Fiction Previews, June 2012, Pt. 1: From Ridley Pearson to Andrei Makine

Atkins, Ace. The Lost Ones. Putnam. Jun. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780399158766. $25.95. THRILLER
When he’s not continuing the Spenser novels, having been chosen for the honor by the Robert B. Parker Estate, Atkins writes nicely gritty thrillers on his own. This is his second Quinn Colson novel, about a former U.S. Army ranger who’s become sheriff of Tibbelah County, MS. Here Colson is contending with both a nasty case of stolen army guns, which have landed in the laps of a local Mexican drug gang, and an abused child whose situation leads Colson and toughie deputy Lillie Virgil to a bootleg baby racket. Atkins is looking up.

Avallone, Silvia. Swimming to Elba. Viking. Jun. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780670023585. $25.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. POP FICTION
Childhood friends Anna and Francesca have bloomed as adolescents, and they start to imagine a life beyond sleepy little Piombino, where they live. Maybe it’s time to take the ferry to the resort town of Elba. The friends’ dreams and disappointments might sound like the stuff of YA novels, but as this was runner-up for Italy’s Premio Strega and has been sold to 14 countries, something more must be going on. Watch.

Brown, Eli. Cinnamon and Gunpowder. Farrar. Jun. 2012. 272p. ISBN 9780374123666. $26. HISTORICAL
Evocative title, and the plot sounds like a hoot. In 1819, the pirate Mad Hannah Mabbot kills the lord of a booming tea concern but spares his chef, the famous Owen Wedgwood, as long as he manages to serve her an extraordinary meal every Sunday. Soon understandably overwrought Owen has swept away the weevil-infested cornmeal for tea-smoked eel. Brown’s first novel, The Great Days, won the Fabri Prize for Literature, so this isn’t just a divertissement. Check it out.

Conway, James. The Last Trade. Dutton. Jun. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780525952824. $26.95. THRILLER
With his uncanny sense of the financial future, Drew Havens has helped make the Rising Fund a premier hedge operation‚ the only one that did not simply survive the mortgage crisis but benefited from it. Now, however, someone is murdering brokers associated with the Fund, starting with Havens’s protégé. The author himself is a pseudonymous hedge-fund insider, so the money details should be correct. Certainly au courant; buy where financial thrillers do well.

Cussler, Clive & Graham Brown. The Storm. Putnam. Jun. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780399160134. $27.95. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
Just as a NUMA research vessel in the Indian Ocean completes some water sampling, a veritable tide of little black particles comes along, attacks the vessel, and leaves everyone aboard dead. Seems that there’s a plan afoot to change the climate (beyond what we’ve already experienced); it will kill millions, and it’s up to NUMA stars Kurt Austin and Joe Zavala to stop it. More from the very busy Cussler, who seems only to be getting better. Buy multiples.

D’Amato, Brian. The Sacrifice Game. Dutton. Jun. 2012. 672p. ISBN 9780525952411. $29.95. THRILLER
In his debut, In the Courts of the Sun, D’Amato had a bunch of scientists send math prodigy Jed DeLanda back to 664 C.E. to see how the Maya went about predicting the apocalypse of 2012. Having arrived in the body of a human sacrifice and taken a good look around, Jed decided to bring on the apocalypse‚ because clearly humanity needs to be put out of its misery. Here, however, the scientists back in the future have gotten wind of Jed’s plans and work to stop him. Buy where Courts and other sf thrillers are popular.

Ellis, David. The Wrong Man. Putnam. Jun. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780399158285. $25.95. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. THRILLER
The case looks pretty bleak when homeless Iraq War veteran Mike Stoller is accused of murdering a paralegal coming home from night-school class, as he suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder that badly affects his memory. But lawyer Jason Kolarich thinks that the young woman was killed because she had been tracing a money trail linking terrorists to some leading corporations. Interesting premise, and Ellis’s dual standing as an Edgar Award winner and James Patterson’s latest coauthor should attract readers.

Grecian, Alex. The Yard. Putnam. Jun. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780399149542. $26.95. CD/downloadable: Penguin Audio. HISTORICAL THRILLER
After its failure to capture Jack the Ripper, Scotland Yard creates the Murder Squad‚ 12 detectives charged with investigating the thousands of murders in grimy, crime-filled London. They’re not having much luck. Then one of their members is killed, and newly hired Walter Day teams with the Yard’s first forensic pathologist, Dr. Bernard Kingsley, to track down the killer and figure out why he seems to be gunning for the entire squad. This is a new series, but Grecian is no newbie; he’s author of the long-running and critically acclaimed graphic novel series Proof. I’m intrigued.

Grenville, Kate. Sarah Thornhill. Grove. Jun. 2012. 352p. ISBN 9780802120243. $25; eISBN 9780802194459. LITERARY
A novel of frontier violence in Australia, Grenville’s The Secret River won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and was shortlisted for a bunch more. The Lieutenant continued the story. Now here’s the wrap-up, featuring Sarah, the youngest child of River‘s pioneer William Thornhill. Alas, Sarah doesn’t know that her father’s fortune is built on cruel exploitation of the Aborigines. Grenville is forthright in her examination of the historical record‚ she’s drawing partly on family history‚ and the first two books were memorable, so I’m anticipating. With a reading group guide.

Healy, Dermot. Long Time, No See. Viking. Jun. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780670023608. $27.95. LITERARY
A multithreat author (he does novels, short stories, poetry, and memoir) with a stack of awards‚ and called Ireland’s finest living novelist by no less a luminary than Roddy Doyle‚ Healy here offers his first novel in more than a decade. It’s narrated by a young man called Mister Psyche, who lives in a remote coastal village and becomes involved in a series of escapades with grand uncle JoeJoe and JoeJoe’s neighbor, the Blackbird. Lots of Irish lit lovers out there for this book, but you don’t have to be one of them to give this a serious look.

Kellerman, Jesse. Potboiler. Putnam. Jun. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780399159039. $25.95. LITERARY THRILLER
Kellerman does not write classic thrillers like his famous parents, Jonathan and Faye Kellerman, but uses the genre to explore quirky ideas or philosophical questions in a way that hits his books into the cognoscenti’s court. In his latest, unavailing middle-aged college professor Arthur Pfeffenkorn gets some bright ideas when his phenomenally accomplished friend, best-selling thriller writer William de la Vallèe, is lost at sea. For starters, he searches out de la Vallèe widow, the woman he himself loved and lost. From there, things get darker. Watch this one for sophisticated thriller readers.

Makine, Andreï. The Life of an Unknown Man. Graywolf. Jun. 2012. 192p. ISBN 9781555976149. pap. $15. LITERARY
Both before and after the publication of his much-loved Dreams of My Russian Summers, Makine has written novels exploring the burden of Russian history in the 20th century, but this one has a twist. Having spent years exiled in Paris (like Makine himself), a disillusioned writer named Shutov revisits St. Petersburg and strikes up a friendship with an old man named Volsky, who recalls the siege of Leningrad, Stalin’s purges, and a grand love. In the end, Makine brings things up to date and shakes them up a bit by showing that the old man is clearly happier than the desperate go-getters of contemporary Russia. I always enjoy Makine’s books and hope you’ll take a look at this one.

Medina, Pablo. Cubop City Blues. Grove. Jun. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780802119841. $25; eISBN 9780802194558. LITERARY
A novelist (The Cigar Roller), poet (Floating Island), and translator (most recently of Federico García Lorca’s immortal Poeta en Nueva York), Medina puts all his talents to use in this tale of a reimagined New York at the time Latin jazz emerged. In Cubop City, a child is born nearly blind and is homeschooled. But when he’s 25, the Storyteller, as he is called, must care for his parents, Cuban exiles now dying of cancer, which he does by spinning stories from his fervid imagination. Outside the windows, Afro-Cuban jazz patters along. I must say that I don’t know Medina’s work as well as I should, but this does sound gorgeous, no?

Moriarty, Laura. The Chaperone. Riverhead: Penguin Group (USA). Jun. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9781594487019. $26.95. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
Imagine having to chaperone boldly defiant, black-bobbed actress Louise Brooks, who even at 15 must have been a handful. That job falls to traditional but thoughtful Cora Carlisle, a mid-thirties married woman with her own reasons for agreeing to escort Louise from Wichita to New York, where she will be studying dance. Louise will surely light up the book as she did the screen (I do love her), but the brave thing here is to make Cora’s transformative experience the center of the book. Especially appealing to book clubs, so the reading group guide is a plus.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Invisible Monsters Remix. Norton. Jun. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780393083521. $25.95. POP FICTION
Published as a paperback original in 1999, Palahniuk’s tale of a fashion model who loses everything when she is badly disfigured in a drive-by shooting gets a makeover here, featuring new chapters, new scenes, and special design elements. It’s being billed as a director’s cut,” which Palahniuk fans will definitely want.

Pearson, Ridley. The Risk Agent. Putnam. Jun. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780399158834. $25.95. THRILLER
You have to love the guy. Not only is he the author of 16 best-selling novels, not only is he the first American to be awarded the Raymond Chandler/Fulbright Fellowship in detective fiction at Oxford University, but he’s a founding member (with Stephen King, Amy Tan, and Greg Iles) of the Rock Bottom Remainders. In his latest, a Chinese national working for an American firm in Shanghai is hustled away by bad guys, along with his security guard and a pile of top-secret papers. Rutherford Risk operative Grace Chua, a forensic accountant, tracks down the money, while colleague John Knox uses his combat expertise‚ a lot‚ as he looks for the hostage. The start of a new series; likely big.

Rice, Luanne. Little Night. Pamela Dorman: Viking. 336p. ISBN 9780670023561. $26.95. POP FICTION
Lots of novels feature estranged sisters, but Clare and Anne are divided for especially astonishing reasons‚ Clare tried to protect Anne from an abusive husband and ended up in jail for assault, with Anne’s spurious defense of her husband the main reason for the conviction. Years later, Clare finds her niece Grit on her New York doorstep, and they work at building a relationship; there’s even a hint that Anne may be in town looking for reconciliation. Rice’s 30th novel should follow the rest to bestsellerdom; buy multiples, and think about this one for book clubs.

Walcott, Derek. Moon-Child: A Play. Farrar. Jun. 2012. 128p. ISBN 9780374533397. pap. $16. DRAMA
No, not poetry from Nobel prize winner Walcott but a play‚ the first I’ve ever featured in Prepub Alert, unless memory fails me. On lush St. Lucia, a wicked Planter who’s apparently the Devil in disguise aims to turn the island over for development but meets his match in the matriarch of the Bouton family. Not a big, big work but a likely a delight for the literati.

Wright, Tom. What Dies in Summer. Norton. Jun. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780393064025. $25.95. POP FICTION
When Jim and cousin L.A., who’s just moved in with him and his grandmother, discover the body of a raped and murdered girl in a field, Jim’s special gift‚ he’s got the Sight‚ comes in handy. Unfortunately, it also leads them into big trouble. The publisher is putting a lot of effort behind this debut, billed as coming-of-age Southern gothic; buy where such titles are popular and otherwise keep an eye on this one.

Zimmerman, Jean. The Orphanmaster. Viking. Jun. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780670023646. $27.95. HISTORICAL
In 1663 New Amsterdam, orphan children are disappearing, and 22-year-old trader Blandine von Couvering wants to know why‚ not least because she herself is an orphan. She joins forces (in more ways than one) with British spy Edward Drummond, but before they can find the culprit‚ is it the governor’s decadent nephew, a crazed Algonquin trapper, or the shady orphanmaster?‚ Blandine is accused of witchcraft and Edward is caught and sentenced to hanging. Lots of excitement, and not just in the narrative; the house is really behind this debut. Watch.

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.