Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, July 6, 2012

Week ending July 6, 2012

Bergreen, Karen. Perfect Is Overrated. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Jul. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781250001764. pap. $14.99. F
Former assistant district attorney Kate Alger suffered from horrible postpartum depression after giving birth to her daughter, Molly. Her marriage to Paul, a hunky police detective, also crumbled. However, when someone begins murdering the wealthy and annoying mothers of Molly’s preschool classmates, Kate rises from the ashes in more ways than one. She not only tries to solve the murders, but she develops and acts on an attraction to a new man for the first time in many years.
Bergreen, a former attorney (now a comedienne), injects humor and humanity into this story about a depressed woman trying to move on with her life. The murder mystery scenario, complete with its inclusion of a preschool science teacher with a Ph.D., is a bit unbelievable, but the way the author portrays Kate and her serious issues is endearing and respectful. A lack of chapters is an interesting writing style that makes it even tougher to put this compelling book down. Recommended for readers who enjoy comedy, mystery, and lovable heroines.—Samantha J. Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY

Blaedel, Sara. Only One Life. Pegasus Crime. Jul. 2012. c.336p. tr. from Danish by Erik J. Macki & Tara F. Chace. ISBN 9781605983509. $25. M
In her second outing (after Call Me Princess), Inspector Louise Rick, assigned to the Unit One Mobile Task Force, is called out to Holbraek Fjord where a Jordanian teenager, Samra al-Abd, has been found in the water with concrete tied around her waist. The task torce members believe it was an honor killing and so does the girl’s best friend, Dicta. A few days later, Dicta is also murdered. Then, in a strange turn of events, Samra’s younger sister disappears. Rick’s best friend, Camilla Lind, a newspaper crime reporter, is also on the scene trying to get close to Samra’s family and find out what would drive one family member to kill another.
Blaedel has written a compelling and fast-paced mystery that also offers an insightful commentary on the life of immigrants living in Denmark and what happens when cultures clash. Recommended for lovers of Scandinavian fiction, especially for fans of Camilla Läckberg, Håkan Nesser, and Kjell Eriksson. [Publication date was pushed up from September.—Ed.].‚ Jean King, West Hempstead P.L., NY

Grebe, Camilla & Åsa Träff. Some Kind of Peace. Free Pr: S. & S. Jul. 2012. c.352p. tr. from Swedish by Paul Norlen. ISBN 9781451654592. $24. F
Siri Bergman is a psychotherapist who specializes in fear: patients come to her for help in facing their fears. But Siri can’t seem to devote these same efforts to herself. Unable to get over her husband’s untimely death, crippled by an overwhelming fear of the dark, and watched by an unknown stalker, she finds herself trapped in a perilous limbo. With the death of an at-risk female patient and the culmination of suspicious and ominous incidents, Siri realizes that someone is attempting to kill both her career and her. The police are convinced it’s someone she knows, adding to Siri’s increasing sense of vulnerability.
This compelling debut from Swedish sisters Grebe and Träff, the former a journalist, the latter a practicing psychotherapist, is a suspenseful psychological thriller with surprising and entertaining plot twists. The only misstep is the killer’s leaden, though infrequent, voice-over. Recommended for fans of Scandinavian crime fiction and readers who possess a yen for a strong but troubled heroine. A best seller in Sweden and Germany, this is the first of a planned series featuring Siri Bergman and her fellow psychotherapist and best friend Aina. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/21/12.]—Jennifer Rogers, J. Sargeant Reynolds Community Coll. Lib., Richmond

Kepler, Lars. The Nightmare. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Jul. 2012. c.512p. tr. from Swedish by Laura A. Wideburg. ISBN 9780374115333. $27. F
On a June night, a pleasure boat is found drifting on a bay in the Stockholm archipelago; its only passenger is a young woman who drowned although her clothes are dry. The next day a well-dressed man is discovered hanging from a lamp hook in his apartment, an apparent suicide. There seems to be no connection between the cases until Insp. Joona Linna identifies the victims. The dead woman is the sister of Penelope Fernandez, a well-known peace activist, and the hanged man is Carl Palmcrona, a government official in charge of approving Sweden’s arms exports. Now Joona must race to find Penelope before a ruthless killer does.
As in The Hypnotist, Kepler (a husband-and-wife writing team) displays a sharp talent for intricate multistrand plotting and nail-biting suspense. The scenes of Penelope and her boyfriend trying to escape their single-minded pursuer on a remote island are almost unbearable in their gripping tension, yet the reader can’t stop turning the pages. Unfortunately, the gothic creepiness and shocking violence turn cartoonish when the villain is finally confronted in an unbelievable and ridiculous denouement that comes out of a bad James Bond movie. Still, fans of Swedish crime fiction may enjoy, although they will hate themselves for wasting precious vacation reading time after finishing this disappointing thriller. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/12; previewed in Kristi Chadwick’s Crime Travels spotlight feature, LJ 4/15/12.‚ Ed.]—Wilda Williams, Library Journal

starred review starNetzer, Lydia. Shine Shine Shine. St. Martin’s. Jul. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781250007070. $24.99. F
This quirky, imaginative, and compelling debut novel traces a love story back to its Midwest beginnings. Everyone has little eccentricities, but Sunny Mann attempts to hide hers under a wig and behind the door of an expensive home. Then her picture-perfect life begins to unravel after her genius husband is sent to space to colonize the moon with robots. The wig falls off, Sunny’s insecurities tumble out, and her bald secret is exposed. While Sunny struggles to understand who she has become, her husband is faced with death-defying challenges in space.
Netzer has beautifully crafted an original story with a cast of characters who make up an unconventional but strangely believable family. After all, it is the oddities that make us all human. Readers will laugh, cry, and, ultimately, cheer for Sunny and her husband as their love story plays out from the past to the future. This story will shine, shine, shine for all adult readers. [See Prepub Alert, 1/21/12; 100,000-copy first printing; library marketing.—Andrea Brooks, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

Walters, Minette. Innocent Victims: Two Novellas. Mysterious Pr: Grove/Atlantic. Jul. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9780802126122. $22. M
Walters’s (The Chameleon’s Shadow) latest book consists of two novellas. Written for the 2006 World Book Day Quick Reads Initiative for adult learners, the first and strongest narrative, Chickenfeed, is based on a 1924 murder in which a young woman is cut to pieces and buried on a chicken farm in Sussex. In 1921, 18-year-old Norman Thorne becomes romantically involved with the mentally unstable 22-year-old Elsie Cameron. Norman tires of Elsie but lacks the courage to break off the relationship. The situation comes to a head when Elsie discovers that Norman is seeing another woman. The story is engaging, though the ending defies credibility. The second tale, The Tinder Box, presents the aftermath of the bludgeoning of a rich old woman and her caretaker in a small town in Hampshire, England. When a local Irishman is charged with the murders, tensions run high as anti-Irish sentiment surfaces.
Walters’s style is well suited to the short format. Her tendency to build suspense and then unceremoniously tie up loose ends is easily forgiven when one hasn’t committed much time to the story. Recommended for her fans, this book might also be a good title to suggest to adult readers seeking to improve their literacy skills. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]—Jane la Plante, Minot State Univ. Lib., ND

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"