Fiction Reviews, April 1, 2012

starred review starGideon, Melanie. Wife 22. Ballantine. Jun. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780345527950. $26. F

Chick-lit fans over the age of 30 will want to rush home from work, kick off their shoes, mix themselves tart cocktails, and settle down to read this wry debut novel by the best-selling author of The Slippery Year: A Meditation on Happily Ever After. Alice Buckle, a 44-year-old from Massachusetts, has been living in the San Francisco Bay Area for years when she realizes she and her husband have drifted apart while advancing their careers (mostly him) and raising their children (mostly her). Dissatisfied, Alice agrees to participate in a marriage study and, as Wife 22, is paired with Researcher 101. After weeks of anonymously sharing increasingly intimate details about her marriage, Alice begins to feel that Researcher 101 understands her better than her own husband does. VERDICT Peppered with Facebook updates, email messages, and chat logs, this book is a skillful blend of pop-culture references, acidic humor, and emotional moments. It will take its rightful place in the chick-lit canon alongside Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, Anna Maxted’s Getting Over It, and Allison Pearson’s I Don’t Know How She Does It. [See Prepub Alert, 12/12/11.]‚ Laurie A. Cavanaugh, Wareham Free Lib., MA

starred review starKanon, Joseph. Istanbul Passage. Atria: S. & S. May 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9781439156414. $26. F

Some thrillers don’t just entertain but put us smack in the middle of tough moral questions, and it’s no surprise that the author of The Good German has done just that in his superbly crafted new work. Leon Bauer is an American businessman living in Istanbul during World War II whose German Jewish wife helped smuggle Jews to Palestine until she lost her mind after a traumatic incident. During the war, Leon did the occasional odd job for the American embassy, but with the fighting just over he has one last assignment: to help smuggle into Istanbul someone the Americans want badly‚ and want badly to keep from the Soviets. The pickup goes horribly wrong, as Leon and friend ÔøΩMihai are fired upon and Leon ends up killing their assailant. Later, Mihai angrily recognizes the man they’ve smuggled in as someone with a horrible past; Leon is even more shocked to discover the identity of the gunman he killed. And so it goes, as each expert twist and turn places Leon in an increasingly precarious situation and the reader wonders desperately, What would I have done? VERDICT A beautifully conceived and atmospheric thriller; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 11/28/11.]‚ Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

starred review starMandel, Emily St. John. The Lola Quartet. Unbridled. May 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781609530792. $24.95. F

In her riveting third novel (following The Singer’s Gun), Mandel evokes murky Florida suburbs and smoky New York jazz clubs. A loosely gathered high school jazz quartet unravels after graduation as the musicians go their separate ways. Ten years later, their uncertain paths may cross once again after youthful hopes and dreams are pushed aside by harsh, dangerous realities. The economic downturn, coupled with a host of erratic decisions, leads to lives of quiet desperation. The story is anchored by Gavin, who imagines himself to be a gumshoe detective while wilting in the Florida heat; his obsessive search for a former love propels the story forward. One of Mandel’s gifts is her ability to drop nearly invisible clues as to how these four disparate lives might intersect once more. Her conclusion turns on a dime. VERDICT Evocative, intriguing, and complex, this novel is as smooth as the underbelly of a deadly, furtive reptile. Mandel’s substantial fan base will rejoice; word of mouth will bring new fans on board.‚ Susanne Wells, Indianapolis

The following titles are reviewed in the April 1 print issue. Visit our Reviews Center (Beta) for the full reviews.

Anderson, Howard. Albert of Adelaide. Twelve: Hachette. Jul. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9781455509621. $24.99. F

Angelella, J.R. Zombie. Soho, dist. by Consortium. Jun. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9781616950880. pap. $15. F

√Årbol, Víctor del. The Sadness of the Samurai. Holt. May 2012. c.400p. tr. from Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. ISBN 9780805094756. $28. F

Cherian, Anne. The Invitation. Norton. May 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780393081602. $25.95. F

Dabbagh, Selma. Out of It. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781608198764. pap. $14. F

Fishman, Zoe. Saving Ruth. Morrow. May 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780062059840. pap. $14.99. F

Hagy, Alyson. Boleto. Graywolf. May 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781555976125. $24. F

Heti, Sheila. How Should a Person Be? Holt. Jun. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780805094725. $25. F

Lanchester, John. Capital. Norton. Jun. 2012. ISBN 9780393082074. $26.95. F

Meades, Christopher. The Last Hiccup. ECW, dist. by IPG. Apr. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9781550229738. pap. $16.95. F

Moriarty, Liane. The Hypnotist’s Love Story. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Jun. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780399159107. $25.95. F

starred review starPearson, Ridley. The Risk Agent. Putnam. Jun. 2012. c.432p. ISBN 9780399158834. $25.95. F

Roy-Bhattacharya, Joydeep. The Watch. Hogarth: Crown. Jun 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780307955890. $25. F

Rutledge, Lynda. Faith Bass Darling’s Last Garage Sale. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. May 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780399157196. $25.95. F

starred review starSegal, Francesca. The Innocents. Voice: Hyperion. Jun. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9781401341817. pap. $25.99. F

Smolinski, Jill. Objects of My Affection. Touchstone: S. & S. May 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781451660753. $24.99. F

starred review starSwift, Graham. Wish You Were Here. Knopf. Apr. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780307700124. $25. F

Tilghman, Christopher. The Right-Hand Shore. Farrar. May 2012. c.368p. ISBN 9780374203481. $27. F

Tyler, Anne. The Beginner’s Goodbye. Knopf. Apr. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780307957276. $24.95. F

Unsworth, Barry. The Quality of Mercy. Nan A. Talese: Doubleday. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780385534772. $26.95. F

starred review starWalter, Jess. Beautiful Ruins. Harper: HarperCollins. Jun. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780061928123. $25.99. F

Short stories

Keret, Etgar. Suddenly, a Knock on the Door. Farrar. Apr. 2012. c.192p. tr. from Hebrew by Miriam Shlesinger & others. ISBN 9780374533335. pap. $14. F