<i>Death on Tap</i>: Excerpt Death on Tap: Excerpt Ellie Alexander The first in the new Sloan Krause Mystery series. Review: <i>OSS Operation Black Mail</i> by Ann Todd Review: OSS Operation Black Mail by Ann Todd Chris Wolak Read Chris Wolak's review! Discount: <i>Her Darkest Nightmare</i> by Brenda Novak Discount: Her Darkest Nightmare by Brenda Novak Crime HQ Get a digital copy for only $2.99 through October 2! Review: <i>The Last Chicago Boss</i> by Peter "Big" Pete James with Kerrie Droban Review: The Last Chicago Boss by Peter "Big" Pete James with Kerrie Droban Ardi Alspach Read Ardi Alspach's review!
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Thu
Sep 21 2017 3:00pm

Review: OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman’s Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd

OSS Operation Black Mail: One Woman's Covert War Against the Imperial Japanese Army by Ann Todd is the story of a remarkable woman, Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh, who fought World War II on the front lines of psychological warfare.

OSS Operation Black Mail is the story of Elizabeth “Betty” McIntosh and so much more. The bulk of this book concerns McIntosh’s experience in World War II and how the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) operated against the Japanese in China-Burma-India. Along the way, we learn about how the U.S. intelligence community rapidly formed during WWII, the gender obstacles that women agents faced, interagency bickering, tensions between allies, and how agents operated on the ground, all from a very different theater of war—one that hasn’t been written about as much as the war effort in Europe or the Pacific. The book also touches on the early years of the Cold War, Hoover’s investigations into communist activities, and McCarthy’s fanatical assault on American citizens.

McIntosh was recruited into the OSS in 1943 due to her background as a reporter and her personal interest in Japanese language and culture. She was also not afraid of taking risks, as attested by her hike up an active volcano as multiple pairs of shoes melted under her feet.

[Read Chris Wolak's review of OSS Operation Black Mail...]

Thu
Sep 21 2017 12:00pm

Review: The Last Chicago Boss: My Life with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club by Peter “Big” Pete James with Kerrie Droban

The Last Chicago Boss: My Life with the Chicago Outlaws Motorcycle Club by Peter “Big Pete” James is a startling and unprecedented expose into the inner workings of the Outlaw Nation from the unique perspective of its renowned leader, all brought to life through never-before-revealed interviews, police files, wiretaps, recordings, and trial transcripts.

The Last Chicago Boss surprised me. To be honest, I’m not sure what I expected from the memoir of the ex-boss of one of those most notorious motorcycle clubs in the country, but this insider’s view of a tribe of people often feared and shunned by the general public reveals that, while some of the stereotypes of motorcycle gangs have a foundation in truth, there’s a lot more there than meets the eye.

Peter “Big Pete” James is a legend in the international motorcycle community. At the age of 45, he joined the Outlaws with the intention of being Boss of Chicago—but he didn’t stop there. Big Pete details in his memoir how he not only built up the Outlaws as the most badass and elite motorcycle clubs in Chicago but how he also created the Confederation of Clubs (CoC) to unite all kinds of clubs under his command.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of The Last Chicago Boss...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille

The Cuban Affair by Nelson DeMille is a blistering new novel featuring an exciting new character—U.S. Army combat veteran Daniel “Mac” MacCormick, now a charter boat captain, who is about to set sail on his most dangerous cruise.

All 35-year-old Army vet Daniel “Mac” MacCormick wants to do is take out fishing groups on his charter boat, The Maine, make a little money, and enjoy the Key West sunsets. When he’s approached with a job by a lawyer named Carlos Macia, known for being heavily involved with anti-Castro groups, he’s admittedly a little suspicious.

“I’m interested in chartering your boat for a cruise to Cuba.”

I didn’t respond.

“There is a fishing tournament, sailing from here to Havana in a few weeks.”

“Does the Cuban Navy know about this?”

He smiled. “This is an authorized event, of course—the Pescando Por la Paz.” He reminded me, “We are normalizing relations. The Cuban Thaw.”

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Cuban Affair...]

Wed
Sep 20 2017 12:00pm

Review: Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher

Murderous Mistral by Cay Rademacher is the first book in the Roger Blanc Provence Mystery series.

Welcome to Provence, that picturesque area of France to where hard-nosed Capitaine Roger Blanc of the gendarmerie has just been transferred from Paris after nearly single-handedly exposing the corruption of a former trade minister. It might sound like a promotion (is Provence not the loveliest part of France, located in the warm south, after all?), but Blanc knows that he’s really being removed from investigating the powerful in the nation’s capital. On hearing the news, his wife decided it was time to come clean and admit that she had a lover in Paris whom she’d rather stay with than accept exile with Blanc. At least Blanc has a place to stay in Gadet, the nowhere town to which he’s been assigned; an uncle willed him a decrepit old olive oil mill years ago. Admittedly, it’s a dump.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Murderous Mistral...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 2:00pm

Review: A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley

A Conspiracy of Ravens by Terrence McCauley is the third book in the James Hicks series, where Hicks has finally discovered his true enemy: a criminal organization known as The Vanguard.

The University is an elite intelligence agency that has been operating for years, tracking down terrorists and several other high-profile criminals. James Hicks is The University’s new Dean, and he has his work cut out for him. After successfully hunting down key operatives, Hicks has discovered that he has one powerful enemy: The Vanguard, a crime organization that has as many spies, toys, and trouble-making capabilities as The University itself. 

As Hicks and his University faculty dig deeper into the Vanguard’s activities, the Vanguard pushes back—hard. Hicks’s home is destroyed, and operatives are killed across the globe. The Vanguard operation is not subtle. They send missiles into the heart of New York in the middle of the day. The situation is now open warfare. It will take all of Hicks’s considerable skill and the cooperation of some hesitant international intelligence agencies to stop them.

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of A Conspiracy of Ravens...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 1:00pm

Review: The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen

The Scarred Woman by Jussi Adler-Olsen is the seventh book in the Department Q series.

Carl Mørck, the crotchety-but-very-skilled homicide detective whose Copenhagen-based Department Q is relegated to the basement, is back in the seventh installment of Adler-Olsen’s unusual series. I’ll admit, when I read the first book, The Keeper of Lost Causes, I wasn’t sure if Carl was for me. He ticks a lot of my boxes, though. I like my detectives cranky with a genuinely good heart buried underneath all that rough and tumble, but he’s missing some of the existential angst that I love so much. But … that’s ok. I fell in love with Carl and his Middle Eastern “assistant” Assad, who serves up a coffee concoction that will knock your socks off and is so much more than he seems. His background still isn’t clear seven books in, although he seems well-versed in the more darker arts of policing, much to Carl’s frequent chagrin. 

For those new to the series, Department Q is basically the department’s cold-case crew, formed as a way for Carl’s (former) boss to relegate him to the basement while showing the brass they could get things done. It was formed after a shooting that killed a member of Carl’s team and paralyzed another—he’s now living with Carl—and Carl was a right mess after that. But it’s been nine years, and a LOT has happened. 

[Read Kristin Centorcelli's review of The Scarred Woman...]

Tue
Sep 19 2017 12:00pm

Review: Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda

Best Day Ever by Kaira Rouda is a gripping, tautly suspenseful tale of deception and betrayal dark enough to destroy a marriage … or a life.

Four paragraphs into Kaira Rouda’s Best Day Ever and I’ve learned that our protagonist, Paul Strom, is a grade-A asshole. So why do I want to keep reading his story? It’s intriguing, at first, that the author would make that choice—to immediately alert the reader that we’re not going to like this guy. But I had to find out what she had in store for us next.

Paul and his wife, Mia, are getting ready to go on a weekend trip to their lake house. It’s just the two of them for the first time since they’ve had kids, and according to Paul, it’s going to be the best day ever. He has lots of plans. And they are all a surprise. But as the trip continues, tension mounts. Mia is ruining everything. I mean, how dare she question Paul. He’s right about everything. He’s in charge. It’s all going to be perfect, just like their perfect little family.

[Read Ardi Alspach's review of Best Day Ever...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 3:00pm

Review: Robert B. Parker’s The Hangman’s Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman

Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet by Reed Farrel Coleman is the 16th Jesse Stone novel.

Paradise’s Chief of Police Jesse Stone is in a really bad place. None of his usual crutches—booze, throwing a ball into his beloved baseball mitt, babes (consensual relationships with intelligent women), losing himself in police work—are working. His life has been in a downward spiral since his fiancée Diana was murdered.

Jesse doesn’t really have the option to stay in a state of drunken stasis, however. His loyal deputy, Suitcase Simpson, has asked him to be his best man. On the morning of the wedding, an elderly woman, one of Paradise’s old guard, is brutally murdered. They say trouble comes in threes—the mayor, not one of Jesse’s fans, has told him to do everything in his power to ensure that a birthday celebration for Massachusetts’s answer to Bob Dylan goes swimmingly.

The morning of the wedding, Jesse learns that a gala 75th birthday party is to be held for folk singer Terry Jester. Jester, once the equal of Bob Dylan, has spent the last forty years in seclusion after the mysterious disappearance of the master recording tape of his magnum opus, The Hangman's Sonnet.

[Read Janet Webb's review of Robert B. Parker's The Hangman's Sonnet...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 1:00pm

Review: Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke is a powerful thriller about the explosive intersection of love, race, and justice.

The first person we meet in the little Texas town of Lark is Geneva Sweet, proprietor of Geneva Sweet’s Sweets, a small roadside café where you can get a good meal washed down with iced tea—or maybe something a little stronger. We meet Geneva at the local “colored cemetery” where she’s visiting the two men in her life, her late husband Joe “Petey Pie” Sweet—a music man who was a devil on the guitar, Lord forgive him—and their son, Lil’ Joe. She brought her son an offering of two perfect peach fried pies knowing full well that as soon as she’s driven away, the groundskeeper is going to eat the pastries because one of her fried pies should never go uneaten. But before she leaves, she gives the Joes all the latest news and gossip. Or most of it anyway. 

Below her, an eighteen wheeler tore down Highway 59, sending up a gust of hot gassy air through the trees. It was a warm one for October, but nowadays they all were. Near eighty today, she’d heard, and here she was thinking it was about time to pull the holiday decorations from the trailer out back of her place.Climate change they call it. This keep up and I’ll live long enough to see hell on earth, I guess. She told all this to the two men in her life. Told them about the new fabric store in Timpson. The fact that Faith was bugging her for a car. The ugly shade of yellow Wally painted the icehouse. Look like someone coughed up a big mess of phlegm and threw it on the walls.

She didn’t mention the killings though, or the trouble bubbling in town.

She gave them that little bit of peace.

[Read Katherine Tomlinson's review of Bluebird, Bluebird...]

Mon
Sep 18 2017 12:00pm

Review: Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody

Death at the Seaside by Frances Brody is the eighth book in the Kate Shackleton Mystery series—an intricate, absorbing plot that captures the atmosphere and language of 1920s England.

Private investigator Kate Shackleton is taking a well-deserved holiday at the coastal village of Whitby. She’s going to reconnect with a very old friend from school, spend some time with her teenaged goddaughter Felicity (the daughter of said old friend), take long walks along the beach, and read a few books in the comfortable library at the Royal Hotel.

That was the plan anyway—right up to the moment she walks into the jeweler’s shop and finds the man dead on the floor.

Never had I been so glad to see a police station. Yet one of those moments of uncertainty came over me. Had I really just walked into a shop and found a body? Why me? Why today? A black and white dress was a perfectly satisfactory gift without my having to add a bracelet. I needn’t have stepped across the threshold of J Philips, High Class Jeweler. For all I knew, Felicity wouldn’t want a bracelet. Bracelets could be annoying. Did you push it up your arm or let it dangle? I tried to picture the bracelet, so that I would not have to see the man, with his neat attire, his bloodied head and the paleness of his skin. How long had he lain dead? Certainly, he was as cold as any stone. But see him I did, in the glow of a long-ago afternoon, behind his counter, with his red hair and understated manner. And then in the cold light of his back room, lying so still and pale, and forever…

[Read Angie Barry's review of Death at the Seaside...]

Sun
Sep 17 2017 10:00pm

The Deuce 1.02: “Show and Prove” Episode Review

“There’s not enough smoke.” That’s one criticism I overheard about The Deuce, HBO’s 8-episode series set on 42nd Street in the ‘70s. Everyone lights up, but there’s no cancerous haze across the barroom; you can actually see people. That’s one thing I don’t miss. 

I’ll admit, I never frequented bars in Times Square back in the day. I was too young to order a drink, and I didn’t have a fake ID. I was more like the “birthday boy” from the pilot. My uncle owned a bar and came home with crates of kickback booze and half-empty bottles of crap that didn’t sell, so I never wanted for liquor. Of course, sometimes that meant getting schnockered on Harveys Bristol Cream instead of Jack Daniel's, but you don’t piss and moan on the gravy train.

[Free booze is free booze...]

Fri
Sep 15 2017 3:00pm

Review: The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad

The Names of Dead Girls by Eric Rickstad builds relentlessly on its spellbinding premise, luring readers into its dark and macabre mystery, right to its shocking end.

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Eric Rickstad has made a name for himself with his critically acclaimed Canaan Crime series of psychological thrillers set in remote northern Vermont. In his newest, The Names of Dead Girls, he revisits characters from those earlier books to deliver a story that draws on the past but is firmly rooted in the present.  

As The Names of Dead Girls opens, readers are introduced to college student Rachel Rath. Rachel is the daughter of former detective Frank Rath (Silent Girls), who gave up his badge to pursue justice as a private investigator. What she doesn’t know, but will soon find out, is that Frank—whom she’s ably assisted in his inquiries—is actually her uncle (at least biologically speaking) and that her parents died a horrific death at the hands of murderer and serial rapist Ned Preacher. Preacher, who worked the system to his benefit and is now out of prison, professes to have found God. But Rachel feels his eyes on her, and they burn as if carrying the heat of hellfire:

[Read John Valeri's review of The Names of Dead Girls...]

Fri
Sep 15 2017 1:00pm

Review: Lies She Told by Cate Holahan

Lies She Told by Cate Holahan is an electrifying story of love and deceit where parts of a crime writer's latest novel start to blend with things happening in her real life, proving that truth can sometimes be darker than fiction. 

It’s been awhile since crime writer Liza Cole has had a bestseller, and now she has a great idea—but there are a couple snags in her personal life making writing difficult. Her husband’s best friend and law partner has disappeared, last seen by the East River. Fertility issues were already making it hard to have a baby, and now her husband is too distracted by the investigation into his best friend’s disappearance to spend time with her. Liza finds solace and escape in the one thing that has always worked for her: writing. 

She creates a new story about Beth. Beth is a new mother whose lawyer husband is cheating on her with a co-worker. In a fit of rage, Beth kills her husband’s mistress and dumps her … in the East River. 

[Read Jenny Maloney's review of Lies She Told...]

Thu
Sep 14 2017 1:00pm

Review: Enigma by Catherine Coulter

Enigma by Catherine Coulter is the 21st book in the FBI Thriller series, where Agents Savich and Sherlock are presented with two baffling mysteries and must work with Agent Cam Wittier (Insidious) and New York-based former Special Forces agent Jack Cabot in a race against the clock to catch an international criminal and solve the enigma of the man called John Doe.

Catherine Coulter is the powerhouse author of more than 80 novels, 75 of which have been New York Times bestsellers. She began writing historical/Regency romances—and occasionally revisits those roots—before adding suspense to her arsenal with the publication of The Cove (1996), which launched her popular FBI Thriller series that currently boasts 21 titles. Additionally, Coulter co-authors a four-book (and growing) saga with JT Ellison.

The newest addition to the FBI Thriller series is Enigma, which features Agents Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock, who are married and have a young child together. As the story opens, Savich has been called to a Georgetown home where he encounters a seemingly psychotic man (henceforth referred to as “John Doe”) who has taken 27-year-old expectant mother Kara Moody hostage and is spouting off irrationally (“I know they’re coming and they’ll take you. You’ve got to come away with me before it’s too late!”). Savich is able to neutralize the situation but not without a few unintended consequences: the perp is rendered unconscious (later slipping into a coma), the mother-to-be goes into labor, and local authorities view the agent’s actions as an infringement on their turf.

[Read John Valeri's review of Enigma...]

Tue
Sep 12 2017 1:00pm

Review: Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed by John Keyse-Walker

Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed by John Keyse-Walker is the second book in the Teddy Creque Mysteries series.

Take a visual tour of Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed with GIFnotes!

As summer draws to a close here in the northern hemisphere, let those of us who thrive in warmer temperatures bask in the release of John Keyse-Walker’s second Teddy Creque Mystery. Set in the British Virgin Islands, the books take full advantage of the locale, reminding those of us not blessed to live in such beautiful environs what we’re missing out on:

It was only then that I noticed it was another glorious Virgin Islands afternoon, cottony clouds on the horizon, the diamond glint of sunshine spread on the cerulean waters of the Yacht Harbour, the musical ring of rigging against the spars. Police work has the unfortunate effect of making one ignore beauty, so intent is the search for the ugliness in life. I find it the most disappointing aspect of the job, apart from people shooting at you.

[Read Doreen Sheridan's review of Beach, Breeze, Bloodshed...]

Mon
Sep 11 2017 5:00pm

Review: The Gospel of Mary by Philip Freeman

The Gospel of Mary by Philip Freeman is the third book in the Sister Deirdre series, where a young Irish nun finds herself the guardian of a mysterious manuscript claiming to be the lost gospel of Mary and realizes that church authorities are willing to kill to get their hands on it.

I held the end of the fragile scroll in front of the flickering light.

“What does it say?”

“I don’t know yet. It’s not in Greek or Roman letters. It looks like Hebrew—no, Aramaic.”

“Aramaic?”

“Yes, it was the language of Syria and Palestine centuries ago. Father Ailbe taught it to me when I was younger. It was spoken by the Jews and others when the Romans ruled there.”

“Okay, but what does it say?”

“I’m working on it. Give me a moment.”

The writing was so faint that it was hard to make out the letters. But after a minute my eyes adjusted to the low light and the writing style of the scribe. At last I could read the first line.

“No … it can’t be.”

“What? What does it say, Deirdre?”

I took a deep breath, then translated it for Dari:

These are the words of Miryam, mother of Yeshua of Nazareth, the one they call the Christ.

Sister Deirdre is an Irish nun living in Kildare, well versed in many languages. When a dying, desperate nun collapses at her feet and begs her to protect an ancient scroll—“They will be coming.”—the young woman discovers that she holds what claims to be the words of the Holy Mary.

[Read Angie Barry's review of The Gospel of Mary...]

Mon
Sep 11 2017 4:30pm

Review: Good Time (2017)

Making a crime thriller set in contemporary New York is tricky these days for one principal reason: there isn’t that much crime there anymore. In the 44 years since Martin Scorsese released Mean Streets, the Concrete Jungle has cleaned up its act by pushing out the pimps, pushers, and pornographers and replacing them with overpriced restaurants and Marvel and Nickelodeon characters.

Face it, you really have to be looking for it if you want to come across a bad neighborhood in New York these days—what with the rapid infestation of gentrification and all—and it can even be a little unnerving for filmmakers how family-friendly the place has become (Gaspar Noé originally wanted to shoot Enter the Void there, but opted for Tokyo instead after discovering New York didn’t quite have the underbelly he was looking for). That said, the Safdie Brothers (a filmmaking duo consisting of siblings Joshua and Ben) have succeeded in making a crime thriller that’s stylish and palpable, albeit also one that sorely underwrites an intriguing plot element.

[Read Peter Foy's review of Good Time...]

Mon
Sep 11 2017 3:00pm

Review: Unchained Melody: The Films of Meiko Kaji by Tom Mes

Unchained Melody: The Films of Meiko Kaji by Tom Mes traces Meiko Kaji's career from its earliest beginnings as a teen model and tomboyish basketball fanatic to her critically-lauded and versatile performances onscreen (available September 12, 2017).

Check out Brian Greene's appreciation piece on Meiko Kaji!

In her most notable film roles, Japanese actress Meiko Kaji’s (1947- ) characters are self-ruled women who are fiercely independent and who don’t take any shit from anybody, including those who would seem to be in positions of superiority over them. They don’t cave in to the expected societal norms. What this new book on Kaji by Japanese film scholar Tom Mes reveals is, Kaji herself is much like those characters. She may not have been the leader of any urban bad girl gangs, and she may not have sliced enemies up with knives and swords on vengeance sprees as she has on film. But Kaji has stood up to movie directors when she felt they had it coming, and she has turned down seemingly lucrative roles if they didn’t live up to her sense of personal and artistic integrity. She’s not somebody to be fooled with, no more than the women she’s portrayed on screen have been.

[Read Brian Greene's review of Unchained Melody...]

Mon
Sep 11 2017 2:00pm

Endeavour 4.04: “Harvest” Episode Review

Five years before this episode takes place, a car headed toward the country village of Bramford was forced off the road by a military vehicle barreling toward it. The truck didn’t slow down. The car wound up in a ditch, and there was no sign of life from its occupants—a professorial-looking fellow and the scruffy hitchhiker he’d picked up moments before.

Fast-forward to 1967, where a scruffy guy who looks awfully like that hitcher from ’62 is preaching the impending apocalypse—the seventh seal and all that—on an Oxford street corner. In the misty cabin in the woods that we’ve glimpsed throughout this season, tarot cards are being laid: Queen of Pentacles; The Empress; King of Swords; Ace of Wands; Knight of Cups; The Hermit; and finally, The Devil.

Archaeology students digging in the marshland of Bramford Mere unearth a body: male, age undetermined. DCI Fred Thursday (Roger Allam) suspects it might be the remains of Matthew Laxman, a botanist who’d gone missing five years earlier and who was last seen by Nigel Warren, a scruffy hitchhiker he’d picked up on the road to Bramford (Simon Meacock, who turned up recently and scruffily in Agatha Raisin).

Pathologist Max DeBryn (James Bradshaw) begs to differ with Thursday’s hypothesis. While the skeleton might match Laxman’s description, Max says it predates Laxman by some 2,000 years. It’s ancient—not a five-year-old corpse. Still, something about this discovery doesn’t sit well with Thursday. The body had suffered a blow to the head and been garroted and had its throat cut. Seems awfully thorough.

Then, Endeavour Morse (Shaun Evans) spots a pair of eyeglasses in the excavated grave—definitely not ancient. Looks like it’s time to dig a little deeper.

[He’s not only merely dead, he’s really most sincerely dead…]

Mon
Sep 11 2017 1:00pm

Review: Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham

Magicians Impossible by Brad Abraham is a debut novel that blends magic and mayhem to create an edgy thriller perfect for fans of fantasy and crime fiction (available September 12, 2017).

The urban fantasy genre is full of protagonists who use keen detection skills and a multitude of supernatural talents and gifts to solve crimes and bring justice to weird and strange criminals. One mashup you don't see as often, though, is elements of fantasy with crime fiction's sister genre, the spy story. I think adding aspects of fantasy like wizards to an espionage story full of impossible heists, shifting allegiances, and morally murky missions makes for a pretty compelling tale. In Brad Abraham’s debut novel, Magicians Impossible, he does just that. The result is a fun and exciting story that could be described with the Hollywood elevator pitch, “Harry Potter meets the Mission Impossible films.”

One of Abraham's biggest strengths in the novel is his world building. In the opening sections of the book, he clearly defines how magic works in his fictional world and introduces readers to some interesting factions, characters, and competing magic schools. The reader encounters these elements through the perspective of Jason Bishop, a 30-year-old bartender who—after the death of his distant father—is introduced to the clandestine conflict between two magical factions: the heroic champions of order, The Invisible Hand, and the sowers of chaos known as the Golden Dawn. Here, Carter Block, the man who inducts Jason into the shadowy arcane world, describes the two different factions:

[Read Dave Richards's review of Magicians Impossible...]