Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, December 2, 2011

Week ending December 2, 2011

Hart, Megan. All Fall Down. Mira: Harlequin. Jan. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780778313069. pap. $14.95. F
Sunshine, aged 19, arrives on Liesel Albright’s doorstep with three small children in tow. Their nighttime run from the Family of Superior Bliss compound has them in disarray‚ limited experience with the outside world, few clothes, a fistful of money, and a serious sense of isolation. Sunshine’s mother sent them with the Albrights’ address and the startling information that Liesel’s husband, Chris, is Sunshine’s biological father. As Liesel and Chris grapple with the decision to keep Sunshine and her children after news breaks of a mass suicide at the Family’s compound, Sunshine begins to unravel her upbringing and what this turning point means for her and for her children. Living as a cult survivor makes adaption to mainstream society difficult for Sunshine. Additional factors, like the Albrights’ unawareness of Sunshine’s existence and Liesel’s desire for children, make the living situation and adjustment process awkward on all sides.
Verdict In this absorbing read, Hart (Precious and Fragile Things) keeps a light touch on her thought-provoking, weightier subjects. Readers looking for a more thoroughly layered, emotionally complex treatment of difficult issues may want to consider the works of Lionel Shriver or Chris Bohjalian.‚ Julie Kane, Sweet Briar Coll. Lib., VA

Hunter, Stephen. Soft Target. S. & S. Dec. 2011. c.272p. ISBN 9781439138700. $26.99. F
The torch has been passed. First introduced in Dead Zero, Ray Cruz is the previously unknown son of aging supersniper Bob Lee Swagger. He has all of his father’s deadly skills, but he has retired from the Marine Corps and wants nothing more than a peaceful life. However, when terrorists take over a giant shopping and entertainment mall (the soft target of the title), Ray is forced to take action to save the lives of his fiancée, her family, and thousands of hostages. As brave men and women try to take down the terrorists, they are compromised by powerful incompetents with political agendas.
Verdict Any thriller in which Middle Eastern terrorists whack Santa on the first page is bound to be exciting. As always, Hunter has crafted a fast-paced and all-too-plausible telling of our worst nightmares coming true. Ray Cruz is a worthy successor to Swagger. Hunter’s fans, along with new readers, will enjoy the violent battle between Cruz and the bad guys. [See Prepub Alert, 6/13/11.]‚ Robert Conroy, Warren, MI

McDermid, Val. The Retribution: A Tony Hill & Carol Jordan Novel. Atlantic Monthly. Jan. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780802120175. $25. F
Incarcerated serial killer Jacko Vance has been planning the perfect escape for 15 years. But his escape is only the beginning‚ Vance has plotted a violent trajectory of revenge against everyone he believes helped to convict and imprison him. DCI Carol Jordan and criminal profiler Tony Hill top his list, but can they stop him before it’s too late for them and nearly everyone they know and love?
Verdict McDermid’s seventh series novel (after Fever of the Bone) raises the stakes by positioning her duo against both death and the demise of their personal and professional relationship. A gruesomely enjoyable yarn for McDermid fans and mystery thriller lovers. [Five-city tour; see Prepub Alert, 7/10/11.]‚ Jennifer Rogers, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond

Rankin, Ian. The Impossible Dead. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. 2011. c.384p. ISBN 9780316039772. $25.99. F
Edinburgh cop Malcolm Fox, introduced in The Complaints, once again finds that what appears to be a simple case of police misconduct is a much more complicated mystery, one that reaches back nearly three decades to the events surrounding the Scottish National movement. As he did in his Inspector Rebus books, Rankin has created a protagonist who is flawed yet sympathetic, written a mystery that is complicated but compelling, and provided a deft send-up of the creaking wheels of justice as run by a bureaucracy. What sets Fox apart from John Rebus though are his teetotaler ways and his closer relationship with family members. The Fox books are also less gruesome in their crime-scene depictions, which should allow them to appeal to an even wider audience.
Verdict Longtime Rankin readers will be pleased, as will new mystery readers. [See Prepub Alert, 5/16/11.]‚ Amy Watts, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens

Thompson, Rod. The Black Hills. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). Dec. 2011. 376p. ISBN 9780425243107. pap. $15. F
Cormac Lynch is only 14 when his parents and sister are killed by a gang of marauders who invade the family’s ranch in the Dakota Territory. When the same gang attacks another family passing through in their Conestoga wagon, Cormac is on hand with his shotgun. He takes in the small family, and soon they are working the ranch together. Cormac begins to feel like a brother around red-haired Lainey Nayle, a recent Irish immigrant who is about his age. Eventually his feelings turn romantic. But believing that Lainey doesn’t love him, Comac gives in to restlessness and takes off for points west, finding much work and adventure. His quick draw and uncanny aim earn him a legendary reputation as a sharpshooter. Though many women try to woo him, his heart remains fixed on Lainey.
Verdict Combining suspense and romance with coming-of-age elements, this debut Western will have wide appeal for fans of such authors as Elmer Kelton, Sandra Dallas, and Stephen Overholser.‚ Keddy Outlaw, formerly with Harris Cty. P.L., Houston, TX

The Confession cover imageTodd, Charles. The Confession: An Inspector Ian Rutledge Mystery. Morrow. Jan. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780062015662. $25.99. M
Confession is deadly for the soul. Todd’s 14th Ian Rutledge mystery finds the World War I vet and Scotland Yard inspector listening to a dying man’s confession of murder. Wyatt Russell professes to have murdered his cousin Justin Fowler while on leave from the army several years prior. Rutledge’s suspicions are heightened when Russell is discovered dead from a gunshot wound to the back of his head. The only clue Rutledge has is a woman’s gold locket found around Russell’s neck. With more questions than answers, Rutledge’s search leads him to Russell’s estate in Essex. There the villagers are openly hostile to Rutledge’s inquiries. What are they hiding? Did Russell kill Fowler? Why would anyone kill a dying man? Rutledge must quickly solve the case because this killer’s lust for vengeance is far from satiated.
Verdict While Rutledge shines as the stalwart detective wrestling with his personal demons, the compelling mystery of shameful secrets and revenge are what keep these pages turning. Highly recommended for all historical mystery enthusiasts who like detectives with true grit. Jacqueline Winspear fans seeking new readalikes will also enjoy this intelligent series. [See Prepub Alert, 7/25/11.]‚ Susan O. Moritz, Montgomery Cty. P.L., MD