Sunday, March 30, 2014

The Chase (Fox and O'Hare #2), by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg

Bantam, ISBN 9780345543080, February 2014

Kate O'Hare is an FBI agent with an unusual partner--Nick Fox, international art thief, number ten on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list. Who says the FBI can't be sneaky and underhanded?

Their latest assignment is very delicate, and has a very tight time frame. As a gesture of goodwill, the US government is going to return to China an iconic piece of Chinese art, a sculpture of a rooster, that has been sitting in the Smithsonian for a hundred years. Unfortunately, the rooster was stolen several years ago, and a very good forgery put in its place. Fox and O'Hare have to steal the original back. It's currently in the possession of Carter Grove, chief of staff of the last president, and CEO of BlackRhino, a security/mercenary corporation.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Raising Steam (Discworld #40), by Terry Pratchett (author), Stephen Briggs (narrator)

Random House Audiobooks, November 2013 (original publication January 2013)

An intelligent, honest, inventive young man has invented the steam engine, and Lord Vetinari has to figure out how to contain and/or exploit it. Naturally this means Moist von Lipwig has a new job--representing the city's modest, but ultimately controlling, ownership share in the new steam engine company. This also means negotiating rights of way for the railway system, as neither the young engineer, Dick Simnel, nor his older and cannier business partner, Sir Harry King, the poop magnate, are well equipped for negotiating for land rights in foreign areas. For instance, Quirm, where the only reasonable route means clearing out bandits and negotiating with goblins.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Dog Gone, Back Soon (Cyrus Mills #2), by Nick Trout

Hyperion/Hachette, ISBN 9781401310899, April 2014

Last week, Cyrus Mills, veterinary pathologist, came home after the death of his long-estranged father, expecting to wrap up the business of his dad's veterinary clinic, Bedside Manor for Sick Animals, and return to his own life. Instead, he stayed to take over the practice.

This week, he's discovering what he got himself into.

His new girlfriend, Amy, is acting strange and apparently spending time with a drop-dead handsome guy who seems to have some connection to her past. Money is a major issue for many of his clients, challenging his ability to make diagnoses without running all the tests he thinks are best. A house call for an overweight cat turns out to be a teenager's attempt to set him up with her mother.

And Healthy Paws, the national veterinary hospital chain with a clinic in the next town over, sees an opportunity to put him out of business.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Nation, by Terry Pratchett (author), Stephen Briggs (narrator)

HarperFestival, ISBN 9780061658211, September 2008

In a world that isn't quite our own, in a place that isn't the South Pacific, a boy on the brink of manhood is on his way home from his ritual one-month exile, in the canoe he has made himself, when a volcano erupts and a tsunami is unleashed that, he discovers when he reaches his home island, wipes out his entire tribe.

Mau's island isn't the only one affected, but it is one of the largest locally, and the place that other survivors gradually gather in the aftermath. The first of his fellow survivors, though, before anyone else joins them, is the lone survivor of a ship from a place that isn't quite our England. She's the daughter of a man who is 139th in line for the throne, on the way to join her father, governor of the colony at Port Mercier. What she doesn't know is that influenza has hit at home, and everyone between her father and the throne has died. A fast ship is on its way from home to Port Mercier to bring him back.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Washington Masquerade (Fiona Fitzgerald #8), by Warren Adler

Stonehouse Productions, ISBN 9781590061213, September 2013

Adam Burns, raving right-wing columnist for the Washington Post, is killed by a Washington metro train. He's wearing a fake mustache and unnecessary glasses at the time. There's nothing to make suicide plausible, the few witnesses didn't see anything that supports murder, and the disguise makes accident too much of a coincidence.

Sergeant Fiona Fitzgerald, homicide detective in D.C.'s Metropolitan Police Department, gets the hot potato of investigating this death, even as Washington explodes with rumor, scandal, and conspiracy theory, attributing the death to a hit ordered by the President or someone inside his administration.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Five Children and It, by Edith Nesbit (author), Samantha Bond (narrator)

Penguin Audiobooks, ISBN 9780141808734, August 2008 (original publication 1902)

A London family takes a modest house in the country for the summer, and the five children discover a sand fairy with the power to grant wishes.

Cyril, Anthea, Robert, and Jane, and their  two-year-old brother whom they call the Lamb, also discover that wishes aren't always all they're cracked up to be. What could be more harmless than Jane's wish that they all be "as beautiful as the day"? How could wishing for untold wealth--in gold coins--go wrong? Yet over the course of the summer, the children find that more often than not they are figuring out how to get through to sunset, when the sand fairy's gifts go away.

This was a cherished favorite when I was a child, and it's still a lovely, wonderful book to read and reread. It ages very well; Nesbit's girls and boys are equally brave, clever, and loyal, with the impulsivity and unreliable judgment of real children.

Highly recommended.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Concealed in Death (In Death #38), by J.D. Robb (author), Susan Ericksen (narrator)

Brilliance Audio, ISBN 9781480511545, February 2014

Roarke buys yet another New York building, and when in what should be a purely symbolic move he strikes the first few blows to break down an internal wall, it collapses and reveals two bodies. His first call, of course, is to his wife, Lt. Eve Dallas, of the NYPSD.

The two bodies turn out to be the first of a total of twelve, all girls between twelve and fourteen years of age. Dallas, Peabody, and Roarke find themselves unraveling the secrets of a children's sanctuary that, fifteen years ago, was the last occupant of the building. The brother and sister team that ran the sanctuary, Nashville and Philadelphia Jones, now run a far better funded residential school for troubled and at-risk children. Their younger brother Montclair, who worked for them at the sanctuary, went off to Africa as a missionary around the same time, and was eaten by a lion.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Tyringham Park, by Rosemary McLoughlin

Atria Books, ISBN 9781476733104, February 2014

During a forty-minute period of inattention while her mother is otherwise engaged at the estate's stables, little Victoria Blackshaw, the cherished, pretty, younger daughter, disappears from her pram. The repercussions haunt her mother, her eight-year-old sister Charlotte, and the servants for years to come.

With no clues to what happened, rather than accept that Victoria got out of her pram and wandered to the rain-swollen river, Lady Edwina Blackshaw focuses on Theresa Kelly, a servant who left the estate that day. Unfortunately, by the time Kelly becomes the suspect of choice, she's already sailed from Ireland on her way to Australia, intending to marry a farmer there. It's 1917,no one remembers the name of the farmer, and there's really no way to track her.

Meanwhile, Charlotte has stopped talking. Altogether.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Tea and Primroses, by Tess Thompson

Booktrope, February 2014

Constance Mansfield, reclusive bestselling author, is killed suddenly, struck by a car while riding her bike from her home into the little Oregon town of Legley Bay. This is shock enough for her daughter Sutton, and their little circle of friends as close as family, but it's not the worst.

The worst is that it appears to have been no accident. Constance was run down intentionally, deliberate murder.

With this startling opening, the book proceeds to ex;lore relationships among Sutton's generation, most critically her relationship with Declan Treadwell, son of her mother's friend and housekeeper Roma, who also died in a car accident some years earlier, and Constance's own unsuspected past.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

On a Pale Horse (Incarnations of Immortality #1), by Piers Anthony (author), George Guidall (narrator)

Recorded Books, ISBN 9781449844493, July 2010 (original publication October 1983)

Zane is a failing photographer in a world in which science and magic both work. On a very, very bad day, he wanders into a magic shop and makes a deal with the proprietor which winds up making his day even worse, and decides to kill himself.

In the apartment from which he is about to be evicted, he prepares to shoot himself, and is in the act of pulling the trigger when he is interrupted by Death.

The actual personification of Death.

Startled by the interruption, he moves while his finger is still pulling on the trigger, and accidentally kills death, instead.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Underdog (Melanie Travis Mysteries #2), by Laurien Berenson

Kensington, ISBN 9781575661087, November 1996

After the summer's entirely too exciting events connected to the theft of Melanie's Aunt Peg's prize standard poodle, Beau, Melanie herself is now the owner of a standard poodle puppy named Faith, whom Peg expects her to show to her championship. While she begins to enjoy dog ownership along with her five-year-old son, Melanie is also taking dog show handling classes with a well-known handler, Jenny Maguire. Melanie and Jenny are becoming friends, and when Jenny tells her that Ziggy, Jenny's much-loved mini poodle, escaped their yard and was killed by a car, Melanie is shocked.

Less than a week later, Jenny is dead, of arsenic poisoning.

Was it an accident? Suicide?

Or, as the police suspect, murder?

And a few days later, following up on a food recommendation Jenny made during their last visit together, Melanie discovers that Ziggy is not dead; he's living with the boarding kennel owner who makes the food Jenny recommended.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight, by Jennifer E. Smith

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, ISBN 9780316192866, January 2012

Hadley Sullivan, seventeen years old, is at JFK airport, having just missed by four minutes her flight to London to attend her father's wedding. She's not happy about going anyway; she'd prefer to skip it, and is going only because her mother has insisted, saying that she'll regret it later if she doesn't. She's even less happy now that she's going to be spending hours waiting at the airport for the next flight, which will get her to Heathrow just in time to take a cab directly to the church.

And then she meets Oliver, an eighteen-year-old Yale freshman headed home to England for his own family event. First he helps her with her bags as they go in search of food, and then they start to talk.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Agent of Change (Liaden Universe #1), by Steve Miller and Sharon Lee (authors), Andy Caploe (narrator)

Audible Frontiers, September 2012 (original publication 1988)

I'll start by saying that the Liaden Universe is large, with internal subseries, and can be read in several different orders. By internal chronology, Agent of Change is #9, not #1. I'm a believer in publication order, though. Discover the universe in the order the writers invented it. On that basis, Agent of Change is #1.

Miri Robertson is an ex-mercenary, ex-private bodyguard, whose last employer set her and the rest of his household up as a bloody sacrifice to cover his escape. His former employers, the Juntavas crime syndicate, are convinced she has information they want, and in any case, having worked for a traitor, she's a traitor, even though she was never herself part of Juntavas.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Trans-Siberian Express, by Warren Adler

Stonehouse Productions, ISBN 9781629212982, November 2013

It's the late 1970s, Mao is dead, and tensions are rising between the USSR and China. The US is set on a policy of detente, and doesn't want war between the two major communist powers--especially not a nuclear exchange. The cloud of radioactive fallout would reach the west  coast of the US, with potentially major consequences.

The current Communist Party Chairman, Dimitrov, has convinced the President and the Secretary of State that he agrees with him and is the safeguard against a disastrous war. Unfortunately, he has leukemia, and is dying.

The US secretly agrees to send one of the world's leading leukemia experts, fortunately the son and grandson of Russian immigrants and a speaker of Russian, to treat Dimitrov and hopefully keep him alive long enough to attend an international meeting and sign a treaty.

Dr. Alex Cousins, né Kuznetsov, is off on an adventure he never expected or wanted.

It's not too bad at first, treating Dimitrov successfully and bringing him back to greater health, at least for now. But along the way, he learns a dangerous secret about Dimitrov's real plans for China. When it's time to go home, Alex finds himself being given the "gift" of a trip on the Trans-Siberian Express, through Siberia where both his father and grandfather spent important years of their lives, culminating in theory in a boat ride to Yokohama and a plane trip home.

Alex doesn't believe he'll ever make it, unless he can find a way to get his dangerous message to US authorities before he's stopped.

Along the way, we see both the grimness of the Soviet system, and glimpses of what the Russians, especially the Siberians, love about their country. A beautiful Russian history professor, recruited back into KGB employment she left ten years ago, Dimitrov's hatchet man Zeldovich, assorted other KGB agents, a carload full of KGB soldiers, and even the railroad steward staff are all either really watching Alex, or making him feel that they are. The deeper they get into Siberia, the more events and misunderstandings and all too real conflicts ratchet up the tension and the danger.

This is a very solid political thriller set in a half-forgotten period of our recent history, when the collapse of the Soviet Union was still unthinkable, and Mutual Assured Destruction was what was keeping us all alive.