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Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, December 23, 2011

Week ending December 23, 2011

George, Elizabeth. Believing the Lie. Dutton. Jan. 2012. c.624p. ISBN 9780525952589. $28.95. M
Because Inspector Thomas Lynley (This Body of Death) is romantically involved with his new boss, acting Det. Supt. Isabelle Ardery, she is doubly miffed when Lynley accepts an assignment from a superior officer that he must keep secret, even from her. The case involves the discreet investigation into the drowning death of Ian Cresswell, a member of the rich, dysfunctional family of Lord Bernard Fairclough. Lynley recruits his old friends Simon and Deborah St. James to accompany him to Cumbria to assist with the case. The couple, in the middle of an adoption crisis, are glad to help. Meanwhile, Lynley’s old sidekick, the inimitable Barbara Havers, attempts to juggle a beauty makeover mandated by the stern Ardery with a covert probe on Lynley’s behalf.
Verdict
The whodunit element peters out at the end, and the story, as is typical for George, is quite melodramatic. George’s many fans, however, will be thrilled with this new episode in the lives of her lovable cast of characters. Strongly recommended for readers of British procedurals. [See Prepub Alert, 7/25/11.]‚ Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND

Gordon, Howard. Hard Target. Touchstone: S. & S. Jan. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781439175828. $25.99. F
The adventures of former diplomat and current Georgetown University professor Gideon Davis (Gideon’s War), continue, this time with FBI agent Nancy Clement, Gideon’s former girlfriend, hot on the trail of homegrown terrorists aiming to assassinate top government officials during the president’s State of the Union address. Gideon calls on his brother Tillman, recently released from prison after a presidential pardon, to infiltrate a group of West Virginia white supremacists. Clues eventually lead to a suicidal wealthy Idaho businessman set on avenging his son’s death in Afghanistan.
Verdict
Thriller aficionados and doubtless many conspiracy theorists will enjoy this story as will fans of the first Gideon novel, which related Tillman’s story as a supposedly rogue agent. Admirers of veteran Hollywood writer and producer Gordon’s TV work on Homeland, 24, and The X-Files should also be delighted with this page-turning romp through the funhouse.‚ Vicki L. Gregory, Univ. of South Florida SIS, Tampa

Hoag, Tami. Down the Darkest Road. Dutton. Jan. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780525952398. $26.95. F
Hoag’s third series entry (after Deeper Than the Dead and Secrets to the Grave) returns to the small California town of Oak Knoll. With her daughter Leah, Lauren Lawton has retreated there to escape the pain and heartbreak of her eldest daughter’s abduction four years earlier and the subsequent death of her husband. But peace is far from Lauren’s grasp as she spots the suspected abductor, Roland Ballencoa, in town. So begins a terrifying turn of events. Series characters Det. Tony Mendez and retired FBI profiler Vince Leone and his wife, Anne, enter the picture as Lauren seeks to discover her missing daughter’s fate. Her obsession develops into near vigilantism and the reckless stalking of Ballencoa.
Verdict
Fans of Lisa Gardner and Iris Johansen will be glued to their seats by Hoag’s chilling cliffhanger scenes and psychological puzzles. This taut novel of suspense is a true nail-biter.‚ Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

Kuzneski, Chris. The Secret Crown. Putnam. Jan. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9780399157455. $25.95. F
When an old World War II bunker that may be filled with Nazi plunder is found in Bavaria, an associate of Jonathon Payne and David Jones (The Last Throne; The Prophecy) summons them to Germany to investigate. What they find is a spectacular mystery. King Ludwig II of Bavaria, famous for his Neuschwanstein Castle (the inspiration for Disney’s Sleeping Beauty castle), purportedly hid a massive treasure. Does this bunker contain the Swan King’s treasure? With immeasurable funds and resources at our heroes’ disposal, their ensuing quest becomes a Baedeker’s tour of castles.
Verdict
While Kuzneski delivers another detailed, action-packed buddy adventure-thriller, much of the appealing courage and charm Payne and Jones displayed in The Prophecy have been replaced by bravado, sarcasm, and crass frat boy one-liners. When they don’t try so hard, Payne, Jones, and Kuzneski still have all the qualities necessary to be a literary superteam.‚ Laura A.B. Cifelli, Ft. Myers‚ Lee Cty. P.L., FL

Wexler, Natalie. The Mother Daughter Show. Fuze. Dec. 2011. c.274p. ISBN 9780984141296. pap. $19.95. F
As the girls of Washington, DC’s elite Barton Friends prep school near graduation day, they grapple with customary senior class anxieties over SAT scores, college rejections, and leaving home. Meanwhile, their mothers assemble to plan and produce the school’s traditional musical send-off, The Mother Daughter Show, the perfect device to raise competitiveness, unleash insecurities, and destroy friendships. Although each mother has her own story, the primary focus extends to three women. Amanda Marchetti, a lawyer by training, songwriter by inclination but stay-at-home mom for real, finds herself cajoled by her pal Susan Logan to be the show’s lyricist. Susan, a busy career professional, exudes self-assurance and organizational expertise. Barb Atkins, as head of the parents association, serves as the nominal show manager, but her valiant attempts to be inclusive and negotiate inevitable differences of opinion fall flat. Needless to say, sparks fly and friendships fray with, at one point, full-fledged hysteria holding sway.
Verdict
Wexler (A More Obedient Wife) infuses a somewhat predictable plot with exuberant characters, tenderness, satirical fun, and worthy insights that should be a hit with middle-class women of a certain age.‚ Sheila Riley, Smithsonian Inst. Libs., Washington, DC

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Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 45th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"