Fiction Previews, November 2012, Pt. 1: McCall Smith, Mayle, Munro, and More

Brom. Krampus: The Yule Lord. Morrow. Nov. 2012. 368p. ISBN 9780062095657. $27.99. FANTASY
One Christmas Eve in Boone County, WV, a songwriter manqué named Jesse intervenes when he sees men in black attacking a white-bearded gent in a sleigh. Yes, it’s Santa, but he’s the bad guy here‚ and that’s Krampus’s bag left at the scene. According to Krampus, an age-old trickster demon who punishes wrongdoing, Santa locked him up and stole his magic 500 years ago. Now he’s free and wants his magic back‚ along with the holiday Santa so rudely usurped. Illustrator/author Brom’s big hit, The Child Thief, went through four printings; fans will be looking for this one. With a 40,000-copy first printing, plus 35 black-and-white illustrations and eight pages of color.

Carr, Caleb. The Legend of Broken. Random. Nov. 2012. 688p. ISBN 9781400062836. $27; eISBN 9780812994087. HISTORICAL
Back in 1994, Carr landed like a meteorite with The Alienist, which has sold over two million copies in all formats to date. Subsequent titles, also big sellers‚ though nowhere near as big as The Alienist‚ ricocheted from Victorian England to 2023. Here Carr goes way back in time to the medieval era, where a fortress may fall to the roiling invaders without or to undermining forces within. Evidently lots of juicy characters, e.g., a noble warrior and a scientist condemned for sorcery. Will this outsell The Alienist? We’ll see.

Chiaverini, Jennifer. The Giving Quilt: An Elm Creek Quilts Novel. Dutton. Nov. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780525953609. $25.95. POP FICTION
Post-Thanksgiving at Elm Creek Manor, aspiring quilters are enjoying a special winter session of quilt camp. Their aim? To create warm, colorful quilts for Project Linus, a real-life charity Chiaverini supports that gives handmade quilts and blankets to needy children. Not a dry eye after finishing this book; with a reading group guide and eight-city tour.

Engelmann, Karen. The Stockholm Octave. Ecco: HarperCollins. Nov. 2012. 432p. ISBN 9780061995347. $26.99. LITERARY HISTORICAL
Engelmann sets her debut novel in 1790s Stockholm‚ the city’s Golden Age, though with our spare knowledge of Swedish history, as Francine du Plessix Gray points out, we wouldn’t know much about it‚ and invents a card game called Octave that drives the action. When the fortune-telling Mrs. Sophia Sparrow foresees a golden future for smug bureaucrat Emil Larsson, she lays an Octave for him so that he can find the eight people who will help him realize that vision. Soon, however, Larsson realizes that his search is tied up with the fate of his country, which is verging on chaos. Historical fiction with heft‚ and some hefty buzz; there’s a 50,000-copy first printing, and rights have been sold to ten countries.

McCall Smith, Alexander. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds. Pantheon. Nov. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780307907332. $24.95; eISBN 9780307907349. MYSTERY
Boasting more than one million copies in print, the Isabel Dalhousie series is right up there in popularity with McCall Smith’s No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series. In this ninth entry, a Scottish landowner robbed of a Nicolas Poussin painting slated for the Scottish National Gallery asks Isabel’s help in dealing with the thieves, who have approached him privately. Just who are they, and does the hapless victim actually know them? With a reading group guide and a tour that will include Atlanta, Boston, Mobile, and New York, plus locales in Vermont and Canada.

Mayle, Peter. The Marseille Caper. Knopf. Nov. 2012. 224p. ISBN 9780307594198. $24. CD/downloadable: Random House Audio. MYSTERY
Mayle introduced charming, roguish sleuth Sam Levitt in The Vintage Caper, which has sold nearly 100,000 copies in hardcover, paperback, and ebook. (And he didn’t go on tour to plump for it, as the publisher hastens to point out; his tour for this second in the series is expected to push up the numbers.) Sam is happily ensconced in Los Angeles with charming Elena Morales when rich Francis Reboul calls him back to Marseille. Alas, helping out Francis puts Sam in the midst of a major real estate hustle, with the danger escalating as the battle over Marseille’s valuable waterfront heats up. Mayle’s tour will hit Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Munro, Alice. Dear Life: Stories. Knopf. Nov. 2012. 336p. ISBN 9780307596888. $26.95; eISBN 9780307961044. CD/downloadable: Random House Audio. SHORT STORIES
The highly admired Munro has won virtually every award imaginable (e.g., three Governor General’s Literary Awards and the Man Booker International Prize) and also sells books; her last title, Too Much Happiness, sold nearly 133,000 copies. The stories in her new collection, which revisits the towns and countryside around Lake Huron, highlight key moments when one’s life changes forever. Don’t miss.

Pullman, Philip. Fairy Tales from the Brothers Grimm: A New English Version. Viking. Nov. 2012. 400p. ISBN 9780670024971. $27.95. FAIRY TALES
Yes, it’s been 200 years since the publication of the first volume of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s Children’s and Household Tales, and we’ll be seeing celebrations. Norton is reissuing an update of Maria Tatar’s The Annotated Brothers Grimm, and now Pullman has jumped in with his own versions of 50 of the immortal tales, from perennials like Cinderella to less familiar gems like Briar-Rose. The dark edginess of Pullman’s own work (like the famed Dark Materials trilogy) seems a good match for the Grimm tone of these stories.

Schutt, Christine. Prosperous Friends. Grove. Nov. 2012. 256p. ISBN 9780802120380. $24. LITERARY
National Book Award finalist, Pulitzer Prize finalist, and two-time O. Henry Prize winner, Schutt is a writer’s writer whose elegant prose seems chiseled out of diamonds. Here, golden boy Ned Bourne and his wife, Isabel, seek fulfillment of their artistic promise by traveling to London, New York, and Maine but are less successful in managing their emotional and sexual lives. Understanding comes when they meet older painter Clive Harris and his poet wife, Dinah. With a reading group guide; for discriminating folks.

Sussman, Paul. The Labyrinth of Osiris. Atlantic Monthly. Nov. 2012. 448p. ISBN 9780802120410. $25. THRILLER
With Sussman’s The Last Secret of the Temple and The Lost Army of Cambyses having each sold over a million copies worldwide, you can bet that readers will be interested in this next work. Det. Arieh Ben-Roi is stumped by the murder of crusading Israeli journalist Rivka Kleinberg, found dead in a Jerusalem cathedral (of all places). So for help he turns to long-time buddy Yusuf Khalifa of the Luxor police. Kleinberg had been digging into the death of a British Egyptologist in the 1930s, which might provide some clues. Fun.


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.