Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, November 30, 2012

Week ending November 30, 2012

Greatshell, Walter. Terminal Island. Night Shade Bks. Dec. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781597804370. pap. $14.99. HORROR
Greatshell’s (Mad Skills; Enormity) latest is a tale of mystical cults and nameless horrors inhabiting the seemingly innocent Catalina Island just off the coast of Los Angeles. Henry Cadmus returns to the island of his childhood with his wife Ruby and daughter Moxie to confront the nightmares of his past, and to see why his mother has ceased responding to his letters after moving back there a few months earlier. He discovers that a few abnormal experiences were not the imaginative embellishments of a child, but brief encounters with a sinister and horrific world that now endangers his family.
Verdict Greatshell aims to deliver a spine-chilling tale of suspense and unspeakable terror, and for the most part he delivers. At times his novel dwells on childhood struggles without substantially adding to the present plot, but once the mysteries of the island reveal themselves, the pace quickens and it becomes an exciting read. Mature sexual encounters make this a book for adults, but this reviewer would recommend it to any fan of supernatural horror.—Matt Schirano, Grand Canyon Univ. Lib., Phoenix

Holt, Anne. Blessed Are Those Who Thirst. (Hanne Wilhelmsen Novels). Scribner. Dec. 2012. 224p. tr. from Norwegian by Anne Bruce. ISBN 9781451634785. pap. $15; eISBN 9781451634914. M
In the second book (after Blind Goddess) in the popular Norwegian series now being translated and introduced in the United States, DI HanneWilhelmsen and colleagues investigate a series of bloody crime scenes in Oslo that are mysteriously devoid of victims. The only connection seems to be eight-digit numbers etched in the blood at each location. As crime statistics and temperatures soar, Hanne also investigates the rape of a young medical student, while the victim and her father secretly embark on their own parallel hunt. Hanne’s character simultaneously struggles with internal demons, hiding her closeted lesbian lifestyle and live-in lover from her cohorts at the Oslo Police Station. Will Hanne locate the serial killer whose victims seem to disappear into thin air? Will she catch the rapist before the young victim and her father inflict justice? Will her colleagues uncover her deeply hidden secrets?
Verdict It’s obvious why the Hanne Wilhelmsen series has gained popularity among Scandinavian crime enthusiasts. Holt’s tightly wound suspense plots and quirky, likeable protagonist are a breath of fresh air. Her latest thriller will quench her parched fans’ thirst.—Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

James, Syrie. The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen. Berkley. Jan. 2013. c.432p. ISBN 9780425253366. pap. $15; eISBN 9781101618851. F
While in Oxford, England, Samantha McDonough buys a very old book of poetry and finds secreted inside a partial letter that discusses a lost manuscript and a home called Greenbriar. A former Oxford grad student specializing in Jane Austen, though she never got her degree, Samantha is positive the letter was written by Austen to her sister. Unfortunately, the Greenbriar estate is now in the possession of Anthony Whitaker, the son of the late owner, who sees in the property only a crumbling money pit. No Austen fan himself, Anthony is intrigued, however, by a possible literary windfall. After scouring the manse, Anthony and Samantha uncover The Stanhopes, the story of Rebecca Stanhope and her vicar father, who are forced to leave his parish over the issue of missing funds. The Stanhopes travel to family in Medford, where they meet a young physician who seems smitten with Rebecca, and later to the seaside town of Bath, where they run into Mr. Clifton, the young vicar who replaced Mr. Stanhope.
Verdict Readers will relish this latest “find” from James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen), who does have a flare for re-creating the sense and style of the beloved author. The modern treasure hunt isn’t as agile as the “missing text,” but both are unpredictable and absorbing. Fans of Austen and of James will enjoy this new discovery. [Reading group guide.]—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

Ochse, Weston. Seal Team 666. Thomas Dunne. Nov. 2012. 320p. ISBN 9781250007353. $24.99; eISBN 9781250013460. F
This cleverly titled “military supernatural thriller” seems to be aimed at capitalizing on the popularity of the real-life SEAL Team Six, the U.S. commando team that raided Osama bin Laden’s hideout in May of 2011. Ochse, winner of the Horror Writer Association’s 2005 Bram Stoker Award for First Novel (Scarecrow Gods), spins a tale of an even more secret commando team, which deals with supernatural threats to the United States and the world. The author, a military intelligence officer, is clearly familiar with military terminology and enjoys describing the disciplined chaos of a commando raid against a formidable and mysterious target. Unfortunately, the characterization of the protagonist and his teammates is not up to the standard of Ochse’s award-winning first novel, and the story lacks the sardonic wit of Charles Stross’s similarly-themed “Laundry Files” series (The Atrocity Archives) or the strongly-defined personalities of John Ringo’s “Special Circumstances” series (Princess of Wands). A murky subplot involving one character’s personal history with demonic possession remains unresolved, presumably to be dealt with in a sequel.
Verdict This is a fast-paced and action-packed military adventure with a supernatural twist, but it is unlikely to make a lasting mark in the genre or remain in the reader’s mind after the last page is turned. [See Prepub Alert, 5/12/12.]—Bradley Scott, Corpus Christie, TX

Seidman, Robert J. Moments Captured. Overlook. Nov. 2012. 384p. ISBN 9781468300482. $26.95; eISBN 9781468304435. F
Novelist and filmmaker Seidman (One Smart Indian) attempts to dramatize the eclectic, emotional, and eccentric life of Edward Muybridge (1830–1904), the pioneer of capturing motion in stop-action photographs as well as noted landscape photographer of Yosemite Valley and other stunning venues. In actuality, Muybridge married a young divorcee, murdered the suspected father of their son, and was acquitted on grounds of justifiable homicide. Dissatisfied with just the facts of Muybridge’s life, Seidman, however, creates Holly Hughes, a flirtatious dancer and early feminist, upon whom Muybridge focuses his passion and uses as his model in numerous, suggestive, photographic settings. Throughout this plodding, fictional tale of westward expansion and mayhem, Muybridge and Hughes serve as the pivot around which Seidman introduces inventive plot twists of crime and betrayal as well as numerous historical figures, such as Governor Leland Standford, Thomas Edison, Thomas Eakins, and Alexander Graham Bell.
Verdict Despite the dramatic cast of brilliant inventors and creative visionaries of the Gilded Age—all outspoken, impulsive and free-thinkers—this attempt at a sweeping epic teaming with adventure becomes a tediously dull blur.—Jerry P. Miller, Cambridge, MA

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"