Week ending May 25, 2012
Bostwick, Marie. Ties That Bind: A Cobbled Court Novel. Kensington. May 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780758269287. pap. $15. F
Margot Matthews is miserable. Her 40th birthday comes on the heels of the end of her relationship with local lawyer Arnie Kinsella and has convinced Margot that she may never meet the love of her life. Through a series of life-changing events, including a tragedy that nearly severs the relationship she has with her parents, Margot discovers that maybe she was never as alone as she thought. Though this is the fifth book (after Threading the Needle) in Bostwick’s quilting series, readers need not have read the others. Bostwick seamlessly introduces characters and recaps their backstories enough for new readers to focus on the action from the start of the novel.
Verdict Unexpected twists for Margot and other town residents help move the action along and make the story more interesting than a run-of-the-mill novel about a woman bemoaning her lack of a love life. Those who enjoy reading about close-knit friends who come together in times of need (such as Neta Jackson’s Yada Yada Prayer Group series) will enjoy this title.‚ Amber Woodard, Cumberland Univ. Lib., Lebanon, TN
Carey, Peter. The Chemistry of Tears. Knopf. May 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780307592712. $26. F
Two-time Booker Prize winner Carey has crafted a novel about craft, the story of a woman who’s lost her lover assigned the task of resurrecting an automaton‚ a simulation of life‚ from another century. Horologist Catherine Gehrig of London’s Swinburne Museum has long conducted a tender affair with the married head curator of metals, and his sudden death has overturned her world. She cannot be seen to mourn, so her boss, who to her surprise has intuited the affair, gives her a job that will separate her from the staff: reassembling a mid-19th-century mechanism. It turns out to be a quite remarkable duck. At first resistant, Catherine is drawn into the task, reading through notebooks left by Henry Brandling of London, whose ailing son was delighted by the duck’s design. Thus, in alternate chapters, we see proud, concerned Henry rushing to Germany to get the duck constructed‚ an act of love that separates him from the very person he wants to please.
Verdict Catherine is an entertainingly tart creation, while Henry can be a puzzle, his stubborn ardor somewhat exasperating. Henry’s chapters can feel as mechanistic as his duck‚ surprising from the generally luscious, acutely insightful Carey‚ but the dedicated prose will still draw in his fans. [See Prepub Alert, 11/14/11.]‚ Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal
Dugoni, Robert. The Conviction. Touchstone: S. & S. Jun. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781451606720. $25. F
How could the trend toward privatization in the financially troubled state of California affect due process? This is the question Dugoni brings to light in his fifth legal thriller (after The Jury Master) chronicling the exploits of Seattle-based attorney David Sloane. While on a camping trip in the Sierras, Sloane’s teenaged stepson, Jake, and a companion are arrested and sent to the Fresh Start Youth Training Facility without benefit of legal counsel or parental presence. What follows is a fast-paced account of both Jake’s harrowing experiences at the militaristic detention center and David’s ferocious use of the legal system to extricate Jake from the control of a sinister judge and the powerful cadre of law enforcement officials and private citizens who have brought Fresh Start to their county.
Verdict Though explanations of Sloane’s legal maneuvers and strategies tend to slow the pace on occasion, Dugoni is at his best in the action scenes, which are the foundation of his narrative. Fans of John Grisham and Scott Turow will be pleased with this offering.‚ Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT
Koomson, Dorothy. The Ice Cream Girls. Grand Central. May 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9781455507139. pap. $14.99. F
Teenagers Serena and Poppy were tried in 1989 for the murder of Marcus Halnsley, Serena’s former history teacher and their mutual boyfriend. Poppy was found guilty but is now being released after serving 20 years in prison. Serena was acquitted and lives in Brighton with her doctor husband, Evan, and her two children. Serena never told Evan about her past, about the lover who controlled her through psychological and physical pain and how he died. Poppy contends that she herself is innocent and wants Serena to confess to the crime. The tension builds as the women spin closer to a final reckoning.
Verdict Koomson (Marshmallows for Breakfast; Goodnight, Beautiful) sets readers on edge as she describes the girls’ brutal relationship with Marcus (whom Serena still refers to as him). We feel for these once lonely teens whose youth was stolen by a predator and who continue to suffer guilt and regret. Which one stabbed Marcus to death? Koomson could have chosen one of several scenarios to conclude her novel. Did she take the easy way out? Agree or not, readers won’t be able to put down this absorbing book. [Reading group guide.]‚ Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal
Palahniuk, Chuck. Invisible Monsters Remix. Norton. Jun. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780393083521. $25.95. F
Shannon McFarland is a moderately successful model and infomercial starlet when a bullet through the windshield of her car ruins her face and turns her into an invisible monster in the eyes of most of society. While still in the hospital, she meets a pre-op transsexual named Brandy Alexander, who gives Shannon a new direction in life, one that chiefly revolves around pretending to be famous or wealthy people in order to steal prescription medication from open houses. Like most of the author’s works, this hyperdetailed and magically realistic narrative is accompanied by a meditation on beauty, love, and life in the superficial modern world. Palahniuk (Fight Club) explains in his introduction that when the book was originally published in 1999 as a paperback, it did not fit his true vision. This updated or remixed hardcover version includes new chapters and several clever design tricks; the chapter numbers don’t match the order in which they are read, causing the reader to hop around the pages as if reading a one-way Choose Your Own Adventure book, and several chapters are printed backward, forcing the reader to use a mirror to look at themselves while reading.
Verdict A must read for fans of the author or the original version of the book. Fans of speculative fiction or the grotesque will also enjoy the ride. [See Prepub Alert, 12/5/11.]‚ Pete Petruski, Cumberland Cty. Lib. Syst., Carlisle, PA
Pötzch, Oliver. The Dark Monk: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale. Mariner: Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2012. c.512p. tr. from German by Lee Chadeayne. ISBN 9780547807683. pap. $18. M
A priest is murdered in a small village in the Bavarian Alps and with the last of his strength he manages to scratch out a sign in the winter frost. The hangman of Schongau, his daughter, and his best friend, the town doctor, soon find themselves in a race to solve the riddle before they themselves are killed.
Verdict Once again the translator has done well by the author with this sequel to last year’s best-selling The Hangman’s Daughter, but the story seems a little more forced and less plausible than the first. Still, fans of medieval mysteries and readers who enjoyed the first book will find this an engrossing read.‚ Pam O’Sullivan, SUNY Brockport Lib.
Woods, Jonathan. A Death in Mexico. New Pulp Pr., dist. by Ingram. May 2012. 218p. ISBN 9780982843680. pap. $14.95. F
Woods (Bad Juju & Other Tales of Madness and Mayhem) spins a gritty noir tale set in San Miguel de Allende and filled with sex and a cynical detective, Insp. Hector Diaz. A gringo model working at an art school is found brutally murdered and mutilated, and Diaz suspects the well-known erotic artist Gregory Gregorovich is involved. When the dead girl’s father arrives in San Miguel to retrieve her body and then goes missing, the case turns from a random act of violence to sinister conspiracy. Diaz battles his own alcoholic tendencies, political pressure from the mayor’s office, and the (sometimes) unwanted sexual advances of female witnesses and suspects.
Verdict True to the nature of the traditional detective novel, understanding the character of Inspector Diaz is as important as the solving of the murder. Woods creates interesting and sometimes extravagant characters who play out a crime drama that Walter Mosley and James Ellroy fans will appreciate.‚ Jennifer Funk, McKendree Univ. Lib., Lebanon, IL