Mamta Popat/Arizona Daily Star

“Riders on the Storm”

by Richard Sparacino (Richard Sparacino, $12.95)

There’s evil out and about these days, and in “Riders on the Storm,” it falls on a New York cop with sleeping issues to take it on. Tucson chiropractor Richard Sparacino foregrounds recurring nightmares of Detective Anthony Santini in this supernatural thriller: the world is threatened externally, but it’s expressed internally.

When Detective Santini begins dreaming crimes before they happen, he lets his partner John Salvo in on it, and they use dreams to interrupt murder. When the dreams get too disturbing and distracting, though, Santini consults a psychiatrist.... a beautiful one, in the end. And when Santini begins to dream about the nuclear destruction of Manhattan, cops and psychiatrist work together to identify and thwart the threat. What they discover is that the threat is not new, but millennia old and confronting it requires an ancient religious relic, some futuristic time/space manipulation, and a timely invoking of the 25th Amendment. Given those varied elements, the premise of “Riders on the Storm” is a bit of a credibility stretch, but the action’s fast and ultimately the book entertains. And if you like it, it appears Sparacino has another in the hopper. (Evil is not easily vanquished, as we know.)

Christine Wald-Hopkins

“... and so ... (a [not so] ‘color me’ adventure”; illustrations and design by jokeharmonica; text, lettering, design, and “havoc”

by ¡hey pedro! (Piltdown Man Publishing, $15.95)

So, this couple of imaginative guys, jokeharmonica and !heypedro!, have hand-produced another little (7 by 7-inch, 76-page) picture book for adults. Like their previous illustrated fable “the once was a man....,” “...and so...” is a story in collage. Each page is an individual scene laid out, pasted up on a drawing board, photographed, and then dismantled and recycled in the next scene. As the guys explain in “an interview,” they wanted to present a tableau vivant, a sort of paper-sculpted theater experience.

And the action in this “tableau vivant” theater experience? It’s the tale of a ball that escapes from a fenced-in schoolyard. Turns out, this ball’s escape is a little like living life fully: bolting for freedom can entail risks, highs, lows, and, if we’re lucky, a bit of help getting pumped back up.

The book’s delightful—colorful, creative, a little funky; affecting. In the spirit of freedom and independence, it’s available at local indie businesses (Antigone Books, Mostly Books, Revolutionary Grounds, among others).

“Proof of Life”

by J.A. Jance, William Morrow ($27.99 hardcover; $14.99 eBook)

It’s fall, and predictable as the seasons, prolific Tucson- and Seattle-resident J.A. Jance offers her fans another murder mystery.

Number twenty-something in the J.P. Beaumont series, “Proof of Life” sees retired Seattle detective Beaumont at slightly loose ends. He’s successfully still on the wagon, is happily married to younger cop Mel (though she’s now a police chief, and busy at it), has new knees, and is able to keep up with the news via his devices, but finishing the daily crossword in record time isn’t quite fulfilling. Then two things happen: a long-time nemesis—an investigative reporter working on something “big”—shows up dead, and Mel brings home a small-horse-sized rescue dog. The police rule the reporter’s death accidental, but a young woman he’d taken under his wing thinks otherwise, and Beaumont begins sniffing around, only to watch other “accidents” occur. And the dog? Well, Beau picks up kibble and heads off to dog training.

It’s a comfort read; Jance’s readers should be happy following the old detective, as he figures out what police can’t, works family and dog-fostering into his routine, and (“Proof of Life”) demonstrates that he’s still got his detective chops.

“The Vengeance of Mothers: The Journals of Margaret Kelly & Molly McGill.”

By Jim Fergus. St. Martin’s Press. ($26.99 print, $12.99 Kindle)

The long-awaited sequel to best-selling author Jim Fergus’ “One Thousand White Women” continues the narrative of the brides sent west to marry Cheyenne warriors. The U.S. government had launched the initiative hoping that intermarriage might civilize the tribe. But in an unintended consequence of epic proportion it had the opposite effect. The women, many of whom were from prisons, mental hospitals and back alleyways, embraced their new lives among native peoples in a world that was far preferable to the one they had left behind. In “The Vengeance of Mothers,” a second batch of battered and abused women and—startlingly—an English peeress, join the ranks of the original wives. But unbeknownst to the new arrivals, the program has been cancelled. Abandoning acculturation in favor of extermination, the Army has recommenced hostilities, and the white women will have their revenge for the slaughter that ensued. Fans of “One Thousand White Women” will not be disappointed with this sequel: the intricately-plotted narrative—which takes the form of the wives’ journal entries—offers a vivid and emotionally rich account of a little-known episode in American history. Jim Fergus divides his time between southern Arizona, northern Colorado, and France.

The Merrick Legacy

By Marie Trump. Write Mind. ($11.99 print; $2.99 Kindle)

“Good bones” might be more than an architectural assessment of the battered old Victorian house that gives up century-old secrets during a restoration project. Work on the Merrick Mansion grinds to a halt when human remains are discovered, and the mystery of how they came to be there is told in parallel narratives set 120 years apart. One storyline follows the Merrick family scion, Hugh, on his journey of self-discovery during the challenging years of the early twentieth century; the second focuses on the contemporary restoration team, who must puzzle out the meaning of the Merrick legacy as they bring new life to the family home. Historical fiction buffs will find this a satisfying read.

Spacebabies

By Judy Boehm.Dorrance Publishing Co. ($16 print, $9.99 Kindle)

Out on a romp across the Milky Way, two alien babies make a pit stop on Earth to restore their energy supply. They enjoy a close encounter play date with Earth kids Henry and Veronica, recharge for their journey by touching thumbs with Henry, and bid their new friends a fond farewell. Author and grade school teacher Judy Boehm, a fan of anything having to do with space, explains that touching thumbs is a way of bestowing a blessing in Christian theology. As if to underscore this concept, the illustration accompanying this event is reminiscent of DaVinci’s “Creation of Adam” in the Sistine Chapel. Boehm lives with her family in the Tucson Mountains, where the nights are clear and starry. She wrote this picture book for her toddler daughter.

Christine Wald-Hopkins

Christine Wald-Hopkins

Helene Woodhams

Helene Woodhams

Helene Woodhams

If you are a Southern Arizona author and would like your book to be considered for this column, send a copy to: Jennifer Bond, 4850 S. Park Ave., Tucson, AZ 85714. Give the price and a contact name. Books must have been published within a year. Most books are available locally at Mostly Books or Antigone Books. There is a backlog of submissions, so we ask that an author submit no more than one book per calendar year.