Fiction from Finch, Maxwell, Swanson, and Winkler | Xpress Reviews

Week ending December 29, 2017

starred review starFinch, Charles. The Woman in the Water. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Feb. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781250139467. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250139481. MYS
In this prequel to Finch’s long-standing historical series, a very young Charles Lenox is eager to prove his worth as a detective. In 1850 London, his problem is getting Scotland Yard and his friends to believe in his abilities. Lenox and his valet Graham come across an intriguing letter in one of the city’s less illustrious daily papers—a letter that brags about the commission of a perfect murder. Lenox and Graham begin to dig into the affair and soon make connections that the police did not. While Lenox has the support of the commissioner, he has become something of a joke among the Yard’s investigators. Nevertheless, he perseveres. As he works to unravel clues to prevent another murder, Lenox has to deal with unrequited love and the shocking news of his father’s failing health. Can he find the strength to pursue his dreams? Can he beat a fiendish killer at his own game?
Verdict Finch (The Inheritance) does a wonderful job of re-creating the atmosphere of mid-19th-century England; his characters are crisply drawn and believable. It’s wonderful to see the neophyte Lenox develop the skills for which he becomes renowned in later books. An excellent addition to an already terrific series. [See Prepub Alert, 8/7/17.]—Julie Ciccarelli, Tacoma P.L.

Maxwell, Cathy. If Ever I Should Love You. Avon. (Spinster Heiresses, Bk. 1). Jan. 2018. 384p. ISBN 97800626555745. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062655752. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Roman Gilchrist, the tenth Earl of Rochdale, needs a wife with a substantial dowry to pay off the ninth earl’s debts and to address the neglect of his family home, Bonhomie. In their third Season and “on the border of being unacceptable,” the three Spinster Heiresses are possibilities. Among them is Leonie Charnock, a young woman Roman knew in India years ago and whose actions negatively affected his life and his military career. Truth be told, he loved her then, and he loves her still, but Leonie wants nothing to do with Roman or marriage. As a result of the incident in her past, in order to stay in control, Leonie secretly indulges in the more than occasional sip of brandy. At the same time, Bonhomie needs more help than can be afforded by Leonie’s £50,000. Neither of them has been completely honest.
Verdict In her intriguing new series, Maxwell (A Date at the Altar) turns the trope of the flawed hero upside down by giving her heroine a drinking problem, which makes her a dubious choice for a wife or a countess. Can love conquer all? Another bewitching tale from the always reliable Maxwell.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

starred review starSwanson, Cynthia. The Glass Forest. Touchstone. Feb. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9781501172090. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781501172113. F
Twenty-one-year-old Angie Glass can’t quite get accustomed to the idea of herself as an adult, but here she is. It’s 1960, she’s newly married to the older, charming, but mysterious Paul, and she has a baby boy. Living on property inherited from her grandparents in her Wisconsin hometown, she’s ready to settle into her new family life. One phone call disrupts her dream. When Paul’s niece, Ruby, breaks shocking news of his brother’s suicide and her mother’s disappearance, Angie’s life is upended. A journey to upstate New York to rescue Ruby leads to far more complications and revelations than Angie could have anticipated. In her follow-up to The Bookseller, Swanson demonstrates her signature trait: a consistent, superbly executed sense of knife-edge disquiet, just bordering on anxiety. She maintains a fast pace without sacrificing literary quality, and multiple characters are developed with unfolding disclosures without losing their individual connections to the reader.
Verdict On the heels of a stunning debut, this outstanding psychological thriller is a triumph. Swanson is a name to be considered among the likes of Gillian Flynn, Chris Pavone, and Laura Lippman.—Julie Kane, Washington & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA

starred review starWinkler, Mark. My Name Is Nathan Lucius. Soho Crime. Feb. 2018. 304p. ISBN 9781616958824. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616958831. MYS
Nathan Lucius, 31, is a loner who lives in Cape Town, South Africa. Through a personal connection, he lands a position at a local newspaper selling advertising space to businesses. When he is not at work, Nathan drinks heavily, which leads him to suffer frequent blackouts. He forms a bond with an older woman, Madge, over the antiques that she sells, and they soon become devoted friends. Then one day Madge announces that she is dying of cancer. With no cure in sight, she asks Nathan for one last favor: to end her pain.
Verdict Making his U.S. debut with his second novel, South African author Winkler (Wasted) delivers a superb noir thriller. Readers of Chuck Palahniuk and Irvine Welsh will savor the psychological twists and turns, while aficionados of Dennis Lehane and Thomas Harris will enjoy Winkler’s exploration of the protagonist’s morality and responsibility. [See Prepub Alert, 8/28/17.]—Russell Michalak, Goldey-Beacom Coll. Lib., Wilmington, DE

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