Sunday, October 30, 2022

Timely and Compelling Police Procedural


Detective Inaya Rahman #1

Ausma Zehanat Khan

Minotaur Books

November 8, 2022

The picturesque town of Blackwater Falls in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado seems an ideal place to live and work. The setting is glorious, with camping and trails for visitors. The leading employers are Apex Dynamics, a tech research firm, and Natural Foods, a meatpacking plant. There is also a large population of Muslim refugees from all over the world, primarily Syria and Somalia, most of whom work at Natural Foods.

Underneath the surface, however, bubbles a stew of hate and corruption. The hate comes from a prominent evangelical church and its accompanying biker gang, the Disciples. The corruption stems from the Sheriff, who has a finger in every pie and absolute control in the town. Inaya Rahman is a local who has returned after a traumatic stint at the Chicago PD. She is part of the new Community Response Unit, led by Lt. Waqas Seif. Her first significant crime is genuinely horrific, the murder of a promising refugee student, Razan Elkader. Razan was nailed to the door of the local Mosque in a sick parody of the Crucifixion. The disappearance of two Muslim teenage girls preceded the murder of Razan, ruled runaways by the Sheriff with little to no investigation. Neither the church nor the Sheriff has escaped scrutiny. The FBI has an operative implanted with the Disciples and the police department.

Blackwater Falls is a complex and timely novel in which just about everyone's motives are suspect at one time or another. Inaya is a well-portrayed character, as are her Hispanic partner and a Black firebrand attorney. Both are female, and the three become close friends and colleagues. I suppose I am as ignorant as the average American about the lives of immigrants. Blackwater Falls gave me a look into those lives, especially a Muslim woman who wants to operate as a professional yet feels the tug of her religious beliefs. Inaya's decision to wear the hijab when the other women in her family do not is just one instance. 

The themes of violence and social justice resonate in Blackwater Falls and make for a compelling read. Thanks to NetGalley and Minotaur Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

RATING- 4.5 Stars

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Hilarious Sci-Fi Romp


OCTOBER 4, 2022

Sci-Fi is not my usual genre. I have read only one series in its entirety: Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan Saga, and that multiple times. The premise of Station Eternity caught my interest immediately. Mallory Viridian has a long-standing problem. Over and over, she finds herself at murder scenes and seems to be the only person who can solve the murder. She has only failed in very few cases. Unlike Jessica Fletcher of "Murder She Wrote" fame, it hasn't made her in demand at parties. The cops hate her and have prevented her from finding jobs. What remains of her family hate her after the murder of her uncle. Her cousin's subsequent arrest and conviction for the crime and her failure to exonerate him are the last straw. Earth's "First Contact" with aliens has just occurred, and Mallory asked for sanctuary aboard Station Eternity, a sentient space station. What could go wrong with no other humans on board?

However, there are two other humans, the Earth Ambassador and a person Mallory knows from her college days. Xan was a casual friend who later joined the US Army. He was also a chief suspect in a murder Mallory couldn't solve. He was reportedly abducted by aliens the same night the murder occurred. The station is a bit of a prima donna, and she houses several alien races. The wasp-like Sundry seems to have a particular fascination with Mallory. She has befriended Stephanie, the giant Gneiss, made of rock. The Gurudev are insect-like stick figures, and the Phantasmagores can blend into any background. One similarity is that they all can form symbiotic relationships with other species and find humans lacking because humans cannot. Even Eternity has a symbiote; a Gurudev, Ren, is murdered, and everything goes to hell in a handbasket. A shuttle is headed from Earth and loaded with VIP visitors, the first to be allowed. Eternity goes mad and partially destroys the shuttle.

Station Eternity is a wild ride full of unique, often hilarious, and sometimes horrifying characters. It keeps you guessing until the end with non-stop action. Who will survive, and why is Mallory's estranged aunt aboard the shuttle?

Thanks to Netgalley and Ace for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

Rating- 3.5 rounded up to 4

Thursday, October 20, 2022

An Engrossing Regency Mystery


Wrexford and Sloane #6
Andrea Penrose
Kensington Books
September 27, 2022

The newest book in this historical mystery series takes us back to London in the summer of 1814 when the nation was celebrating the signing of the Treaty of Paris of the years-long Napoleonic Wars. The celebrations center on the grand Parks of London, with the staging of the replica Battle of Waterloo on the Serpentine River in Hyde Park. Lord Wrexford and his new wife Charlotte will inevitably be at the center of the celebrations due to their high positions. Complications arise when Wrexford's two wards, Raven and Hawk, discover a man's body floating in the Serpentine. The man, identified as Jeremiah Willis, a well-known engineer, and inventor, was thought to be set upon by criminals hoping for loot. The oddity was that Willis was plainly dressed and a black man. More pressing are Charlotte's family obligations. Her brother Hartley has invited them to his in-laws' estate. Belmont. When they arrive, they see all is not well. Belmont is distracted, his wife Louisa is stiff, and there are signs of economic stress. A visitor from London arrives, demanding to see Wrexford. It seems that Jeremiah Willis was far from unimportant. He was designing a repeater gun whose use would revolutionize warfare. The plans have not been found, and the government wants them back. So do all the major European government representatives present for the celebrations. There are rumors of an auction of the plans. To gain Wrexford's cooperation, the man insinuates that he knows Charlotte's alter ego, A. J. Quill, a notorious satirical artist. 

The Wrexford and Sloane novels are favorites of mine. They never displease, full of action, historical detail, and color. The characters are well-rounded and believable. My favorites are the former street urchins, Raven and Hawk, who are maturing into intelligent and gifted young men. A welcome addition is Peregrine, the future Lord Belmont. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series.

Thanks to NetGalley and Kensington Books for an advance digital copy. The opinions are my own.

Rating- 4 Stars