Fiction Previews, May 2012, Pt. 2: From Tania James’s Aerogrammes to John Sandford’s Stolen Prey

Atkins, Ace. Robert B. Parker’s Lullaby: A Spenser Novel. Putnam. May 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780399158032. $26.95. THRILLER
In this latest thriller featuring redoubtable Boston P.I. Spencer, picked up by Nick Travers author Atkins after Robert B. Parker’s death in 2010, 14-year-old Mattie Sullivan wants Spenser to look into the murder of her mother four years earlier. She thinks the wrong man has been jailed for the crime, and after some initial reluctance Spenser is inclined to agree. Of course, as he reopens the case, he finds a lot of resistance on both sides of the law. Note that Atkins is one of the contributors to In Pursuit of Spenser: Mystery Writers on Robert B. Parker and the Creation of an American Hero (Smart Pop. ISBN 9781935618577. pap. $14.95), edited by Otto Penzler and out in April 2012.

Davis, Lindsey. Master and God. St. Martin’s. May 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780312606640 $25.99. HISTORICAL
Set in ancientRome,Davis’s Marcus Didius Falco mysteries are so deftly observed that I have no trouble recommending this historical saga. In first-centuryRome, during the rule of the Emperor Domitian, two members of the imperial household‚ Gaius Vinius, a somewhat unwilling member of the Praetorian Guard, and Flavia Lucilla, hairdresser to the court‚ are brought together as friends by a terrible fire and watch as Domitian tumbles into paranoia and violence. All historical fiction fans should enjoy.

Flanery, Patrick. Absolution. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9781594488177. $26.95. LITERARY
A South African writer of some notoriety, Clare Wald believes that she betrayed her sister, an antiapartheid activist who vanished 20 years ago. She seems also to have betrayed her daughter, likewise vanished, though a witness has surfaced as Clare’s biographer to explain what really happened. Flanery’s debut considers how perception overshadows truth, heightened by a politically charged context. This book is getting some hefty play; watch.

James, Tania. Aerogrammes: And Other Stories. Knopf. May 2012. 192p. ISBN 9780307268914. $24.
From the widower who resolves his grief by lovingly burying roadkill to a young man who tries to understand why his father killed himself by studying his handwriting to a white woman who takes in her husband’s illegitimate child from Sierra Leone and an orphaned chimpanzee, James examines people dealing forthrightly with setbacks. If this collection is as good as her accomplished Atlas of Unknowns, it will be good indeed.

Roberts, Nora. The Witness. Putnam. Apr. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9780399159121. $27.95. lrg. prnt. POP FICTION
Teenaged Elizabeth Fitch rebels against a strict mother by going drinking one night, a disastrous move that ends in bloodshed and puts Elizabeth on the run. Flash forward 12 years, when Elizabeth is living as Abigail Lowery in a little Ozarks town, working as a freelance programmer and mostly avoiding folks. But she’s caught the eye of the police chief, who senses that she’s troubled and wants to help. Classic Roberts.

Rutledge. Lynda. Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. May 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780399157196. $25.95. POP FICTION
It’s the last day of the millennium, and wealthy Faith Bass Darling surprises everyone in Bass, TX, by emergin from 30 years of seclusion to start selling off all her possessions. It gives folks a chance to investigate both the Bass family saga, crucial to their town, and larger questions about how we are shaped by memories, possessions, and the hope of a second chance. A debut novel snatched up by the editor of such favorites as Kathryn Stockett’s The Help, so watch; it’s seen as a fun yet thoughtful read, which would make it great for reading groups.

Sandford, John. Stolen Prey. Putnam. May 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780399157684. $27.95. CD: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
The killing of an entireMinnesota family‚ husband, wife, children, and even the dogs‚ leaves Lucas Davenport flummoxed. It looks like the sort of retribution exacted by drug dealers, but this is an upstanding family in a well-to-do setting. ThenDavenport starts figuring things out. The Prey series is approaching two dozen titles and still going strong. With a national tour.

Williams, Beatriz. Overseas. Putnam. May 2012. 464p. ISBN 9780399157646. $25.95. Digital: Penguin Audio. POP FICTION
In 1916 France, a lovely young American named Kate approaches British officer Julian Ashford with information crucial to the reconnaissance mission he’s about to launch. In 2007New York, Wall Street analyst Kate Wilson falls frantically for rich but mysterious Julian Lawrence. What’s the connection? Promotional references to Diana Gabaldon and a love that transcends time should give you a clue. Dealing with popular themes and positioned to be big, this debut novel won two Romance Writers of America awards before it was even sold and boasts great quotes from the likes of Anne Fortier, Lauren Willig, andKaren White. Likely a winner; buy.

Vonnegut, Norb. The Trust. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. May 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781250003898. $25.99. THRILLER
Wall Street insider Vonnegut, who launched his writing career with Top Producer, a Today and SmartMoney pick, opens his latest effort with the apparent drowning death of real estate bigwig Palmer Kincaid. When his widow asks stockbroker and Top Producer protagonist Grove O’Rourke to settle her husband’s affairs, he becomes interim director of Kincaid’s philanthropic Charleston Fund. Authorizing the transfer of $20 million to the Catholic Victims’ Fund, as requested by two priests, leads O’Rourke into murky waters indeed. Buy especially where financial thrillers are appreciated.

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.