Fiction Previews, March 2012, Pt. 2: From Kim Harrison's A Perfect Blood to Madeline Miller's The Song of Achilles

Ballard, J.K. Kingdom Come. Norton. Mar. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780871404039. $24.95. LITERARY
Perhaps best known in America for the novel Empire of the Sun, recently deceased British novelist Ballard is getting an upsurge of attention; Norton published The Complete Stories of J.G. Ballard in 2010 and Millennium People in 2011‚ his first novel published here in a decade. In this novel, which appeared in Great Britain in 2006, the father of unemployed ad executive Richard Pearson is gunned down at a mall outside Heathrow Airport and the main suspect quickly released. When Pearson investigates, he finds that the mall’s aggressive spokesperson has been fomenting xenophobic rage. A sustained attack on the status quo that did leave a few British readers numb.

Bell, Ted. Phantom: A Thriller. Morrow. Mar. 2012. 496p. ISBN 9780061859304. $27.99. lrg. prnt. THRILLER
When a Russian sub and several American antiballistic missiles start misbehaving and a USAF F-15 attacks a plane it’s supposed to be protecting, counterspy Alex Hawke and M16 confrere Ambrose Congreve investigate‚ and discover the existence of a superweapon powered by artificial intelligence. Thriller fans won’t want to miss the latest from New York Times best-selling author Bell.

Box, C.J. Force of Nature. Putnam. Mar. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780399158261. $25.95. THRILLER
Back in 1995, while he was with the Special Forces, Nate Romanowski saw a colleague do something really, really bad. Now that nutcase intends to wipe out witnesses, and he plans to get to Nate by attacking his friends‚ which include Joe Pickett and his family. Award winner Box is tops; get multiples and watch for the three-week national tour.

Chung, Catherine. Forgotten Country. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Mar. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781594488085. $26.95. LITERARY
When her sister Hannah pulls a vanishing act, Janie recalls something her grandmother told her on the night Hannah was born: since the Japanese occupation of Korea, a daughter has gone missing from this Korean family in each generation. One of Granta‘s New Voices, Chung weaves folklore into her account of Janie’s hunt for her sister and for the reason behind her family’s misfortune, just as Téa Obreht infused The Tiger’s Wife with folklore of the Balkans. A promising debut likely accessible to a wide range of readers.

Coben, Harlan. Stay Close. Dutton. Mar. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780525952275. $27.95. THRILLER
Once-wild Megan is getting fed up with the picture-perfect suburban life she had settled for, photographer Ray wants more out of life than hunting down celebrities, and Jack is a detective obsessed with the disappearance 17 years ago of a local man whose family still keep his slippers at the ready in case he returns. For each, the past crashes into the present in this standalone, which seems to go beyond the standard thriller to investigate how much we obsess on the road not taken‚ and whether we can turn back. With a five-city tour.

Coe, Amanda. What They Do in the Dark. Norton. Mar. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780393081381. $24.95. LITERARY
Privileged but neglected, Gemma bonds with wild girl Pauline, another ten-year-old in her rough-and-tumble 1970s Yorkshire town; meeting a child star who’s come to make a film at their school sends their friendship over the edge. Though the proper girl/bad girl pairing has been done before, screenwriter Coe’s debut got some strong reviews in England, particularly for the acute writing. There will be a video reading group guide; watch this one.

Cussler, Clive & Justin Scott. The Thief: An Isaac Bell Novel. Putnam. Mar. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780399158612. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
Traveling on the ocean liner Mauretania in the early 1910s, Det. Isaac Bell saves two European scientists from abduction, but one of the scientists dies in a repeat attack. Seems that the two have been lugging around an invention that could utterly transform business and culture, and an espionage agent out there wants it for the war-ready Germans. Cussler’s The Race, just released this month, maintains the standard set by this series, which you can expect to keep steaming along admirably.

Dryden, Alex. The Blind Spy. Ecco: HarperCollins. Mar. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780062088086. $24.99. THRILLER
Team Putin wants to undermine Ukraine’s independence and return it to Russia’s sphere of influence, which doesn’t make Burt Miller very happy. Part of a private intelligence company that outspies the CIA, he quickly enlists ex-KGB colonel Anna Resnikov to help scotch the plan. The first two Resnikov novels, Red to Black and Moscow Sting, got some rave reviews, and the author’s experience in both British intelligence and as a journalist gives his work depth. Don’t miss for thriller fans.

Gray, Shelley Shepard. Missing: The Secrets of Crittenden County, Book One. Avon Inspire. Mar. 2012. ISBN 9780062089700. pap. $12.99. CHRISTIAN FICTION
In this first book in her new Secrets of Crittenden County series, the popular author of many Amish-centered tales (are they Christian fiction? are they romance?) gets a little edgier. Everyone thought that Perry Borntrager had abandoned the community for the big, bad world, but then his body is found at the bottom of a well. More deaths follow, and a detective from that big, bad world must investigate. More than 600,000 of Gray’s books are out there, and this one has a 100,000-copy first printing; will fans follow Gray into darker territory?

Gutcheon, Beth. Gossip. Morrow. Mar. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780061931420. $25.99. POP FICTION
In case Gutcheon isn’t on your radar, note that every LJ review of her fiction (e.g., Good-bye and Amen) just glitters. In her newest, a chance encounter provokes an unsubstantiated rumor that undermines the friendship of three friends and finally leads to tragedy. Good women’s fiction for book clubs; with a 50,000-copy first printing.

Harrison, Kim. A Perfect Blood. Morrow. Mar. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780061957895. $26.99. eISBN 9780062101020. PARANORMAL
Big trouble for former witch Rachel Morgan, now a day-walking demon. Corpses that blend human and something else are appearing all over Cincinnati, and Rachel guesses that someone is trying to create an army of his (her?) own demons. With a one-day laydown, a 250,000-copy first printing, and a ten-city tour to Atlanta, Boston, Boulder/Denver, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale/Miami, Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC; buy multiples.

Miller, Madeline. The Song of Achilles. Ecco: HarperCollins. Mar. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780062060617. $24.99. HISTORICAL
Scrawny ten-year-old Prince Patroclus has been sent to the court of King Peleus, where he becomes the close companion of the king’s son, Achilles. When the Greeks determine to lay siege to Troy, Achilles joins up‚ and Patroclus devotedly follows. Yes, it’s a modern take on The Iliad, full of love and feats of glory and told in an open, lyric, loose-limbed fashion that should appeal to many readers. As Emma Donoghue declared, Mary Renault lives again! Next up from Miller‚ the story of Circe; let your historical fiction fans get in on the ground floor.

Thompson, James. Helsinki White. Putnam. Mar. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780399158322. $25.95. THRILLER
Still celebrating his daughter’s birth, police inspector Kari Vaara has surgery for a brain tumor and then starts work as head of a rogue black ops unit that neatly relieves Helsinki’s mobsters of their drugs, their Euros, and their illegal firearms. What’s more, he’s been asked to find the assassin who struck down a vocal immigrants’ rights advocate and sent her head to the Finnish Somalia network. Busy guy. Thompson did nicely with the first two books in the series (his debut, Snow Angel, got a clutch of award nominations); buy where those titles were popular.

White, Kate. So Pretty It Hurts: A Bailey Weggins Mystery. Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780061576607. $24.99. lrg. prnt; eISBN 9780062098108. MYSTERY
True crime journalist for a leading celebrity magazine called, not surprisingly, Buzz (and probably bearing some glossy resemblance to Cosmopolitan, of which White is editor in chief), overworked Bailey Weggins hotfoots it out of town when she gets a weekend invitation to a music mogul’s upstate New York home. But the guests seem edgy and restless, a blizzard threatens, and then a supermodel gets murdered. Another in a hot series, and there will be a big library push, including finished-book giveaways (ahead of schedule!) at ALA midwinter.

White, Randy Wayne. Chasing Midnight. Putnam. Mar. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780399158315. $25.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
At a reception on a private Florida island hosted by a Russian notoriously into black marketeering, Doc Ford ducks underwater with friend Tomlinson to check out the guy’s cool yacht. When they resurface, the island has been taken over by environmental extremists, who have rounded up hostages they threaten to pick off if their demands aren’t met. This 19th entry in the best-selling Doc Ford series will benefit from a national tour kicking off at Doc Ford’s Sanibel Rum Bar & Grille in Sanibel, FL. Check it out.

Winspear, Jacqueline. Elegy for Eddie: A Maisie Dobbs Novel. Harper: HarperCollins. Mar. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780062049575. $25.99. lrg. prnt; eISBN 9780062049599. MYSTERY
In 1933, shocked that the police won’t investigate the death of a sweet, simple man named Eddie, the costermongers of Covent Garden turn to the daughter of old friend Frank Dobbs for help. Maisie Dobbs’s hunt for the truth leads her to a press baron, her friend Priscilla’s husband, and a washed-up politician named Winston Churchill. With her last mystery, A Lesson in Secrets, Winspear had her best debut yet on the New York Times best sellers list. I love this series, and its relentless move toward a second world war even as Maisie struggles to get over the first one adds special poignancy to every new entry. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

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.