Fiction Previews, April 2012, Pt. 1: From Auslander's Daring Debut to Vincenzi's Sixties Saga

Auslander, Shalom. Hope: A Tragedy. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781594488382. $26.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Talk about black comedy. Auslander, author of the edgy, well-received memoir Foreskin’s Lament, returns with a first novel about a man who’s moved his family to uneventful Stockton, NY, hoping for some peace. But there’s an arsonist about, his mother keep recalling the concentration camp she was never actually in, and in the attic he finds an ancient woman, arm tattooed, who claims to be Anne Frank. The writing is acerbically smart, the plot in-your-face daring (some readers will bridle; I did, a bit), and the whole grounded in a sense of quiet desperation as we look forward (that’s hope) and backward (that’s tragedy). Ripe for attention.

Brown, Rita Mae & Sneaky Pie Brown. The Big Cat Nap: The 20th Anniversary Mrs. Murphy Mystery. Bantam. Apr. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780345530448. $26; eISBN 9780345532398. MYSTERY
Cats and dogs and horses, oh my; though purry Mrs. Murphy gets pride of place, there’s a whole team of animals helping Mary Minor Harry Harristeen solve this latest mystery‚ her 20th‚ which concerns too many car accidents to be attributed to driver error. Take note: next year, feline coauthor Sneaky Pie will be running for President in a special novel. Just what we need, a cool cat in the White House. For cozy types; with a five- to seven-city tour by request.

Dickey, Eric Jerome. An Accidental Affair. Dutton. Apr. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780525952343. $26.95. POP FICTION
When blazing Hollywood star Regina Baptiste is compromised with leading man Johnny Bergs on soon-to-be-viral video, her husband, screenwriter James Thicke, gives Johnny a thrashing. That’s just the start of his troubles. Just what you’d expect from Dickey; with an eight-city author tour.

Dybek, Nick. When Captain Flint was a Good Man. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781594488092. $26.95. LITERARY
It’s dangerous business, catching king crab on the Bering Sea each fall, but the men of Loyalty Island need the work. Cal’s parents are divided over the wisdom of letting him join the other men when he comes of age; Cal himself is confused by his mother’s relationship with John Gaunt, owner of the crabbers’ fleet; and then Gaunt dies, throwing the whole business into question. At first glance swift, atmospheric, and cuttingly honest, this first novel comes with credentials; Dybek has won a Hopwood Award, Maytag Fellowship, and Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award. My strong guess is that you shouldn’t miss.

Laukkanen, Owen. The Professionals. Putnam. Apr. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780399157899. $25.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
Unable to find jobs, four recent college grads get by with a little low-key kidnapping. But when they pick the wrong victim, they’re targeted by both organized crime and the FBI‚ longtime state investigator Kirk Stevens and hungry newbie Carla Windermere. Fresh premise and lots of support for this debut thriller, with so many quotes from genre heavies‚ Box and Berry, Child and Perry, Lescroart and Sanford, and more‚ that you have to gasp. Laukkanen knows the economic margins, having supported himself post-schooling as a tournament writer for a poker website, and he’s already working on a Stevens-Windermere sequel. A real ground-floor opportunity for thriller fans.

McCall Smith, Alexander. The Limpopo Academy of Private Detection. Pantheon. Apr. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780307378408. $24.95; eISBN 9780307907158. MYSTERY
Her assistant is struggling with marriage, her daughter’s school is struggling with disciplinary issues, and her heroine, Clovis Anderson‚ author of The Principles of Private Investigation‚ is in town. But does Precious Ramotswe worry? Of course not. Thirteenth in a series that continues to build its fan base; with a seven-city tour to Buffalo, Charlotte, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Tulsa, and Washington, DC.

Parameswaran, Rajesh. I Am an Executioner: Love Stories. Knopf. Apr. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780307595928. $24.95; eISBN 9780307957573. SHORT STORIES
The characters in this first collection, including a frustrated Bengal tiger and a woman gamely managing Thanksgiving dinner with her husband sprawled dead on the floor, suggest an offbeat temperament at work. The venues where these stories have appeared‚ e.g., McSweeney’s, Granta, and Zoetrope‚ suggest talent at work as well. Great expectations (and a five-city tour to Boston, New York, Portland, San Francisco, and Seattle); I’m eager to read.

Perry, Anne. Dorchester Terrace: A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel. Ballantine. Apr. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780345510624. $26; eISBN 9780345532329. MYSTERY
Pity poor Thomas Pitt. Just as he’s promoted, a mole within the Special Branch starts trading British secrets, and he doesn’t know whom to trust. The ever-popular Pitt mysteries are now on track to publish each spring.

Ross, Ann B. Miss Julia to the Rescue. Viking. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780670023387. $25.95. POP FICTION
With husband Sam off to the Holy Land for a few weeks, Miss Julia is about to start redecorating when Hazel Marie asks for help; seems that her P.I. husband has gone and gotten himself detained by the West Virginia police. Meanwhile, wealthy nutcase Agnes Whitman returns to town with an even nuttier entourage. Purchase where this sweet series is popular. With a four-city tour.

Steel, Danielle. Betrayal. Delacorte. Apr. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780385343190. $28; eISBN 9780345532343. lrg. prnt. POP FICTION
So what if Tallie Jones is an in-demand movie director? She’s just caught her hot producer boyfriend cheating, and now she finds that someone’s been stealing from her. Good thing that cute FBI agent is on the scene. Big as always; buy multiples.

Swift, Graham. Wish You Were Here. Knopf. Apr. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780307700124. $25; eISBN 9780307957665. LITERARY
Proprietor of a seaside caravan park on the Isle of Wight, Jack Luxton learns that his estranged brother has been killed in Iraq. That sends him on a journey both to retrieve his brother’s remains and to examine the past. Swift writes ruminative works that enlarge on the personal; watch this one to see how it will appeal to your readers.

Tabor, James M. The Deep Zone. Ballantine. Apr. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780345530615. $26; eISBN 9780345532282. CD/Downloadable: Random Audio. THRILLER
With a terrifying pandemic threatening, scientist Hallie Leonard is sent into the world’s deepest cave to find an organism that promises a cure. Alas, the cave is located in a particularly violence-torn part of Mexico, and someone on Hallie’s team wants her to fail. Tabor knows about caves, as evidenced by his best-selling Blind Descent, and his past life as a Washington, DC, cop means that he knows about crime, too. Good publicity on this first novel‚ Tabor has already appeared at this year’s ThrillerFest and Bouchercon‚ so thriller fans should pay attention.

Thayil, Jeet. Narcopolis. Penguin Pr: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9781594203305. $25.95. LITERARY
Opening in late 1970s Bombay, Thayil’s debut novel features a visitor from New York who’s entranced with the city’s underworld, particularly an opium den and brothel. Painters and poets, prostitutes and pimps‚ they’re all here, and their lives only get bleaker as time passes and heroin replaces opium as the drug of choice. Yet the characters‚ and the author‚ still look for beauty. A poet, performance artist, and musician/songwriter, Thayil should write piercingly (I love it when poets write fiction), and he eschews saffron and temple bells for a more broadly cosmopolitan voice‚ I greet you my ancestors, O scholars and linguists./ My father who recites Baudelaire in Malayalam, says one of his poems. An intriguing possibility for smart readers.

Thorne, Melanie. Hand Me Down. Dutton. Apr. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780525952688. $25.95. POP FICTION
Her father can’t be bothered with a job and her mother decides to take up with an ex-con and start a new family, so teenaged Liz and her little sister are shoved off on various relatives. Liz protects her sister and holds back an awful secret so that the two can stay together. Some enthusiasm for this debut novel, which draws comparison to the work of Dorothy Allison and Janet Fitch. Watch.

Tyler, Anne. The Beginner’s Goodbye. Knopf. Apr. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9780307957276. $24.95; eISBN 9780307958228. lrg. prnt. CD/Downloadable: Random Audio.
Partly crippled, Aaron flees a domineeringly concerned sister by marrying plain, independent-minded Dorothy. Alas, Dorothy is felled by a tree shortly after their marriage, but she returns in spirit to guide Aaron to self-sufficiency. A classic Tyler novel that fans will want; with a reading group guide.

Vincenzi, Penny. More Than You Know. Doubleday. Apr. 2012. 592p. ISBN 9780385528252. $26.95; eISBN 9780385534529. POP FICTION
It’s the swinging Sixties, British style, and upper-crust Eliza throws over her fancy career and lifestyle to marry prickly working-class Matt. The marriage crashes in ten years, leaving them to battle over their precious daughter‚ and Eliza’s beloved family home. As always, Vincenzi paints on a big easel; fans will inquire.

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.