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January 19, 2007 Edition

The Cottagers, by Marshall N. Klimasewiski

When Americans arrive and rent a cottage on Cyrus Collingwood’s Canadian island home, he finds himself both fascinated and repelled, and insinuates himself into their lives to study them more closely. At 19, he sees no outlet for himself in his small and insular community, and this pair of couples, university graduates all, gives him a window on another world. But they have their own problems: the women, once college roommates, have become subtle enemies, and the men are in constant academic competition. When one of them disappears and the delicate balance of animosity is shattered, even Cyrus is affected.

America’s Report Card, by John McNally

Fiercely satirical, this is the story of two disillusioned young people who come across each other by chance and stay together to prop each other up for a while. Jainey is 17, possibly pregnant, with a dad in prison, an older brother living in the attic, and a scary comic strip running through her head. Charlie is 24, with a master’s degree, a dead-end job scoring standardized tests, and a broken heart. Rife with political conspiracies and family intrigues, this is a witty and compassionate look at life in post-9/11 America.

The Night Buffalo, by Guillermo Arriaga

Dark and atmospheric, this is a novel of a young man’s descent into madness. After his unstable best friend’s suicide, Manuel is wracked with unease and guilt. He had fallen in love with Gregorio’s girlfriend, Tania, and been having an affair with Gregorio’s sister. Now, he has been left with a box of threats that torment him. Manuel is the only one to hear the heavy breathing of a buffalo, and to see earwigs, and when Tania disappears, he is afraid that he will end up as mad and as dead as Gregorio.

Lost Among the Angels, by Alice Duncan

When Mercy Allcutt relocates to Hollywood from Boston, she knows she wants to experience more of life than her refined upbringing has so far allowed. Looking for excitement, she takes a job as an office assistant to jaded ex-cop turned-PI Ernest Templeton. Templeton, for his part, has only intended to hire an attractive receptionist, but Mercy refuses to stay at her desk. He soon finds himself saddled with an increasingly able partner in this 1920’s period mystery.

Renfield: Slave of Dracula, by Barbara Hambly

In Hambly’s capable hands, Renfield, the insect-eating madman of Bram Stoker’s story, is transformed into an intelligent but deeply disturbed man. Involuntarily separated from his wife and daughter, Renfield believes that Dracula has the power to reunite them and allows Dracula into his mind. He retains enough of himself to see the danger he’s in, though, and when he realizes that Dracula means to kill him, he switches allegiances to side with Dracula’s wives, who hold their own grievances.

Descendant, by Graham Masterton

Here’s another view of vampires: during World War II, the strigoi, a variety of undead, were recruited as assassins by the Nazis in Europe, and James Falcon, an American with a Romanian mother, was recruited by US counterintelligence to hunt them. Falcon is one of the few Allies who believes the strigoi exist and knows what it takes to kill them, and kill them he does, until the war ends. His post-war life is derailed, though, when the leader of the strigoi turns up in London and Falcon is called back into service.

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