Week ending August 30, 2013
Finnigan, Judy. Eloise. Redhook: Hachette. Sept. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780316399548. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781847445513. F
Cathy begins to have disturbing, ghostly dreams after her best friend Eloise dies from breast cancer. In these dreams Eloise says she was murdered and that her two daughters are at risk from her angry, unstable husband. Cathy has a history of depression, so when she tells her psychiatrist husband about her dreams, he’s sure she’s going over the edge again and gives her more drugs. But Cathy can’t let go of her obsession and is convinced that Eloise is urging her to save her children from grave danger. Despite nearly destroying her own family, she lurches forward to learn the truth and help her friend rest in peace.
Verdict Set along the romantic, rain-lashed coast of Cornwall, this debut novel has all the mystery, menace, and intrigue of Daphne du Maurier’s best works. Finnigan’s remarkably polished gothic tale is a classic page-turner, filled with all the deeply atmospheric, creepy, and haunting elements that readers of gothic fiction love, with a contemporary twist. Moreover, it’s a thoughtful meditation on grief, motherhood, family, and friendship. [Finnigan is a British television host and cofounder of the Richard and Judy Book Club.—Ed.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA
Keller, Julia. Bitter River. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Bell Elkins, Bk. 2). Sept. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781250003492. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250022455. MYS
Keller’s follow-up to A Killing in the Hills finds Ackers Gap, WV, prosecuting attorney Bell Elkins in something of a holding pattern. She’s in a secret, casual relationship with a much younger man; her beloved daughter is living in Washington, DC, with Bell’s ex-husband and his girlfriend; and Bell’s still fighting the good fight against the prescription drug abuse that’s destroying good men and women in her hometown. Then the body of a bright, beautiful, pregnant teenage girl is found in the river and evidence shows she was strangled first. Keller handles the main plot deftly, juggling suspects and motives with confidence and dexterity until the final reveal. Unfortunately, a somewhat ludicrous subplot involving an Iraqi terrorist and an old friend of Bell’s defies credibility.
Verdict Even an imperfect Keller novel is still well worth readers’ time. Recommend to mystery lovers who enjoy richly drawn settings and whip-smart heroines.—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal
Poverman, C.E. Love by Drowning. El Léon Literary Arts. Aug. 2013. 398p. ISBN 9780983391968. pap. $24.95. F
The volatile bond between two brothers and the mysterious woman who consumes their lives drive Poverman’s superb fifth novel (My Father in Dreams). Val and Davis Martin, long separated by circumstance and the crushing weight of paternal expectation, have reunited in North Carolina to assist in a marlin fishing tournament. After shady dealings in Miami, Davis is accompanied by his girlfriend Lee Anne, a hairstylist who reads Chaucer. But a small act of betrayal leads to tragedy in the water and Davis dies during the competition. Seventeen years later, Val has reemerged in Arizona as an art teacher with a wife and sullen teenager but is still receiving postcards from Lee Anne with cryptic messages such as, “I forgive you nothing.” As if by fate, Val finds himself caught in a tangled web of revenge and murder as Lee Anne, a woman of no compunction and no past, lures him in.
Verdict Deftly blending the lyricism of literary fiction (featuring some of the most vivid descriptions of fishing this side of Hemingway) with the spareness of noir, Poverman has fashioned an acutely intelligent psychological thriller that will keep readers as off-balance as his protagonist.—Michael Pucci, South Orange P.L., NJ