Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain by A. Lee Martinez

This review was originally posted May 16, 2017

Emperor Mollusk – Mad genius. Conqueror and Destroyer of worlds. Intergalactic menace. And Ex-warlord of Earth.

Not too bad for a guy without a spine…or any bones.

But what is a super villain to do when he’s already done everything?

With no new ambitions – no new planets to conquer – Emperor Mollusk finds himself in a bit of a quandry. Retirement isn’t as simple as he thought it would be. While he would certainly prefer to be left alone to explore the boundaries of science, even that becomes boring after a while. So when the assassins of a legendary death cult come calling, Mollusk is eager for the challenge. Someone has their eye on Earth and Mollusk isn’t about to let the planet go so easily, especially in to the clutches of someone less capable of ruling than him!

Dear reader, in reading a book have you ever that should said book be made in to a movie (or even audio book) that a particular actor would be perfect for a particular role?

I found myself having just those thoughts while reading Emperor Mollusk. The great Emperor himself reminded me so much of Iron Man’s Tony Stark that should this anything be done with this book, if Robert Downey, Jr. isn’t cast as Emperor Mollusk, it would be a great shame.

In the character of Emperor Mollusk, Martinez has captured the dry wit and genius of Tony Stark and put it in the body of a spineless blob from Neptune. In the story itself, he takes the numerous tropes that peppered 50’s B-movies and combines them in a fast and funny tale. If there is one drawback, it is that the prose sometimes gets a bit bogged down with techno-babble. This especially happens towards the end however I didn’t find it too detracting from the story overall.

Fans of 50’s B-movies, Mystery Science Theater 3000, and wonderfully bad sci-fi in general should absolutely read this book. I greatly enjoyed Emperor Mollusk versus The Sinister Brain both times I read it and can only hope that Martinez will take us back to visit these characters again.

A Fever of the Blood (Frey and McGray #2) by Oscar de Muriel

New Years’ Day – 1889.

In Edinburgh’s lunatic asylum, a patient escapes and a nurse lays dying. Before his escape he was supposedly heard speaking with a fellow patient – a young woman who hasn’t uttered a word in years. Why she spoke and what she said are only two small parts of a greater mystery.

Leading the investigation are local officer Detective ‘Nine Nails’ McGray and Inspector Ian Frey. From Edinburgh, the two track a devious madman far beyond their jurisdiction. While the worst storm in history swirls around them, it brings more than snow and cold – it brings danger neither man could dare imagine.

Coming in to the middle of a series – regardless of the format – can often be a bit difficult. Characters have already been introduced and set up, their motives already established. Mentions of previous adventures, previous conversations, can be made and will either make perfect sense or be utterly confusing.

This is unfortunately true with A Fever of the Blood. It is the second book of a series that looks to be promising but really should be read from the first book. Numerous references are made to events in the first book and at times I found it a bit confusing.

On the whole, A Fever of the Blood was quite enjoyable. While it was a little slow in the beginning, once the action picked up it continued at a fast and furious speed. Despite my occasional confusion I still found myself entranced and held rapt by the story.

Readers should likely seek out the first book The Strings of Murder before trying to read A Fever of the Blood. While on its own it is enjoyable, knowing more about the characters and the backstory will likely make it more so.

The Girl Before by Rena Olsen

It takes only a moment for Clara Lawson to be taken from the life she has always known. With no warning she has been taken from her home; from her husband and daughters; a husband who as they are being separated orders her to say nothing.

Isolated from those she holds dear, every day Clara faces questions from the people who took her. Questions about her husband and his family and accusations about the unspeakable crimes they supposedly committed. At first, Clara vehemently denies every accusation but as time goes by she begins to wonder. Her past has always been full of secrets; of half truths and whole lies. With each new day she gains new information and new insight into herself and into what exactly was happening around her.

Let me begin dear reader by saying I devoured this book. I read it in just two days and if it weren’t for pesky things like eating and sleeping, I likely would have finished it in one. The Girl Before was just that good.

Dealing with such a subject as human trafficking is a tricky one but Olsen handles it with aplomb. Chapters alternate between modern time as Clara is held by the authorities and her past, both as a child as later as a married woman. We see just how blind and unquestioning she is to the events around her, having been raised to do just that. Her desire to make those around her happy make her not question things, no matter what doubts she might have.

Olsen’s characters are well written and quite believably so. Clara doesn’t see herself as a victim and only as time goes on does she realize the magnitude of what she was doing. She believed herself to be doing good things and when she realizes what was happening, her horror is heartbreaking.

An incredibly tense read on a sensitive subject, The Girl Before is one of those books that I cannot help but recommend. I urge all of my readers to check this one out.