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Blood Standard by Laird Barron, G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Penguin Random House, US $26.00, Pp 324, May 2018, ISBN 978-0735212879

Shadow Child by Rahna Reiko Rizzuto, Grand Central Publishing/Hachette Book Group, $26.00, Pp 352, May 2018, ISBN 978-1538711453

Charmed Bones: A Sarah Booth Delaney Mystery by Carolyn Haines, Minotaur Books, US $26.99, Pp 360, May 2018, ISBN 978-1250154132

Star of the North by D. B. John, Crown, US $27.00, Pp 402, May 2018, ISBN 978-0525573296

Blood Standard is set in New York and Alaska where Isaiah Coleridge is a mob enforcer. He is known to be tough and imposing with a forbidding demeanor. He is good at what he is supposed to do. It is quite a different world than his country of birth, New Zealand. But he finds himself in trouble when takes action against one of his own bosses who is unlawfully killing walruses to make money. In Nome, Isaiah Coleridge is on a mission to help the local mob potentate when he shoots Vitale Night in the throat.  He escapes execution but he has to leave Alaska and go to New York. In New York, Isaiah Coleridge begins a new and quiet life without gunshots or explosions. But, soon he finds himself in trouble again when the teenager granddaughter of the owner goes missing and he takes it upon himself to find her. He has to face dirty cops, a gung-ho FBI agent, local Native American gangs who are determined to kill him. He may have left Alaska but he was not aware that people in Alaska were still keeping tabs on him and waiting for the moment to take revenge. The accomplished author takes the reader into a world of revenge and violence where you have to choose between loyalty and betrayal. Blood Standard has a well-conceived plot with terrific new characters. This new, stylishly-written crime thriller is an enjoyable read.

Laird Barron was born in Alaska, where he raised huskies and worked in the construction and fishing industries for much of his youth. He is the author of several short-story collections and two novels, and his work has also appeared in many magazines and anthologies. A multiple Locus, World Fantasy, and Bram Stoker Award nominee, he is also a three-time winner of the Shirley Jackson Award. Barron lives in Kingston, New York.

*****

Shadow Child is set in the World War II years and later. Lillie, an orphan, is all set to marry Donald who is the son of Japanese immigrants. When the Japanese launch an attack on Pearl Harbor, they go ahead with their plan instead of canceling the marriage. Lillie and her family are relocated to an internment camp called Manzanar where she gives birth to a son, Toshi. Donald refuses to foreswear allegiance to the Japanese Emperor and leaves Hawaii for Japan on a Swedish ship. In Japan, they settle in Hiroshima. Lillie survives the atomic attacks on Hiroshima but becomes poisoned. When Donald and Toshi disappear, Lillie decides to go back and resettle in Hawaii where she gives birth to twins Hana and Kei. Fatherless and mixed-race, Hana and Kei grew up in total isolation in a small Hawaiian in the 1950s and 1960s. After the death of their mother, the bond between Hana and Kei becomes a little weak. But an act of apparent betrayal when Kei is found unconscious in the shower soon becomes something nobody could expect. It soon leads to an apparently permanent breaking of the relationship between the twins. But, when Kei knocks at the doors of Hana’s Manhattan apartment with a secret, everything changes. Shadow Child focuses on how sisters can behave differently and explores how they react to their mother’s experience as a Japanese-American during World War II.  Rahna Reiko Rizzuto takes the reader to the dangerous landscape of Hawaii, to the Japanese internment camps during World War and the bombing of Hiroshima and ends the story in the streets of New York. Rahna Reiko Rizzuto explores history, racism, and war through the prism of motherhood and sisterhood. This story of twin sisters’ unhappy childhood and withdrawn adulthood is filled with fear, guilt, and alienation. This beautifully written novel is highly entertaining.

Rahna Reiko Rizzuto is the author of the memoir Hiroshima in the Morning, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle. Her debut novel, Why She Left Us, won an American Book Award. The first woman to graduate from Columbia College with a BA in Astrophysics, she was raised in Hawaii and lives in Brooklyn.

*****

Charmed Bones is set in the small town of Zinnia, Mississippi, where the arrival of three sister witches makes the people raise their eyebrows. The suspicious and superstitious people start whispering to one another when they hear that the three witches have a plan to open a Wiccan boarding school. Also, the three sister witches — Faith, Hope, and Charity Harrington — are sexy and smart. They choose an old dairy to set up their boarding school, which can be developed into a great place. A scare grips the small town when young Corey Fontan who is considered a small time hooligan goes missing. The people hire the Delaney Detective Agency to investigate and find the young boy. Corey Fontana’s mother, Kitten Fontana, is involved in land development. Kitten believes that the three sisters are a source of trouble for the small town. Kitten suspects and publicly says that the three witches have abducted her son. She is ready to pay as much as she can if someone could find her son and rescue him from the three witches. The Delaney Detective Agency does not have much work in the town where people know one another. Sarah Booth Delaney and Tinkie Richmond are happy they have something to do now. Finally, Sarah Booth Delaney and Tinkie Richmond find Corey but that triggers a series of events including midnight dances under a full moon, love potions, and murder. The job of Sarah Booth Delaney and Tinkie Richmond is not over. As the time passes, the number of bodies grows. They must also find if the sister witches are criminals or victims. Are they telling the truth when they claim that they have magical powers? This is the only way to stop more people from dying. The characters of three sister witches make it an exceptionally enjoyable read.

Carolyn Haines is the USA Today bestselling author of the Sarah Booth Delaney mystery series and a number of other books in mystery and crime, including the Pluto’s Snitch paranormal-historical mystery series, and Trouble, the black cat detective romantic suspense books. She is the recipient of the Harper Lee Award for Distinguished Writing and the Richard Wright Award for Literary Excellence. She is a former journalist and college professor who lives on a farm where she works with rescue cats, dogs, and horses.

*****

Star of the North is set in the Korean peninsula. In 1988, North Korean secret agents kidnap a Korean American teenager from a beach in South Korea. Soo-min and her boyfriend were relaxing on a beach when a North Korean submarine surfaced off the coast and the North Korean operatives took both Soo-min and her boyfriend inside the submarine and then under the sea again. Soo-min and her boyfriend were alone at the time the abduction took place. Nobody knows what has happened to them. Most people believe that the two drowned in the sea. In 2010, 22 years later, her twin sister Jenna is still not able to find her. Then, all of a sudden, Jenna learns that her sister is still alive in North Korea, she decides to go on a risky rescue mission in the heart of the enemy country. As the events unfold, Jenna gets recruited by the CIA before she embarks on her mission to Korea. As the story develops, D. B. John weaves two small tales into it to show the life in North Korea. In one tale, a North Korean peasant woman starts a profitable but dangerous business with the valuables she finds inside a forbidden international aid balloon. In the other story, a high-ranking North Korean official discovers to his horror that he had descended from a traitor to the regime. If this secret leaks, he will surely face death. All these apparently disconnected narratives converge in surprising ways and build a formidable and explosive story about life in North Korea and how the Communist regime represses its people. Star of the North is a great thriller about two sisters and their lives in North Korean closed society and the free world. Star of the North will certainly delight the readers who are interested in the rest of the world.

D. B. John was born in Wales. He began training as a lawyer but switched to a career in publishing, editing popular children’s books on history and science. In 2009 he moved to Berlin, Germany, to write his first novel, Flight from Berlin. A visit to North Korea in 2012 inspired Star of the North. He lives in Angel, London.

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