Book Reviews: Skulduggery by Carolyn Hart and City of Dreams & Nightmare by Ian Whates

Carolyn Hart Classics
Carolyn Hart
Seventh Street Books, November 2012
ISBN 978-1-61614-706-8
Trade Paperback

Skulduggery, a lively novel of action and suspense, was first published in 2000 and is being re-released as a Carolyn Hart Classic. The story is every bit as riveting and relevant today as it was thirteen years ago.

The heroine of the story is Dr. Ellen Christie. Not a medical doctor, but one who nevertheless works with human bones. She is a curator at a San Francisco museum and is known as “the bone lady.” One evening after work, she’s contacted at home by a man desperate to consult with her regarding a skull. This skull, aside from exciting the daylights out of her as a way to further her career, draws her into a magnificent adventure. Ellen has immediately recognized the skull as that of a specimen of Peking Man. The skull, as well as other bones, had mysteriously disappeared from China during WWII. Now the bones have apparently reappeared and are up for sale to the highest bidder.

Ellen is a major player in this tale of present day San Francisco’s Chinatown, powerful criminal elements, kidnappings, and murder. That Ellen also finds romance along the way only adds to the drama. More than a simple suspense story, Skulduggery is also a learning tool as the reader follows the known history of the Peking Man bones–to a certain point. The rest of it? Well, it could of happened!

Characterization is good, setting is good, plot is good, the writing is good. There’s nothing in this short novel not to like. I’m looking forward to others in Ms. Hart’s classic series.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.



City of Dreams & NightmareCity of Dreams & Nightmare
The City of a Hundred Rows Vol. 1
Ian Whates
Angry Robot, October 2010
ISBN 978-0-00-734524-3
Mass Market Paperback

In this perfectly realized fantastical city, the neighborhoods go up–or down, depending on which strata of society a being belongs. Urban sprawl on the vertical, a terrific concept.

In the lower levels, called Rows, of this city, life is hard. Adolescents belong to violent gangs, which are used by outside forces to administer their will on the population. Competition within the gangs is fierce as to who is the most daring member. Thus begins young Tom’s adventure, a dare to climb up the Rows until he reaches the forbidden topmost level. Even he doesn’t believe he’ll ever reach the top—but he does. And witnesses a murder by Magnus, one of the most powerful men of Thaiburley City.

Magnus knows Tom has witnessed the murder, and sets Tylus, a Kite Guard (you’ve got to read the book to discover a Kite Guards function. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed.) on Tom’s trail back down through the Rows. An alien being steps in to help Tom, enlisting Kat, a female survivor of the Pits, to aid the boy in reaching his home territory. As they make their way through the mean streets, they are pursued by more than just the Kite Guard, including an assassin as well as a deranged madman and his gruesome constructs. Fast paced action ensues.

Every character has a story within this novel, and Mr. Whates develops them well within the overall concept. No one seems alike, which is a good thing, and the reader is given just enough background to maintain individuality. In a long story like this one, with a large cast, it helps keep each one separate.

I definitely enjoyed this book and will be looking for the sequel.

Reviewed by Carol Crigger, November 2013.
Author of Three Seconds to Thunder.