Fiction Previews: January 2012, Pt. 2: From Jayne Ann Krentz to Guy Vanderhaeghe

Boudinot, Ryan. Blueprints of the Afterlife. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Jan. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780802170910. pap. $14. LITERARY
Boudinot’s well-received debut story collection was called The Littlest Hitler; in his PEN/USA-nominated debut novel, Misconception, a man vets his high school girlfriend’s memoir of their affair. So the author has a definite sense of weird. In his post-apocalyptic second novel, human nervous systems can be hacked and people are manipulated by a shadowy someone as a replica of wiped-out Manhattan arises in the Puget Sound. Investigate for sf and whimsy fans.

Carrisi, Donato. The Whisperer. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Jan. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780316194723. $25.99. THRILLER
Six severed arms. Six missing girls. When tradition-minded criminologist Goran Gavila is asked to find the girls, dead or alive, he’s paired with Officer Mila Vasquez, a rule breaker with a talent for cases involving missing children. Only this case turns out to be not so straightforward. Rome-based first novelist Carrisi, who has studied law and criminology but now writes screenplays, has delivered an international best seller. Sounds promising.

Cook, Robin. Death Benefit. Putnam. Jan. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780399157462. $26.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
Natalie Savondnik and Ronald Goodall are hard-working medical residents doing diabetes research with the top scientist at their hospital. When he dies suddenly, they’re perplexed‚ and even more perplexed when a little research shows that the death wasn’t natural. It seems that someone with a mind for money is manipulating life-insurance information to benefit investors. Cook’s latest was deemed fascinating by LJ‘s reviewer, and doubtless medical thriller fans will want.

Griffin, W.E.B. & William E. Butterworth IV. Covert Warriors: A Presidential Agent Novel. Putnam. Jan. 2012. 512p. ISBN 9780399157806. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
Venezuela is looking more and more threatening, with the Chinese training its special forces and the Russians helping it build a nuclear power plant. When Charley Castillo and his crew go take a look, they find the situation even more dangerous than they’d anticipated. They also find themselves on everyone’s hit list. Once more, into the breach with Griffin and Son.

Krentz, Jayne Ann. Copper Beach: A Dark Legacy Novel. Putnam. Jan. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780399157875. $25.95. PARANORMAL
Abby Radwell is a rare-books expert, which would not seem like risky business‚ except that her psychic abilities keep landing her in trouble. Now, dealing with both a blackmailer and a killer with paranormal tendencies, she’s hired a specialist in paranormal crystals and amber who can do double duty as a bodyguard. A stand-alone fans will want.

Mercier, Pascal. Pearlmann’s Silence. Grove. Jan. 2012. 624p. ISBN 9780802119575. $25. LITERARY
Remember Night Train to Lisbon? It sold millions throughout Europe and was a San Francisco Chronicle and a Los Angeles Times best seller as well. Mercier’s new work features linguist Philipp Perlmann, on the verge of presenting a speech to a gathering of colleagues near Genoa and also on the verge of a nervous breakdown; he’s still mourning the death of his wife and unable to write his speech. So he plagiarizes the work of a Russian colleague‚ who unexpectedly arrives at the event. That’s a good setup, and the writing seems tart and to the point; certainly buy where folks liked Lisbon. With a reading group guide.

Moore, Liz. Heft. Norton. Jan. 2011. 384p. ISBN 9780393081503. $24.95. POP FICTION
At 550 pounds, Arthur Opp hasn’t left his Brooklyn home in a decade. But when a former students asks for help regarding her son, a poor boy at a school soaked in privilege, he bestirs himself. The reading group guide, reading group and Goodreads outreach, and library marketing all suggest publisher enthusiasm.

O’Connell, Carol. The Chalk Girl. Putnam. Jan. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780399157745. $25.95. MYSTERY
The little girl says that the blood on her shoulder came from the sky‚ and that her uncle has turned into a tree. In fact, there is a body in the tree, and Kathy Mallory, back in the Special Crimes Unit after three months and still feeling fragile, is the only one able to get through to the child. She discovers some truly nasty stuff going back 15 years. Important for mystery collections.

O’Malley, Daniel. The Rook. Little, Brown. Jan. 2012. 496p. ISBN 9780316098793. $25.99. THRILLER
Myfanwy Thomas wakes up in a London park with no memory but a new body and instructions left behind by her former self. Following them, she discovers that she’s a Rook, that is, a high-level operative of a shadowy agency charged with countering supernatural forces. Alas, she’s been targeted by a mole within the agency, and soon she’s up against not just especially freakish enemies but one big conspiracy. Part suspense, part dark humor, this debut is rumored to be one of those up-all-nighters.

Patterson, James & David Ellis. Guilty Wives. Little, Brown. Jan. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780316097567. $27.99. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Patterson takes us on a Monte Carlo vacation, as Abbie Elliot flees her duties as a diplomat’s wife in Zurich and heads for a wild weekend with three friends in gambling’s kingdom by the sea. There they stumble over two dead bodies and find themselves framed for murder, with a big courtroom showdown that puts their entire lives on trial. Patterson, who holds the record for number of New York Times best sellers, is joined by Edgar Award winner Ellis. Buy multiples.

Vanderhaeghe, Guy. A Good Man. Atlantic Monthly. Jan. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9780802120045. $24.95. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Vanderhaeghe’s The Last Crossing was a BookSense 76 selection, an IMPAC Dublin literary award nominee, and a multi-award winner in Canada; The Englishman’s Boy won the Governor General’s Award and the Saskatchewan Book Award. Both were Canadian best sellers, and they set the stage for this final book in a trilogy set along the U.S.-Canadian border after the Civil War. Here, Wesley Case, son of a Canadian timber baron, looks for a quiet life as a cattle rancher in Montana but instead finds himself caught between Native Americans and the U.S. and Canadian militaries. He’s also caught between the feisty widow he’s fallen for (lusciously named Ada Tarr) and her other, less rational suitor. Not just for devotees of Westerns.

Ward, Robert. The Best Bad Dream. Mysterious: Grove Atlantic. Jan. 2012. 9780802126016. $24. MYSTERY
A writer and producer for TV shows like Hill Street Blues and Miami Vice and winner of an NEA Award for an outstanding first novel (for Shredding Skin), Ward has good credentials. His latest features FBI agent Jack Harper, whose vacation is wrecked when snitch (and sometimes girlfriend) Michelle Wu asks him to come to Santa Fe and find her kidnapped sister. Unfortunately, his efforts land him in trouble with bikers, Mexican gangs, and a pet Razorback named Ole Big. Not to mention dirty secrets at a fancy spa for the elderly. A literate mystery.

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.