Book Review: The Beethoven Conspiracy by Thomas Hauser

The Beethoven Conspiracy
Thomas Hauser
Tor Books, December 1985
ISBN 0-812-50451-8
Mass Market Paperback

A detective team of an older experienced New York cop, Richard Merritt and his young partner, Jim Dema, are confronted with a triple murder outside Lincoln Center. The three victims are young, unidentified and all have been shot to death. The case explodes when their identities are revealed along with their talents. All three are rising stars in the classical music field and missing from one is an expensive violin worth upwards of $300,000.

The detectives begin with little or no knowledge of the classical music but intense interviews and library research gradually elevates Richard Merritt’s level of understanding to useful levels. After many interviews, he meets Judith Darr who is instrumental in helping Merritt navigate the intricacies of the inflammatory case. Along the way the author has inserted sizeable quantities of the history of Beethoven and his era. It is cleverly and engagingly written and only adds to the richness of the narrative which gradually draws the reader in.

The writing is crisp, the pace appropriate for this kind of thoughtful detective novel. The violence is tastefully presented with the right kind of impact.

The novel is rich in context, both in New York and Salzburg and will satisfy readers of historical and detective fiction.

Reviewed by Carl Brookins, December 2018.
The Case of the Purloined Painting, The Case of the Great Train Robbery, Reunion, Red Sky.


Book Review: Blue Magic by A. M. Dellamonica—And a Giveaway!

Blue Magic
A. M. Dellamonica
Tor Books, April 2012
ISBN 9780765319487
Trade Paperback

From the author’s website—

The sequel to Indigo Springs opens with the U.S. government preparing to try Sahara Knax for treason, while Astrid Lethewood and a growing number of volunteers try to find ways to safely maintain the spread of magic into the real world. Law and order breaks down in the U.S. as several factions vie for control over enchantment. Witch-burners square off against the Alchemite cult, hundreds of soldiers caught in the crossfire go missing, and police struggle with the fallout from power outages and storms–even murders!–triggered by the use of mystical objects.

In Indigo Springs, Astrid promised the residents of a realm called the unreal that she would restore the mystical balance: freeing them and returning magic to the real world. But making a promise is easier than keeping it. The raw vitagua has been cursed, turned by an ancient cult into a contaminant that turns people to animals, animals to monsters. If Astrid cannot reverse that ancient spell, the continued spread of magic can only be catastrophic.

There are many things that can be said in a book review and many aspects of the book that can be covered. For me, the most relevant are the quality of the writing, the strengths and weaknesses of the author’s character and plot developments, and, most of all, whether I liked the book and why or why not. In the end, my “job” is to give an honest opinion that will help other readers decide if the book in question is one they’re likely to want to read for their own reasons. Blue Magic has thrown me up against a problem I haven’t really encountered before—I don’t know what I think of this book, at least, not clearly.

First, I was asked to review this book but it was already on my list of titles I wanted to take a look at so there’s no undue influence at work here. Second, I like the dark  fantasy subgenre so I’m predisposed to like this one but, at the same time, I’ve read enough of this category that I might be too critical if I’m not careful and I do try to be careful.

Ms. Dellamonica has created a world full of possibilities and consequences and one can’t help but be interested in what her characters might do with the new-found ability to use magic. At the same time, Will has a very natural and overwhelming desire to find his children and that desire takes precedence over everything else. Perhaps a benevolent use of magic can help him but he’s up against a cult atmosphere that is driven by a fanatical worship of its leader and just may make it impossible for him to get his kids back. In the meantime, Astrid, who found the river of magic, must find a way to prevent the world-wide damage her former friend, Sahara, may have set in motion in her quest for power.

The author has crafted a story that is different and appealing to the apocalyptic or dark fantasy fan who is always looking for something refreshing and there is no doubt that she is a gifted writer. So, why don’t I have a distinct opinion about Blue Magic? I could say I felt there were too many characters (I got a little lost among them all in Astrid’s compound) or that I think the book is a bit too long but those are just minor points.

No, the difficulty I had with this book is mine alone and no fault of the author’s. Normally, I can happily read a series out of order—I have no problem reading #16 first and then I may or may not want to go back to catch up on earlier books. This one, though, has sort of thrown a monkey wrench in my usual modus operandi and, well, maybe it actually is Ms. Dellamonica‘s fault. The truth is, I want to know these characters better and understand more about what has happened to their world with the discovery of the underground stream of blue magic. To do that, I’m just going to have to read Indigo Springs and then I’ll have a better feel for Blue Magic. Why is this the author’s fault? Plainly speaking, she has made me want to start at the beginning because the second book is so intriguing and I have to satisfy my need to know more.

Yes, it’s definitely her fault.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, June 2012.


You might win a print copy of Blue Magic by A.M. Dellamonica!

Just leave a comment below and you’ll be entered in the

drawing. Leave a second comment on this coming

Friday’s post for two chances. Two winning names

will be drawn Saturday evening and announced on Sunday.

This drawing is open to residents of the US and Canada.

Book Review: Blood and Other Cravings, ed. by Ellen Datlow

Blood and Other Cravings
Edited by Ellen Datlow
Tor Books, September 2011
ISBN 9780765328281

Vampires are everywhere and they’re not just your traditional cape wearing, toothy creatures sleeping in coffins by day and flying like bats at night in search of blood. They come in various forms. From the energy stealing vamps to those looking for something additional in life. Here is a collection of stories that go beyond the traditional vampire. These are not the Bela Lugosi types. No, these are far worse…

Included are:

All You Can Do Is Breathe – The ‘long man’ visits a trapped miner and changes his life forever.

Blood Yesterday, Blood Tomorrow: Former dealers in antiques get a second chance to relive their younger years and a return to a vampire subculture.

X For Demetrius – A man trying to avoid the various forms of vampirism outside his door one night discovers a horrible truth.

Keeping Corky – A mentally challenged woman with a strange power wants desperately to stay in touch with her son given up for adoption.

Shelf-Life – Even after decades have passed an old dollhouse retains the ability to become an obsession.

Mrs. Jones – Two spinsters tolerate each other in the same house. One dreams of a normal life with a husband and romance. When she discovers what’s lurking in the orchard, she begins to put her plan into fruition…but at what cost?

Sweet Sorrow –When a classmate disappears, young Brian is devastated. Later in life he learns the truth about a pair of former neighbors.

These are stories by prolific and award winning authors from around the world. I really enjoyed Sweet Sorrow and Shelf-Life because they brought the creepiness to me. Some of these are complex and make you think. Sometimes I don’t want a traditional vampire story and this anthology fit the bill.

Reviewed by Stephen L. Brayton, March 2012.

Book Review: Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell—and a Giveaway!

Find out after the review how to be entered in the drawing for a

hardcover copy of Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell.

Arctic Rising
Tobias S. Buckell
Tor Books, February 2012
ISBN 978-0-7653-1921-0

In a not very distant future, global warming has succeeded in melting nearly all of the Arctic icecap and the results are what we should probably expect. Massive oil fields previously buried are now available for the taking and a new global economy has grown up around the remnants of the ice. Countries and corporations vie for top dog position with Canada having a territorial edge and a world much like the American Wild West has developed. True to human nature, men and women are there for the jobs, the pay, the hard work and the freewheeling atmosphere. Law and order exist in an overbearing sort of way side-by-side with the usual criminal activities and tiny new countries have sprung up that give allegiance to no one but themselves.

All this open water has also created new places to dump waste, nuclear and otherwise, and the United Nations Polar Guard monitors the Northwest Passage for hints of radioactive materials. Anika Duncan pilots an airship in the fleet and, when she detects radiation coming from a ship, she flies lower to investigate with devastating effects. Within hours, she’ll be hunted as a criminal herself and must go on the run, searching for answers. Anika can only trust a mercenary spy and an unusual drug lord and the three have journeys that are intense enough to keep the reader up at night and wondering, along with our heroes, whether there really is a nuclear weapon in the wrong hands.

Also interrupting the reader’s sleep is the parallel story of a benevolent corporation that has developed a method of cooling the planet. Unfortunately, their wondrous product is the target of the greed of others who want to control this potential weapon of incredible destruction and also to the warping of their own good intentions. Eventually, it becomes plain that there is a connection to the answers Anika is searching for and the ultimate mystery becomes not whether the new Arctic community, and the planet, will survive but how and at what price.

Although this is billed as ecological science fiction, it’s also a mystery and a thriller of the highest order. Not being entirely on the global warming bandwagon, I was a bit concerned that the message would be heavy-handed, almost overbearing, but that’s not the case. Buckell makes his point about where humanity is headed in a very palatable fashion and I appreciate that. When it comes to political agendas in fiction, I prefer that the author make his case within the entertainment and let me come to my own conclusions and Buckell has done that. Amongst all the history and science and foretelling of the future, one phrase still sticks in my mind and it’s enough for me:

“this is how you could pass over the last of the polar bear’s territory, all four hundred of them”

Anika is a kickbutt protagonist with a really interesting background. She’s smart and determined and very brave and her pals, Vy and Roo, are no less intriguing. Some of the ethical choices they have to make are heartrending and their strong but compassionate characters become very evident. I have no idea whether Buckell intends a follow-up but I would be delighted to see these three in another adventure. I also think Arctic Rising would make a terrific action-adventure movie in the Bourne tradition.

Reviewed by Lelia Taylor, March 2012.

Leave a comment below between now and Tuesday night to be

entered in the drawing for a hardcover copy of

Arctic Rising by Tobias S. Buckell.

The winning name will be drawn Tuesday night and

announced on Wednesday, March 7th.