Fiction

My Pick
Adiga, Aravind. Last Man in Tower. Knopf. Sept 2011. 368p. ISBN 9780307594099. $26.95; eISBN 9780307700407. CD: Random Audio.
Dharmen Shah, a ruthless real estate developer (is there any other kind?), wants to tear down a decrepit apartment building in Mumbai so that he can erect luxury towers. He’s even offering the tenants reasonable buyouts. But a teacher named Masterji refuses to move, and as demolition day approaches, his formerly friendly neighbors turn on him (they want their money). Adiga won the Man Booker Prize for his last novel, 2008’s The White Tiger, and I found his subsequent story collection, Between the Assassinations, even more intriguing; it’s blindingly realistic about the tough life in Mumbai. This should be just as revelatory‚ and though it will deliver a strong scent of India, it’s also universal. With a reading group guide and lots of online promotion.

Burke, James Lee. Feast Day of Fools. S. & S. Sept. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9781451643114. $26.99.
This time ’round, Burke is visiting southwest Texas with Sheriff Hackberry Holland, last seen in 2009’s Rain Gods. When alcoholic ex-boxer Danny Boy begs to be locked up in the drunk tank, even though he’s clearly sober, Hack and his young deputy, Pam Tibbs (whom he’s sweet on), wring a confession from him: Danny Boy has witnessed aFeast Day of Fools Fiction gruesome torture killing in the desert. Now Hack has some bad men to find, and he tracks them to the home of a (predictably) mysterious Chinese woman named Anton Ling, who’s either in danger‚ or dangerous. Burke always delivers; consider multiples.

Hamilton, Denise. Damage Control. Scribner. Sept. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780743296748. $26; ISBN 9781451627893.
With five Eve Diamond mysteries to her name, one Edgar nominated, Hamilton tries something a little different. Her protagonist, Maggie Silver, is plugging away at a high-profile PR firm in California when she’s handed a tough case: do damage control for Sen. Harry Paxton, whose young female aide has been found murdered. Bad enough, but Paxton is the father of Maggie’s former best friend Anabelle‚ and that friendship broke up over a terrible tragedy Maggie has been trying to forget. Watch and see where this one goes.

Quinn, Spencer. The Dog Who Knew Too Much: A Chet and Bernie Mystery. Atria. Sept. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9781439157091. $25; eISBN 9781439163078.
One wonders whether this dog knew how popular Quinn’s series would be when it launched a few years back with Dog On It. In any case, cool canine Chet and his beloved Bernie are busy. They’ve been hired to find a boy missing from a wilderness camp and possibly snatched by his divorced dad, but Chet noses out some new clues that make things look more desperate. Meanwhile, both Bernie’s girlfriend’s old boyfriend and a stray pup suspiciously resembling Chet appear on the scene. Great, cozy fun even if you’re not nuts for dogs; with a four-city tour and a reading group guide.

Schappell, Elissa. Blueprints for Building Better Girls. S. & S. Sept. 2011. 240p. ISBN 9780743276702. $24.
The high school bad girl. The anorexic daughter. The hesitant mother. They’re all here, and all connected, in the latest stories cum novel by Vanity Fair contributing editor Schappell. (Her debut novel, Use Me, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year and PEN/Hemingway finalist, was also a set of linked stories.) Schappell sets out to replicate all those defining experiences that girls encounter on their way to being women. Schappell gets compared to Lorrie Moore and Amy Bloom, though I think she’s less aggressively witty than the former; perhaps Allegra Goodman fans might like her, too. With a reading group guide.

Tucker, Lisa. The Winters in Bloom. Atria. Sept. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9781416575405. $24; eISBN 9781416575757.
Despite dark and messy pasts, Kyra and David Winters could not be happier‚ until their beloved son, Michael, disappears from the backyard. Kyra thinks the culprit is someone from her estranged family, while Michael thinks his nasty ex-wife is out for revenge. Hmm, nice blend of suspense and family drama; Tucker is a best-selling author (e.g., The Promised World), so there will be an audience. With a reading group guide.

Wallace, Nicolle. It’s Classified. Atria. Sept. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9781451610963. $25; eISBN 9781451610987.
A political commentator frequently spotted on the Daily Beast, as well as White House communications director under George W. Bush and campaign adviser to John McCain and Sarah Palin, Wallace figured she could also write fiction and did nicely with last year’s Eighteen Acres. Now she offers a sequel. President Charlotte Kramer has been reelected for a second term with the Tara Meyers, the new vice president she picked in Eighteen Acres. Alas, Meyers blows a live TV interview, then seeks redemption by heading up a terror investigation that really does put her in harm’s way. When Wallace’s first novel appeared, everyone whispered that the brash and maladroit Meyers was based on Palin, thought the author denies it. (She and Palin did not exactly hit it off on the campaign trail.) Political second-guessers should enjoy; with a four-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, and Washington, DC.

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Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president of the National Book Critics Circle, to which she has just been reelected.

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