Fiction from Atkins, Block, Kramer, Moore, Wilson, & Debuter Pashley | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 14, 2015

Atkins, Ace. The Redeemers: A Quinn Colson Novel. Putnam. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780399173943. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698190627. F
Atkins’s series about an Army Ranger–turned–Mississippi county sheriff has quickly developed into one of the better ones in contemporary crime writing, and this fifth entry (after The Forsaken) won’t disappoint series fans. Quinn now finds himself voted out of office, but he still sticks with his plans to bring down a local crime boss. When the new sheriff is killed during an investigation of a break-in, Quinn is asked to help on the case while juggling his family life. Complicating matters is the ex-girlfriend who has reentered his life. As usual, Atkins imbues Colson with a strong sense of honor that makes him a likable hero, while also creating believable villains. The author skillfully ties the multiple story lines together through solid pacing and clear writing. There’s also a fair bit of action, but the characters are what make this a nice addition to an excellent series.
Verdict Quinn is an easy protagonist to root for, and Atkins does a great job using the Mississippi setting to full advantage. [See Prepub Alert, 2/2/15.]—Craig L. Shufelt, Fort Erie P.L., Ont.

Block, Lawrence. The Girl with the Deep Blue Eyes. Hard Case Crime. Sept. 2015. 240p. ISBN 9781783297504. $22.99; ebk. available. F
Doak Miller retired from the NYPD three years ago, moved to Florida, and established himself as a PI for hire. His latest gig for the local sheriff’s office has Doak playing the role of a New Jersey hit man. The cops have been tipped off that Lisa Otterbein, a disgruntled wife, is looking to have her rich husband bumped off. But Doak’s plans go awry after he sees a photo of Lisa and falls instantly and passionately in love. Their meeting ignites the beginning of their twisted, psychosexual relationship, which evolves into a plot to murder Lisa’s husband.
Verdict Block’s (The Girl with the Long Green Heart) ninth contribution to Hard Case Crime’s lineup of classic and contemporary pulp fiction is less a crime thriller and more an examination of one extremely troubled and disturbed man. Rife with numerous and explicit sexual scenes, some of them violent, this is crime fiction at its most vulgar. Only for fans of the publisher and readers who like sexually graphic hard-boiled fiction.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

Kramer, Kieran. Trouble When You Walked In. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. Aug. 2015. c.384p. ISBN 9781250009937. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466805569. ROMANCE
Cissie Rogers has always been shy, reserved, and a book lover—natural traits for a small-town librarian. She dreams of her soul mate walking through the library doors to sweep her off her feet, but instead she gets Mayor Boone Braddock—handsome, charming, and completely ignorant of her existence—coming to tell her that her beloved library will be moved to a strip mall. Embarking on a quest to save the old building, Cissie decides to run against Boone for mayor, a challenge that leads her straight into his arms. Boone believes he’s doing what’s best for the town, but when the local librarian makes a stand against change, he knows he’ll have his work cut out for him, especially when tragic events cause them to live together under his spacious roof. As things heat up between them, local politics, family secrets, and an Election Day scandal will threaten not just Boone’s reelection but his chance with the woman of his dreams.
Verdict A fun, enthralling, and very enjoyable read, featuring likable characters, multiple steamy scenes, and small-town drama sprinkled with humor. Recommended for all romance fans.—J. Harris, New Hampshire

Moore, Christopher. Secondhand Souls. Morrow. Aug. 2015. 352p. ISBN 9780061779787. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062355348. F
Charlie Asher, widowed father, death merchant, beta male, is back. One year following his heroic death fighting harpies and saving San Francisco from the forces of darkness (A Dirty Job), Charlie finds his soul trapped in a 14-inch-tall body that looks like something out of a nightmare. Meanwhile, his sister Cassie and her wife are raising his young daughter, Sophie, who may be the living embodiment of Death. However, Sophie’s protective hellhounds have disappeared, the deadly Morrigan are back, the souls of the dead go uncollected, and a man dressed in yellow seems to be everywhere, causing mayhem. Charlie needs a new body before he can reveal his not-dead state to his friends and family, figure out if Sophie can still kill with one little word, and save the day.
Verdict Moore has written a solid and darkly funny sequel that will delight fans as they catch up with familiar characters and follow Charlie and his friends through another adventure. Expect demand from Moore devotees, and have the previous book ready for new readers, too. What’s more, the cover glows in the dark, and who could resist that? [See Prepub Alert, 2/9/15.]—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA

Pashley, Jennifer. The Scamp. Tin House. Aug. 2015. 416p. ISBN 9781941040119. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781941040126. F
[DEBUT] The Scamp is a small white camper marked with a swirl of orange. It could be Rayelle Reed’s haven or a gateway to hell. At 23, Rayelle has seen too much, is mired in depression, and numbing her pain with alcohol and anonymous sex. Scamp’s owner is Couper Gale, a writer investigating stories of missing girls, stories that circle back to Rayelle’s family. Her cousin Khaki left town years ago, carrying her own scars and leaving a trail of destruction behind her. The cousins share the narration, their stories swirling around, crossing memories, and uncovering the lies they’ve told and been told. Couper pulls Rayelle in, but is he using her, saving her, or risking her life for a book deal? They will find Khaki but what about redemption?
Verdict First novelist Pashley has won awards for her short fiction, and she’ll be attracting attention with this unrelentingly gritty book. Fans of darker fiction have a new author to follow.—Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC

starred review starWilson, Carter. The Comfort of Black. Oceanview. Aug. 2015. 272p. ISBN 9781608091294. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781608091478. F
comfortofblack081415Within a matter of days, Hannah Parks’s privileged life is completely upended. Having overcome a tumultuous childhood, Hannah is now the wife of a millionaire technology mogul in Seattle. However, the anger and rage of a violent and deadly past have never really left her. Sudden questions about her husband and the state of her marriage rapidly lead to her kidnapping. A charismatic stranger named Black is in charge of making her disappear, but even he begins to have issues with the master plan of Hannah’s captors. As part of the scenario, Hannah has been branded a fugitive, so she must piece together what’s happening while on the run with Black.
Verdict Wilson’s (Final Crossing; The Boy in the Woods) third novel takes off at breakneck speed and doesn’t stop until its jolting conclusion. Gritty, unflinching, and sometimes violent, this thriller is reminiscent of Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and the television series The Equalizer. The characters are intriguing and the writing deliciously descriptive. Adrenaline junkies and fans of darker crime fiction will take to this book, which is compelling and exciting enough to be read in one sitting.—Nicole A. Cooke, GSLIS, Univ. of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

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