Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, July 13, 2012

Week ending July 13, 2012

starred review starAdler-Olsen, Jussi. The Absent One: A Department Q Novel. Dutton. Aug. 2012. c.400p. tr. from Danish by K.E. Semmel. ISBN 9780525952893. $26.95. F
In the second installation of his Department Q novels, Adler-Olsen (The Keeper of Lost Causes) brings Det. Carl Mørck out of the basement and back onto the streets of Copenhagen. Twenty years ago, a brother and sister were sadistically tortured and murdered in their family’s cabin. The original suspects (boarding school gang members) are from highly influential and wealthy families, most of whom have grown into elite and untouchable millionaires. After being turned on aggressively by the others, Kimmie, the only female of the group, has gone off the radar and threatens all that the men hold dear‚ and Mørck is on a mission to find her, no matter the odds.
Adler-Olsen has created a wonderful addition to the detective fiction genre in his sleuth. Mørck is a tenacious, hard-hitting force who can’t be diverted from his case. Readers of detective fiction, international crime fiction, and suspense fiction will highly enjoy this thriller. While the book can be read as a stand-alone novel, readers will be unable to resist seeking out and devouring the first and subsequent series titles.—Jennifer Funk, McKendree Univ. Lib., Lebanon, IL

starred review starGillham, David R. City of Women. Putnam. Aug. 2012. c.400p. ISBN 9780399157769. $25.95. F
During World War II, a large portion of Germany’s male population were off serving their Führer and Fatherland, leaving behind legions of women to continue alone on the home front. Sigrid Schröder is a discontented hausfrau living in Berlin when she meets Fraulein Kohl, a fierce young woman who makes it her business to help those who cannot help themselves. Soon, Sigrid finds herself drawn in to the underground world of hiding Jews. But Sigrid has another alarming secret‚ a Jewish lover, whom she’d do almost anything to protect. The complex relationships that develop among women, men, family, and lovers are at the core of what drives this debut novel, which captures both heart and mind from the start and does not let go until the riveting end.
This is an exemplary model of historical fiction generously laced with romance, suspense, and exciting plot twists. Readers who enjoy the grim side of historical fiction or who prefer romance infused with eroticism will find this novel appealing.—Amy M. Davis, Parmley Billings Lib., MT

King, Tom. A Once Crowded Sky. Touchstone: S. & S. Jul. 2012. c.320p. illus. ISBN 9781451652000. $26. F
Former Marvel Comic intern and CIA operations officer King combines his two backgrounds in an original, assured debut that follows the daily frustrations of a group of superheroes who sacrificed their power and their leader, Ultimate, to save the world. The heroes now face a new threat and turn for help from the one superhero who did not sacrifice his power (walking away for love). PenUltimate, or Pen, reluctantly steps back into the fight. King sets up intriguing backstories for his characters, and the illustrations (by Tom Fowler) enhance the gripping fight and flashback sequences. The novel is hard to get into at first (especially for readers unfamiliar with comic book conventions), but once the narrative pattern is established, the story is impossible to put down.
This intriguing novel and comic book hybrid will attract graphic novel fans as well as readers who enjoy stories heavy in serialized mythology but who have not yet explored this format.—Julie Elliott, Indiana Univ. Lib., South Bend

Moran, Michelle. The Second Empress: A Novel of Napoleon’s Court. Crown. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780307953032. $25. F
Stunning in form, theme, and plot, Moran’s fifth historical novel (after Madame Tussaud) shines a spotlight on the Emperor Napoleon, the love of his life and first Empress Josephine, the family members who clamored to share his spotlight, and Marie-Louise, the Austrian princess who became his second Empress. Narrated from three different perspectives, including that of Napoleon’s infamous sister Pauline, her Haitian servant Paul, and Marie-Louise, the novel follows Napoleon from his height of fame in 1809 when he desperately tries to secure his succession by acquiring a second wife until his disastrous invasion of Russia and concluding with his return from exile in Elba and the Battle of Waterloo. Marie-Louise is simply huggable; torn from her family and marrying Napoleon to protect her father, she embodies the era’s idea of duty and Europe’s fear of the unstable Emperor.
Don’t hesitate to purchase this beautifully written gem, which is certain to shoot to the top of the charts, if not start a craze for everything Moran. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/12.]—Audrey Jones, Arlington, VA

Zafón, Carlos Ruiz. The Prisoner of Heaven. Harper: HarperCollins. Jul. 2012. c.320p. tr. from Spanish by Lucia Graves. ISBN 9780062206282. $25.99. F
In this third installment of Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet (The Shadow of the Wind; The Angel’s Game), readers journey to 1950s Barcelona, where Daniel Sempere and his wife, Bea, are celebrating their new son and their close friend Fermin is about to be married. But a stranger’s visit to Daniel’s bookshop threatens to expose secrets that go back to the early days of Franco’s dictatorship. Focusing on the mysterious background of the charismatic Fermin, the novel pulls readers into the horrific conditions of a 1940s prison as it discloses the secrets that are coming back to haunt him. While the abrupt ending may initially disappoint some fans, the promise of a fourth book that will pull together all the story lines is a welcome one.
The gorgeous language and complex relationships in this gothic adventure reflect the high level of writing readers have come to expect from Zafón. This darkly intriguing read is highly recommended for series fans and aficionados of gothic fiction. [See Prepub Alert, 2/27/12.]—Katie Lawrence, Chicago

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"


  1. Sarah says:

    I had a real issue with THE SECOND EMPRESS in that some of the facts were somewhat stretched – specifically, M-L did NOT meet her second husband before (nor have an affair with him) before she married Napoleon. That changes the tone of the story tremendously.