Week ending August 15, 2014
Adler-Olsen, Jussi. The Marco Effect: A Department Q Novel. Dutton. Sept. 2014. 496p. tr. from Danish by Martin Aitken. ISBN 9780525954026. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698161368. F
A government official and a Copenhagen bank manager have hatched a scheme to bail out a struggling bank by diverting funds intended for an African aid project. William Stark, a government employee, becomes suspicious of the project and is sent to Africa to investigate, but soon disappears. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Marco Jameson dreams of going to school but is instead forced to lead a life of crime by his ruthless uncle Zola. When Marco finally runs away, he discovers a body buried near their home. Marco hides from his clan and struggles to figure out how to alert the police without revealing himself as an illegal immigrant. As Carl Mørck and the Department Q team seek to find the truth behind Stark’s disappearance, they soon discover that their case involves more than a missing person.
Verdict The fifth book (after The Purity of Vengeance) in this Scandinavian crime series has enough twists and turns to keep readers enthralled in nail-biting suspense. The fast pace, intricate plot, and gritty style will appeal to fans of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch mysteries. [See Prepub Alert, 3/24/14.]—Portia Kapraun, Monticello-Union Twp. P.L., IN
Gannon, Charles E. Trial by Fire. Baen. (Caine Riordan, Bk. 2). Aug. 2014. 640p. ISBN 9781476736648. pap. $15. SF
In violation of the Accords signed by the sentient species of known space, two alien cultures have gone to war with humanity. Attacking us in space in a battle that self-consciously echoes Pearl Harbor and then bringing the battle to Earth, the insectile Arat Kur and the sloth-like Hkh’Rkh each have their own reasons for wanting war. Diplomat Caine Riordan finds himself in the middle of the conflict, and only human ingenuity (and deviousness) will save our planet.
Verdict Military sf fans should love this series (which started with 2013’s Fire with Fire) that combines intense action and well-plotted tactical engagements. Caine is a character who would be easy to mock, seeing as he is good at everything, but he manages still to be appealing. Suggest to fans of Baen’s many military sf writers like David Weber and John Ringo, or those who enjoy Jack Campbell’s “Lost Fleet” series.—Megan M. McArdle, San Diego
Kellerman, Jonathan & Jesse Kellerman. The Golem of Hollywood. Putnam. Sept. 2014. 560p. ISBN 9780399162367. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101597163. F
Crunching Los Angeles traffic numbers is just fine for Jacob Lev. Though only 30 years old, the former homicide detective is burned out but learns he is being pulled to work a murder for the Special Projects unit. Arriving at the scene, Jacob discovers a severed head and no sign of the body. The Hebrew word for justice has been burned into the kitchen counter, and the victim’s DNA matches that of a famous serial killer. Soon Jacob finds himself thrust into an investigation that challenges his ideas about Judaism and reconnects him with the Jewish mysticism of his childhood.
Verdict Simultaneously a police whodunit and a supernatural thriller, this novel alternates between modern-day L.A. and a fictionalized account of the biblical story of Cain and Abel. With too many subplots, this work by the Kellermans (father and son) leaves many questions unanswered and fails to make credible connections. The writing style may appeal to readers of Michael Connelly, but it seems unlikely anyone looking for religiously themed fiction will find satisfaction in this book. On the other hand, fans of Jonathan (Alex Delaware series) and Jesse (The Genius) may be curious. [See Prepub Alert, 3/17/14.]—Vicki Briner, Westminster, CO
Meyers, Randy Susan. Accidents of Marriage. Atria. Sept. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781451673043. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781451673067. F
In Meyers’s third novel (after The Murderer’s Daughters and The Comfort of Lies), Maddy, a social worker who works with abused women, has spent years trying to cope with her husband Ben’s anger. Their three children often witness their discord. Then one rainy morning when Ben, a competitive public defender, is driving Maddy to work on a busy Boston road, his road rage results in a terrible accident. When Ben comes to, Maddy is not in sight. She was thrown from the car and after brain surgery will spend weeks in the hospital. Ben faces possible jail time. Barely coping with the daily needs of his children, his world falls apart. Daughter Emma, at age 14, becomes the de facto mother and starts taking Ritalin for kicks. Even after Maddy comes home from rehab, the family remains in crisis. Ben tells the children not to tell Maddy the details of the accident. Eventually that secret and others come out, pushing the marriage toward total meltdown.
Verdict In successive, sensitively written chapters, Ben, Maddy, and Emma pour out their heartache and despair, eliciting compassion and high hopes from caring readers.—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston
Riordan, J.F. North of the Tension Line. Beaufort. Sept. 2014. 350p. ISBN 9780825307348. $24.95. F
Fiona Campbell is comfortable in her life in the artsy tourist town of Ephraim, WI, though she has always felt a pull to Washington Island, located on the furthest tip of the Door County peninsula. Washington Island is isolated and lacking some modern amenities, including cell service, large grocery stores, and shopping malls. Accustomed to her pricey Italian sandals, single-malt scotch, and the hubbub of city life, Fiona accepts a dare that she cannot live for a year on the island, especially during its brutal winter. On a whim, she accepts the challenge and moves into an old house there. She encounters a variety of domestic and wild animals, including one that can “talk”; a disgruntled neighbor; a ghost story; the politics of small-town life; and, in the end, love. Riordan uses a lot of exposition and repetition in this slow, slightly unbelievable debut. The characters are underdeveloped, leaving the reader to doubt the decisions that they make in the end.
Verdict The novel is flat, with a slow-moving plot, complete with an anticlimactic ending.—Erin Holt, Williamson Cty. P.L., Franklin, TN
Stanley, Kelli. City of Ghosts. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. (Miranda Corbie Mysteries, Bk. 3). Aug. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781250006745. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250018052. MYS
It’s 1940, and France is falling to the Nazis. In San Francisco, there’s a knock on Miranda Corbie’s door and in walks an incredibly handsome federal agent with a secret assignment for the exhausted gumshoe, a girl with a past and a lot to prove. In her third outing (after City of Dragons and City of Secrets), the former Spanish Civil War Red Cross nurse and ex-escort is asked by the State Department to investigate whether a chemistry professor is selling secrets to the Nazi. Her probe quickly leads to an illegal art ring involving art looted from conquered European countries. Following the ring takes Miranda from San Francisco’s notorious Treasure Island resort, through sordid Chinatown alleys, to a costume ball at the German consulate and on board the luxurious City of San Francisco streamliner.
Verdict While seeking to redefine “noir” with her mysteries, Stanley has kept the traditional Forties glamour, dark and dangerous shadows, salty language, and fast-moving action, yet her descriptions of San Francisco read like poetry. Fans of noir fiction and historical mysteries set during World War II will enjoy her latest book.—Cheryl Bryan, Orleans, MA