Fiction: Black, Cantero, Chase, Clayton, Drew, Huntley, Jewel, Leigh, McKay, and Williams | Xpress Reviews

Week ending June 16, 2017

Black, Saul. LoveMurder. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2017. 352p. ISBN 9781250057419. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466861169. F
Det. Valerie Hart put away the beautiful, seductive Katherine Glass for six murders, but she was left on edge because Katherine’s partner hadn’t been caught. Now, six years later, Valerie is lured to a crime scene by a letter addressed to her from the accomplice, dubbed the “Man in the Mask.” The letter urges Valerie to work with Katherine to decipher a series of clues to the next victim’s identity. This case pushes Valerie to her limits not only as she navigates Katherine’s manipulative yet highly educated mind but also as she realizes that this case may endanger her family and threaten her relationship with fellow officer Nick Blaskovitch.
Verdict In his second novel to feature Valerie Hart (after The Killing Lessons), Black spins a poetic and enthralling tale of love and psychotic serial killers. The relationship between detective and killer is reminiscent of Chelsea Cain’s Heartsick and Thomas Harris’s Hannibal Lecter series. [See Prepub Alert, 1/23/17.]—Natalie Browning, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond

starred review starCantero, Edgar. Meddling Kids. Doubleday. Jul. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780385541992. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542005. F
What if four teenage detectives (and their dog) had unwittingly stumbled upon a supernatural mystery that left them unable to cope with adult life? This is the premise of Cantero’s (The Supernatural Enhancements) delightfully entertaining new novel. When the Blyton Summer Detective Club members were adolescents, they went to a “haunted” mansion near the Zoinx River and captured a man in a costume. Now, 13 years later, the four friends realize that the mansion was truly haunted and are convinced they need to return, with a descendant of the original dog, to discover the truth. The adventures begin and the danger builds, from encountering nightmare creatures in the dark to exploring abandoned mines and confronting the mansion and its devilish history. Cantero’s playful writing, such as providing camera directions and altering the presentation of the dialog to mimic a script, makes reading this novel even more enjoyable.
Verdict: No Mystery Machine needed here. This story will have readers riding on the edge of their seats as the thrills and danger increase to the frightening climax. Highly recommended for fans of Scooby-Doo and stories in the Lovecraftian realm. [See Prepub Alert, 1/18/17.]—Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

Chase, Eve. The Wildling Sisters. Putnam. Jul. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780399174131. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780698191471. F
The past and present collide in Chase’s (Black Rabbit Hall) latest. Fifteen-year-old Margot and her three sisters spend the summer of 1959 at Applecote Manor, the sprawling country home belonging to their aunt and uncle. The girls’ cousin, Audrey, vanished from Applecote five years before, devastating her parents. Under the watchful eyes of her aunt and uncle, Margot immerses herself in Audrey’s life at Applecote and the secrets surrounding her disappearance. What Margot uncovers that summer will haunt her for decades. Now, Applecote is the new home of Jesse, her husband, and their daughters. The couple see the manor as an opportunity to leave behind their busy lives in London and as a fresh start for Jesse’s teenage stepdaughter, Bella. As they settle into the house and their new country life, Jesse and Bella each begin to piece together Audrey’s story.
Verdict Applecote’s shabby glamour and dark atmosphere make for an electric setting for this tale of domestic suspense. Recommended for readers of Miranda Beverly-Whittemore, Megan Abbott, and Jeffrey Eugenides’s The Virgin Suicides. [See Prepub Alert, 2/13/17; a July LibraryReads pick.]—Emily Hamstra, Seattle

Clayton, Alice. Buns. Gallery: S. & S. (Hudson Valley, Bk. 3). May 2017. 336p. ISBN 9781501118173. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781501118197. EROTICA
After five and a half years as the star consultant of her branding agency, Clara Morgan finally sees the “corporate partner” title on her horizon. She’s well on her way, if she excels with the Bryant Mountain House renovation. An obstacle soon arrives in the very stern, very fit form of resort owner Archie Bryant, a staunch lover of Bryant tradition. Archie’s protective nature over his family business clashes with Clara’s grand plans for innovation. But their combative first impressions set the scene for an explosive connection behind closed doors. Though there’s a deadline on their romance, Clara can’t help but feel the urge to put down roots where she’d once wanted to run. Clara’s cheeky, business-savvy attitude provides a delightful juxtaposition to Archie’s buttoned-up, old-school vibe. Clayton (Cream of the Crop) embellishes the couple’s outward misfit dynamic with sizzling complementary passion, lush descriptions of the scenic mountain landscape, and an endearing cast of familiar faces from prior “Hudson Valley” installments.
Verdict Recommended for folks seeking a whip-smart erotic romance with nuance and naughtiness. Series fans will not be disappointed.—Ashleigh Williams, School Library Journal

Drew, Alan. Shadow Man. Random. Jun. 2017. 368p. ISBN 9781400067800. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812989380. F
There’s been a killing in Rancho Santa Elena, CA, with a woman strangled in her home. Called to the scene is Ben Wade, a former LAPD detective who had returned to his hometown to escape hectic city life. It soon becomes apparent that the quaint town, where people know one another by name and leave their doors unlocked, has a serial killer on the loose. A second death, an apparent teen suicide, sends Ben reeling, as the young boy had been a member of the high school swim team that Ben once belonged to. Now Ben must revisit a past that he would rather forget. He also must come to grips with knowing his ex-wife is involved with someone else and his daughter is growing up faster than he would like.
Verdict Readers expecting a crime thriller in the tradition of Michael Connelly may be disappointed. Drew (Gardens of Water) has created an in-depth character study of a flawed man. Ultimately, that is what makes this story such a success and what will engross readers. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/16.]—Nanci Milone Hill, M.G. Parker Memorial Lib., Dracut, MA

Huntley, Swan. The Goddesses. Doubleday. Jul. 2017. 320p. ISBN 9780385542210. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542227. F
The Murphys relocated from San Diego to Kona, HI, for a fresh start. Chuck had cheated on Nancy, and their twin boys have been acting out a bit beyond ordinary teenage pranks. At first Hawaii is paradise and life is good—almost romantic again. Then Nancy begins yoga lessons with the charismatic and fascinating Ana. The more Nancy sees of Ana, the more she is pulled away from Chuck and the twins. Ana insinuates herself into Nancy’s life with a grasp that won’t release. Can she break away from Ana? Can Nancy still save her marriage? Can you really ever go home again?
Verdict Resonating well among the current rash of psychological thrillers, Huntley’s (We Could Be Beautiful) compelling page-turner of control and manipulation will hit just the right notes for readers who love Paula Hawkins, Maria Semple, and Ruth Ware. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/17.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

Jewel, Bella. The Watcher. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. Jun. 2107. 304p. ISBN 9781250108388. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9681250108395. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Marlie Jacobson just wants to get away from the notoriety of her escape seven years ago from a sadistic serial killer (thanks to the best seller her greedy mother wrote about the ordeal). Now, she is joining with world-renowned investigator Kenai Michelson on the hunt for her sister, who’s been snatched by someone with the same MO. The only problem is that Marlie killed her abductor back then, so this must be a copycat—but how does the person know so much about the original murders? Although Marlie starts out as a bit immature and displays some extremely naïve “Gothic heroine” moments, she comes into her own eventually and helps save the day, but savvy readers will figure things out about half way through the story.
Verdict Grim, gruesome, and rather terrifying, this thriller moves at a rapid clip and makes good use of chilling flashbacks to Marlie’s kidnapping. The language and the first-person narrative give it a new adult vibe, with appeal to both the NA and YA markets. Jewel (72 Hours) lives in Queensland, Australia.—Kristin Ramsdell, Libn. Emerita, California State Univ.–East Bay

Leigh, Eva. From Duke Till Dawn. Avon. (London Underground, Bk. 1). Jun. 2017. 372p. ISBN 9780062499417. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062499424. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Alexander Lewis, Duke of Greyland, has just been jilted by Lady Emmeline. Rather than crestfallen, he is numb: another woman has found him wanting. Yet the lovely Mrs. Blair, who left in the middle of the night two years ago in Cheltenham, dealt him a bigger blow. Now, could that really be she, working in the floating gaming hell he was dragged to by his friends? Cassandra feared London would present the risk of running into Alex, but when Martin Hughes asked her to join him for one last scheme—just encouraging rich folks to gamble perhaps more than they intended to—it seemed the right ploy to set herself up and never have to look poverty in the eye again. She’ll avoid Alex and then be gone. But Alex overhears Martin discussing their plans, and now Martin has run off with all the money, leaving Cassandra holding the bag and confronting a furious duke.
Verdict Leigh’s (Temptations of a Wallflower) new series opener casts an eerie glow on the denizens of London’s criminal class, letting one of its own become the answer to a duke’s stolid life of propriety. Strange bedfellows indeed, with heat in abundance. Readers will enjoy watching these two overcome enormous barriers to find happiness. For most romance collections.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

McKay, Ami. The Witches of New York. Harper. Jul. 2017. 576p. ISBN 9780062359926. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062359933. F
In her latest novel, McKay (The Virgin Cure; The Birth House) envelopes readers in 1880s New York with its hotbed of spiritualism, women battling for equal rights, and new inventions. In this world, demons and dearlies (fairies) walk among humans, planting ideas and seeking mortals with magical gifts. Both sides are focused on teenage Beatrice, who has recently arrived in the city and discovered her supernatural abilities. Beatrice finds allies and tutors in Adelaide and Eleanor, the proprietresses of Tea & Sympathy, a tea shop that covertly aids women in their many needs. Adelaide is a mentalist, Eleanor mixes herbal remedies, and Beatrice can see and speak with ghosts. With an evil minister purging the city of witches, danger abounds for the trio. Many questions are left unanswered, and it appears there may be future tales of these three companions. Unfortunately, the use of multiple story lines, newspaper articles, and excerpts from books, while intriguing, ultimately causes the reader to feel disconnected from the tale.
Verdict Moving beyond historical fiction as it delves into incredible magic and dangerous supernaturalism, this title will appeal to fans of McKay’s prior works or those who enjoy unearthly tales grounded in historical events.—Katie Lawrence, Grand Rapids, MI

Williams, Beatriz. Cocoa Beach. Morrow. Jul. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062404985. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780062405005. F
During World War I, Virginia Fortescue escaped her New York City life by driving a Red Cross ambulance through combat zones in France. While picking up a new group of wounded soldiers, Virginia met the kindhearted and handsome Dr. Simon Fitzwilliam, and their bumpy relationship began. Only five years later, in 1922, Virginia, with her three-year-old daughter, Evelyn, arrives in Cocoa Beach, FL, to settle her estranged husband’s estate and finds herself inspecting the shipping business and the ruins of a plantation home she’s just inherited from him. Unconvinced that Simon had died in the fire that destroyed the house, Virginia sets out to investigate. With more exterior action than interior introspection, Williams’s (A Certain Age) latest novel feels less engaged in emotional relationships and more focused on the impact of World War I and Prohibition. Given the multiple criss-crossing story lines, the neatly tied-up conclusion is especially impressive.
Verdict The historical details will draw fans of PBS Masterpiece period dramas; it’s also a great choice for readers wanting a book long enough to be taken on vacation but easy enough to read that it can be enjoyed in short bursts of concentration. [See Prepub Alert, 1/16/17.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH

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