Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 8, 2013

Week ending February 8, 2013

starred review starBennett, Robert Jackson. American Elsewhere. Orbit: Hachette. Feb. 2013. 680p. ISBN 9780316200202. pap. $13.99. HORROR
Since tragedy struck ex-cop Mona Bright a few years back, she’s traveled from city to city, never staying in one place for long. When her father dies, she learns that she’s inherited a house that was left to him by her mother, who committed suicide when Mona was very young. So, she climbs into her dad’s cherry-red ’69 Dodge Charger and makes her way to Wink, NM, a town not found on any map, frozen in Atomic Age domesticity, and shadowed by the Coburn National Laboratory and Observatory. Everything seems picture perfect in Wink (except for the warning to stay inside at night), and Mona imagines settling down until she learns her mother may have once been much more than the thin, wasted shell of a woman she knew as a child. Soon it is revealed to Mona that there’s more to Wink than meets the eye, and answers seem to lie at Coburn and in her mother’s mysterious past.
Verdict Bennett (Mr. Shivers; The Company Man; The Troupe), winner of the Shirley Jackson Award and the Edgar Award, takes us on a creepy, thrilling journey into a small town under a pink moon, where reality is relative and whose residents are very, very different. You’ll want to linger over this riveting and scary novel that straddles sf and suspense to startling effect. This wonderful offering is perfect for fans of Stephen King and Neil Gaiman.—Kristin Centorcelli, Denton, TX

starred review starClarke, Lucy. Swimming at Night. Touchstone: S. & S. Mar. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9781451683394. $24.99. F
In the same vein as Rosamund Lupton’s Sister, Clarke takes the reader on an exciting and mysterious trail as we follow younger sister Mia’s diary entries to recapture her thoughts and feelings in the aftermath of her suicide. Katie is the older sister, the one who is always responsible, the do-gooder, the hard worker. Mia is the beautiful artist, the dreamer, the drifter. Even with all their differences, the sisters were always close, always loving, until the death of their beloved mother and the unforgivable dalliances of a drunken night cause a seemingly unfixable rift between the siblings. With her future in disarray and her past unknown, Mia heads out to find herself by purchasing an open-ended ticket to explore the world. When it ends with Mia’s death, Katie puts aside her own fears and through Mia’s itinerary and journal entries follows Mia’s path, uncovering the mystery of Mia’s suicide and coming to terms with her own life.
Verdict With a solid debut that has the reader as anxious as Katie to find out what really happened on Mia’s journey, Clarke does a nice job of creating characters who make us care about them and situations that are exciting and believable. A great read for fans of smart contemporary women’s fiction as well as thriller and mystery readers. [Library marketing.]—Marianne Fitzgerald, Annapolis, MD

starred review starGriffiths, Elly. A Dying Fall: A Ruth Galloway Mystery. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780547798165. $26. MYS
Forensic anthropologist Ruth Galloway is called from her seaside cottage to Lancashire to investigate some bones found by a recently murdered college friend. A mysterious letter Ruth received from Dan shortly before his death mentioned the discovery of a skeleton that quite possibly might be the legendary King Arthur. With her 18-month-old daughter, Kate, and her druid friend Cathbad in tow, Ruth heads for the university. Though anthropology is not a particularly hot subject at the middle-class University of Pendle, the campus is buzzing with rumors of the potential Arthurian find and fearful of the threats of a sinister white supremacist group anxious to discredit the discovery. What began as a favor for a lost friend and a bit of a holiday rapidly becomes awash in danger and intrigue. Ruth’s former lover, DCI Harry Nelson, hears of the murder while visiting his mother in Blackpool and is drawn into the investigation. While Cathbad babysits young Kate, Ruth and the DCI pursue mayhem, murder, and missing bones. Why is the potential discovery of King Arthur so shocking and who is willing to kill to suppress the truth?
Verdict The fifth entry in Griffiths’s forensic series (A Room Full of Bones; The House at Sea’s End) is a satisfying mix of science, suspicion, murder, and druidic tradition. The complexity of Ruth’s relationship with DCI Nelson intensifies, and the questions surrounding the possible find of King Arthur lend just the right touch of gothic atmosphere to this wonderfully engaging read. Sure to be a hit with a wide range of mystery readers. [See Prepub Alert, 10/8/12.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

Martin, Deirdre. Hip Check. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). Feb. 2013. 340p. ISBN 9780425251157. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Finnish hockey player Esa Saari is devastated when his sister, Danika, is killed and he becomes the guardian of Danika’s eight-year-old, London-bred daughter, Nell. A member of the New York Blades, Esa is beyond over his head, since his well-deserved reputation comes from his hard play on and off the ice. What does he know about little girls? Schoolteacher–turned–professional nanny Michelle Beck is just what the hockey star ordered. She’s not his usual leggy blonde, though, so he doesn’t expect to be distracted, but she is bossy, always telling him what to do. It’s soon clear that Michelle loves Nell, identifying with a child who lost her mother at a young age; she also sees more “uncle” potential in playboy Esa than he recognizes in himself. Will a sudden mutual attraction cause a faceoff in their rocky domesticity?
Verdict This latest Blades tale from Martin (Breakaway) includes hilarious jibes from teammates in support of our hapless hockey star. Coming from pro hockey players, the language here is as rough as the sport (the book includes a good deal of game action as well). The sex scenes aren’t numerous, but they aren’t particularly dainty either. This fun title is recommended for Martin’s fans and readers who enjoy romances involving professional sports.—Bette-Lee Fox, 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"