Fiction Previews, January 2012, Pt. 3: Shakespeare Remade and a Preston and Childs Thriller

Burdett, John. Vulture Peak. Knopf. Jan. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780307272676. $25.95; eISBN 9780307596581. THRILLER
Already previewed in Prepub Alert, 1/3/11, this work features Burdett stalwart Royal Thai Police Detective Sonchai Jitpleecheep, who’s charged with ending trafficking in human organs. That puts him up against a set of dangerous Chinese twins called the Vultures. Burdett is doing especially well in backlist and should attract lots of readers among the thriller audience. With a seven-city tour to Houston, Los Angeles, New York, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Houellebecq, Michel. The Map and the Territory. Knopf. Jan. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780307701558. $25.95; eISBN 9780307957450. LITERARY
A brilliant risk taker unafraid of being distasteful (hey, the French invented the term épater le bourgeoisie), Houellebecq has attracted critical acclaim, controversy, and an intent if not immense audience when he’s been published here. This Prix Goncourt winning‚ novel, which follows the life of artist Jed Martin, should prove more accessible. Martin launches his career with photographs detailing Michelin road maps, then does portraits depicting various professions (one sitter is a writer named Houellebecq), and helps solve a terrible crime while facing up to mortality‚ his father’s and then his own. For your smart crowd.

Jackson, Joshilyn. A Grown-Up Kind of Pretty. Grand Central. Jan. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780446582353. $24.99. lrg. prnt. CD/ Downloadable: Hachette Audio. POP FICTION
There’s a grave in the backyard, and Mosey Slocumb would like to know why. But two generations of hard-headed Slocumb women are determined to keep her from the hurtful truth. From the relentlessly popular Jackson (e.g., her Between, Georgia and gods in Alabama were back-to-back BookSense picks); great for book clubs.

Lott, Bret. Dead Low Tide. Random. Jan. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781400063758. $25; eISBN 9780679644255. MYSTERY
Best-selling author of Jewel, an Oprah Book Club pick, and a literate sort who has won Pushcart and PEN awards (among others) and served as Fulbright Senior American Scholar at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, Lott turned out a literary mystery in 1998 called The Hunt Club. Here at last is a follow-up. When Huger Dillard rows his blind father over to Landgrave Hall, SC, golf course at 2:30 in the morning so that he can practice his swing unobserved, they find a body trapped at low tide. This little venture eventually leads them to the discovery of a terrorist cell. Juicy stuff not just for upscale readers.

Marcus, Ben. The Flame Alphabet. Knopf. Jan. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780307379375. $24.95; eISBN 9780307957511. LITERARY
In Marcus’s bizarre new world, children have developed speech that is literally killing their parents (what a metaphor). When Sam flees his daughter with wife Claire, already on her deathbed, he’s pulled off the road and ushered into a government-run laboratory where scientists are trying to reintroduce nonlethal forms of speech. But the subjects are dropping like flies, and Sam determines to make a run for it and reunite with his family, regardless. A scarily off-kilter look at communication, control, and the desperate nature of love, this daring book is getting a reasonable push‚ a 35,000-copy first printing and a six-city tour to Boston, New York, Portland (ME), Portland (OR), San Francisco, and Seattle‚ and could attract a dedicated audience.

Preston, Douglas & Lincoln Child. Gideon’s Corpse. Grand Central. Jan. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9780446564373. $26.99; lrg. prnt. CD/ Downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Things don’t start out well for Gideon Crew in his second outing (after Gideon’s Sword). Colleague Reed Chalker has taken hostages and, despite Gideon’s best efforts to calm him, has already killed one; he’s then taken out by a SWAT team. It turns out that Chalker had been exposed to massive doses of radiation and was in fact part of a terrorist cell ready to set off a stolen nuclear weapon in Washington, DC, or New York. What’s worse, Gideon finds himself framed by the terrorists. All pretty terrifying and likely the perfect thriller; Preston and Childs’s novels have been debuting in the New York Times top five for the last half-dozen years.

Smith, Mark Allen. The Inquisitor: A Novel. Holt. Jan. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780805094268. $27. THRILLER
Here’s a thriller with a difference; the protagonist, aptly named Geiger, is a professional torturer with a carefully calibrated gift for recognizing when he’s being told the truth and a tendency to work by instilling fear rather than inflicting pain. Here he’s using his particular talents to save the life of a child. Whoa, too scary for me! Note that debut author Smith has worked as a screenwriter, investigative news producer, and documentary filmmaker, so he should know how to shape a story.

Snodin, David. Iago: A Novel. Holt. Jan. 2012. 464p. ISBN 9780805093704. $30. LITERARY
Why did Iago facilitate the deaths of the much-honored general he serves, known as the Moor, and his wife, Desdemona? That’s the question Annibale Malipiero, Venice’s chief inquisitor, would like answered. And it leads to other questions. Was Iago a nutcase acting alone? Is he part of an Ottoman conspiracy? What, in fact, is the nature of evil? Shakespeare took much of his material from earlier sources, and, in turn, writers have been inspired by him for centuries; two of my favorite books this year, Arthur Phillips’s The Tragedy of Arthur and Chris Adrian’s The Great Night, play off the Bard. Here’s another book that sounds richly promising‚ and Snodin, who’s helped produce Shakespeare plays (not to mention works by Austen, Dostoyevsky, and Hardy) for the BBC, should be in tune with his source. I have high hopes.

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.