Fiction Previews: January 2012, Pt. 5: From Nevada Barr to Penelope Lively

Barr, Nevada. The Rope: An Anna Pigeon Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780312614577. $25.99. THRILLER
Readers who have eagerly followed Anthony and Agatha award winner Barr’s Anna Pigeon novels know that Pigeon is a ranger with the U.S. National Park Service. But how did she arrive at that pass? Here we learn that Pigeon, 35 and disappointed in love, got on a bus in New York City and headed west, finally taking seasonal work at the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. When she failed to return after a hike, her coworkers assumed that she’s moved on; in fact, someone had imprisoned her at the bottom of a dry natural well, without supplies or even clothing. That’s a scary start proving Pigeon’s mettle. Obviously, fans will want.

Bear, Greg. Halo: Primordium. Tor. Jan. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780765323972. $25.99. SF
Two Nebulas and five Hugos make for one big Bear in the sf arena, and fans will want his latest Halo novelization. Here, two hapless characters misplaced during a cosmic battle find themselves in an inverted world where horizons fly skyward and humans are like rats in a lab‚ or pawns in a game. Unsettling enough for you?

Caplan, Thomas M. The Spy Who Jumped Off the Screen. Viking. Jan. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780670023219. $26.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
Founder of the Pen/Faulkner Award for fiction and the author of three novels (most recently, 1998’s Grace and Favor), Caplan jumps into frothier territory with this thriller featuring covert operative‚ turned‚ Hollywood superstar Ty Hunter. Asked to help stop a bunch of nuclear warheads from passing into the wrong hands, Hunter uses all his actorly skills as he goes up against billionaire Ian Santal and his nasty protégé. Then there’s the gorgeous jewelry designer who’s friends of them both. Sounds promising, and you can’t ignore the introduction by President Bill Clinton.

Evanovich, Janet & Dorien Kelly. Love in a Nutshell. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780312651312. $27.99. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Plummy best seller Evanovich and Kelley, president of Romance Writers of America, have joined forces to write this romantic suspense novel, featuring out-of-work, just-separated Kate Appleton. Kate has gone to Keen Harbor, MI, with dreams of turning her parents’ summer cottage, the Nutshell, into a bed-and-breakfast. To get the funds she needs, she’s agreed to help Matt Culhane discover who has been sabotaging his brewery. Alas, she hates beer, and she’s also getting sweet on Matt. Undoubtedly this will draw readers of both authors; here’s hoping they’ll stay after the one-day laydown on January 3.

Gilvarry, Alex. From the Memoirs of a Non-Enemy Combatant. Viking. Jan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780670023196. $26.95. LITERARY
Aspiring hopeful Boyet Hernandez just about has it made in the New York fashion world with his (B)oy label when he’s detained late one night and taken to Gitmo, where he’s accused of terrorist connections. He’s also handed a Quran‚ never mind that Hernandez is an ex-Catholic raised in Manila. There’s some good noise about this debut from Gilvarry, editor of the website Tottenville Review, so watch carefully.

Hannah, Kristin. Home Front. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780312577209. $27.99. POP FICTION
Michael and Joleen Zarkades are that standard trope: the seemingly perfect couple about to divorce. Then the unexpected happens; they’re torn apart by the Iraq war, as one spouse gets deployed and the other stays home to tend the hearth and fearfully await bad news. Right now I can’t tell you which spouse, which makes it more interesting. Hannah has a huge following, and this book has both a one-day laydown on January 31, supported by a national author tour. Buy multiples.

Herbert, Brian & Kevin J.Anderson. Sisterhood of Dune. Tor. Jan. 2011. 448p. ISBN 9780765322739. $27.99. SF
More Dune books! A new Dune trilogy! And this one goes back to the beginning of the Dune universe to explain the origins of the Bene Gesserit, the Mentats, the Navigators, and the Suk Doctors. Obviously, there will be demand.

Jones, Darynda. Third Grave Dead Ahead. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781250001542. $23.99. MYSTERY/PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Charley Davidson, a private eye of the paranormal persuasion‚ she doubles as a Grim Reaper‚ is straining to solve a missing-persons case and keep a motorcycle gang in line. She’s also trying to forget Reyes Farrow, the devilishly handsome son of Satan whom she’s imprisoned for eternity. As the title signals, this is the third in a series that started out with a bang‚ the first won a Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance in manuscript‚ so snatch this up.

Knox, Tom. The Lost Goddess. Viking. Jan. 2012 448p. ISBN 9780670023189. $26.95. THRILLER
What links two startling discoveries, a weathered skull with a hole neatly smacked through the forehead, found in a French cave, and something possibly creepier at Cambodia’s 2000-year-old Plain of Jars? Modern-day forces clearly want the finds suppressed‚ an archaeologist linked to the skull’s unearthing is murdered‚ and it all leads to one spooky and obsessed woman out to avenge a terrible wrong. Indiana Jones meets Grand Guignol, with a touch of Holmes-like puzzling to keep things interesting. Knox is rumored to be building a dedicated audience, so keep an eye on this one.

Lively, Penelope. How It All Began. Viking. Jan. 2012. 240p. ISBN 9780670023448. $26.95. LITERARY
A chance encounter between a retired schoolteacher and a petty thief sets off an unexpected chain of events. A marriage is undone by a misdirected cell phone call revealing an affair, for instance, while an interior designer finds the perfect business partner and an old-timey historian gets an idea for a snappy miniseries. The moral‚ life always has other plans for us‚ should be beautifully conveyed by Man Booker Award winner Lively. Especially nice for book groups.

Reilly, Matthew. Scarecrow Returns. S. & S. Jan. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781416577591. $25. THRILLER
Marine captain Shane Schofield (Scarecrow) returns for a fourth beating, and he’s facing Armageddon; terrorists have taken over an island in the Arctic, the better to launch an attack that will destroy the world. Billed as containing nonstop action, and from what I’ve heard that’s exactly how it goes. Reilly has 3.5 million books out there; consider multiples where he’s popular.

Ryan, William. The Darkening Field. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jan. 2012. 352 9780312586515. $24.99. THRILLER
Ryan proved himself with The Holy Thief, which introduced Capt. Alexei Korolev of the Moscow Militia’s Criminal Investigation Division. (Comparisons to Martin Cruz Smith’s Arkady Renko are inevitable.) Here, it’s 1937, and Korolev is heading to Odessa to investigate the suspect suicide of young party loyalist Maria Alexandrovna Lenskaya. He gets some help from writer friend Isaac Babel while slowly uncovering intimations of treason. Buy wherever Thief was popular.

Solomons, Natasha. The House at Tyneford. Plume. Jan. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780452297647. pap. $15. HISTORICAL
When I close my eyes I see Tyneford House. That’s a Rebecca-like opening, but this intent and detailed work by the author of the delightful Mr. Rosenblum Dreams in English goes beyond romantic suspense. In spring 1938, Elise Landau finds a way to get out of an increasingly tense and dangerous Vienna by applying to be a servant in a grand English home‚ never mind that she’s wealthy and privileged, with an opera star mother and novelist father. Once she’s at Tyneford, she must deal not only with the upstairs-downstairs mentality of the British but with inevitable prejudice because she is Jewish. And she falls for the renegade son of the aristocratic family she serves. Charming yet serious; book clubs should relish.

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.


  1. Barbara Hoffert says:

    Yes, I was doing research on another book and found that the Plain of Jars was in Laos. I was following what the publisher had said. I’ve already corrected. Thanks for your note. Barbara