Fiction from Coulter & Ellison, Dain & Co., Knox, plus Gruesome Faerie Stories | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 29, 2014

Bajo, David. Mercy 6. Unbridled. Sept. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781609531096. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781609531102. F
At a California hospital, six people die at exactly the same time. Containment protocols are implemented, but ER physician Anna Mendenhall suspects that contagions are not the cause, and she is unwilling to accept the easy answer. She must convince her colleagues that her rival, infectious disease doctor Thorpe, is not the only driving force behind the search for the truth. Complications arise when the hospital is surrounded by government forces, and access to outside resources is limited. Anna slips containment to verify her suspicions about the cause of death, which come from a completely unexpected source.
Verdict Bajo’s third book (The 351 Books of Irma Arcuri; Panopticon) is an intellectual medical thriller that lets readers draw their own conclusions. The plot is somewhat disjointed, and there is not a deep connection with the characters. The ending comes with an unexpected twist that will leave readers wondering.—Tracey Thompson, Midwest City Lib., OK

starred review starCoulter, Catherine & J.T. Ellison. The Lost Key. Putnam. (Brit in the FBI, Bk. 2). Oct. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9780399164767. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101618752. F
lostkey082914Coulter and Ellison’s second Nicholas Drummond thriller (after 2013’s The Final Cut) opens with Ansonia Rothchild’s desperate letter to her husband, as she tries to uphold the mission of the Highest Order: to deal the Kaiser a death blow, end World War I, and save the world. Fast-forward to the present. Coming from Scotland Yard to the FBI’s New York headquarters, Drummond is reunited with agent Mike Caine as they take on a case that leads them to search for Ansonia’s lost key and book of secrets. Villain Manfred Havelock is ruthless in his scheme to find the key himself and gain total power. Modern high-tech pits Drummond and Havelock in a race for the answers they both want but for different reasons.
Verdict This engaging and suspenseful thriller will entertain readers with impossible nail-biting situations that are resolved by ingenious means. Also appealing is the camaraderie between Drummond and Caine. James Bond fans and readers who like heart-stopping action, cutting-edge science, and technology puzzles are bound to reserve this title. [See Prepub Alert, 3/10/14.]—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

starred review starDain, Claudia & others. An Encounter at Hyde Park. Night Shift. Aug. 2014. 311p. ISBN 9781500736323. pap. $11.99; ebk. ISBN 9781311350046. HISTORICAL ROMANCE ANTHOLOGY
The four tales that comprise An Encounter at Hyde Park are set against the London social scene of the early 1800s, with women discovering men who call to their heart and, despite all obstacles, finding ways to marry them. In “Chasing Miss Montford,” Dain introduces Elaine Montford, who is unexpectedly rescued by Capt. Roger Ellery when out in Hyde Park. This chance encounter binds these unlikely lovers, as they fight against the course of destiny. In Deb Marlowe’s “A Waltz in the Park,” Lord Vickers is a young aristocrat plagued by his fascination with Lady Mitford, the respectable girl he thought he never wanted. Lady Elspeth MacLaren takes a walk around Hyde Park in Ava Stone’s “Promises Made,” only to run into Griffin Reid, her childhood friend and, unknowingly to her, her betrothed. And while Griffin can’t admit his love for Ellie, it is Ellie who races to claim her intended. “Charlotte’s Bed,” by Karen Hawkins, is the story of Angus Reeves, Viscount MacThune, who comes back from India to find his one-time intended, Lady Charlotte, still unmarried and dodging potential suitors. Angry at Angus for leaving her behind, Charlotte is given a choice. Will she meet her lover in Hyde Park? Can this jilted lady learn to trust her heart?
Verdict Fans of Regency fiction will adore these small doses of romance and angst set among royal Londoners in this famous lovers’ paradise. These well-respected romance writers will delight fans with this quick and easy read that is strong on passion and all about love.—Judy Garner, Strayer Univ., Glen Allen, VA

Fearie Tales: Stories of the Grimm and Gruesome. Jo Fletcher: Quercus. Sept. 2014. 430p. ed. by Stephen Jones. illus. by Alan Lee. ISBN 9781623658069. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781782064718. F
Ranging from a story of a home for extremely bad children (used to scare other youngsters into being better behaved) to a horrific retelling of the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale, these 15 odd, dark, and horrifying short tales are not for the faint of heart. Compiled by the longtime editor of “Best New Horror” anthologies with the aim of presenting short fiction that echoes the original darker tone of the Brothers Grimm’s fairy tales, these contributions by some of the biggest names in horror and fantasy (including Neil Gaiman, Tanith Lee, and Garth Nix) vary widely in feel from the deeply weird and incredibly creepy to the downright terrifying. Each entry is preceded by the fairy tale that inspired it or one that echoes its themes. Lee’s (conceptual work on “The Lord of the Rings” films) black-and-white illustrations add a dark vision to the creatures and scenarios presented here.
Verdict This well-balanced collection will delight fans of fairy tales, horror, and fantasy, although these works, as with the Grimm originals, are not for children. Read only with the lights on.Katie Lawrence, Chicago

starred review starKnox, Ruthie. Truly. Loveswept: Random. (New York Stories, Bk. 1). Aug. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780804180351. $9.99; ebk. ISBN 9780345545268. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
May Fredericks finally came to New York to move in with her NFL quarterback boyfriend, until he makes the world’s most ham-fisted marriage proposal ever on ESPN. So she stabs him in the hand with a shrimp fork after he calls her plain, level-headed, and basically boring. She runs from the paparazzi, gets mugged, and finds herself in a bar in Greenwich Village. She can’t go home. Ben Hausman decides that rescuing her is part of his personal program to become a better and much less stressed person. He’s already lost one marriage and one restaurant business to his temper. He’s trying to change. That rescue leads to romance, as Ben tries to persuade Wisconsin-bred May to fall in love with the city of New York. But when her family calls her home, Ben wonders if the fantastic woman he’s come to know can survive an encounter with her relatives’ expectations. Or will he just push away?
Verdict The couple’s struggles to get past their respective families’ negative messages and figure out who they really want to be lead them to where they can love themselves enough to take someone special into their hearts—each other. Truly is another example of Knox’s (About Last Night) trademark style of romance, where in spite of a meet-cute, the protagonists must find their way to true love through a minefield of difficulties based in real-life problems and not dependent on soap opera–style drama. Highly recommended for lovers of contemporary romance.—Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.

Sheehy, Patti. Stalked: The Boy Who Said No. Oceanview. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781608091256. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781608091263. F
This sequel to The Boy Who Said No continues the true saga of Frank Mederos, who escaped from Castro’s Cuba at the height of the Cold War in the 1960s. He wants to begin a new life in the United States with the love of his life, Magda, who had fled earlier with her family. As a soldier in Cuba, Frank had developed knowledge of the island’s missile systems, thus he is invited to work with the CIA. He declines but tells the agency all he knows about Cuba’s defenses. Meanwhile, Castro’s government sends Frank’s nemesis from the first novel, the disgraced Lieutenant Pino, to eliminate him.
Verdict This novel is not only a story about a deadly enemy only a few miles from our shores but also a testimonial to what lengths people will go to become free. Unfortunately, the author spends too much time on Frank’s personal adjustment to America, and, thus, the novel lacks excitement and drama. Purchase for demand.Robert Conroy, Warren, MI

Watson, Angus. Age of Iron. Orbit: Hachette. Sept. 2014. 576p. ISBN 9780316399784. pap. $16; ebk. 9780316399777. FANTASY
Debut novelist Watson pens a tale about as subtle as the war hammer wielded by his hero, Dug. In the opening pages, Dug chooses to offer his services to the king of Barton, but Barton’s ragtag army is slaughtered by the highly skilled forces of Zadar, the king of Maidun, and his deranged druid, Felix. Lowa is a deadly woman archer whose small corps of archers leads Zadar’s army to victory and is then, in turn, slaughtered by that same army. Dug and Lowa each escape and begin traveling with a strange girl named Spring, whom they seem to meet by chance. The trio are betrayed in two different seeming safe havens before finally deciding to take the fight to Zadar. In general, characters on all sides exhibit poor planning skills and downright stupidity. There is a near ridiculous amount of gore between overly detailed combat and torture scenes. Even the language detracts from the story, with old-timey curses like “badger’s bollocks” vying against current vernacular such as “chill” and “schlep.”
Verdict There are a few nicely written action pieces and some decent humor here but not enough to turn this base metal into gold.Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids