Fiction Previews, Jun. 2012, Pt. 3: Frank, Scalzi, Toyne

Bakopoulos, Natalie. The Green Shore. S. & S. Jun. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9781451633924. $25. LITERARY
I’ve already mentioned this first novel in conjunction with my hunt for books on the crisis in Greece and, more broadly, the E.U., but it bears further discussion. Bakopoulos opens the narrative with the Greek military’s 1967 coup d’état, then shows the consequences for four characters: Sophie, a student of French literature sucked into the resistance; her widowed mother, Eleni, who has lost heart in the face of yet another upheaval; Sophie’s uncle Mihalis, a famous poet who’s stepped out of the limelight for personal reasons; and Sophie’s sister Anna. A personal look at the political, then, and ripe for discussion as a means of understanding why Greece is where it is now.

Coake, Christopher. You Came Back. Grand Central. Jun. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9781455506705. $24.99. POP FICTION
Many parents who lose a child divorce, as the pain is too palpably in the way of the relationship. Such is the case for thirtyish Mark Fife, who at least seems to have coped successfully with his grief over son Brendan’s accidental death and is about to remarry. Then the woman who owns his old house contacts him to say that she thinks it is haunted by Brendan’s ghost. Mark is skeptical, but former wife Chloe is not. Not so much a tale of the supernatural as of enduring parental love and hope.

Farris, Peter. Last Call for the Living. Forge: Tor. May 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780765330079. $24.99. THRILLER
Taken hostage by an ex-con who’s just double-crossed his buddies in the Aryan Brotherhood, bank teller Charlie Colquitt finds himself somewhere in the hills of northern Georgia, with both Georgia Bureau of Investigation agent Sallie Crews and two Aryan soldiers in hot pursuit. Obviously a bank-heist thriller, this also aims to be a more reflective tale of a young man learning something important about himself under suddenly stressful circumstances. Personal note: debut novelist Farris is son of legendary New York Times best-selling novelist John Farris.

Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl. Crown. Jun. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780307588364. $25. LITERARY SUSPENSE
On Nick and Amy’s fifth anniversary, Amy disappears. Nick has not been a model husband, and Amy’s diaries reveal turmoil in the marriage, but did he really kill her? Even as Nick protests his innocence, it becomes evident that if Amy is dead, that’s the least of it. Flynn’s novels glitter scarily, and her last one, Dark Objects, was a New York Times best seller, but this one is expected to break her out.

Frank, Dorothea Benton. Porch Lights. Morrow. Jun. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780061961298. $25.99; lrg. prnt. CD: Harper Audio. POP FICTION
Sloping dunes, salty breezes: it must be the South Carolina Lowcountry, the real star of Frank’s best-selling novels. Here, a grandmother, mother, and son clarify the meaning of love and the importance of family while recalling tales of pirates and Edgar Allen Poe. Frank keeps building (she had her best New York Times debut ever with last June’s Folly Beach), and the one-day laydown on 6/12 and 250,000-copy first printing suggest strong support. Get multiples.

Hanauer, Cathi. Gone. Atria: S. & S. Jun. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9781451626414. $28.99. POP FICTION
Hanauer’s best-selling essay collection, The Bitch in the House, forthrightly addressed the frustrations of committing to motherhood while trying to remain true to one’s own ambitions. Reflecting those concerns, her new novel (after Sweet Ruin) features fortyish Eve, who’s been working part-time and raising the children while her sculptor husband’s career rises and then starts to fall. Suddenly, he’s gone, having disappeared after dropping off the babysitter, and Eve gets to balance everything on her own. Try it.

Henkin, Joshua. The World Without You. Pantheon. Jun. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780375424366. $25.95; eISBN 9780307907561. LITERARY
In Henkin’s debut novel, Swimming Across the Hudson, a man receives a letter from a woman claiming to be his birth mother; in Matrimony, WASPy Julian affair’s with Jewish Mia is launched in the college laundry room. Both won Notable Book status at various publications, and Matrimony was a book club favorite. Like those titles, Henkin’s newest work deals with family, and despite their obvious success this one sounds like a step forward. It features the Frankels, who have gathered at their summer home in the Berkshires for the memorial service of youngest son Leo, a journalist killed on assignment in Iraq. With a reading-group guide and an eight-city tour to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Northampton (MA), San Francisco, and Seattle, this is being set up as a big read.

Kallentoft, Mons. Midwinter Blood. Emily Bestler: Atria. Jun. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781451642476. $25.99. THRILLER
Yes, another Swedish thriller, this one the first in a series of four books starring Supt. Malin Fors, a thirtysomething divorced mother serving on the police force in a remote town. She’s reputedly an edgy and obsessed character whose first outing takes her on a manhunt for someone ghastly. Watch for all your thriller fans.

Lowell, Elizabeth. Beautiful Sacrifice. Morrow. Jun. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780061629860. $25.99; eISBN 9780062101228. lrg. prnt. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
When significant Mayan artifacts go missing and former Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer Hunter Johnson is asked by a friend to recover them, he turns to archaeologist and Mayan expert Lina Taylor for help. After all, with Mayan legend proclaiming that the world will end a year from this Wednesday, December 21, someone might be planning mischief. Hunter’s a loner, Lina’s ready to dig up his gentler side, and so we have a typical glowy Lowell novel. With a one-day laydown on 5/25 and a 150,000-copy first printing; consider multiples where Lowell is popular, especially as this is her first novel in two years.

Lustbader, Eric Van. Robert Ludlum’s‚Ñ¢ The Bourne Imperative. Grand Central. Jun. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780446564472. $27.99. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Jason Bourne is back, practically looking in the mirror. The man he’s pulled out of an icy lake, bleeding from a gunshot wound and nearly drowned, has no memory of who he is or why he was shot‚ sort of like Jason himself, way back when. Ludlum originated this series, writing three Bourne thrillers, but Lustbader is up to his seventh and seems to have made Bourne his own. Get plenty wherever Bourne is popular.

McCall Smith, Alexander. A Conspiracy of Friends: A Corduroy Mansions Novel. Pantheon. Jun. 2012. 304p. ISBN 97803079007233. $24.95; eISBN 9780307907240. POP FICTION
McCall Smith’s Corduroy Mansions series is not as big as some of his others but is just getting started; this is the third installment. It’s mostly British eccentric‚ Berthea Snark is still writing that scornful biography of her politician son, Oedipus, for instance‚ but there is a mystery here: William’s famed terrier, Freddy de la Hay, has disappeared. Fun for the right readers.

McLaughlin, Emma & Nicola Kraus. Between You and Me. Atria: S. & S. Jun. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9781439188187. $25. POP FICTION
The coauthors of stratospheric best sellers like The Nanny Diaries again visit that place where fame, fortune, and poshness meet. Having fled an unhappy childhood for New York, Logan Wade is all ears when celebrity cousin Kelsey Wade calls, in need of a new assistant. Unfortunately, heartless paparazzi and control-freak parents are pushing Kelsey to a very real breakdown. For all those who love glitter.

McMillan, Claire. Gilded Age. S. & S. Jun. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781451640472. $25. POP FICTION
This novel intrigues me because it is billed as an update of Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth, taking place on that rocky ground where old money spars uneasily with new money. After a high-profile marriage and an equally high-profile divorce, Ellie Hart did time in rehab out West, then returned home to Cleveland (so how hot can she be?). Alas, she blows her chance to make good and faces a desperate decision. A first novel with some push behind it; watch.

Meacham, Leila, Tumbleweeds. Grand Central. Jun. 2012. 480p. ISBN 9781455509249. $25.99. lrg. prnt. CD: Hachette Audio. POP FICTION
Texas author Meacham may have moved from Roses to Tumbleweeds, but she maintains the same bittersweet tone and sprawly size of her first novel, though this book is not quite as long. In a little town in the Texas panhandle where Friday night football rules, three friends grow up, their lives forever linked by a fateful event. For all those readers of old-fashioned, juicy works.

Pettersson, Vicki. The Taken: Celestial Blues: Book One. HarperVoyaguer. Jun. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780062064646. pap. $13.99; eISBN 9780062064110. FANTASY
Griffin Shaw is a Centurion, that is, an angel charged with helping other murdered souls make their way to the afterlife. (Angels seem to be replacing vampires as the hot new fantasy item.) When he sees a nasty attack on journalist Kit Craig, he joins forces with her to track a killer through the darkest stretches of Las Vegas‚ and the immortal netherworld. Author of the New York Times best-selling series Signs of the Zodiac, Pettersson launches a new series that promises spice and atmosphere: as a showgirl for ten years at the Tropicana’s Folies Bergeres, she knows Vegas. A sign of her success: Zodiac was a mass-market series, while this new book is appearing as a trade paperback original.

Roy-Bhattacharya, Joydeep. The Watch. Hogarth: Crown. Jun. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780307955890. $25. LITERARY
In this modern retelling of the story of Antigone by Roy-Bhattacharya (The Story of Marrakesh), fighting around a beleaguered American base in Kandahar has left many dead, and a woman comes to demand that she be given the body of her brother to bury according to local Afghan rites. The American soldiers don’t know whether she’s a spy or a lunatic, but they do know that she’s trouble. Written in direct, colloquial language, this novel is among the inaugural titles from Hogarth Press‚ named, of course, for the enterprise run by Virginia and Leonard Woolf and launched jointly by Crown and by Chatto & Windus in London with the intent of issuing character-driven works told in distinctive voices.

Scalzi, John. Redshirts. Tor. Jun. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780765316998. $24.99. SF
Something I just learned: Redshirt, a term that originated with fans of Star Trek, in which the crimson-shirted Starfleet security officers generally met quick ends, refers to a stock character that dies shortly after being introduced. In this spoof, Ensign Andrew Dahl is delighted to be assigned to the Universal Union Capital Ship Intrepid, flagship of the Universal Union since 2456‚ until he notices that Away Missions always cost at least one low-ranked crew member his life. Then he discovers the Intrepid‘s real raison d’√™tre, and he and his colleagues join forces to save their skins. Word has it that a horde of crazed Scalzi fanatics are out there, demanding this book. Don’t skimp.

Toyne, Simon. The Key. Morrow. Jun. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780062038333. $25.99; eISBN 9780062038357. lrg. prnt. THRILLER
In Toyne’s best-selling debut, Sanctus, the threat from the Sancti, a dangerous religious order dwelling in the high-perched Citadel, seems to have been pretty much defused. But a remnant is regrouping, determined to grab back power, which sends American reporter Liv Adamsen and the warrior Gabriel to the very spot where humankind originated so that they can undercover the key to its survival. Whoa, pretty speculative. True believers won’t enjoy, but others will be interested; note the 100,000-copy first printing.

Walter, Jess. Beautiful Ruins. Harper: HarperCollins. Jun. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780061928123. $25.99; eISBN 9780062098085. POP FICTION
In 1962, a young Italian innkeeper meets an American starlet in trouble‚ in fact, she’s sailing toward him across the Ligurian Sea, the drama of their meeting evidently engineered by her conniving publicist. Fifty years later the innkeeper follows his heart to Hollywood to find her. Walter’s The Financial Lives of the Poets won awards and sold especially well in paperback; there’s even a film in the offing, starring Jack Black. All of which suggests that Walter is on the upswing, and this does sound romantic. With a 75,000-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.


  1. Stan Ulrich says:

    “After all, with Mayan legend proclaiming that the world will end a year from this Wednesday, December 21” — well, not really, but if Elizabeth Lowell wants to pretend for the sake of her story…. But if her protagonist is really an “archaeologist and Mayan expert,” she should know better. Get her in touch with David Stuart.