Fiction from Boyett & Mitchroney, Ephron, Grant, Maron, and Oates | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 26, 2017

Boyett, Steven R. & Ken Mitchroney. Fata Morgana. Blackstone. Jun. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9781504757447. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781470852658. SF
Writer Boyett (Ariel) and film and TV director Mitchroney have coauthored a war story and a romance that spans space and time. Capt. Joe Farley and his crew are flying a bombing mission over eastern Germany in 1943 when they are sucked into a vortex that lands them on another world that has also been devastated by wars of its own. Farley and his men are caught between the two remaining civilizations, both of which want his bomber to help them in their military efforts. As the team struggle to find a footing, they’re also still determined to make it back to their own universe. Farley’s quest is complicated by Wennda, daughter of a powerful commander and the woman he’s destined to love.
Verdict The mix of sf, action, and romance is all there, but the characterizations are a bit thin and the pacing sometimes uneven. Still, there’s a lot to engage readers who enjoy their sf mixed with alternative history.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI

Ephron, Hallie. You’ll Never Know, Dear. Morrow. Jun. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780062473615. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062473646. F
Welcome to Bonsecours, SC, a charming town where Ms. Sorrell is famous for her made-to-order, highly collectible porcelain dolls. Yet even after all these years, there’s a huge hole in the heart of the Sorrell family owing to the disappearance of four-year-old Janey, the youngest daughter. Janey was abducted from the family’s front lawn while she was under the care of big sister Lissie. Four decades later, Lissie, now divorced and back in Bonsecours, lives in her mother’s shadow, never able truly to forgive herself for that terrible day. Deep down, she doesn’t think her mother has forgiven her either. So when Janey’s look-alike doll that had vanished with her reappears at the house, the mystery of the tragedy is resurrected. Ephron’s (There Was an Old Woman) well-drawn female characters are strong and smart, and the Southern setting makes the perfect backdrop to this eerie tale. Lies, secrets, child abductions, sexual relationships, and murder add to the novel’s twists and turns.
Verdict A satisfyingly creepy read for fans of Southern gothic fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/17.]—Marianne Fitzgerald, Severna Park H.S., MD

Grant, Donna. Blaze: A Dragon Romance. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Dark Kings, Bk. 11). Jun. 2017. 396p. ISBN 9781250109552. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250109569. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Anson the Dragon King teams up with humans Kinsey and Esther to find a way inside Kyvor Corporation. They want to unmask the evil druid at Kyvor who was responsible for manipulating Kinsey’s and Esther’s minds. They have been following one of the corporation’s employees, Devon Abrams, to see if they can get her help. When they show Devon evidence of Kyvor’s misdeeds, she starts to question her role at the company. Devon and Anson, despite their better judgment, engage in wild and passionate sex. Motivated by her new attachment to Anson, Devon takes a risk by returning to the Kyvor building for answers. When Anson tries to protect Devon, Dark Fae attack him, and Devon is taken hostage. Will Anson and the Dragon Kings be able to rescue Devon, or will she become fodder for the lusts of the Dark Fae?
Verdict A very complex plotline seeks to tie up loose ends in this long-running series (Firestorm) while maintaining romantic and suspenseful thrills. The central romance, fueled by a hostage drama, plays out in glorious detail against a backdrop of multiple ongoing issues in the “Dark Kings” books. This seemingly penultimate installment creates a nice segue to a climactic end.—Henry Bankhead, San Rafael P.L., CA

starred review starMaron, Margaret. Take Out. Grand Central. Jun. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9781455567355. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781455567362. MYS
In her final novel, Mystery Writer of America Grand Master Maron returns to late 1990s New York City and series protagonist Lt. Sigrid Harald, last seen in 1996’s Fugitive Colors. Having come to terms with her lover Oscar Nauman’s death, Sigrid is squaring away his estate and helping to coordinate an exhibit of his paintings. Her team lands a double homicide involving two homeless men that turns to be more complicated than they expect. Both men had been poisoned with a common heart medication found in the takeout food at the scene. The first victim is identified as Matty Mutone, who is connected to a mob family who has long lived in the neighborhood. The second man is harder to track down, but once his identity is known, the case breaks open. Meanwhile, Sigrid is finding closure in her own grief and dealing with the potential for an unexpected heir to Oscar’s estate.
Verdict Maron’s series finale and last book ends her distinguished writing career on a high note. Her many fans will enjoy this while wiping away tears of farewell. [See Prepub Alert, 1/4/17.]—Kristen Stewart, Pearland Lib., Brazoria Cty. Lib. Syst., TX

Oates, Joyce Carol. DIS MEM BER and Other Stories of Mystery and Suspense. Mysterious. Jun. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9780802126528. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802189585. F
In her latest short story collection, Oates (A Book of American Martyrs; Jack of Spades) uses her characters’ thoughts to explore the frightening undercurrents of chaos and misogynistic violence that lie beneath the normal world. The women in these stories try to fight back or escape but are treated violently, their needs ignored, dismissed. Each story begins as a crime that quickly crosses into the territory of horror and madness. This is certainly the case in “The Crawl Space” (winner of the 2016 Bram Stoker Award). Brianna feels compelled repeatedly to revisit the house she shared with her abusive husband. What force draws her? Why are the current owners so eager for her to see the cramped dark crawl space in the basement? In “The Drowned Girl,” narrator Alida investigates the murder of a student found drowned in a water tank. But, she says, the worst thing is not the murder/rape but that “no one will ever be arrested…. Nothing will ever be resolved….” Most important, Alida knows something terrible will happen again. And again and again, as these dark stories reveal.
Verdict Short story collections can be a hard sell, but readers who like the dark psychology of Patricia Highsmith or Hilary Mantel will find these tales compelling.—Susanne Lohkamp, Multnomah Cty. Lib., Portland, OR

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