“Blade of the Samurai,” by Susan Spann: History and Murder

Historical mysteries offer the reader a great deal.  A good mystery novel features a solid plot, unique characters and, usually, a sense of justice. But a good historical mystery offers one thing more: a chance to vicariously experience another time and place. Today's case in point is "Blade of the Samurai," by Susan Spann. Spann's …

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“Colonel Sun,” a non-Fleming Bond novel that feels right

I have always divided the literary and cinematic James Bonds in my mind. I enjoy the movies, with the mini-helicopters and automobile ejector seats and explosions, but they seem to be about some other fellow, not the brooding but dutiful man Ian Fleming wrote about in his books. Sure, the two Bonds share some traits, …

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“The Moon Maid,” by Edgar Rice Burroughs: Pulp adventure in the Barsoomian vein

Not long ago, I wrote about my attempt to read the pulp adventures of Doc Savage, as told by Lester Dent. Attempt, I say, for I could not get past all the gee-whiz prose and the absolute perfection of Doc himself. I never finished the book. I must admit, though, that Doc's adventures made me …

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“The Man of Bronze,” by Lester Dent, or How in the Bloody Hell Did This Series Sell So Well?

I love the idea of Doc Savage.A man trained from birth to build his mind and body to perfection, in order to pursue a life of adventure and righting wrongs.  A man surrounded by top minds in numerous fields, each an expert in one or more areas of science or engineering or some other useful …

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“The Cold Cold Ground,” by Adrian McKinty

Take Ed McBain's 87th Precinct thrillers. Add first-person narrative from a smart, and funny, lead detective. Mix in a few large vodka gimlets and dark stouts, then set it all down in Ireland in 1981, when hunger strikes and protests lit a spark on the unrest fueled by political militias, gang violence and terrorism. All …

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“An Agent in Place,” by Robert Littell, or Another Spy Writer for Me to Track

I like a good spy novel, so when I found this book at a used-book store for a couple of bucks, I took a shot. I am glad I did. Set in the Soviet Union in the days of glasnost, the plot pits cold warriors in the United States and Russia against one another because, …

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“The Secret Life of Anna Blanc,” by Jennifer Kincheloe

It is 1907 Los Angeles, and someone is killing prostitutes. It is not a series of crimes anyone seems eager to acknowledge, let alone solve. Everyone seems happy to suppose the deaths are all suicides. No, if anyone is going to get to the bottom of this case, it will be Anna Blanc, a ravishing …

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