Fiction

Brown, Rita Mae. Murder Unleashed. Ballantine. Oct. 2011. 432p. ISBN 9780345511836. $25; eISBN 9780345523105.
We all know about Brown’s Sneaky Pie feline mystery series, but here’s the second in her canine mystery series, begun with the nicely received A Nose for Justice. Mags and wire-haired dachshund Baxter, still in Nevada despite a few threats in the series opener, join with Mags’s great-aunt Jeep and her German Shepherd to help squatters in a row of foreclosed homes. Of course things get ugly. Should be fun; let’s see if these pooches have Sneaky Pie’s bite.

Bruen, Ken. Headstone: A Jack Taylor Novel. Mysterious Pr: Grove Atlantic. Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780802126009. $24.
Founded by renowned mystery fanatic Otto Penzler in 1975, bought by Warner in 1989, and recently repurchased by Penzler from Hachette, current owner of Warner (now Grand Central), Mysterious Press is relaunching this fall with Grove Atlantic, which is starting to make a name for itself in the thrills-and-chills genre. (It publishes Donna Leon, as well as Deon Myers, whose latest is previewed below.) Among the new imprint’s first books is this latest in Irish crime writer Bruen’s Jack Taylor series, which debuted with The Guards, a Shamus winner and Edgar, Macavity, and Barry finalist. Here, Jack is up against a completely amoral bunch called Headstone that’s terrorizing Galway; as the promotion says, Some people help the less fortunate; others kill them. A brief, hard-bitten extract turned my blood to ice. Definitely buy for your mystery readers.

Child, Lee. The Affair: A Reacher Novel. Delacorte. Oct. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780385344326. $28; eISBN 9780440339359. CD: Random Audio.
Who was Jack Reacher before he became a vigilante hero? That’s the story Child answers in this 16th Reacher thriller. Having won Anthony, Barry, and Nero awards, sold rights in 50-plus territories, and sold film rights to all the books, Child achieved the pinnacle with two No. 1 New York Times best sellers last year. He’s on top; buy multiples.

Dunmore, Helen. The Betrayal. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Sept. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780802170880. pap. $14.95.
Young physician Andrei and nursery school teacher Anna try to build a life together in 1952 Leningrad, but when Andrei must treat the child of a senior secret police officer, he finds out how precarious his life really is. Shortlisted for a Commonwealth Writers’ Prize, this sequel to The Siege, itself a Whitbred, Orange, and Costa finalist, should appeal to those who like well-wrought historical fiction.

Evanovich, Janet. Untitled. Ballantine. Oct. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780345527714. $28; eISBN 9780345527721.
As I’ve already reported, Evanovich’s next Stephanie Plum title, Smokin’ Seventeen, is due in June 2011. It’s her first book with Ballantine, and she has another coming in October. I cannot tell you the plot or whether it’s another Plum title. When I know, you’ll know, too. Meanwhile, expect lots of demand for an author who keeps on churning, and look forward to the first Stephanie Plum movie, starring Katherine Heigl and appearing in 2012.

Frazier, Charles. Nightwoods. Random. Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9781400067091. $26.
Yes, he’s still in the South (specifically rural North Carolina), but Frazier is far from the Civil War‚ era Cold Mountain, a multimillion-copy best seller that won the National Book Award in 1997, and his subsequent Thirteen Moons. In the late 1950s, lonely Luce struggles to care for murdered sister Lily’s inward-turned twins while slowly warming to a man who could ease her pain. Meanwhile, Lily’s husband (and killer) is looking for money he’s sure Lily has hidden. More portrait, less epic, I think; look for a big tour to Asheville, Oxford (MS), Jackson, Raleigh, Minneapolis, Seattle, Portland, and San Francisco. There will be fans.

Guterson, David. Ed King. Knopf. Oct. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780307271068. $26.95; eISBN 9780307700421.
Milquetoast actuary Walter Cousins sleeps with his underage British au pair, who dumps the resulting babe on Walter’s doorstep. Subsequently adopted, Edward Aaron King grows up to be a world-renowned billionaire Internet tycoon whose life is fated to end in tragedy; this is a modern retelling of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Snow Falling on Cedars author Guterson is getting really ambitious; with a 75,000-copy first printing, a three-city tour to Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle, and a reading group guide.

Habel, Lia. Dearly, Departed. Del Rey. Oct. 2011. 528p. ISBN 9780345523310. $16; eISBN 9780345523334. CD: Random Audio.
Victorian-era Nora is your average 18-year-old‚ except that the young lieutenant she’s fallen for has a degenerative disease that will eventually turn him into a zombie. First novelist Habel was about to go onto food stamps when she sold this work in a hotly contested auction. This YA crossover title is getting a talk-up, so consider.

Harrison, Jim. The Great Leader. Grove. Oct. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780802119704. $24. CD: Blackstone Audio.
The great leader, who has gathered his little tribe in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, initially seems like nothing more than a genial religious nutcase. But then Detective Sunderson‚ divorced, hard-drinking, and ready to retire‚ starts tracking his past, and the leader looks like trouble indeed. Expect brilliantly tough-edged writing from the beloved Harrison.

Hollinghurst, Alan. The Stranger’s Child. Knopf. Oct. 2011. 464p. ISBN 9780307272768. $27.95; eISBN 9780307700445. CD: Random Audio.
In 1913, while visiting the family of Cambridge classmate George Sawle, Cecil Vance, heir to Corley Court, pens a poem in the autograph album of George’s worshipful younger sister. After Cecil is killed in World War I, the poem becomes famous nationwide. Decades later, a revisionist biographer comes snooping. I was truly taken by Hollinghurst’s quietly elegant The Line of Beauty, and he’s won enough awards throughout his career that I believe I’m on the mark in avidly anticipating this next novel‚ his first in seven years. With a 75,000-copy first printing, a four- or five-city tour, and a reading group guide.

Liss, David. The Darkening Green. Random. Oct. 2011. 432p. ISBN 9781400068968. $26; eISBN 9781588369628.
Liss got his start as an author of historical thrillers with A Conspiracy of Papers, which won Barry, Macavity, and Edgar best first novel honors, and he’s since lived up to his promise. In this Regency-set novel (rather cheeky, that), the well-bred Lucy Derrick is forced to live with her ungracious uncle after her father’s death. She’s saved from marriage to the local miller when an ethereal and clearly ill young man knocks on the door and demands that the marriage not take place. Then he collapses, leaving readers to wonder what the story is. Intriguing premise; I’d get this one. With a six-city tour to New York, Boston, Washington, DC, Miami, San Antonio, and San Francisco.

Meyer, Deon. Trackers. Atlantic Monthly. Sept. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780802119933. $24.
Three people collide in this latest from South African crime-writing phenomenon Meyer: a freelance bodyguard who agrees to smuggle two precious black rhinos out of Zimbabwe, a woman who’s left her philandering husband and abusive son and supports herself by writing intelligence reports, and a former detective handling his first case as a private investigator. No doubt the collision will be explosive. With a four-city tour to New York, St. Louis, Houston, and Phoenix.

Murakami, Haruki. 1Q84. Knopf. Oct. 2011. 928p. ISBN 9780307593313. $30; eISBN 9780307957023.
Masterly Japanese novelist Murakami returns with what seems rightly billed as his magnum opus; it’s a nearly 1000-page work published in Japan in three volumes in1q84 Fiction 2009‚ 10. The title plays with the Japanese pronunciation of 1984, and indeed this is Murakami’s homage to George Orwell’s great novel. The lead characters include a young woman assassin and an unpublished novelist charged with punching up a manuscript that a reticent and possibly dyslexic teenager appears to have submitted to a literary contest. The first volume sold out in one day in Japan and reached a million in sales one month later despite no advance word on the contents; the entire set is seen as a probing commentary on the contemporary culture of a country now much in the news. Another mind-blowing Murakami puzzle box that’s essential for high-end readers; with a 100,000-copy first printing and a reading group guide.

My Pick
Ondaatje, Michael. The Cat’s Table. Knopf. Oct. 2011. 256p. ISBN 9780307700117. $26; eISBN 9780307700452. CD: Random Audio.
One of the first books I reviewed at LJ was Ondaatje’s In the Skin of a Lion, and I have loved him for his luscious language and penetrating insights ever since. (Yes, I was hooked even before the great Booker Prize winner, The English Patient.) So I’m thrilled he has a new novel forthcoming. His hero, an 11-year-old bound for England aboard a ship that chugs through the Indian Ocean and on to the Suez Canal, finds himself seated during dinner at the unpropitious cat’s table. His tablemates include two other boys with whom he has some wild adventures (they even spy on a prisoner on aboard) and some outré adults who talk to him of literature, jazz, and women. More than shipboard entertainment, this novel promises to plumb our first painful steps toward growing up. With an 11-city tour to Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Philadelphia, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC, plus a 100,000-first printing and a reading group guide.

Perry, Anne. A Christmas Homecoming. Ballantine, Oct. 2011. 208p. ISBN 9780345524638. $18; eISBN 9780345524645.
It’s not Perry stalwart Charlotte Pitt but her mom who gets all the action here. During the holidays, she accompanies her husband’s theater troupe to Whitby, the wind-scoured fishing village where Bram Stoker’s Count Dracula first landed in England. (It’s also the site of Whitby Abbey, founded around 656, which could come in handy when the going gets tough.) Perry’s eight previous Christmas novels have each sold at least 40,000 copies and some nearly twice that, so this should be popular.

My Pick
Prcic, Ismet. Shards. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Oct. 2011. 400p. ISBN 9780802170811. pap. $14.95.
Safe in California, a young man curiously named Ismet Prcic, who’s fled Balkan violence by joining a theater troupe, tries to bridge past and present by writing out memories (real and imagined) of his homeland. His story is soon infiltrated by that of another young man, Mustafa (real? imagined?), who stayed home to fight. Born in Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Prcic came here as a young man in 1996; he recently won a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship in Fiction. His first novel seems bold, imaginative, and wrenchingly germane, and I do like the fun riskiness of his publisher, Grove Atlantic’s Black Cat imprint. In its content and evident inventiveness, this work reminds me of another debut from a Balkans-born novelist, Sasa Stanisic’s How the Soldier Repairs the Gramophone (perhaps not coincidentally, also published by Grove Atlantic), though Stanisic is more lushly lyrical and Prcic more punch-in-the-gut tough. Watch this one, and let me know what you think; with a four-city tour to Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, and Seattle.

Sís, Peter. The Conference of the Birds. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Oct. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9781594203060. $27.95.
A MacArthur Fellow and Caldecott Honor‚ winning children’s book author and illustrator, Brno-born Sís can create breathtaking images. Here he puts his skills toConferenceOfBirds1 Fiction work in his first book for adults, which illustrates a key Sufi poem. Led by a hoopoe, a band of birds flies through the valleys of quest, love, understanding, friendship, unity, amazement, and death in search of the true king, Simorgh. What they find is even more remarkable. Not just a gift book; likely to be profoundly moving. With a national tour.

Wolff, Isabel. The Very Picture of You. Bantam. Oct. 2011. 432p. ISBN 9780553807844. $25; eISBN 9780440423447.
Three major works have something to teach portrait painter Ella Salville. Painting her boorish American brother-in-law to be, she realizes that she could love the right man. A girl’s posthumous portrait shows her the importance of living life to the fullest. Then there’s her secret portrait of the person who has influenced her most profoundly. British author Wolff is an international best seller whose recent A Vintage Affair was praised by LJ for its realistic, wonderfully drawn characters, a deft blending of the past with the present, and a seemingly effortless managing of several plots at once. So try her new one.

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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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