Winnipeg Free Press column, September 2017

stranded

A cargo ship is stranded in the Arctic Ocean. A massive storm threw it way off course, and most of the crew is out of commission, suffering from a nasty flu. The water around the ship has frozen, and it looks as if certain death lies ahead for the crew of the Arctic Promise.

But what’s that in the distance, through the fog? Could it be an oil rig? A few healthy crew members set off toward the dimly visible shape, and they discover that, no, it definitely is not an oil rig.

Bracken Macleod’s Stranded (Tor, 368 pages, $14) is a first-rate horror story — atmospheric, elegantly written, full of creeping terror and nasty surprises. The characters are very well drawn, and the author never quite pushes the horror too far — it’s a really scary story, but anchored in a very real environment.

broken trust

 

Broken Trust, by W.E.B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV (Putnam, 400 pages, $14), opens violently, with the occupants of a pair of vehicles firing bullets at each other across a crowded street. Homicide cop Matt Payne, witnessing the spectacle, notices that a young woman of his acquaintance, Camilla Rose Morgan, seems to be involved. But why would an elegant high-society girl be keeping the company of these violent men?

When Camilla’s dead body turns up soon after, Matt has a hard time believing it was really suicide. And he’s so determined to get to the truth that he almost gets himself killed. If you’re a fan of the Badge of Honor series — one of many series written by Griffin over the years — you’ll enjoy this latest entry. It’s not quite as realistic or hard-hitting as the author’s military-themed fiction (the Brotherhood of War series, for example), but it has a solid mystery, and Matt is a pretty interesting guy, too.

panacea

 

F. Paul Wilson puts aside his long-running Repairman Jack series to launch a new series. Panacea (Tor, 480 pages, $14) tells the story of a trio of characters who share a common goal. Medical examiner Lara Fanning discovers that a fatally burned man, who apparently died when his house burned to the ground, might actually have died before the house went up in flames. She also discovers that the hospital where the dead man worked has been — if you can believe it — bringing people back from the dead.

At the same time, CIA agent Nelson Fife is searching for a (possibly mythical) group of people called the panaceans, who, it is said, have a way to cure any disease. And a wealthy man with a fatal illness is pinning all his hopes on finding the panaceans before his time runs out. A welcome change from the brooding Repairman Jack books, this is a fast-paced, exhilarating thriller.

empreror's revenge

 

The latest Oregon Files thriller, Clive Cussler and Boyd Morrison’s The Emperor’s Revenge (Putnam, 448 pages, $14), kicks into high gear almost immediately, with a daring attempt to rescue the exiled Napoleon Bonaparte using the latest in high-tech gear: a submarine. Jumping forward to the present, the Corporation, the shadowy organization run by Juan Cabrillo, is broke, its funds wiped out by a bank robbery.

Baffled at how this could have happened, Cabrillo soon figures out that the robbery was just a small element in some anonymous person’s larger scheme to send the world’s economy into a tailspin. There’s a way to stop the villain, but first, Cabrillo and his team must solve a devilishly tricky historical mystery. Typical Cussler fare: exciting story, broadly drawn characters, plenty of action.

Originally published in the Winnipeg Free Press, Sept 2, 2017

 

 

 

 

 

 

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