Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, October 12, 2012

Week ending October 12, 2012

Burrowes, Grace. Lady Louisa’s Christmas Knight. Sourcebooks Casablanca. (Windham Siblings, Bk. 6). Oct. 2012. c.384p. ISBN 9781402268632. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL/HOLIDAY ROMANCE
Brilliant to a fault but plagued by a youthful literary indiscretion, Lady Louisa Windham has successfully avoided both marriage and scandal until a would-be fortune-hunting suitor’s botched plan sends her straight into the wary but willing arms of Sir Joseph Carrington. But intriguing secrets abound on both sides, and although the reader is privy to many of them, it doesn’t lessen the fun or the tension as truths slowly come to light. Burrowes has with literate grace created a pair of exceptionally likable, well-matched protagonists (who can resist a hero who talks to his pig or a heroine who translates racy Latin verse?) and a diverse cast of characters (including many from previous series titles, as well as historical figures) in another engaging, satisfying, and beautifully executed winner.
Verdict The nicely unfolding plot features a wicked dash of danger, a surfeit of children, and just the right amount of holiday detail to make this a perfect Christmas stocking stuffer and a wonderful addition to Burrowes’s ongoing series. Fans will be seriously glad there are more unmarried Windhams waiting in the wings! (Note: The story stands on its own, but readers may want to read the earlier books first.)—Kristin Ramsdell, Libn. Emerita, California State Univ., East Bay

Connelly, Michael. The Black Box. Little, Brown. Nov. 2012. c.416p. ISBN 9780316069434. $27.99. F
In Connelly’s 19th Harry Bosch crime novel (after The Drop), the approaching 20th anniversary of the 1992 L.A. riots finds Harry assigned to a task force taking a fresh look at unsolved cases from that time. Harry was at the scene of the murder of a female photojournalist from Denmark back then and has carried the guilt over that investigation being buried in the chaos of the uprising. Now he has a second chance to make things right. Harry’s brilliance for intuitive thinking and doggedness for pursuing his hunch lead him to follow the clue of a single bullet found at the murder scene. What looks like a back-alley killing has a much deeper story that sends Bosch following a cover-up involving the U.S. Navy. Balancing his personal life, dodging an antagonistic lieutenant, and pursuing the case challenge Harry and engage the reader.
Verdict Recommended for readers who enjoy consistently strong character development and police procedurals with tough, ethical detectives fighting crime. Ridley Pearson’s novels offer a similar experience. [See Prepub Alert, 5/12/12.]—Susan Carr, Edwardsville P.L., IL

DeMille, Nelson. The Panther. Grand Central. Oct. 2012. c.600p. ISBN 9780446580847. $27.99. F
Former NYPD Anti-Terrorist Task Force agent John Corey (The Lion) is back, with all his wit and cynicism intact. With one major terrorist capture under his belt, he is now under pressure to apprehend the Panther, the al-Qaeda mastermind behind the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole. Corey and his wife, FBI agent Kate Mayfield, travel to Yemen on one of the most dangerous assignments of their careers. What awaits them is a country in turmoil, where every road holds the threat of a suicide bomber or terrorist attack. To make matters worse, no person is above suspicion, including the agents already in place to assist them. The excitement and suspense grow as Corey and his wife get closer to the al-Qaeda camp where the Panther may be hiding.
Verdict Despite the hefty 600-plus-page length, which might intimidate some readers, DeMille’s latest novel takes us on a nail-biting thrill ride to rival the other titles in this series. The dead-pan humor does grow a little tiresome when every conversation seems to be another opportunity for Corey to insert a sarcastic comment, but for fans, Corey’s wit is one of his most beloved characteristics. Die-hard fans and new readers will discover hours of entertainment here. [See Prepub Alert, 4/23/12.]—Cynthia A. Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC

Rowling, J.K. The Casual Vacancy. Little, Brown. 2012. 503p. ISBN 9780316228534. $35. F
Overlong and bereft of the rich brocade of invention that made “Harry Potter,” well, magical, Rowling’s latest novel might seem to have the critical deck stacked against it, but this, her first “book for adults,” is made of stronger stuff. It tells the story of a small English town, Pagford, which loses, in the novel’s first pages, one of its linchpins: father, friend, rowing instructor, and council member Barry Fairbrother. Across the wide scope of Rowling’s story, Fairbrother is the common thread, as some characters cope with his absence and others use his name to enact personal vendettas. The cast is, unsurprisingly, large, and Rowling excels with her teenage characters—who are vivid and mercurial in her hands—where the adults are often thick and one-note. She doesn’t shy away from the material noticeably absent in her YA series—i.e., sex, drugs, and religion—and overall her frankness is refreshing, though there are several moments that clunk, thud, and bewilder.
Verdict Still, Rowling is a storyteller, and this book is no exception to her powers. Though slow to start, it has the momentum to carry readers through to the end, and they will be glad they stayed with it. A rewarding read; recommended. [See Rowling Goes Adult.—Ed.]—Molly McArdle, Library Journal

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"