Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 1, 2013

Week ending February 1, 2013

starred review starCoben, Harlan. Six Years. Dutton. Mar. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780525953487. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101611029. F
Jake Fisher finds the love of his life, Natalie, and imagines their future together as husband and wife. Instead, she dumps him and a few days later then invites him to her wedding to a man she just met. Jake watches Natalie take her vows, and she tells him to leave her alone forever. For six years, he keeps that promise. But when he sees Natalie’s husband’s obituary, Jake decides to attend the funeral and comfort Natalie. He is stunned to discover that the man’s widow is not Natalie and that the church where he watched her marry has no record of the ceremony.
Verdict Coben is one of the best thriller writers in the business, and he delivers another amazing novel that will resonate with readers long after the final page is turned.The narrative is immersive, and the well-drawn characters and twisting plotting are stellar. With such a cool hook and a surprising and satisfying payoff, don’t wait six years to read what might be Coben’s best since Tell No One. [See Prepub Alert, 10/17/12.]—Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.

Cooper, Lydia. My Second Death. Tyrus. Mar. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781440561269. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781440561290. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781440561276. F
Cooper’s debut novel features an intriguing protagonist: Mickey Brandis, a Ph.D. candidate in literature who also has antisocial personality disorder. Mickey’s love of all things dark and violent has led her to an almost monastic existence above the garage at her parents’ home, until she discovers a man’s body in an abandoned house. While trying to solve the mystery of who led her to that gruesome find, Mickey forms an uneasy alliance with a strange new friend, an art student who wants her to help solve the mystery of his own mother’s death 20 years earlier. Cooper’s descriptions of the life of an academic are spot-on, and Mickey’s many personality tics make her an interesting character. But ultimately the story collapses under the weight of its twists and turns, as the reader struggles both to find sympathy for Mickey and to figure out whether she’s really as unstable as her condition—and her family—have made her out to be.
Verdict Recommended for readers who enjoy mysteries and stories set in academia.—Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins

starred review starPicoult, Jodi. The Storyteller. Emily Bestler: Atria. Feb. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9781439102763. $28. F
Baker Sage Singer lives a solitary life. She toils through the night, preparing the next day’s bread and hiding scars both visible and buried. After she strikes up an unlikely friendship with retired German teacher Josef Weber, the loved and respected nonagenarian reveals to her that he’s a former SS officer in hiding. He confesses that he seeks forgiveness, then wants to die for the terrible acts he committed at Auschwitz, where Sage’s grandmother Minka was interned during the Polish occupation. Weaving together the stories of Sage, Josef, and Minka is the fable of a young girl, Ania, and the bloodthirsty monster who terrorizes her.
Verdict Picoult is no stranger to tackling difficult issues. Her latest page-turner confronts the oft-explored subject of the Holocaust with skill, starkness, and tremendous sensitivity. The characters’ stories are compelling, but the stellar storyteller here is Picoult, who braids the quartet of intersecting tales into a powerful allegory of loss, forgiveness, and the ultimate humanity of us all. Her myriad fans are in for satisfying doses of everything they’ve come to expect from her: compulsive readability, impeccable research, and a gut-wrenching Aha! of an ending. [See Prepub Alert, 8/16/12.]—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY

starred review starTrout, Nick. The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs. Hyperion. Feb. 2013. 256p. ISBN 9781401310882. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781401304973. F
Francis of Assisi is the patron saint of animals; Cyrus Mills is the patron saint of lost dogs. Veterinary surgeon and best-selling author Trout’s (Tell Me Where It Hurts; Love Is the Best Medicine; Ever by My Side) first novel opens with veterinarian pathologist Mills seeing his first patient at the failing Vermont clinic he inherited from his estranged father. A man wants his dog euthanized for constantly peeing on his new floor, but Mills finds that he just can’t do it. Thus begins myriad complications when Mills later sees a distraught mother and daughter putting up lost posters of the same dog. It’s a week full of entanglements, including a Labrador with a penchant for eating underwear and a cat’s rich owner whose boyfriend might not be all he seems. All Mills wants is to make the practice viable enough to sell it to a fancy vet chain. Will he be able to do it?
Verdict Trout’s charming novel strikes just the right balance between humor and drama. The cast of characters are delightfully entertaining, but Mills is the linchpin as a son grappling with the memory of a father he thought he knew. Highly recommended for anyone who has ever had a beloved pet.—Susan Moritz, Silver Spring, MD

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"