Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, January 11, 2013

Week ending January 11, 2013

Binchy, Maeve. A Week in Winter. Knopf. Feb. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780307273574. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781429954556. F
Located in western Ireland on a cliff overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, Stone House is run down and neglected. When Chicky Starr decides to buy the property and turn it into a hotel, the town thinks she’s gone crazy. The project brings unexpected peace and understanding to Chicky and her staff, and after months of tireless work, Stone House is ready for business. The first out-of-towners arrive with disappointment, disgrace, and doubt, but nearly all experience a catharsis on the cliffs and trails and in the gardens that can be found in the surrounding countryside.
Verdict Written in a style similar to that in Whitethorn Woods, this title features Binchy’s unsurpassed storytelling as she weaves together the lives and experiences of her characters. Finished shortly before Binchy’s death in 2011, this final offering will please many of the author’s fans, but some may be disappointed that it isn’t on a par with her earlier works. While it may not be Binchy’s best, this tale of love, friendship, redemption, growing up, and moving on is a lovely swan song for the beloved author. [200,000-copy first printing.]—Vicki Briner, City Coll. Lib., Fort Lauderdale, FL

Ritchie, Cinthia. Dolls Behaving Badly. Grand Central. Feb. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780446568135. pap. $13.99. F
Anchorage, AK, heats up when divorced waitress Carla brings her passion for creating art into the realm of erotic dolls. Perpetually lacking in her financial and love life, she keeps a journal in hopes of straightening out her problems and devoting more time to her artwork. Already stretched thin by the demands of raising a gifted son and helping her coworker/best friend with her romantic agenda, Carla finds her living space packed to the gills when she takes in her pregnant sister and a teenaged neighbor. Finding herself nearing 40 and still intimate with her ex-husband, Carla also struggles to move on and make time for a new romance. Considering all Carla does to support those around her, when the going gets really tough, it’s a relief when help arrives—albeit from a surprising source.
Verdict First-time novelist Ritchie writes engaging characters and creates a sense of place that brings Alaska to life. For the reader of women’s fiction who can handle a bit of the risqué.—Karen Core, Detroit P.L.

Sheehan, James. The Lawyer’s Lawyer. Center Street: Hachette. Jan. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9781455508662. $22.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455508679. F
Title character Jack Tobin, the protagonist in Sheehan’s two previous novels (The Law of Attractions; The Mayor of Lexington Avenue), is a hotshot corporate lawyer who has retired to a small Florida panhandle fishing village and does pro bono work for an organization working to eliminate the death penalty. However, the case of Thomas Felton, who’s scheduled to be executed in two months, presents Tobin with complicated issues. Felton is widely believed to have been the serial killer who terrorized a nearby college town eight years earlier, murdering seven coeds and the wife of Police Chief Sam Jeffries and threatening the daughter of Det. Danni Jansen. Still, Tobin finds a gaping prosecution error in Felton’s trial for two other murders of which he was convicted. Pursuing justice for Felton presents a moral dilemma for Tobin with drastic and unforeseen consequences.
Verdict Sheehan’s trademark themes of friendship, love, guilt, and—particularly—redemption are here, but what is lacking is the skilled storytelling displayed especially in his debut, The Mayor of Lexington Avenue. The courtroom drama is still a strong suit, but other plotlines falter, making this more of a marginal purchase.—Michele Leber, Arlington, VA

Shields, Kieran. A Study in Revenge. Crown. Jan. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780307985767. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780307985774. MYS
This second novel (after The Truth of All Things) featuring ex-Pinkerton detective Perceval Grey and Deputy Archie Lean is once again set in Portland, ME, in the early 1890s. A burnt corpse has been found in an abandoned house, and Lean asks Grey to assist him in making sense of occult drawings found at the crime scene. But Grey has his own concerns—he has been called to the home of a dying tycoon who asks him to find his missing granddaughter. During the course of the two investigations, Lean and Grey discover that both their cases are linked by the disappearance of an heirloom that was stolen from the tycoon’s family. Both are pursued by others seeking the heirloom, and the ending leaves no doubt that there will be a third book in the series.
Verdict Readers new to the series should first read the previous title because of the frequent references to earlier events. Shields again has done thorough historical research about Portland, shown not only in his descriptive settings but in details tracing back to the city’s Colonial roots. Recommended for readers who like historical mysteries, especially those by Anne Perry, Rhys Bowen, and Victoria Thompson.—Jean King, West Hempstead P.L., NY

Zitwer, Barbara J. The J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society. Marble Arch: Atria. 2012. 288p. ISBN 9781476718736. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781476718743. F
As a single architect living on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, Joey Rubin has a life many women might envy. As the novel opens, Joey learns that she will travel to the Cotswolds in England to oversee her dream project, the renovation of historic Stanway House. This isn’t just any old building either, for this is the house where J.M. Barrie (Joey’s favorite author) wrote Peter Pan. Once in England, life doesn’t seem as rosy. Although Joey reconnects with her oldest friend, Sarah, who has married a Britisher and is happily a stay-at-home mom of four young, rambunctious kids, Joey feels like an outsider and disconnected from who Sarah has become. She also finds that many of the local residents aren’t in favor of the renovation. Out for a run one afternoon, Joey stumbles upon the J.M. Barrie Ladies’ Swimming Society, a group of elderly women who swim in the lake, even in January. This chance encounter opens Joey’s world to new friendships that will change her life.
Verdict Fans of Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows’s best-selling The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society will enjoy this debut novel by a literary agent and former film producer (Vampire’s Kiss with Nicholas Cage). Her tale of friendship and female wisdom reminds us how important social bonds are.—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH

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"