Fiction Previews, August 2012, Pt. 3: Kenyon and Hurwitz Return, Sandi Tan Offers First Fiction

Cohen, Joshua. Four New Messages. Graywolf. Aug. 2012. 208p. ISBN 9781555976187. pap. $14. STORIES
Not for everyone, but please let the cognoscenti know that the brilliant Cohen, author of the shape-shifting Witz, is back with four expectedly weird and imaginative stories. In one, a writing teacher won’t read his students’ stories but asks them to build replicas of the Flatiron Building; elsewhere, an aspiring journalist stumbles upon a village (in Russia?) inhabited by women who have starred in the Internet porn he’s watched.

Cumming, Charles. A Foreign Country. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780312591335. $24.99. CD: Macmillan Audio. THRILLER
Even as an elderly French couple is murdered in Egypt and a young French accountant is snatched from the streets of Paris, Amelie Levene‚ about to become the first female chief of M16‚ vanishes in the south of France. Former M16 officer Thomas Kell, now in bad odor with the service, appears to be the only person capable of finding Levene and figuring out what links the three events. One of the publisher’s biggest books of the month and a juicy-sounding follow-up to the best-selling The Trinity Six.

Dabbagh, Selma. Out of It. Bloomsbury USA, dist. by Macmillan. Aug. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781608198764. pap. $14. LITERARY
As bombs drop on Gaza, unemployed 27-year-old Rashid restlessly awaits word of a scholarship that will take him to London, his wheelchair-bound older brother writes a history of their country, and his twin sister becomes seriously involved in politics. A first novel from PEN and Pushcart prize nominee Dabbagh, likely an important new voice on Palestine (Dabbagh currently lives in London).

Hiller, Mischa. Shake Off. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Aug. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780316204200. $24.99. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Having escaped from the exploding Middle East, where his family was killed by extremists, Michel Khoury has become an intelligence operative with a desire for peace, a stash of passports and unmarked bills in the bathroom of his London apartment, and a new girlfriend who doesn’t know his true identity. Soon, the truth wills out and turns deadly, forcing the couple on the run from London to Berlin to the Scottish countryside. Hiller, who’s half-Palestinian and half-British, should give texture to his first thriller (and second novel after the award-winning Sabra Zoo). Great quotes from not just the UK but the Jordan Times and Israel’s Haaretz.

Hurwitz, Gregg. The Survivor. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780312625511. $25.99; eISBN 9781250009722. THRILLER
Some set-up: divorced, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, and dying of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, former soldier Nate Overbay stands 11 stories up on the ledge of a bank building, ready to end it all. But when robbers break into the bank and start shooting, Nate rushes down and handily saves the day, only to be kidnapped by the Russian mobster who masterminded the initial break-in. Nate is told that he must return to the bank and snatch what the mobster was after‚ or watch his ex-wife and daughter suffer the consequences. Great expectations: Hurwitz’s You’re Next was an LJ Best Thriller of 2011.

Jones, Howard Andrew. The Bones of the Old Ones. Thomas Dunne Bks: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780312646752. $25.99; eISBN 9781250015136. FANTASY
Emerging fantasy author Jones follows up The Desert of Souls, a sword-and-sorcery debut set in eighth-century Baghdad, with the continued adventures of scholar Dabir and soldier Assim. Here, the dazzling duo find themselves living comfortably in Mosul‚ until a young woman approaches them, insisting that she has escaped from a sorcerous cabal and that her memory has been altered by magic. The tools of the cabal? The Bones of the Old Ones. Looking up.

Kenyon, Sherrilyn. Time Untime. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780312546618. $25.99; eISBN 9781466801981. CD: Macmillan Audio. PARANORMAL
Bad news for the warrior Ren Waya, just back from the dead: to keep a prophecy from coming true and an ancient evil from reemerging to destroy the world, he must kill Kateri Avani, the one person he has always cherished. Meanwhile, Kateri has been plagued by visions of places she hasn’t visited and a man she hasn’t met and has headed to Las Vegas (Las Vegas?) to calm herself. Next in the Dark-Hunter series; note that Kenyon has been No. 1 on the New York Times best sellers list an eye-opening 15 times in the last two years. Multiples, of course.

MacMahon, Kathleen. This Is How It Ends. Grand Central. Aug. 2012. 356p. ISBN 9781455511310. $24.99. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. POP FICTION
You’ll have to read the book to find out how it ends, but it begins in fall 2008 when Bruno travels from America to Ireland in search of his roots and meets unemployed architect Addie, who’s nursing both a broken heart and her ailing dad. Lots of excitement at the London Book Fair for this debut by MacMahon, a journalist RT√â News, Ireland’s National Public Service Broadcaster; rights have sold to 20 territories so far.

Read, Cornelia. Valley of Ashes. Grand Central. Aug. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780446511360. $24.99. lrg. prnt. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Read’s a rising author in the scary-reading realm; her debut, A Field of Darkness, was nominated for all the biggies‚ the Edgar, Barry, Anthony, Gumshoe, RT Book Reviews Reviewers’ Choice, and Audie awards‚ and her subsequent titles have won stars, best books honors, and regional bestsellerdom. In her latest, Madeline Dare is bored with life as a stay-at-home mom in Boulder, CO, where the family has just moved, so she takes on a freelance newspaper assignment. Unfortunately, a serial arsonist is making her job a whole lot more trouble than she had imagined.

Rich, Simon. What in God’s Name. Reagan Arthur Bks: Little, Brown. Aug. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780316133739. $23.99. POP FICTION
Founder and CEO of Heaven, Inc., a bored God is about to ditch Earth when Craig and Eliza, two starry-eyed angels from the Department of Miracles, intervene. If they can convince Earth’s two most socially maladjusted souls to fall in love, then the planet will be saved. Former president of the Harvard Lampoon, a four-time Emmy nominee for his writing on Saturday Night Live, and author of the novel Elliot Allagash (the film rights have just been sold), Rich has credentials in the Department of Laughs. Let’s see how this works.

Schneider, Michel. Marilyn’s Last Sessions: A Novel. Little, Brown. Aug. 2012. 416p. ISBN 9780316212991. $25.99. POP FICTION
Dropped into the schedule in time for the 50th anniversary of Marilyn Monroe’s death, this translation from the French reimagines the star’s last visits with Dr Ralph Greenson, her psychoanalyst and at the time probably the most important person in her candle-in-the-wind life. In a revealing review when the translation appeared in the UK, John Banville calls this a fascinating if puzzling hybrid, even quoting the author’s observation that like Marilyn’s hair, this novel is a phony of the bona-fide kind. Take a look if Marilyn rage is hitting your community.

Tan, Sandi. The Black Isle. Grand Central. Aug. 2012. 464p. ISBN 9780446563925. $24.99. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. HISTORICAL
Cassandra has fled Shanghai with her father and twin brother for the Black Isle, a steamy, teemy British colony in the Indonesian archipelago. It’s crammed not only with immigrants like herself but with ghosts, which only she can see and whose blandishments she studiously resists. Meanwhile, there’s trouble in the world of the living: even as Cassandra wrestles with impossible love and her increasingly important role in the booming colony, war is looming‚ the book opens in the 1920s and takes us through World War II. An intriguing-sounding debut from filmmaker Tan.

Tsukiyama, Gail. A Hundred Flowers. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9780312274818. $24.99. CD: Macmillan Audio. HISTORICAL
In 1957, Mao may have proclaimed, Let a hundred flowers bloom, but not long thereafter the Cultural Revolution began. Tsukiyama here portrays the family of Kai Ying, whose teacher husband is sent to the countryside for reeducation after writing a letter critical of the regime and whose young son, desperate for a view of his father, climbs a tree and breaks his leg badly after falling. Winner of the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award and author of best sellers like Women of the Silk, Tsukiyama can be relied on to deliver a powerful sense of the political through the delicately polished lens of the domestic.

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.