Week ending June 15, 2012
Coes, Ben. The Last Refuge. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9781250007155. $25.99. F
A top Israeli agent has been kidnapped by Iran. Believing him dead, the Israelis embark on a wave of retribution, precipitating an international crisis. The kidnapped man is Kohl Meir, a descendant of Golda Meir and a man who once saved the life of former ranger Dewey Andreas, Coes’s series hero (Power Down; Coup d’état). Andreas does not believe Meir is dead and feels honor-bound to rescue him. The sudden death of the U.S. president makes matters more difficult as his new and untested successor decides to trust Iran. Neither the United States nor Israel will support Andreas’s rescue efforts, and, worse, there is the looming specter of an Iranian nuclear bomb.
Verdict This is a fast-paced and well-written action read. So what if the plot is predictable and Andreas is just too skilled in special ops to be totally believable; the author’s growing fan base will enjoy it. [Coes was a member of this year's LJ Day of Dialog's spy fiction panel.‚ Ed.]—Robert Conroy, Warren, MI
Faletti, Giorgio. A Pimp’s Notes. Farrar. Jul. 2012. c.336p. tr. from Italian by Antony Shugaar. ISBN 9780374231408. $27. F
Faletti’s new thriller (after I Kill) provides readers with the edgy, cinematic, and sparse language that earmarks noir fiction. It is Milan in 1978, and the activities of the Red Brigade (a terrorist group), the Mafia, and corrupt politicians dominate Italian headlines. Living under the radar is the titular protagonist Bravo, a quick thinker with a good head for business. He provides his girls’ services to the elite of Italian society until an appointment goes terribly wrong and Bravo must find the truth when he is framed. Everything in this novel is interwoven and unexpected: a lottery winning, a business deal, a vendetta, and, of course, a femme fatale. Nothing and no one are as they seem. Just as in José Latour’s Outcast, the underdog must prevail. Faletti gives justice where justice is due, and it doesn’t stop until the final page.
Verdict Fans of noir crime fiction should consider Faletti one of the rising talents of this genre. This is pure noir and one of the best this reviewer has read in a long time. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/12.]—Frances Thorsen, Chronicles of Crime Bookshop, Victoria, BC
Graeme-Evans, Posie. The Island House. Atria: S. & S. Jun. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9780743294430. pap. $16. F
This new novel by the author of The Dressmaker should come with a neon sign alerting readers for what’s in store: a complex plot alternating between present-day and first-century Scotland that’s bursting at the seams with romance, intrigue, visions from the past, Viking marauders, battles, and lost treasure. Historical detail abounds as aspiring archaeologist and doctoral student Freya Dane travels to the island of Findnar following her father’s death to discover that ancient secrets lie buried beneath her stone cottage. Graeme-Evans successfully travels between the present and the past as she brings to life an era not commonly written about and depicts the clash of three disparate religious cultures: Christianity, native Pictish beliefs, and Viking gods. The last third of the story drags and is a tad muddled; the names of new characters are confusing (Is Edor the bad guy? No, wait, maybe it’s Idorn?)
Verdict Whether a mystery, a romance, a thriller, or historical fiction, this is the perfect summer read for those who want a mix of all those genres. Lots for book groups to discuss. Reading guide included.—Julie K. Pierce, Ft. Myers‚ Lee Cty. P.L., FL
Grazer, Gigi Levangie. The After Wife. Ballantine. Jul. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780345523990. $25. F
Hannah Bernal is having a hard time putting her life back together after the untimely death of her husband, John. With a demanding job, a three-year-old daughter, and a pricey Santa Monica mortgage to pay, Hannah discovers that life does truly go on after death when a ghost strikes up a conversation with her. Unwittingly thrust into people’s private lives thanks to their relatives from beyond the grave, Hannah finds herself on the brink of losing everything as the dead send her on the path to find John’s killer.
Verdict Littered with pop culture, light humor, and a healthy dose of the supernatural, Grazer’s fourth novel is a perfect beach read for the chick lit type. Fans of The Starter Wife will be equally charmed with The After Wife. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]—Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll. Lib., Pepper Pike, OH
Hill, Gregory. East of Denver. Dutton. Jul. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780525952794. $25.95. F
Hill, winner of the 2011 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award, tells a bleak and blackly humorous tale of a heartland gone horribly wrong. Stacey Shakespeare Williams, an urban refugee from a dying rural town, returns to his family’s farm to bury a dead cat. He finds things even worse than expected. Senility has robbed his father of all but an occasional flash of his onetime mechanical brilliance, the farm is threatened by foreclosure, and the local banker has swindled away most of the farm equipment and his father’s beloved airplane. Oh, and his father’s onetime caretaker is a swollen corpse in a locked bathroom. No one is whole in dysfunctional and despairing Dorsey, CO, and there aren’t many solutions in sight. Shakes and a few local misfits make desultory plans to take revenge on the crooked banker, but this is no lighthearted crime caper.
Verdict The author’s laconic voice and clipped dialog convey the feelings of characters who doubt the value, or even the possibility, of human communication. Simply regaining that possibility may be the only victory within their reach. A bleak and sardonic tale with eccentric characters and a strong sense of place. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]—Bradley A. Scott, Corpus Christi, TX
Shaara, Jeff. A Blaze of Glory: A Novel of the Battle of Shiloh. Ballantine. Jun. 2012. c.464p. ISBN 9780345527356. $28. F
Having addressed World War II (The Steel Wave; The Rising Tide; No Less Than Victory; The Final Storm), Shaara returns to the U.S. Civil War in this first book of a new trilogy that will cover the war in the West, which here means Kentucky, Tennessee, and nearby areas. The focus is the savage bloodletting at the still controversial battle of Shiloh in 1862. Future books are planned for the battle of Vicksburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea. As always with Shaara’s military fiction, this novel is meticulously researched and brings a vivid reality to the historical events depicted. Generals and enlisted men are all fully fleshed and honestly portrayed; they are proud, vain, fearful, and brave as they fight through the horror and confusion of the battle.
Verdict Shaara admits that his books are not quite history and not quite novels. Civil War buffs and ordinary readers who enjoy history will find his latest work an informative and exciting read. [See Prepub Alert, 12/12/11.]—Robert Conroy, Warren, MI
Slaughter, Karin. Criminal. Delacorte. Jul. 2012. c.448p. ISBN 9780345528506. $27. F
In Slaughter’s (Fallen; Undone; Faithless) latest thriller, a new case involving a missing college student is connected to Agent Will Trent’s troubled past and to the brutal crime that launched his supervisor’s career almost 40 years ago. Slaughter offers hungry fans a much-desired return to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, two breakneck-speed criminal investigations to follow, and surprising character development that will leave readers breathless at the novel’s end.
Verdict Slaughter flawlessly executes a gripping crime novel while offering a nod to Atlanta’s complicated history and giving fans’ favorite series characters additional depth. Old devotees will be thrilled, and new readers will be hooked.—Colleen S. Harris, Univ. of Tennessee at Chattanooga Lib.
The Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. Harper Voyager. Jul. 2012. 336p. ed. by Ann & Jeff VanderMeer. ISBN 9780062116833. pap. $14.99. SF
The late Thackery T. Lambshead was a brilliant man and more brilliant collector. For the first time in print, readers are able to delight and discover the oddities and absurdities in Lambshead’s infamous cabinet, including histories of a variety of obscure objects, tales inspired by the cabinet itself, and glimpses of the mysterious man behind the collection. Owing to a binding agreement never to photograph the objects, illustrations are scattered throughout to complement and enhance the text.
Verdict The VanderMeers (Steampunk; Steampunk Reloaded) have joined forces once again to dip into the curious world of Thackery T. Lambshead (The Thackery T. Lambshead Pocket Guide to Eccentric and Discredited Diseases). Working with an impressive stable of sf and fantasy writers, including Holly Black, Cherie Priest, Tad Williams, and Lev Grossman, and styles ranging from short, detailed write-ups to fascinating tales of objects, the duo have created a fascinating, entertaining, and intriguing tome of sf with a dose of steampunk. While the book is a lengthy 336 pages, it is designed for casual perusing and enjoyment‚ as suggested in the introduction. This anthology would be a welcome addition to any library.—Kellie A. Tilton, Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks Lib.
Weiner, Jennifer. The Next Best Thing. Atria: S. & S. Jul. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9781451617757. $26.99. F
Ruth Saunders and her grandmother Rae have moved from suburban Boston to Los Angeles in pursuit of Ruth’s dream of writing for television. Rae has raised her granddaughter since the death of Ruth’s parents in a car accident that also left Ruth severely scarred. Now Ruth, after six years of low-level work, has finally gotten the green light to develop her own show, The Next Best Thing. Ruth struggles to work through the compromises and disappointments of running her first show. She also must decide what to do with her feelings for her mentor Dave. The relationship that develops between Ruth and Dave is realistic and potently romantic, and Weiner (Then Came You) also eloquently portrays the unique bond between Ruth and her grandmother.
Verdict Full of warm and interesting characters as well as a wealth of insider industry detail (Weiner was a cocreator of an ABC Family sitcom), this is a must-read for Weiner’s many fans and anyone who enjoys smart, funny fiction. This would also make an excellent book club book. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/12.]—Kristen Stewart, Brazoria Cty. Lib. Syst., TX
Zimler, Richard. The Seventh Gate. Overlook, dist. by Penguin Group (USA). Jun. 2012. c.448p. illus. ISBN 9781590208595. $26.95. F
Sophie Riedesel is a typical teenager, but her life of movies, bickering with her parents, and dating her boyfriend turns nightmarish when Adolf Hitler’s swift rise to power creates mistrust and fear throughout 1930s Berlin. As Sophie becomes aware of the rising tide of hatred, her sympathetic views come in direct conflict with her Nazi father’s. She finds refuge in befriending her widowed neighbor Isaac Zarco, leader of a secret resistance group called the Ring. Its members are former circus performers whose genetic physical imperfections are a target for Hitler’s eugenic policies. When a betrayal sends a member of the Ring to the newly built Dachau concentration camp, Sophie insists on helping Isaac unearth the name of the traitor while hiding behind the disguise of an obedient Hitler Youth.
Verdict Adding a touch of Jewish mysticism to his historical thriller, Zimler (The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon) excellently captures the gamut of tumultuous emotions in his intense and detailed portrait of a city destined for war, and his exceptionally drawn characters struggling to survive in a world gone mad make for an unforgettable story.—Joy Gunn, Henderson Dist. PLs, NV