A scorching alternate-history adventure packed with romance and fantasy action.

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Ave, Caesarion

Davitt (The Goddess Embraced, 2015, etc.), the author of The Saga of Edda-Earth novels, begins a new fantasy series about the “god-born” son of Caesar and Cleopatra.

Fifteen years ago, Julius Caesar survived an attempt on his life in Rome’s Senate Chamber. He made Cleopatra of Egypt his empress, and now their son, Caesarion, is the 18-year-old embodiment of Mars on Earth. When Caesar dies quietly in bed, however, those with plans to unseat the Julii family strike. Chief among them is their scheming cousin, Octavian, who invites Caesarion’s 13-year-old brother, Alexander, to his home at Palatine Hill. There, Octavian suggests that because Caesarion was born out of wedlock, he can’t legally rule, and so Alexander must step up. Though the Julii clan routes Octavian’s machinations, it isn’t without cost; Caesarion removes the illusory magic that hides his nigh-invincible god-form from mortal eyes. Later, Caesarion chases down the rebel families who might do the Julii harm (the Servilius, Tillius, and Cassius clans), traveling with soldiers down the Italian peninsula to Brundisium. He also brings along his reserved 13-year-old sister, Eurydice. As the bloody campaign proceeds, she displays the ability to see through the eyes of birds like hawks and owls, which proves indispensable when scouting the enemy’s placements. Davitt takes these two superpowered siblings on a grand, satisfying arc in the first novel of a new series. Although it isn’t initially apparent, the romance that blossoms between them—in the Egyptian tradition of sibling lovers Osiris and Isis—is a well-crafted thread that moves through a plot that covers about three years. Davitt’s clever prose is historically and culturally informative, as when readers learn that “An adult male could also enjoy a younger man, according to the Hellene ideal.” She also writes politically grounded lines about Roman rule in an alternate past filled with dragons and magic, such as when Caesarion tells Alexander, “The problem, brother, isn’t conquering the world. It’s holding it.” Overall, Davitt marries a fantastic amount of detail to her irresistible wit and superior characterization, resulting in a winning series launch.

A scorching alternate-history adventure packed with romance and fantasy action.

Pub Date: N/A

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Dog Ear Publisher

Review Posted Online: Oct. 14, 2016

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Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

CROOKED RIVER

FBI Special Agent Aloysius Pendergast finds evil afoot in his latest action-filled adventure (Verses for the Dead, 2018, etc.).

Imagine Florida beachcombers’ shock when they discover a shoe with a severed foot inside. Soon they see dozens more feet, all in identical shoes, bobbing toward the beach. Police and FBI ultimately count more than a hundred of them washing up on Sanibel and Captiva Islands' tranquil shores. Pendergast teams up with the junior Special Agent Armstrong Coldmoon to investigate this strange phenomenon. Oceanographers use a supercomputer to analyze Gulf currents and attempt to determine where the feet entered the ocean. Were they dumped off a ship or an island? Does each one represent a homicide? Analysts examine chemical residues and pollen, even the angle of each foot’s amputation, but the puzzle defies all explanation. Attention focuses on Cuba, where “something terrible was happening” in front of a coastal prison, and on China, the apparent source of the shoes. The clever plot is “a most baffling case indeed” for the brilliant Pendergast, but it’s the type of problem he thrives on. He’s hardly a stereotypical FBI agent, given for example his lemon-colored silk suit, his Panama hat, and his legendary insistence on working alone—until now. Pendergast rarely blinks—perhaps, someone surmises, he’s part reptile. But equally odd is Constance Greene, his “extraordinarily beautiful,” smart, and sarcastic young “ward” who has “eyes that had seen everything and, as a result, were surprised by nothing.” Coldmoon is more down to earth: part Lakota, part Italian, and “every inch a Fed.” Add in murderous drug dealers, an intrepid newspaper reporter, coyotes crossing the U.S.–Mexico border, and a pissed-off wannabe graphic novelist, and you have a thoroughly entertaining cast of characters. There is plenty of suspense, and the action gets bloody.

Great storytelling, a quirky hero, and a quirkier plot make this a winner for adventure fans.

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5387-4725-4

Page Count: 368

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

ONE GOOD DEED

Thriller writer Baldacci (A Minute to Midnight, 2019, etc.) launches a new detective series starring World War II combat vet Aloysius Archer.

In 1949, Archer is paroled from Carderock Prison (he was innocent) and must report regularly to his parole officer, Ernestine Crabtree (she’s “damn fine-looking”). Parole terms forbid his visiting bars or loose women, which could become a problem. Trouble starts when businessman Hank Pittleman offers Archer $100 to recover a ’47 Cadillac that’s collateral for a debt owed by Lucas Tuttle, who readily agrees he owes the money. But Tuttle wants his daughter Jackie back—she’s Pittleman’s girlfriend, and she won’t return to Daddy. Archer finds the car, but it’s been torched. With no collateral to collect, he may have to return his hundred bucks. Meanwhile, Crabtree gets Archer the only job available, butchering hogs at the slaughterhouse. He’d killed plenty of men in combat, and now he needs peace. The Pittleman job doesn’t provide that peace, but at least it doesn’t involve bashing hogs’ brains in. People wind up dead and Archer becomes a suspect. So he noses around and shows that he might have the chops to be a good private investigator, a shamus. This is an era when gals have gams, guys say dang and keep extra Lucky Strikes in their hatbands, and a Lady Liberty half-dollar buys a good meal. The dialogue has a '40s noir feel: “And don’t trust nobody.…I don’t care how damn pretty they are.” There’s adult entertainment at the Cat’s Meow, cheap grub at the Checkered Past, and just enough clichés to prove that no one’s highfalutin. Readers will like Archer. He’s a talented man who enjoys detective stories, won’t keep ill-gotten gains, and respects women. All signs suggest a sequel where he hangs out a shamus shingle.

Archer will be a great series character for fans of crime fiction. Let’s hope the cigarettes don’t kill him.

Pub Date: July 9, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5387-5056-8

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2019

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