Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, June 22, 2012

Week ending June 22, 2012

Castillo, Linda. Gone Missing. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Jun. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780312658564. $24.99. F
Police chief Kate Burkholder (Breaking Silence) returns in this gripping tale of Amish Rumspringa, the time given to teens to sow their wild oats before committing to a religious life as one of the Plain People. Burkholder’s Amish upbringing gives her some insight into how to deal with the Amish when several of their teenagers go missing. Her investigation is complicated when a body is found because the Amish do not allow photographs or have phones. The only bright spot is that Burkholder gets to work with state agent John Tomasetti again, and their relationship deepens. When Kate’s favorite niece vanishes as well, the case becomes personal, and the unsettling ending leaves the door open for more books in the series.
Verdict This fast-paced thrill ride through the always fascinating Amish country of Ohio should appeal to readers of Karin Slaughter, Betty Webb, and Lisa Jackson. Devotees of this series won’t want to miss it, and this entry should gain Castillo new fans as well. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/12; for more Amish suspense, Julie Kramer’s Shunning Sarah publishes this August‚ Ed.]—Stacy Alesi, Palm Beach Cty. Lib. Syst., Boca Raton, FL

Holbert, Bruce. Lonesome Animals. Counterpoint. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781582438061. $24. F
In 1930s Washington State, Russell Strawl, a former lawman, is brought out of retirement to catch one last murderer with a gruesome penchant for mutilating Native American victims and posing the bodies. Accompanied by his stepson, Elijah, who believes God helps him see the future, Strawl follows a series of leads, abusing would-be criminals and spouting philosophical musings when he is not harming others (Strawl believed the state of every mind was thus and saw it as the central truth around which each man orbited, not considering the possibility that the star that held him in its gravity may not be a star at all, but a black planet and he a trivial moon, circling it.)
It takes the debut author of this failed attempt at a dark Western nearly half his novel to develop any connection to his characters. He desperately tries to paint Strawl as a rough-and-tumble legend, but the lengths to which Strawl goes to punish even the slightest snub makes for an eye-rolling reading experience. If you’re a fan of Cormac McCarthy, this novel might be of interest, but you’ll need a strong stomach to wade through the excessive gore.—Brooke Bolton, North Manchester P.L., IN

Hoyt, Elizabeth. Thief of Shadows. Grand Central. (Maiden Lane, Bk. 4). Jun. 2012. 367p. ISBN 9781455508327. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
As a member of the Ladies Syndicate for the Benefit of the Home for Unfortunate Infants and Foundling Children, the widowed Baroness Isabel Beckinhall finds herself in the depressed London area of St. Giles. She is there to meet with the home’s manager, Winter Makepeace, but instead she rescues from a mob the Ghost of St. Giles, a masked man in Harlequin motley who is the elusive protector of the denizens of the impoverished neighborhood. Later, Isabel chides Winter, a cold and austere young man at odds with his new patronesses and the society of aristocrats, for missing their appointment. But to entice supporters to the home, it has been suggested that Winter needs some polish and that the intriguing Lady Isabel should school the schoolteacher. Neither one has the ghost of a chance of coming out of this unscathed.
Verdict Hoyt’s (Scandalous Desires) latest Georgian tale features a woman who hides the disappointment of her childless marriage behind insouciance and a young crusader afraid to release the beast that guides his clandestine persona. Yet when the pair finally come together, desire and long-denied sensuality explode upon the page. Expect more ghostly intrigue in Hoyt’s upcoming Lord of Darkness. [Hoyt made her first foray to BookExpo America this year. Read her impressions on her website.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Rayne, Sarah. Ghost Song. Felony & Mayhem. Jun. 2012. c.504p. ISBN 9781937384104. pap. $14.95. F
Robert Fallon is hired to survey London’s old Tarleton Music Hall, which has been closed since 1914. Fascinated by the building’s mysterious history, he discovers with researcher Hilary Bryant that the hall is rumored to be haunted. A century ago, Toby Chance, a successful actor, vanished, and the Tarleton was promptly shut down. The two tales eventually intertwine as unresolved troubles from the past begin to threaten the present.
Verdict Rayne (A Dark Dividing), England’s Dark Lady of Crime Fiction, offers an engaging plot for fans of suspense and ghost tales, but she bogs down her intriguing story with too many extraneous details. Still, fans of Christopher Fowler’s London mysteries might enjoy.—Linda Oliver, MLIS, Colorado Springs

Roberts, Gareth. Doctor Who: Shada; The Lost Adventure by Douglas Adams. Ace: Berkley. Jun. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780425259986. $25.95. SF
This novel by a scriptwriter for the Doctor Who television series and the author of nine Doctor Who novels is based on a lost script by Douglas Adams, the late author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. The Doctor, along with his trusty sidekick K-9 and fellow Time Lord Romana, travel to Cambridge to visit retired Time Lord Chronotis, now a professor, after receiving an urgent signal. Chronotis has left his home planet, secretly bringing with him the most powerful book in the universe, The Worshipful and Ancient Law of Gallifrey. Skagra, an evil Time Lord bent on universal domination, seeks to possess the book. What ensues is a rip-roaring adventure across time and space to wrest control of the future. Doctor Who, with his mop-headed curly hair, toothy smile, and ridiculously long striped scarf, uses all his cleverness to match wits and bring the story to a bang-up ending.
Fans of Doctor Who and Adams will revel in this long-awaited treasure from the past.—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

Shepherd, Lynn. The Solitary House. Delacorte. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780345532428. $26. F
In 1850s London, former police detective Charles Maddox strives to live up to the investigative skills of his great-uncle. Hired by the enigmatic attorney Edward Tulkinghorn to discover the origin of threatening messages sent to a powerful family, Charles soon unravels a much larger, more convoluted conspiracy covering prodigious evils‚ arson, murder, infanticide, mutilation, and insanity‚ while also pursuing a cold case involving his own family.
Inspired by Charles Dickens’s Bleak House, Shepherd (Murder at Mansfield Park) fills her story with period detail to invoke Dickens’s world; by contrast, the narrative voice is unaccountably modern and occasionally metafictional. (Sometimes the narrator is omniscient and at other times will seem to be as much in the dark as the reader.) Readers may find these narrative choices either engaging or highly distracting to the intricate plot. Still, readers who enjoy dark, Victorian mysteries may want to try Shepherd’s unusual narrative twist on the genre. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/11.]—Sara Schepis, East Fishkill Community Lib., Hopewell Junction, NY

starred review starWarren, Dianne. Juliet in August. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Jul. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780399157998. $25.95. F
Originally published in Canada as Cool Water, this brilliant first novel by a short story writer was awarded the 2010 Governor General’s Award for fiction. Set in the tiny town Juliet, Saskatchewan, and taking place over the course of one long summer’s night and day, the book thrusts readers into the lives of its characters with startling immediacy. A young farmer, Lee Torgeson, takes a quixotic 100-mile ride on an Arabian horse that had wandered onto his farm. The owner of a drive-in move theater lays awake wrestling with his feelings for his sister-in-law, now a widow who shares his home. Vicki Dolson promises her husband she will finally can some green beans, but the moods and antics of her six children take precedence. The Dolsons are deep in debt and have lost most of their farmland. Bank manager Norval Birch has a pregnant teenage daughter and hates getting tough with farmers struggling with their finances.
Touching upon a deep vein of loneliness commonly borne, yet revealing so many undercurrents and connections among its characters, this debut has much appeal for readers who enjoy emotion-laden, character-driven fiction. Consider Warren as comparable to Carol Shields, Elizabeth Strout, and Alice Munro. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]—Keddy Ann Outlaw, Houston, TX

Wilson, Daniel H. Amped. Doubleday. Jun. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780385535151. $25.95. F
Owen Gray believes the medical device implanted in his brain controls his seizures, but this device also enables him to perform superhuman feats. When the Supreme Court rules that amplified human beings like Owen are not the same as pure humans and not protected by the same laws, society begins to unravel. Owen must choose whether the amp is a gift or a curse as another amp, the ruthless and deadly Lyle Crosby, forces Owen to confront his fears and take a stand.
Set in the near future, Wilson’s second technothriller (after Robopocalypse) depicts an entirely conceivable world and vividly demonstrates the effects of technology on the human brain and psyche. The news releases and government reports sprinkled throughout the novel add its verisimilitude. Fans of the first book will likely enjoy this new work; it will also appeal to readers who enjoy light sf.‚—Michelle Martinez, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

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"