Baldacci, David. Zero Day. Grand Central. Nov. 2011. 416p. ISBN 9780446573016. $28.99. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Busy Baldacci, already on his third hardcover of the year (after The Sixth Man and One Summer), here launches a new series starring combat veteran John Puller. Now a top-notch investigator in the U.S. Army’s Criminal Investigative Division, Puller is asked to look into the murder of an army man and his wife, a Pentagon contractor, in their isolated rural home. Good that Baldacci is branching out; you’ll probably need multiples.
Gilb, Dagoberto. Before the End, After the Beginning. Grove. Nov. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9780802120007. $24. STORIES
Back in 1994, Gilb won the PEN/Hemingway Foundation Award for his debut collection, The Magic of Blood. So it’s nice to see him returning to the short form in this collection of ten stories, which were written while he was recovering from a stroke. Set in the Southwest, the stories get drivingly personal‚ one portrays a stroke victim cared for by family, while the protagonist of another has returned to Mexico to contemplate his coming death. But a quick look suggests that they’re not maudlin. Elegiac reading for the wise; Gilb’s a lovely writer.
Murray, Sabina. Tales of the New World: Stories. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Nov. 2011. 288p. ISBN 9780802170835. pap. $14.95. STORIES
It’s not every story collection that features Ferdinand Magellan, whose scholar friend cannot protect him from bad impulses; or Vasco Nú√±ez de Balboa, led by his fierce guardian of a dog to the South Sea; or Capt. Zimri Coffin, scared to death after reading Frankenstein, whose crew rescues two shipwrecked Englishmen spouting tales of a great white whale. (Yes, Coffin’s real-life experience inspired Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick.) Pen/Faulkner Award-winning author Murray does, however, have an odd turn of mind (see, for instance, A Carnivore’s Inquiry); the stories here reimagine key moments in the lives of leading adventurers. And adventurous readers should try.
Oates, Joyce Carol. The Corn Maiden and Other Nightmares: Novellas and Stories of Unspeakable Dread. Mysterious: Grove Atlantic. Nov. 2011. 224p. ISBN 9780802126023. $24. SUSPENSE
Dreadful stories by Oates? Only in the sense that they will make you shiver. Take the title novella, about a somewhat slow 11-year-old girl with corn-silk hair named Marissa, whose mother finds her missing after returning late from an evening out with a man. The police suspect the computer teacher, but in fact three older girls have enticed Marissa into a basement, there to enact a ghastly ritual. Oates is just so good at creeping us out in literate fashion. All chill seekers will want to read.
Tillyard, Stella. Tides of War. Holt. Nov. 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780805094572. $26. HISTORICAL FICTION
The war in question is the Peninsular War (1812‚ 15), and it sends newly married James to battle in Spain with the Duke of Wellington’s troops even as his spirited wife, Harriet, finds both friendship and a sense of self at home. A noted historian who has taught at Harvard, UCLA, and the University of London, Tillyard is also the author of popular novel Aristocrats (remember the BBC miniseries?). Pretty substantive historical fiction.