Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, June 1, 2012

Week ending June 1, 2012

Estleman, Loren D. Burning Midnight: An Amos Walker Novel. Forge: Tor. Jun. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780765331205. $24.99. M
Detroit police inspector John Alderdyce, who has a complicated and long history with PI Amos Walker (Infernal Angels; The Left-Handed Dollar), arrives hat in hand with a plea to rescue a family member from the clutches of gang life. This entreaty ushers Amos into the world of Mexicantown, an area in southwest Detroit that is less than friendly to our wise-cracking detective. There he finds a new and depressing aspect to racial relations in this once great city. Two rival gangs, the Maldados and the Zapatistas, are waging a turf war while drug running, cock-fighting, and an avenging former nun named Sister Delia reign supreme. As always, the city itself takes center stage as the ever-present and tragic leading lady in this award-winning series.
Amos Walker is as much a piece of Detroit history as Motown, and his tenaciousness and grit shine though in this fast-paced mystery. The tale is full of action, with vivid and candid descriptions of the squalor that has a stranglehold on the inner city. Sure to please the many enthusiasts of the series and a definite winner for readers of gritty, urban mysteries with a noir feel.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph P. L., MI

Fresina, Jayne. The Most Improper Miss Sophie Valentine. Sourcebooks Casablanca. Jun. 2012. 373p. ISBN 9781402265976. pap. $6.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
After Miss Sophia Valentine is caught in a compromising position with James Hartley on the billiard table at the London home of her relatives, James proposes marriage, but isn’t that the expected thing? Sophie hates being constrained by expectations. Better to leap into the unknown than to settle for less than her warrior hero. And so she does. Ten years later, nearing 30, the still unwed Sophie lives in her family home in Sydney Dovedale with her brother and his shrewish wife. The scar across her face from her fall from the balustrade makes her a subject of derision among her neighbors and her family. In a fit of temper, she advertises in a local newspaper for a husband. Dark and mysterious Lazarus Kane arrives in the village in response to Sophie’s advertisement. In truth, he has finally found his fallen angel from that night in London, the woman who saved him, and he has come to return the favor. Unfortunately for Lazarus, James has also seen the ad.
Verdict Fresina (Seducing the Beast) has drawn her protagonists with impeccable skill, making readers root for our unconventional heroine and her equally flawed hero. Stylish, witty dialog entices as this seemingly odd couple discover a present and the possibility of a future that far outweigh their turbulent pasts. Romance fans will happily enjoy this valentine.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Methven, Jon. This Is Your Captain Speaking. S. & S. Jun. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9781451642155. pap. $16. F
Flight AW2921 is leaving New York when it has a sudden engine failure. Capt. Hank Swagger, ignoring available runways and open fields, chooses to land on the Hudson River, where a fleet of ferries just happens to be waiting. His perfect landing saves the lives of 162 surprisingly beautiful people. Disgraced TV reporter Lucy Springer is onboard and immediately senses that the perfect landing feels staged. Passenger Normal Fulk also notices that something is wrong, though it could be his own tragic luck. Lucy wants a story, Swagger wants the glory, and all Normal wants to do is save the semen of John Lennon he was illegally trafficking when the plane went down. These unlikely characters come together to unravel the conspiracy behind Air Wanderlust’s miraculous landing.
Debut author Methven has written a fast-paced, fun, and thought-provoking satire. While at times crass, the deeply flawed characters pull the reader in until one can’t help cheering on their foibles. This will strongly appeal to readers of Carl Hiaasen and Christopher Moore.—Jennifer Beach, Cumberland Cty. P.L., VA

Quirk, Matthew. The 500. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Jun. 2012. c.304p. ISBN 9780316198622. $25.99. F
A year ago, Mike Ford was studying at Harvard Law with a mountain of debt from his late mother’s cancer treatments and no help from his jailed con man father. Now, thanks to Henry Davies of the powerful Davies Group, Mike’s father is out of prison, and the newly minted lawyer is out of debt, living in a nice house and getting very cozy with beautiful junior partner Annie Clark. Mike discovers, though, that the conning tricks that rubbed off from his father are as useful as his Harvard degree in his job helping Henry influence members of the 500‚ the most powerful individuals in Washington, DC. His immediate boss is William Marcus, a man whom Mike is certain once killed for the CIA. His current assignment involves a junior congressman and Rado, a Serbian war criminal. When a Supreme Court justice and Rado’s daughter are murdered by William on Henry’s orders, Mike is framed and must use all of his skills to survive.
Verdict With a brash but naive hero fighting a powerful, shadowy organization, this is fairly standard thriller fare that, while not rising above the pack, should satisfy genre readers. [See Prepub Alert, 12/12/11; ten-city tour.]—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

Stephenson, Neal & others. The Mongoliad. 47North: Amazon. (Foreworld Saga, Bk. 1). 2012. 458p. ISBN 9781612182360. pap. $14.95. FANTASY
In this slightly alternate history of medieval Eurasia, √ñgedei Khan, son of Genghis, has not only conquered all of Asia and Eastern Europe, he is poised to crush the West as well. The hopes of the West are pinned on the Khan’s Circus of Swords, a championship exhibition that may buy its armies time to regroup. But one band of militant knights decides on a bold, and totally unsanctioned, quest‚ to infiltrate the vast Mongol Empire and assassinate the Khan. Meanwhile, in the Mongol capital, a young man of the steppes attempts a different mission; Gansukh has been tasked by the Khan’s brother with saving the Khan from the demons in his court and within his own soul.
This story, originally written cooperatively by seven authors (Stephenson, Erik and Greg Bear, Joseph Brassey, E.D. deBirmingham, Cooper Moo, and Mark Teppo) in serial form, sometimes shows its roots as a story about the fighting first and the plot second. Recommended for readers of alternate history and military fantasy‚ and fans of Stephenson.—Marlene Harris, Reading Reality, LLC, Atlanta

starred review starWinslow, Don. The Kings of Cool: A Prequel to Savages. S. & S. Jun. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781451665321. $28.99. F
The sins of the fathers and mothers are wrought upon sons and daughters in this prequel to Winslow’s acclaimed Savages. Cutting their teeth as runners for their drug-dealing parents in sunbathed Laguna Beach, CA, teenagers Ben, Chon, and O slither between the hippie cave dwellers of the canyons and the ocean-view mansions of the mega-rich. Chon breaks from the beach crowd and joins the military, but upon his return he easily returns to the chaotic marijuana trade of his father. It’s hard to turn down the money, and it gives Chon time with his pals Ben and O, who give his life meaning and stability. Caught among crooked cops, a publicity-seeking DEA agent, and the violent Mexican drug cartels, the trio become modern-day versions of Bonnie and Clyde as they fight to escape the crossfire. Friends over family is the clear choice in this adrenaline-fused collision of generations.
Verdict Published to coincide with the release of Oliver Stone’s movie version of Savages, this is another Winslow roller-coaster thriller. Set against the lush backdrop of Laguna Beach, it graphically depicts the ferocious drug trade and shows the reader how the characters of Ben, Chon, and O came to be the darkly engrossing twentysomethings of Savages.—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

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"