Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, January 13, 2012

Week ending January 13, 2012

Crais, Robert. Taken. Putnam. Jan. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780399158278. $26.95. F
Crais’s entertaining 15th Elvis Cole/Joe Pike thriller (after the New York Times best-selling The First Rule and The Sentry) features a multinational cast of bandits who buy, sell, and steal one another’s kidnapped victims. When professional kidnappers capture a college-age couple who venture into the desert south of Palm Springs near the Mexican border, the young woman’s mother hires Cole to find them. Through a series of undercover efforts, Cole, Pike, and their talented sidekick Jon Stone begin to decipher the power balance in this international matrix of cartels and move cautiously yet decisively to infiltrate the smugglers’ web. But when the bandits capture Cole, Pike and Stone must find a way to use his misfortune to their advantage, thwarting the kidnappers and bringing justice to the victims.
Verdict Crais’s captivating plot together with his crisp dialog makes for swift and satisfying reading. Fans as well as general mystery readers will enjoy this latest effort.‚ Jerry P. Miller., Cambridge, MA

Gallagher, Stephen. The Bedlam Detective. Crown Pub. Group. Feb. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780307406644. $25. M
Sebastian Becker is a special investigator for the Lord Chancellor’s Visitor in Lunacy‚ a detective who studies whether various wealthy individuals are of sound mind and capable of conducting their own affairs. He is assigned to investigate a rich landowner, but his arrival in the man’s small town coincides with a double murder for which the subject of his visit seems a likely suspect. As he works to ferret out the truth, Becker must find a way to distinguish the real monsters from the imaginary ones. The story moves easily between present and past events, leading to a conclusion that is as perfectly logical as it is surprising.
Intricately drawn characters, carefully shaded depictions of events and situations, and an excellent sense of pacing mark this latest offering from Gallagher (The Kingdom of Bones; Nightmare, with Angel). This is a real page-turner, and fans will hope to see more of Sebastian Becker in the future. It may also attract readers who enjoy historical thrillers in the Caleb Carr tradition.‚ Pamela O’Sullivan, SUNY Brockport Lib.

Gardner, Lisa. Catch Me. Dutton. Feb. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780525952763. $26.95. F
D.D. Warren has returned from maternity leave and is back on the job just in time to investigate a crime spree in which the victims are also child predators. She’s soon contacted by a young woman named Charlie Grant, who announces that she expects to be killed in several days and asks D.D. to investigate her murder. As D.D. copes with personal issues while working with her old team (plus a new face in Detective O) to piece together this crime puzzle, the two seemingly unconnected cases begin to show signs of overlapping. The clues all point in one direction, prompting D.D. to rethink and reevaluate the evidence in the race to put that final piece in place.
New York Times best-selling author Gardner (Love You More; Live To Tell; Alone) always plays in the big leagues, but this scare-your-socks-off thriller is a grand slam, packed with enigmatic characters (some good, some crazily evil), expert procedural detail, and superb storytelling. Readers will be guessing who done it until the final pages‚ and the author’s fans will love all the name-dropping from previous works. Fans of Michael Connelly and Harlan Coben will delight in Gardner’s scare-fest.‚ Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City‚ Cty. P.L., St. Peters, MO

Gracie, Anne. Bride by Mistake. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). (Devil Riders, Bk. 5). Jan. 2012. 309p. ISBN 9780425245798. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
The war with Napoleon is long over for Lord Luke Ripton, but despite devastating nightmares he must return to Spain to reclaim something he left behind in a convent‚ his bride. Young Lieutenant Ripton had rescued 13-year-old Isabella Sanchez y Vaillant from an attacker and married her in order to prevent her evil cousin from having her. Now eight years later, Luke’s child bride is a grown woman who has her own agenda before she traipses off to England with the man about whom she fantasized over all those years. Luke is indeed handsome, but he has secrets that Ella wants to uncover. Luke realizes that the frightened girl he rode away from has become a less-than-biddable adult who might just make his life more torturous than anything the enemy threw at him.
Verdict This latest title from Gracie (The Accidental Wedding) introduces a feisty young woman who refuses to be cowed by her aristocratic husband and the honor-bound gentleman who overcomes his past and grows to appreciate his spirited and determined bride. The Spanish landscape brings a fresh perspective to the series. For all fans of historical romance.‚ Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Halverson, Seré Prince. The Underside of Joy. Dutton. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780525952596. $25.95. F
Ella Beene and Joe Capozzi fell into love and a joyful family life so easily that it seems that they had always been together. She and her first husband had split when all their efforts to have a baby failed. Meanwhile, Joe had been reeling from his abandonment by wife Paige, who left him with a three-year-old and an infant. Living in a small town in the California Redwoods, Joe and Ella made a living running the market that had been in the Capozzi family for generations. Three years into their blissful marriage, Joe’s shocking death while pursuing his first love, photography, sets in motion the unraveling of all that Ella, her charming stepchildren, and Joe’s family hold dear when the unthinkable happens: Paige reenters the picture wanting to claim her children. Ella, reeling from a series of stunning secrets that Joe kept from her, fights tooth and nail against grief, a failing store, and instant poverty to do right by the children who are her world.
Halverson’s gloriously down-to-earth novel is so pitch perfect that as readers reluctantly reach the last page, wanting more, they will have to take it on faith that this really is her first fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 7/25/11.]‚ Beth E. Andersen, Ann Arbor Dist. Lib., MI

Jones, Darynda. Third Grave Dead Ahead. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781250001542. $23.99. M
In the third installment (after First Grave on the Right, winner of a 2009 Golden Heart for Best Paranormal Romance Manuscript, and Second Grave on the Left) of this paranormal mystery series, grim reaper Charley Davidson, who handles dead people’s requests to expose their murderers, is juggling the investigations of several missing persons and the hunt for a dog killer while trying to resist her intense feelings for Reyes, the Son of Satan. While this series’ premise at first seems reminiscent of Terri Garey’s Nicki Styx novels (Nicki is also responsible for tying up loose ends for the dead so they can go to the light), Charley is in fact very different from the goth, vintage-obsessed Nicki, and her relationship with Reyes adds its own interesting, complicating dimension to the story.
A must-buy for Charley Davidson fans, the novel has an engaging style‚ coupled with the enjoyable sarcasm of its protagonist‚ that will no doubt win Jones an expanding readership among paranormal romance/mystery aficionados. [See Prepub Alert, 8/1/11.]‚ Crystal Renfro, Georgia Inst. of Technology Lib., Atlanta

Usen, Amanda. Scrumptious. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Jan. 2012. 316p. ISBN 9781402259821. pap. $6.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Marlene Bennet is the dessert chef at Chameleon, a classy upstate New York eatery owned by her friend Olivia Watson. The women have been best buds since forever, but Marlene didn’t have the same opportunity to attend culinary school. Still, she’s a great chef, though she now dominates Chameleon’s bakeshop because she can’t work alongside Olivia’s inept husband, Keith. Finding Keith with his checked pants down (literally), Olivia boots him out, leaving Chameleon one chef short. She offers the spot, if only temporarily, to her old cooking school pal Joe Rafferty. Olivia was planning to set Joe up with Marly, as both have a penchant for hot sex on a short-term basis and Joe is off to bigger things in California. Marly just sees him now as competition, even if their hookup sends her pleasure-meter sky-high. Adding to the mix, someone is sabotaging the restaurant, and no one is beyond suspicion.
Verdict The rapid-fire repartee and imaginative bed sport between our ultimately fragile lovers is matched only by the rock ’em, sock ’em goings-on in the kitchen. Culinary Institute of America grad Usen puts her skills to excellent effect in this debut novel as she allows readers a behind-the-scenes view of dining out. Sexy, tart, spicy, and just plain Scrumptious.‚ Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"