Fiction Previews, February 2012, Pt. 1: Thrills from Gardner, Hayder, and Robb and Promising First Novelists

Ammaniti, Niccoló. Me and You. Black Cat: Grove Atlantic. Feb. 2011. 160p. ISBN 9780802170903. pap. $14. LITERARY
Many of us can sympathize with the quandary of 14-year-old Lorenzo. Something of a social outcast, Lorenzo tells his anxious parents that he’s been invited on the ski trip with the snooty kids, then persuades his mother to drop him off a block from the train station so that he can slip back home and live unbothered for a week in an abandoned basement in the family’s apartment building. All’s well until his obnoxious half-sister materializes. This book has been a huge best seller in Italy, and‚ here’s the rub‚ Bernardo Bertolucci is directing the film version.

Berenson, Alex. The Shadow Patrol. Putnam. Feb. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780399158292. $26.95. THRILLER
Not so long ago, a source that had promised to deliver Osama bin Laden to agents at the CIA’s Kabul station instead blew up the place. With the station still in disarray and agents still dying, high-ups suspect Taliban infiltration and send John Wells to investigate. It’s not a pretty sight‚ Wells gets wind of a drug-trafficking operation that could involve agents, the military, and the Taliban working together‚ but Edgar Award winner Berenson should deliver a good read.

Chiaverini, Jennifer. Sonoma Rose: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel. Dutton. Feb. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780525952640. $25.95. POP FICTION
Chiaverini’s quilting stories are heartwarming but can also explore difficult historical territory, as in her recent The Union Quilters. In this Prohibition-era novel, Rosa Diaz Barclay flees her violent husband and their Southern California farm with her four remaining children (another four have already succumbed to a wasting disease) and her precious family quilts. Trapped in a canyon by a flash flood, the little band is rescued by Lars Jorgenson, Rosa’s first flame and father of two of her children. Now they have to avoid Rosa’s angry husband, the gangsters Lars reported to Prohibition agents, and some inquisitive (and likely untrustworthy) police. A popular series; with a reading group guide and a ten-city tour.

Erickson, Steve. These Dreams of You. Europa. Feb. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781609450632. pap. $15. LITERARY
Attention, cognoscenti. Erickson, author of fresh, edgy, innovative works like Zeroville (James Franco bought the rights to direct and produce), offers a new novel that opens on the night of Obama’s election. Watching the TV coverage with his adopted black daughter, novelist‚ turned‚ pirate radio DJ Zan Nordhoc decides that it’s time to investigate his daughter’s origins. That journey takes him and his family back to Sixties London and Seventies Berlin and as far as Ethiopia. Not for your pop fiction crowd, but Erickson is a magical writer for readers who like smart, cool, and edgy.

Franklin-Willis, Amy. The Lost Saints of Tennessee. Atlantic Monthly. Feb. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780802120052. $25. LITERARY
Told from the perspectives of middle-aged Ezekiel Cooper and his estranged mother, Lillian, this novel details the fracturing of one working-class Southern family. Derailed by his twin brother’s drowning and his wife’s departure, Zeke leaves behind his daughters (the most beautiful proof of my ever having breathed) and heads east from Tennessee, his brother’s old dog and his copy of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn his only companions. Sheltering with cousins in Virginia, he tentatively finds love and must decide just where his life will lead. Lots of in-house enthusiasm for this debut author, winner of an Emerging Writers Grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation. Watch closely.

Gardner, Lisa. Catch Me. Dutton. Feb. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780525952763. $26.95. THRILLER
How does Charlie Grant know that she will be murdered in four days? Because at 8:00 p.m. on February 21 for the last several years, childhood friends from a small New Hampshire town have been killed, with no evident motive, and Charlie is the last one standing. Charlie wants Boston detective D.D. Wilson to handle the investigation, but in the meantime she’s preparing for a fight. And D.D. is left wondering whether this tough-minded, gun-handy woman has some secrets she’s not telling. A juicy good premise backed by a five-city tour; get multiples.

George, Alex. A Good American. Amy Einhorn: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780399157592. $25.95. CD: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Meet the Meisenheimer family, new to America and eager to fit in. And meet the offbeat characters in their little town, from the seductive schoolteacher to the mean-spirited, bicycle-riding dwarf. Englishman George, a lawyer in London for eight years until he moved to Columbia MO, where he know runs his own law firm, should have some insight into the experience of becoming an American. Likely an affecting debut, pitched big; with a reading group guide.

Hayder, Mo. Hanging Hill. Atlantic Monthly. Feb. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780802120069. $25. THRILLER
The author of dark and disturbing works that have received short-list attention (e.g., for the Crime Writers’ Association Dagger in the Library Award), Hayder turns out another stylish-sounding work featuring two sisters, one a policewoman. In Bath, England, Zoe Benedict is investigating the murder of beautiful teenager Lorne Woods, good friends with the daughter Zoe’s divorced sister, Sally. Sally serves as housekeeper for a wealthy entrepreneur who’s starting to seem pretty slimy even as Zoe uncovers evidence that model-hopeful Lorne had gotten herself mixed up in amateur porn. Hayder will keep you up at night.

Landay, William. Defending Jacob. Delacorte. Feb. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780385344227. $26; eISBN 9780345527592. THRILLER
The publisher’s big push for the season, this thriller stars Andy Barber, who’s managed nicely for 20 years as assistant district attorney of his small Massachusetts county. Then comes a case that will truly slay him: his own son, Jacob, stands accused of murder and looks very guilty indeed. Landay himself has done nicely so far‚ his first book, Mission Flats, won the Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for Best First Novel‚ but this book is being positioned as a breakout. With heavy promotion and a national tour to San Francisco, Boston, Los Angeles, Washington, DC, Seattle, Denver, and other cities upon request. Watch to see if you’ll need extras.

Moon, Elizabeth. Echoes of Betrayal: Paladin’s Legacy. Del Rey: Ballantine. Feb. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9780345508768. $26; ISBN 9780345524812. FANTASY
In this wrap-up to Nebula Award winner Moon’s Deed of Paksenarrion trilogy, there’s trouble in the Eight Kingdoms. Even as King Kieri plans to wed, rumors of treachery persist, pointing to his own secretive grandmother, while King Mikeli’s subjects start grumbling when a traitor’s title and estate are given to an outsider who not only practices magic but is a woman. Meanwhile, a dragon’s unruly offspring is running rampant. Lots of threads to knot here; should please fantasy lovers everywhere.

Robb, J.D. Celebrity in Death. Putnam. Feb. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780399158308. $27.95. THRILLER
It’s spooky enough when Lt. Eve Dallas attends the big-bash opening of a film based on one of her exploits but even more spooky when the actress who plays Peabody goes missing‚ and is found drowned in the pool at the director’s swank building. Apparently, the actress was roundly disliked, which gives Eve plenty of leads. Robb’s In Death series shows no signs of flagging; don’t miss.

Taylor, Brad. All Necessary Force. Dutton. Feb. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780525952626. $25.95. THRILLER
The folks at the CIA, the FBI, and the Department of Defense are pretty chagrined; they know that terrorists are coming, but they don’t know who, where, or when. It’s up to TaskForce, a hush-hush team that operates outside the law, to track down clues. After an attack in Egypt, Taylor hero Pike Logan, working hard on anger management, ends up in charge with partner Jennifer Cahill, who’s worried about the legality of their mission. They’ll still triumph. Retired Delta Force officer Brad Taylor had a big hit with his first Pike Logan work, One Rough Man, and has since been speaking up on Fox News, MSNBS, and elsewhere, so expect interest.

Willig, Lauren. The Garden Intrigue. Dutton. Feb. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780525952541. $25.95. CD: Penguin Audio. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Bad poetry does have a purpose: it allows undercover agent Augustus Whittlesby to smuggle information out of France, enfolded in the wordy doggerel the surveillance officers can’t bear to read. Desperate to get into a fancy house party at Malmaison, where a secret device will be demonstrated, Whittlesby arranges to work with Emma Morris Delagardie, a widowed American in Paris and old school chum of Napoleon’s stepdaughter. She’s been asked to write a masque for the event and is none too pleased to be working with that driveller Whittlesby. Fireworks, anyone? Already the ninth in Willig’s best-selling Pink Carnation series, which keeps humming along. With a reading-group guide.

Yallop, Jacqueline. Obedience. Penguin. Feb. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780143120674. pap. $15. HISTORICAL
Part of a paperback series aimed at introducing American readers to new voices from around the world, this book takes place at a convent in southern France that must finally close its doors. Among the three gray-haired nuns still there is Sister Bernard, who reflects on a terrible act of betrayal she committed during World War II. Passionately committed to her God yet craving love of a more human sort, she agrees to meet a German soldier in the church one evening and eventually enters into a devastating affair with wider repercussions. The conflict depicted here has real import, the writing seems promising‚ English author Yallop, who now lives in southern France, also wrote the McKitterick-shortlisted Kissing Alice‚ and I’ve heard good word on this book. Great for book clubs.

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.