Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, August 31, 2012

Week ending August 31, 2012

Cready, Gwyn. Timeless Desire: An Outlander Love Story. Astor + Blue Editions. 2012. 379p. ISBN 9781938231292. $7.99; eISBN 9781938231247. $4.99. SF ROMANCE
Librarian Panna Kennedy, still grieving for her late husband, has allowed her imagination and curiosity to wander to the stone statue looming over the circulation desk. If the statue is at all true to life, Colonel Bridgewater, an English war hero whose descendants were benefactors of the library, is as good-looking as they come, with an outstanding character. When Panna stumbles on an inconceivable room in the library—one leading to a different century and containing a living, breathing Bridgewater—all her assumptions are turned on their head. Panna must decide if she should play a part in history and take another chance on love.
Verdict Cready takes sf, historical fiction, and romance and throws them into a fast-paced, tension-filled plot. No stranger to time-travel tales (Seducing Mr. Darcy; Tumbling Through Time), Cready does a good job of maintaining Panna’s 21st-century attitude and the historical setting of the novel. There’s action around every corner and a compelling love story between two complex people from different centuries. And who doesn’t love a librarian heroine.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Alaska Fairbanks Lib.

Dare, Tessa. A Lady by Midnight. Avon. (Spindle Cove). Sept. 2012. 374p. ISBN 9780062049896. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Spindle Cove’s music teacher, Kate Taylor, has been trying for years to discover the origins of her birth. Today she is in nearby Hastings to question the former schoolmistress of the Margate School for Girls, where Kate had lived as a charity student. Instead of answers, Miss Paringham offers cruelty and sends Kate out into the street, where she is nearly run down by a cart. Her rescuer is none other than Spindle Cove militiaman Corporal Thorne–the man whom Kate is sure avoids her because of her embarrassing facial birthmark. In truth, Thorne’s brusque response to Kate is a mask for other feelings—and a past they share but that only he remembers. When the couple arrive back at Spindle Cove, they are confronted by the Gramercys, an aristocrat family bent on proving Kate is their long-lost cousin. Not one to trust easily and continuing to protect Kate, Thorne announces that they are betrothed.
Verdict Dare’s (A Week To Be Wicked) charming seaside retreat is home to another irresistible heroine: a young woman who seeks a family of her own and discovers true love with the least likely man—a soldier with a dark past and darker demons. With humor as well as pathos, Dare draws us into the lives of these singular protagonists; a tale to savor.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Disher, Garry. Port Vila Blues. Soho Crime. Aug. 2012. c.240p. ISBN 9781626951016. $25. M
Wyatt is a professional thief who works throughout Australia with crooked cops, politicians, and judges. In this fifth adventure (first published in 1995), he’s planning a simple jewel heist in Melbourne, but, of course, nothing is ever simple. Everything that could go wrong does—with deadly consequences. While Disher’s details of the amazing amount of planning that goes into every aspect of a heist—before, during, and after—are interesting, none of his characters are well developed or even likable, especially the females. And his lavish description of place belies the cruel ugliness of the criminals and their crimes.
Disher is also the author of the far superior Hal Challis crime series. But this will appeal to fans of hard-boiled noir crime fiction, primarily those who loved Disher’s Ned Kelly award-winning Wyatt and readers who prefer nonstop action and aren’t troubled by one-dimensional characters or little attention to procedure or clues.—Susan G. Baird, formerly with Oak Lawn P.L., IL

Fay, Kim. The Map of Lost Memories. Ballantine. Aug. 2012. c.336p. ISBN 9780345531346. $26. F
Irene Blum has spent years as the unrecognized force at Seattle’s famed Brooke Museum. But after being passed over for the vacated curator position, she finds an opportunity to make her mark in the museum world when she is gifted with a rare map that may lead to scrolls containing the lost history of Cambodia’s Khmer empire. To acquire the scrolls, Blum enlists the help of scholar and temple-robber Simone Merlin, whose own motivation for finding the artifacts is gradually revealed to be the opposite of Blum’s. Adventure, emotional interactions, and devotion to history fuel the race to find artifacts that could very well change the course of Cambodia forever.
Fay’s exciting and exotic historical adventure set in the 1920s Far East draws easy comparison to Ann Patchett’s State of Wonder. The plot is original, and the characters are smart if not very well intentioned. An in-depth knowledge of Khmer culture and history isn’t necessary, but readers may be inclined to learn more after finishing Fay’s page-turner. [Library marketing.]—Madeline Solien, Deerfield P.L., IL

Meyer, Deon. Seven Days. Atlantic Monthly. Sept. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780802120359. $25. F
When an ambitious South African lawyer is found stabbed to death in her luxurious apartment, the police have absolutely no clues. A month later, Bible-quoting emails arrive accusing the cops of a cover-up, and the author begins shooting one police officer a day until the case is resolved. In near panic, the authorities assign Benny Griessel (Thirteen Hours) to the Directorate of Priority Crimes Investigation (the Hawks). Benny—220 days sober, recently divorced, and feeling he has been a failure—races to solve the murder and find the shooter while fighting his own demons and trying to help musician friend Alexa deal with her alcohol problems.
Meyer’s eighth South African mystery bluntly shows how everything revolves around color even in postapartheid South Africa. The real appeal lies in the skillfully drawn characters, the everyday tensions among ordinary people, and the pain Benny feels in trying to do right. Meyer is a superb storyteller; his crime novels are a must read for fans of high-quality mystery.—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale

Payton, T. Aaron. The Constantine Affliction: A Pimm & Skye Adventure. Night Shade. Aug. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9781597804004. $26.99. FANTASY
London, 1864—and not how the history books usually tell it. Science has the city firmly in its grip, leaving clockwork and alchemical wonders in its wake. Through it all looms the Constantine Affliction—a malady that has the misfortune of transforming those it does not kill into the opposite gender. But the Affliction makes some things simpler, locating the materials necessary for a woman to masquerade as a man, for example. Which is how journalist Ellie Skyler ends up in a brothel of clockwork courtesans and gets pulled directly into the murder case that aristocrat Pembroke Hanover is investigating, very much against his will.
This fantasy from Payton (a pseudonym for author Tim Pratt [Pathfinder Tales; Briarpatch]) is a seamless blend of steampunk and Sherlock Holmes—with a little Frankenstein thrown in for good measure. It is a fun, fast book that takes place in an intriguing world populated with enough people and monsters to keep a wide range of readers interested.—April Steenburgh, George F. Johnson Memorial Lib., Endwell, NY

Phillips, Stephen. The Recipient’s Son: A Novel of Honor. Naval Inst. Sept. 2012. c.272p. ISBN 9781612511160. $28.95. F
As the son of a Medal of Honor winner, Donald Durago is preferentially admitted to the U.S. Naval Academy. His father received the medal posthumously for heroism in the Vietnam War, and Donald has had a particularly difficult time dealing with it. As he tries to work his way through his angst, Donald comes perilously close to being expelled. He is charged with harassing a female classmate who also is politically connected and blames Donald for her predicament. Along with clearing his name, Donald has to come to grips with his past.
Verdict Phillips’s (Proximity: A Novel of the Navy’s Elite) second novel is a compelling and well-written tale of life in the naval academy in the 1990s. Values were changing, and what was seen as normal rites of passage are now condemned as illegal, criminal, and grounds for dismissal. As Donald fights the charges, he learns a great deal about himself. Recommended for anyone who is interested in life in the modern military.—Robert Conroy, Warren, MI

Pratchett, Terry & Stephen Baxter. The Long Earth. Harper: HarperCollins. 2012. c.352p. ISBN 9780062067753. $25.99. SF
Step Day, 2015: the day that physicist Willis Linsay posts the plans for a simple electronic device on the Internet—a device that unlocks the door to a million parallel, seemingly uninhabited Earths and leads to a wholesale exodus of the adventurous, the oppressed, and the disaffected. Fast forward 15 years. One of the handful of natural “steppers”—people who can move from one world to the next without the device—is loner Joshua Valienté, who’s ventured farther into the chain of alternate worlds than anyone else. He’s enlisted by Lobsang (a late Tibetan motorcycle repairman who’s been reincarnated as the world’s smartest computer and is part owner of transEarth Technologies) to accompany him on an exploratory mission to find out if there’s any end to the Long Earth. But what Joshua doesn’t know is that some of the worlds are inhabited after all, just not by humans.
Unlike Pratchett’s previous collaborations (Good Omens with Neil Gaiman; The Science of Discworld with Ian Stewart and Jack Cohen), this is a surprisingly serious and thought-provoking work, albeit one with unmistakably Pratchettesque flourishes of humor throughout. The overall tone is much closer to Baxter’s excellent “Destiny’s Children” series, with numerous diversions into alternate histories, evolutionary biology, and the search for the spiritual, both human and otherwise. Pratchett and Baxter fans will enjoy.—John Harvey, Irving P.L., TX

Ringwald, Molly. When It Happens to You: A Novel in Stories. It: HarperCollins. Aug. 2012. c.237p. ISBN 9780061809460. $24.99. F
This octet of interrelated stories dovetails around Greta and Phillip Parris, an aging Southern California couple whose marriage is on the rocks. In “The Harvest Moon,” Greta grapples with motherhood, infertility, and the revelation of her husband’s infidelity. A lonely widow is befriended by the Parrises’ young daughter in “The Little One.” In “Ursa Minor,” Greta is drawn to the recently fired star of a popular children’s TV show. Single mother Marina struggles with the best way to manage her cross-dressing six-year-old son in “My Olivia,” and, in the lacerating title story, a deceived wife chronicles the anguish of a disintegrating marriage. Binding the tales together is a central truism: to betray is human, to forgive, nearly unimaginable.
In her fiction debut, 1980s movie icon Ringwald (Pretty in Pink; Sixteen Candles) has graduated from teenaged angst to the hazardous terrain of both new and well-worn relationships. Her prose, at once literary and accessible, weaves a piercing, deeply moving tapestry of the complexities of the human heart. Written with deep compassion and unflinching honesty, her novel delves into the isolation, pathos, and eventual atonement inherent in daily life. Highly recommended.—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY

Viguié, Debbie. Kiss of Death. FaithWords: Hachette. (Kiss, Bk. 2). Oct. 2012. c.320p. ISBN 9780446570848. pap. $14.99. CF
In this sequel to Kiss of Night, Susan and David have joined Raphael and Gabriel to find a powerful weapon before the vampire Richelieu does. As Susan and her cousin Wendy translate a 12th-century diary belonging to their ancestor Carissa, they learn more about the family’s connection with the vampires.
Verdict Viguié’s writing has improved since the first book in this series, and fans will be thrilled to read about the continued romance between Susan and the vampire Raphael.—Nanci Milone Hill, Boxford Town Lib., MA

White, Stephen. Line of Fire. Dutton. Aug. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9780525952527. $26.95. F
With Colorado’s Boulder Valley under a Red Flag Alert for forest fires, clinical psychologist Alan Gregory and Sam Purdy, a former Boulder policeman and Alan’s longtime friend, scramble to deal with newly uncovered evidence from an unsolved homicide case that could end both their careers. Escort Amanda Bobbie and drug dealer David Cohen, both patients of Alan’s, reveal cryptic details during their counseling sessions pertaining to the homicide of Justine Winter Brown, a local, psychotic woman whom Sam used to date. However, they also disclose additional sensitive facts to others that eventually reach local law enforcement officials. Meanwhile, Diane, Alan’s emotionally unstable professional partner, targets Alan’s wife, Lauren. Ending his 19th thriller with a shocking cliffhanger, White prepares for bringing his series to a close with the next volume.
White clouds his intriguing plotlines with excessive, inconsequential details. His sophisticated vocabulary and prose style may impress clinical psychologists and faithful fans but may be off-putting to general thriller readers. Still, die-hard readers who have followed the series for 15 years and through 18 books will want this. [See Prepub

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"