Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, August 3, 2012

Week ending August 3, 2012

Dicks, Matthew. Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781250006219. $24.99. F
Did you know that many imaginary friends don’t have ears or feet? Or that they can see and talk with one another? Such is the world of Budo, imaginary friend of nine-year-old Max. Budo is lucky in that he has existed for five years and was imagined to be smarter than Max. This is important because Max, who lives mostly in an interior world, needs help daily interacting with his peers, teachers, and parents. It becomes even more important when Max faces danger. Budo has to muster all his resources and those of several other imaginary friends to push Max to rescue himself.
Dicks’s third novel (after Something Missing and Unexpectedly Milo) is at turns funny, poignant, and frightening. Budo’s world is as realistic as he is imaginary. We would all be lucky to have a Budo at our sides. Reading his memoir is the next best thing. [A 75,000-copy first printing; library marketing.]—Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll., NC

Emerson, Kate. The King’s Damsel. Gallery: S. & S. Aug. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781451661491. pap. $15. F
The author of “Secrets of the Tudor Court” series (At the King’s Pleasure) draws on a letter written by the Spanish ambassador in 1534, which reported that Henry VIII kept a mistress while married to Anne Boleyn, as the basis for her new historical. Thomasine Lodge, a lady-in-waiting to the Princess Mary, is sent by Mary to the royal court to spy on the new queen. There she must wend her way through treacherous hallways and endure the badgering of an inconsistent and sometimes brutal new mistress, Queen Anne. Thomasine also attracts the lustful eye of the king.
Emerson fans will find this new book a letdown. Not only do the characters fall flat, but there is, for all intents and purposes, no recognizable plot. There is simply too much going on for anything to stand out, but at the same time nothing happens of any note. You’ll need one copy for die-hard Tudor fiction fans, but don’t be surprised when you receive negative feedback after readers return the book.—Audrey Jones, Arlington, VA

Greenfeld, Karl Taro. Triburbia. Harper: HarperCollins. Aug. 2012. c.288p. ISBN 9780062132390. $25.99. F
Because of their children, parents are often brought into contact with others they might otherwise never have met. In his first novel, well-known memoirist Greenfeld (Boy Alone) follows a group of men, residing in a Manhattan neighborhood for different reasons and earning their livings in wildly divergent fields, whose children all attend the same exclusive primary school. Greenfeld relates each man’s story over the course of a single year, exploring family life, relationships, infidelities, successes, and failures, with each chronicle ultimately a tile in the mosaic of the neighborhood’s ever-changing story.
Greenfeld speaks convincingly in both male and female voices, creating interesting and varied characters as he explores issues of all kinds in this complex “year in the life” tale, ranging from the humorous to the tragic to the ironic as he connects the stories. Recommended for general fiction readers.—Joanna M. Burkhardt, Univ. of Rhode Island Lib., Providence

Kiefer, Christian. The Infinite Tides. Bloomsbury, dist. by Macmillan. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781608198108. $26. F
This debut novel’s opening section is titled “The Dark Matter,” and it is dark matter indeed. As in a 21st-century Greek tragedy, Keith Corcoran has been single-mindedly focused on becoming an astronaut, achieves his goal, and is aboard the International Space Station when he learns that his only child, a daughter who shares his gift for mathematics, has been killed. Not long after, his wife reveals that she has had an affair and leaves him, cleaning out their home in the process. Keith returns from space to his empty house and is ordered by NASA to take some time off. He is a man of science, not emotion, and he struggles to mourn and begin healing. Adrift in suburbia, Keith begins to make human connections, first by having a brief affair with a neighbor and then through an unlikely friendship with a Ukrainian man, Peter. Their conversations might be stilted, but talking to Peter is the one thing that pulls Keith back to Earth.
Not light reading, this is a moving story of loss, love, and mourning by an imperfect man. Kiefer has done extensive research in mathematics and the space program, so those interested in these areas should particularly enjoy.—Shaunna Hunter, Hampden-Sydney Coll., Southside, VA

starred review starKoryta, Michael. The Prophet. Little, Brown. Aug. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780316122610. $25.99. F
Brothers Adam and Kent Austin have been estranged for years over the events that led to their sister’s murder while they were in high school. Each, in his own way and for his own reasons, has chosen to associate with criminals in his adult life. Adam is a bail bondsman; Kent is the local high school football coach who serves as part-time spiritual counselor in a nearby prison. The murder of a teenage girl that mirrors their sister’s killing and that seems to implicate them reunites the Austin siblings. As local police and the FBI work to solve the case, the brothers’ feelings of family loyalty and need result in a tenuous love-hate relationship that leads to mistrust, misjudgment, and disaster.
Koryta’s (The Ridge) latest thriller powerfully portrays the angst of the dysfunctional family stretched to the breaking point by blame and guilt. The tension and suspense is relieved only by scenes depicting Kent’s football team in fierce combat at the state finals. Gut-wrenching at every level. [See Prepub Alert, 4/19/12.]—Thomas L. Kilpatrick, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Carbondale Lib.

Link, Teresa. Denting the Bosch. Thomas Dunne: St. Martin’s. Aug. 2012. 304p. ISBN 9780312643416. $25.99. F
Three couples in San Diego face their golden years after successfully navigating careers and child rearing, only to discover that their happiness has only been surface deep. When one husband suddenly announces he wants a divorce, Adele, Maggie, and Sylvia find their carefully crafted worlds beginning to crumble under the weight of adulterous affairs and the looming financial meltdown.
Link’s debut paints a richly detailed portrait of men and women trying to live the modern American Dream. Alternatively witty and tragic, this will appeal to fans of Meg Wolitzer.—Mara Dabrishus, Ursuline Coll., Pepper Pike, OH

Nesser, Håkan. Münster’s Case: An Inspector Van Veeteren Mystery. Pantheon. Aug. 2012. c.320p. tr. from Swedish by Laurie Thompson. $25.95. M
In this sixth entry in Nesser’s “Inspector Van Veeteren” series (after The Inspector and Silence), Detective Münster, Van Veeteren’s second in command, takes charge as the lead investigator. Four friends hit the Swedish lottery. The next day one is found murdered in his home and a second one has gone missing. In addition, a neighbor of the murdered man has also disappeared. With Van Veeteren all but retired, it is up to Münster and his team to find out the link connecting these three cases. As various leads come to dead ends, Münster takes a closer look into the murdered man’s family and discovers dark secrets that will put him in danger.
Even though Van Veeteren makes only a brief appearance, this title with its compelling plot and final twist won’t disappoint series followers and will leave them wanting more. Recommended for fans of Scandinavian mysteries, including those by Åke Edwardson, Kjell Eriksson, and Camilla Läckberg.—Jean King, West Hempstead P.L., NY

Rendell, Ruth. The St. Zita Society. Scribner. Aug. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781451666687. $26. F
When the servants who work for the well-to-do residents of Hexam Place form a group for airing complaints about their employers, they name it the St. Zita Society, after the patron saint of domestic servants. Both the servants and their employers are a colorful group of characters, from the psychotic Dex, a gardener who thinks that a God named Peach talks to him through his cell phone, to Her Serene Highness, the Princess Susan Hapsburg, whose title is doubtful, at best. Affairs and cover-ups abound in this tale of suspense, as both masters and servants struggle with all manner of personal problems. In Rendell’s latest offering (after Tigerlily’s Orchids), the author’s ability to use dark humor is at its best, as she examines the hidden aspects of ordinary-appearing lives.
Even after writing more than 60 books, Rendell has kept her ability to create engaging characters finely honed. A great choice for fans of psychological suspense. [See Prepub Alert, 2/20/12.]—Linda Oliver, MLIS, Colorado Springs

Young, Tom. The Renegades. Putnam. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780399158469. $25.95. F
Afghanistan is one of the most tortured places on Earth. Host to what seems to be a never-ending litany of war, it is also prone to massive earthquakes. Thus, when one does strike and the United States tries to send in aid, a splinter Taliban group uses the chaos to launch strikes against the aid workers. Lt. Col. Mike Parson and his interpreter, Sgt. Major Sophia Gold, try to coordinate rescue efforts bringing in badly needed aid, but they first must destroy the Taliban group. As the American military is drawing down its level of forces in the country, Parson and Gold are on their own with little in the way of resources to help them.
Young’s third thriller featuring Parson and Gold (The Mullah’s Storm; Silent Enemy) is extremely well written and revolves around two people who are trying hard to do the right thing under incredibly brutal conditions. The war in Afghanistan is particularly hellish, which will, sadly, limit readership appeal of this title. Purchase for demand. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/12.]—Robert Conroy, Warren, MI

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"