Tuesday, December 27, 2011


By C. Wood

April, Vienna. The legendary Spear of Destiny has been broken into pieces in the Hofburg museum and a security guard’s severed head is found upon a serving platter. Ex forensics investigator Vanessa Descartes, who has been working on the study of the spear and who only wants to return to England, is called to the scene to reconstruct the artifact. She discovers the spearhead and a revered nail, believed to have come from Christ’s cross, have been substituted for fakes. Along with two university professors, Vanessa and the Austrian police discover the murder has a connection to the Templar Knights, the ancient art of alchemy, with a touch of modern DNA science. To everyone’s horror, the mystery delves deeper than anyone expected.

Another religious controversy and mystery from Wood. He did a lot of research to come up, again, with a complex tale.

Vanessa Descartes: Former forensic scientist. Archaeologist.

Emanuel Wole Khalamanga: 50, single, likes to jog, native of Nigeria, Doctor of Medieval Literature at Oxford University, painter

Tomas Emilio Baltasar Bartolomé de Carranza: 64, Professor of History at the University of Madrid. Has a bit of an ego. Married and divorced twice.

Wilhelm Petersen: Austrian homicide investigator. Widower.

Very interesting names. A very good mix of character types.

Relatively well defined. I didn’t have any confusion as to who was speaking. The personalities of each character are reflected in the conversations.

Wood commits the same grammatical errors as in the previous book. The main errors are not capitalizing the next complete sentence after a pieced of dialogue and omitting commas when presenting dialogue with a tag. Same POV or ‘head hopping’ errors. He may be going for omnipotent point of view, but it’s distracting.

This book is more easily readable than the first book in this series. It’s presented more as a mystery than a strange biography of the main character. The two university types are more featured. Phrasing is still very good, descriptions and details well handled.

I know it’s a short(er) book than normal, and Wood had to get into the mystery fairly quickly, but it did seem a little convenient for Khalamanga and de Carranza to be called in on and accepted on an Austrian murder.

I won’t play spoiler, but there is a certain element to the story on which I just didn’t agree. Moving through the story, I had a thought that a particular character wasn’t really needed, that Wood could have introduced another and the story would have been just as fine. So when the demise of the character happened, I was disappointed.

There is a lot of lecture type narrative, but explanations are necessary.

My ranking:

Purple Belt

Monday, December 19, 2011

Venus In Saturn

By C. Wood

It’s the Christmas season, 1999, and a part-time hooker is found gruesomely murdered near the area where a couple of victims of Jack the Ripper were found. Vanessa Descartes, forensics investigator for the London Metropolitan police, is called to assist with the case. After conducting some investigation on her own, she discovers the victim had a connection to a church, one with which Vanessa’s sister associated before she committed suicide seventeen years before. DNA evidence under the victim’s fingernails leads police to another body with another Ripper connection. Vanessa believes the killers are trying to divert the police from the truth by setting up the scenes to be parallels to the 1800’s serial killer. Soon however, Vanessa’s past catches up with her and she discovers a horrible and incredible connection not to her family, Jack the Ripper, but secret Nazi experiments.

This is definitely a strange one. I wasn’t sure where everything was headed because nothing seemed to collate at the beginning. But it’s an interesting and complex plot with just the right touch of eeriness with some unique religious perspectives.

Vanessa Jane Descartes: 30, forensics investigator for the London Metropolitan Police. Redheaded. Was a cutter with an inferiority complex in her youth and self flagellates as an adult as a strange religious ritual. Suffers from stress headaches. Drinks sometimes to drown her complexes. Father was an alcoholic and died while Vanessa was in her teens. Sister committed suicide. Was an intellectual prodigy in high school and college. Comes from a family who supposedly had ‘gifts.’

Sam: Late twenties, Pakistani, friend, and coworker of Descartes’.

Jack Carpenter: Inspector with the police. Descartes’ superior. Supposedly gruff and surly but doesn’t come across that way. Married.

The more you read, the more layers of Vanessa are uncovered. Her evolution of personality and attitude. She is a very complex character.

I felt Sam and Vanessa sounded a lot alike. Jack had his own voice that fit his character.

Long flowing narratives with lots of descriptions, some it original and appealing. A lot of back story showing Vanessa’s early teen with her older sister and after the suicide, through her college years. Some of the back story became a little long and I longed for the return to the present and the main story. Even some of the ‘flashback visions’ Vanessa has ran a little long even though they contributed to the story. There are problems with POV switching at various times. A few words misspelled and some grammar errors.

In regards to the flashbacks or the back story, some of them were difficult to comprehend right off and they might have been better organized and better defined. Long passages in the past and jumping from the past to the present with nary a warning became confusing.

My ranking:

Purple Belt

Monday, December 12, 2011

Left At Oz

By Sandra Carey Cody


Jennie Connors’ car has been stolen. Jennie and her friend, Kate,
following a strange message on her answering machine, discover not only the car, but the dead body of her babysitter. Enter Lieutenant Goodley, a
stolid, serious man asking too many questions for Jennie’s comfort.
Believing she’s the prime suspect, she starts her own investigation and
winds up dodging danger or encountering resistance with every inquiry.
Secrets regarding the babysitter are revealed and an acquaintance is
involved in a mysterious accident. Jennie notices a bald man following her. Someone is making strange phone calls to her husband. Her house is
ransacked. Can she find the killer before she becomes a victim or before
Goodley arrests her?

Standard fare. Nothing out of the ordinary. Typical secrets and cozy type
intrigue and suspense.

Jennifer Conners: 30. About to start work at a Memphis retirement center.
Married with two young children. Former beauty pageant contestant.

Tom Connors: Jennie’s husband. Works for computer company. Gets himself in
trouble with Jennie during story

Kate Britten: Jennie’s next door neighbor and friend. Freckled. Short.

Weston Goodley: Lieutenant in Homicide. Tall, thin. Unfeeling attitude.
Doesn’t deviate from the job.

Fairly surface stuff for everybody. The cast is what you would expect. The
boyfriend, the almost boyfriend, the rigid or stalwart sets of parents. The slightly uppity cousin. Jennifer is the main character, so of course
you’re going to be seeing most from her point of view. Don’t expect any
‘gotcha’ characters.

Again, nothing spectacular. I tire a little at Tom’s insistence that
Jennifer and he get away for some together time. Kate’s caring about her
friend is okay.

It’s a cozy with a little suspense added in to keep it interesting. Not
too detailed or descriptive. I had difficulty judging time at points.
Sometimes I’m wasn't sure how much time has passed between scenes. No profanity.
No gore or excessive violence. Jennifer’s action scenes are more
suspenseful than full of shoot outs or chases. My ARC was only 218 pages, so it’s a fast read.

My ranking:

Green Belt

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Genesis Key

by James Barney


Back in 1979, two archaeologists in Iraq are killed during the government takeover by Saddam Hussein. However, Hakeem Sargon, a museum curator fleeing his own murder, comes upon the scene and discovers what the couple's death has uncovered. Jump to the present where the couple's daughter, Dr. Kathleen Sainsbury is conducting experiments to find an elusive 'longevity gene'.

When Sargon contacts her and tells her the story behind her parent's murder, he also presents her with a gift, an artifact he took from the site back in 1979. This sets Sainsbury off on a trail to discover the truth about her parents. A friend of Sargon's opens up a new world of thought for Kathleen, one involving the ancient Sumerians, Biblical history, and possible explanations for why man once lived for hundreds of years until after the Great Flood. When a reporter breaks the story Kathleen may have discovered the longevity gene in Sargon's artifact, Kathleen finds herself running from those who would destroy her to keep the treasure for themselves.

I like the premise. I like the historical nature of the plot and how people today interact with events of the past.

Kathleen Sainsbury: Late 30's. Doctor in microbiology. Founded Quantum Life Sciences. Parents killed in Iraq in 1979. Grandfather suffers from Alzheimer's. Doesn't believe in God.

Carlos Guiterez: QLS's office manager and accountant and one of three other scientists.

Luce Venfeld: Former CIA. Early 50's, part of secret Olam Foundation.

Hakeem Abdul Sargon: 80's, former curator of Iraqi National Museum.
Hussein's takeover in 1979 caused him to flee. Friend of Sainsbury's parents.

Bryce Whittaker: Reporter for the Washington Post looking for the 'big'
story in order to get promoted.

Bill McCreary: Scientist associated with DARPA. Keeps a watch over the biotech companies, including QLS. Sainsbury's former co-worker.

Elias Rubin: Founder of Olam Foundation. Slowly dying.

Charles Eskeridge: 70's. Big man. Helped Sargon escape Iraq. Operates a museum in Cambridge, MS.

A few other characters, almost too many, enter the picture from time to time. All are well defined, but some are unnecessary.

Pretty basic. Some routine, standard lines. Rare profanity. Nothing too exciting. Much of it explanatory.

There is a LOT of science and narrative. Again, almost too much. There is one point–the disappearance of the Iraqi site-that is not explained.
However, there are three areas which last a little too long. One, a radio show. Two, a television show. Three, a newspaper article. They give the reader some interesting points to contemplate, but the scenes are lengthy.

Barney also commits multiple errors many of today's editors and publishers do not allow: adverbs on tag lines. “…,” he said maliciously. It detracts from the story. I also expected a little bit more bad guy stuff, and the short time Barney spends with the secret organization isn't enough.
Some sentences have missing words. Although the novel stands well on its own, it lacks a certain amount of 'punch' to dive it up past my ranking of

Blue Belt