the city and the money pours in.  The paper plans to pay for the boy's surgery, and then expose the crooks for what they really are.  The only trouble is, will Roberto live long enough to undergo the surgery, a surgery he was prevented from having only because he belonged to a poor Hispanic family?

Heffernan delves deep into multiple areas of corruption.  Nothing is what it seems.  The characters are so well defined, you feel like you know them.  The scenes are so perfectly plotted that no question goes unanswered.  The story is so moving and infuriating that reading the book is like climbing into a car on a roller coaster.  Hang on tight, and enjoy the ride.  Cityside is a smart, edgy novel.
                                                                         © 2003 Phillip Tomasso III

 

Kisscut by Karen Slaughter

Publisher: William Morrow & Co; ISBN: 0688174590

Slaughter brings back her flawed but immensely interesting characters first introduced in her novel, Blindsighted.  Lena, the cop who is still recovering from her kidnapping and rape, and Sara and Jeffrey, the Pediatrician and Police Chief who are working towards revitalizing their failed marriage.  They come together when a young girl draws a gun on a young boy, resulting in her own death when Jeffrey is forced to shoot.  The further they search for answers, the more apparent it becomes that a large and threatening evil has chosen their small town in the pursuit of new victims.  The young and innocent are at risk, and the three must look towards those they trust to find the evil lurking behind the mask.    

Simply put, this isn’t an easy book to read.  Slaughter unflinchingly and honestly faces the issues of childhood sexual abuse with all the seriousness and rage it deserves.  Never patronizing or giving easy answers, she explores the subject ruthlessly and relentlessly, which can leave the reader feeling shattered and angry.  The characters themselves are all too human as they face, and attempt to conquer, this insidious evil.  Sometimes winning, but more often failing.  Their struggles with their own personal demons, and there are many of these as well, remain an important aspect of the novel, making the reader care and hope for a happy outcome.  Finally, be aware that the suspense is unbearable, the pacing brisk, and the emotional impact intense.  A definite achievement from Slaughter, whom I suspect will be around for a long, long time.

 

Cold Justice by Jonnie Jacobs 

Publisher: Kensington Pub Corp; ISBN

Eight years ago Kali O’Brien helped put a serial killer to death while working for the D.A.’s office.  But when the murder of her close friend appears to have striking similarities to those thought solved, she is once again brought into the D.A.’s office to help solve the crime.  When other murders follow, she begins to doubt if the right man was put to death all those years ago.  Successful, beautiful women are dying, and Kali fears she may be next.  With the help of attractive Detective Bryce Keating, and Detective Lou Fortune, they race against time to find the killer before he strikes again. 

Although not a single courtroom scene appears in this latest thriller from Jacobs, Kali’s personal connection to the case makes this a far more interesting read than her previous novels in the series.  Several false clues are thrown in for the reader to decipher, making this a challenging puzzle to solve as well.  The possible new romance for Kali also adds depth to the story, bringing the characters into a little more focus than previous titles, and readers will delight in watching Kali struggle with her growing feelings for a man who may just be Mr. Right, or who may just be a killer.  An exciting read, this comes highly recommended.     

A Higher Justice by James Scott Bell

Publisher: Bethany House  ISBN: 0764226460

Retired attorney, James Scott Bell is an award-winning author.  He has written many thrillers, and has co-authored a handful more with Tracie Peterson.  His latest novel, A Higher Justice, is the second in a series featuring female attorney Kit Shannon.   The story takes place in Los Angeles in the early 1900's.  Filled with history and culture from the times, this engaging novel is unsurpassable in quality and content by any legal novel being published today from more known best selling authors.

A young mother and her son are headed into town.  It has been a tough year.  Her husband has recently passed away.  In an attempt to move forward she decides to purchase new clothing for her son.  A terrible accident occurs when a young boy wanders into the street and is killed by a recklessly driven trolley car.

Kit Shannon decides to wage a legal battle against the trolley company in an attempt to force all trolleys to be retrofitted with safety features.  In the years since the trolley came to be there have been several accidents.  Each time the fault was placed on the victim.  Shannon's stand:  This has got to stop.  She believes the trolley company should be held responsible to the community.  It is no easy battle.  The tycoons that own the railroad and trolley will stop at nothing to obtain more power and more money.  Shannon's reputation is such that she poses a threat to the continued success and riches of the transit system.  Those against her will stop at nothing to get her out of the way of progress.

A local drunk gets into a drinking contest in a local saloon.  Things get out of hand.  Without remembering what exactly happened, he is arrested for attempted murder.  He apparently took a gun from the bartender and fired shots at his competitor.  Though no one was killed, or injured, there is a bar full of witnesses to the crime.

When Shannon takes this case, something about it doesn't seem right.  Shannon believes that her client might be innocent.  Too many of the people involved are on the trolley payroll and Shannon has long ago learned to recognize there is no such thing as coincidence.  In order to battle Shannon's defense, the district attorney pit's their female lawyer, Mrs. Price against the infamous Kit Shannon.  What ensues is a smart courtroom drama.

A Higher Justice is entertaining, fun and intriguing.  James Scott Bell writes smoothly.  His dialogue sounds right for the times.  The etiquette seems appropriate, as well as the way he describes the social standings between men, women and women who are trying to succeed in a man's world.  Thankfully James Scott Bell has quite a backlist of books.  They should keep me busy through most of the upcoming winter …

© 2003 Phillip Tomasso III

 

High Water by Lynn Hightower 

Publisher: Henry Holt & Company, Inc.; ISBN: 0805067566 June

When Georgie Smallwood’s mother dies unexpectedly, it raises a red flag for Georgie, who has always distrusted her own father.  But when he dies just a few short days later, Georgie is faced with even more troubling questions.  Not sure if it relates to her father’s scandalous past, or too a more recent threat, Georgie and her two siblings race to find the answers before more tragedy strikes the family.  But once her own sister is arrested for the death of her father, the mystery becomes even more pressing to solve.   

I just love Hightower’s voice.  Her delicate balance of suspense and emotion always please.  Her characters are consistently three dimensional, and in her latest, she once again makes them come alive with ease.  The secrets and misunderstandings that often lie behind most family’s facades are easily understood and treated with a startling and realistic touch that makes the rest of the story that much more believable.  The reader can easily relate to the tragedies that have shaped these colorful characters, even if they seem to happen to this particular family a bit more than would be considered usual.  A tightly woven story, this is a must read sure to make new fans and please old fans alike.  

4 1/2 bolts

 

A BODY IN THE BATHHOUSE By Lindsey Davis

(Mysterious Press)  

The latest book in Lindsey Davis's Marcus Didius Falco series has a plot as intricate as the mosaic floor in a Roman bathhouse, an apt simile given that the story opens with the finding of a putrefying body under the hypocaust of Falco's father's house. 

Nothing in Falco's life is ever simple.  Working as an Informer (Rome's version of a private eye), Falco is often called upon by the Emperor Vespasian to handle delicate matters.  Working for the emperor is fraught with potential pitfalls, and this time the plot is complicated by the fact that Falco's widowed sister Maia is trying to break off an ill-advised liaison with the emperor's spymaster, a dangerous man to cross. 

Falco quickly learns who killed the man under the bathhouse; unfortunately, they've scarpered off to Britain to work on a new palace for a vassal king who is politically vital to Vespasian.  The emperor wants Falco to go Britain to investigate cost overruns and slow progress on the project.  Aficionados of Roman Britain will be pleased that Davis has chosen a real archaeological site, Fishbourne, on which to base her story. 

Falco sees a way to keep his Emperor happy, track down the killers, and get Maia away from the loathsome Anacrites.  He packs up his family, including the dog Nux, and shanghais his sister and they're off to scenic Britain.  Also along for the ride are Falco's brothers-in-law, young men of dubious intelligence, but whom he is duty-bound to take into the family business, unless he wants to feel the rough side of his lovely wife's tongue.  Helena is no shy Roman matron, she's a woman of intelligence, wealth and standing who has married beneath her station, and she's not hesitant about pursuing her own agenda when it seems necessary. 

The new Falco adventure has all the twists and turns of plot we expect from Lindsey Davis.  Her extensive research into the world of Imperial Rome gives texture to the story without intruding into the reader's consciousness.  Successful historical mystery writers convey the flavour of the time without slowing the plot with indigestible lumps of information, and Davis does this as smoothly as a dormouse in honey. 

 There's a cast of characters only slightly smaller than Ben Hur, which the reader can keep track of with the dramatis personae at the start of the book.  It would have been nice to have a glossary to tell us more about some of the places and things mentioned, but that's a small quibble, and easily remedied by consulting a dictionary of classical history.  We don't really need to know what a totter is to understand what Falco means when he describes his younger daughter as "tough as a totter's ferret."

 As regular readers of Falco will expect, the crimes are eventually solved and the plot twists explained, but not until Falco overcomes a number of difficulties, including unspeakably primitive English inns, a whingeing nanny, hired assassins, snotty civil servants, unreliable allies and an abscessed molar.  This book is a lot of fun, with nice touches of (usually black) humour.  Falco has similarities to Robert Parker's Spenser; if you like your PI's hard-boiled but soft-centred, try "A Body in the Bathhouse".

--Karen Treanor