Fiction Previews, October 2012, Pt. 2: Grisham, Nesb√∏, & More

Barker, Pat. Toby’s Room. Doubleday. Oct. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780385524360. $25.95; eISBN 9780385535021. HISTORICAL
Booker Award winner Barker’s new World War I trilogy (following the wonderful Regeneration trilogy) concerns a group of friends who meet at London’s Slade School of Art and move on through life‚ straight into the war. In this second volume (after Life Class), Toby and sister Elinor share a dark secret, and when Toby is reported missing and believed killed, Elinor faces yet another secret: what really happened. Life Class seemed a weak start to this trilogy; perhaps as we move past backstory to the real tragedy of the fighting, Barker will show her spirit.

Cisneros, Sandra (text) & Esther Hernandez (illus.). Have You Seen Marie? Knopf. Oct. 2012. 112p. ISBN 9780307597946. $21; eISBN 9780307960863. INSPIRATIONAL FICTION
Bereft after the death of her mother (she felt like a glove left behind at the bus station), the award-wining author of The House on Mango Street found renewed meaning by helping friend Roz hunt for her missing cat, Marie. This for-all-ages illustrated volume shows how we heal by investing in others. With a 13-city tour to Albuquerque, Austin, Chicago, Denver, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Portland, San Antonio, San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Seattle.

Duffy, Stella. The Purple Shroud: A Novel of Empress Theodora. Penguin. Oct. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780143122258. pap. $15. HISTORICAL
Duffy made waves last year with Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore, which won not just a lot of enthusiastic readers but the Stonewall Writer of the Year Award. In this sequel, Theodora has snared Justinian, Byzantine emperor in the 500s, and is now learning what it means to rule. The two books have been jointly optioned for an HBO miniseries, so stay tuned.

Fforde, Jasper. The Woman Who Died a Lot: A Thursday Next Novel. Viking. Oct. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780670025022. $26.95. POP FICTION
In her next outing, seventh in Fforde’s outrageously inventive series, Bookworld enforcement officer Thursday Next returns home to Swindon to recuperate after an assassination attempt. But all is not well with her children: Friday’s career in the Chronoguard is floundering, Tuesday won’t be ready with the anti-Smote shield Swindon needs when an angry Deity comes calling, and then there’s Jenny, who’s just a memory. Wistfulness with the fun; the ten-city tour says it all.

Grisham, John. The Racketeer. Doubleday. Oct. 2012. NAp. ISBN 9780385535144. $28.95; eISBN 9780385536882. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. THRILLER
Evidently, only four active federal judges have been murdered in this country, surprising given our wild and wooly ways. Grisham imagines a fifth, Judge Raymond Fogletree, found murdered with his secretary in the lakeside cabin he built for himself. As the narrator says, I did not know Judge Fogletree, but I know who killed him, and why. I am a lawyer, and I am in prison. It’s a long story. And one you will likely want to read.

Homes, A.M. May We Be Forgiven. Viking. Oct. 2012. 496p. ISBN 9780670025480. $26.95. LITERARY
Harold’s younger brother George has it all‚ a fabulous job, wife and kids, and home. He also has fabulous temper, and one day when he really loses it, he manages to lose everything else, too. Suddenly, Harold has a new life running someone else’s family. The forthright Homes, excellent at fractured domesticity, is a writer that, I find, makes serious readers sigh. With a five-city tour.

Jio, Sarah. Blackberry Winter. Plume. Oct. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9780452298385. pap. $15. POP FICTION
Last year, Jio triumphed with two paperback originals, The Violets of March and The Bungalow, which together have 100,000 copies in print. Here she returns with a story that leaps from 1930s Seattle, when single-mother Vera Ray comes off the night shift into a May Day snowstorm (a blackberry winter storm) and finds that her son and been abducted, to the present day, when Seattle Herald reporter Claire Aldridge learns about the long-ago abduction and starts investigating. Sweet, absorbing women’s fiction, from what I know of her previous work.

Nesbø, Jo. Phantom. Knopf. Oct. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780307960474. $28.95; eISBN 9780307960481. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. THRILLER
Nesbø’s books have sold more than 14 million copies worldwide in 47 languages; The Snowman, published here in 2010, has sold 150,000 copies to date and was bought by Working Title Films, with Martin Scorsese attached to direct. In this latest adventure featuring Harry Hole, Harry has abandoned Oslo for Hong Kong. Then Oleg, the son of the woman he loved and left behind, is arrested for murder, and Harry returns to save him singlehandedly (he’s barred from rejoining the police force). Much followed; consider multiples.

Salter, James. All That Is. Knopf. Oct. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9781400043132. $25.95; eISBN 9780307961099. LITERARY
PEN/Faulkner winner Salter publishes rarely‚ this is his first fiction in seven years‚ but when he does it’s choice. This novel features World War II veteran Philip Bowman, now a book editor, who enjoys the charged and intimate environment of the era’s publishing world yet suffers in his emotional life, enduring a failed marriage and relentless betrayal. A real in-house favorite; don’t miss.

Sullivan, Mark. Rogue. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9780312378516. $24.95. THRILLER
Billed as part Bourne Identity, part Mission: Impossible, and part Hitchcock’s It Takes a Thief, this thriller stars Robin Monarch, a former topnotch CIA operative who abandoned his post mid-mission and vanished without explanation. Now he’s a thief, stealing from the very, very rich. But after a job goes wrong, he’s trapped into completing the mission he left behind. Sullivan writes international best sellers by himself and with James Patterson; keep an eye out for this one.

Wickersham, Joan. The News from Spain: Seven Variations on a Love Story. Knopf. Oct. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780307958884. $24.95; eISBN 9780307958891. SHORT STORIES
Astute readers will know Wickersham as the author of National book Award finalist The Suicide Index and will have seen her short fiction in Best American Short Stories. This theme-and-variation collection swirls across the globe over centuries, ranging from the collaboration between Mozart and librettist Da Ponte on several operas to a racecar driver’s widow, and nursing home resident, and a love triangle in 1940s America. My vote for book on this list I’m most curious to see; with a reading group guide.

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. Dennis says:

    Sleight correction re: Sullivan, Mark. Rogue. Billed as … part Hitchcock’s It Takes a Thief,

    The Hitchcock film you’re referring to was titles “To catch a thief.”

    There was a TV series called “It takes a thief” that ran for three seasons starting in 1968 about a professional thief who works for the government.