Block, Lawrence. A Drop of the Hard Stuff. Mulholland: Little, Brown. May 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780316127332. $25.99.
Mulholland, Little, Brown’s new thriller imprint, enters its second month with just one book‚ but it’s a big one. Leading Block protagonist Matthew Scudder is back (after 2005’s All the Flowers Are Dying), and he’s aiming to stay sober. But when a friend from the old neighborhood is murdered‚ while trying to follow AA’s commandment to make amends, no less‚ Scudder has an investigation and serious temptation on his hands. Mulholland is all set to remind readers why this series has been so hot.

Brooks, Geraldine. Caleb’s Crossing. Viking. May. 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780670021048. $26.95. CD: Penguin Audio.
In 1665, Caleb Cheeshahteaumuck was the first Native American to graduate from Harvard College. Here, Pulitzer Prize winner Brooks imagines that as a boy Caleb was befriended by Bethia Mayfield, whose minister father wants to convert the neighboring Wampanoag and makes educating Caleb one of his goals. Bethia, herself desperate for book learning, ends up as an indentured servant in Cambridge, watching Caleb bridge two cultures. The sort of thing Brooks does best, and something I’m anticipating; with a 15-city tour.

Brown, Dale. A Time for Patriots. Morrow. May 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780061989995. $26.99. lrg. prnt.
Recession has led to severe cuts in government services, which in turn has forced citizens to band together for protection. Only the Civil Air Patrol, an auxiliary of the U.S. Air Force, is acting for the common good. In particular, the Nevada branch‚ run by Brown stalwart Patrick McLanahan and his son Bradley‚ intends to train a new generation to hunt down terrorists. Currently a mission pilot in the Civil Air Patrol, Brown should deliver some exacting details. Well, it’s certainly au courant; with a 125,000-copy first printing.

Donohue, Keith. Centuries of June. Crown. May 2011. 352p. ISBN 9780307450289. $24. eISBN 9780307450302. Download: Random Audio.
Donohue caught everyone’s attention with his fine-tuned debut, The Stolen Child, and did well with the subsequent Angels of Destruction. Here, his protagonist tries to explain why he is lying on the floor of a bathroom with a bullet in his head, but the suspects in his murder‚ eight women lying in a nearby bedroom‚ keep complicating matters. Seems darker, less whimsical, but as imaginative as Donohue’s preceding works; definitely watch.

My Pick
Haigh, Jennifer. Faith. Harper: HarperCollins. May 2011. 304p. ISBN 9780060755805. $25.99. lrg. prnt.
Haigh’s The Condition was an especially clear-eyed and sensitive portrait, rendered without sensationalism, of a young woman made an outsider by a serious medical issue. So I have high hopes for her new work, which focuses on an important and controversial topic: the recent scandals concerning child abuse by Catholic priests. At the novel’s heart is Sheila McGann, estranged from her Irish American family, who nevertheless returns home to Boston when her brother Art‚ a popular priest with a large suburban parish‚ is caught up in the scandal. She wants to defend him, but her oblivious mother, accusatory brother, and Art himself, who won’t talk straight about what has happened, all conspire against her. A real thought provoker for book clubs; with a 150,000-copy first printing and an eight-city tour to New York, Boston/New England, Connecticut, Washington DC, Pittsburgh, Denver, Milwaukee, and San Francisco.

Hamill, Pete. Tabloid City. Little, Brown. May 2011. 272p. ISBN 9780316020756. $25.99.
Strange bedfellows‚ from a tabloid editor in chief to a NYPD sergeant to an angry Iraq vet‚ are brought together by the murder of a socialite and her secretary in New York’s West Village. Classic territory for best-selling novelist and highly regarded journalist Hamill and an in-house favorite; don’t miss.

Headley, Maria Dahvana. Queen of Kings. Dutton. May 2011. NAp. ISBN 9780525952176. $25.95.
What does Cleopatra do when she discovers that her beloved Antony has killed himself? Hoping to resurrect him and save her kingdom, she strikes a bargain with the fierce warrior goddess Sekhmet and becomes‚Ķa vampire. Or, as the copy would have it, a shapeshifting immortal with a thirst for blood. What follows is a series of fierce battles in the realm of the supernatural and possibly a meditation on the power of love. However this sounds, Headley certainly has interesting credentials; she’s a playwright, founder of the Memoirists Collective, and author of the offbeat tale, The Year of Yes.

Marshall, Michael. Killer Move. Morrow. May 2011. 368p. ISBN 9780061434426. $24.99.
A Philip K. Dick Award winner whose The Intruders has been optioned by the BBC, Marshall here crafts the story of a man with a plan that he’s trying to jumpstart; why can’t he have all those nice things in life he wants? Then he gets a postcard bearing the word Modified, and his plans go seriously awry‚ people around him start dying. A nice addition to thriller collections; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

Mukherjee, Bharati. Miss New India. Houghton Harcourt. May 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780618646531. $25.
Lower-middle-class Anjali has nothing to look forward to but an arranged marriage‚ until her expat teacher notices her talent and arranges for a job in the fast-growing city of Bangalore. Now she can throw off the past‚ and her caste‚ but there’s always a price to pay for freedom. From the author of The Middleman and Other Stories, a National Book Critics Circle award winner; this should charm plenty of readers, especially those ever in love with India.

O’Brien, Edna. Saints and Sinners: Stories. Little, Brown. May 2011. 160p. ISBN 9780316122726. pap. $14.99.
A James Joyce Ulysses Medal and Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner, called one of Ireland’s ten great writers of all time by Book Club News (an interesting source), the eagle-eyed O’Brien returns with stories about family, class, the Troubles, our indelible sense of failure, and a librarian awaiting a great poet at a Dublin hotel. On May 25, 2011, NPR will broadcast a program of these stories, introduced by O’Brien and read by various actors, from Symphony Space in New York. Get it unless your crowd reads only the most commercial stuff.

Prose, Francine. My New American Life. Harper: HarperCollins. May 2011. 320p. ISBN 9780061713767. $25.99.
Trust the admired Prose, former president of the PEN American Center, to take on a thorny topic‚ in the age of immigrants, what it means to be an American‚ with dark wit, certain irony, and icy cool. Lula, a 26-year-old Albanian in New York whose tourist visa is about to expire, lucks into a job tending an out-of-control high school senior in suburban New Jersey. Her employer even gets a top lawyer to smooth over her immigration problems, assuming that she has fled the Balkan wars. All’s well with Lula‚ until some Albanian brothers show up, wanting to bask in the glow of her new American life. Can’t wait to read this one, which just hit my desk; with a 50,000-copy first printing (not more?). Here’s Prose reading an excerpt.

Winspear, Jacqueline. A Lesson in Secrets: A Maisie Dobbs Novel. Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2011. 336p. ISBN 9780061727672. $25.99.
They tried to sneak the latest Maisie Dobbs mystery by me (it’s a March publication), but no such luck. In her latest outing, Maisie goes undercover for Scotland Yard and the Secret Service, looking for antigovernment activity. She’s posing as a junior lecturer at a private college in Cambridge when the murder of the pacifist founder/principal takes her investigation in a whole new direction. Winspear has claimed the Agatha, Macavity, Alexander, and Sue Feder awards, and she keeps getting bigger; her last three novels were all New York Times best sellers. With a six-city tour to Ann Arbor, Houston, Los Angeles, Petosky (MI), Phoenix, and San Francisco and a 100,000-copy first printing. I love Maisie!

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.