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

Week ending March 1, 2013

Daughters of Icarus: New Feminist Science Fiction and Fantasy. Pink Narcissus. Mar. 2013. 372p. ed. by Josie Brown. ISBN 9781939056009. pap. $17. SF
This collection of 28 short stories from a small press founded in 2012 explores many areas of speculative fiction, from fantasy lands of ritual and magic to postapocalyptic wastelands to modern cityscapes. Throughout, the authors explore themes of gender, identity, and autonomy, with characters as diverse as miniature clones, stripper vampires, aggressive mermaids, and mystical crones. Many of the stories focus on gender roles and the pull of relationships, whether parental, familial, or romantic, among all kinds of people. Standouts in the collection include “Plant Life” by Eric Bosse, in which houseplants become sentient, and Heather Fowler’s “Practice Baby,” with the incredibly creepy concept of robotic babies. Some stories feel a tad underwritten, but others have created intriguing worlds or premises that beg for further exploration. Note that both sexes are represented by authors and characters and that there is some sexually graphic content. Only five of the stories have appeared elsewhere, and many new authors are featured.
Verdict This anthology is not for hard sf purists, but it will attract readers who enjoy stories that open up more questions than they resolve.—Devon Thomas, Chelsea, MI

Laukkanen, Owen. Criminal Enterprise. Putnam. Mar. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780399157905. $26.95. F
As in his debut novel The Professionals, which also featured the crime-stopper team of FBI Special Agent Carla Windermere and Minnesota State Investigator Kirk Stevens, Laukkanen tells the tale of a good man gone very, very bad. Newly laid-off accountant Carter Tomlin is staring at a large mortgage, a pretty (but expensive) wife, and two young kids. Desperation mounts proportionately with his unpaid bills, and so Tomlin goes where the money is and begins robbing banks. Stealing weapons from drug dealer Schultz, Tomlin brings into his circle of crime his secretary, Tricia Henderson, and her eponymously named boyfriend, Dragon Medic; the violence accelerates as Tomlin revels in the thrill of power over his victims. Windermere pursues Tomlin from one direction while Stevens befriends Tomlin, only to discover Tomlin has secrets. And Schultz is out for revenge.
Verdict This is a terrific Great Recession thriller whose postmodern amorality grips from the beginning. While the criminals here are not as likable as Laukkanen’s Arthur Pender gang from the first book, fans will not be disappointed. [See Prepub Alert, 9/17/12.]—Vicki Gregory, SIS, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa

starred review starMasterman, Becky. Rage Against the Dying. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Mar. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780312622947. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250022523. F
Yes, this debut thriller has a fast-paced, action-filled plot littered with serial killers and their victims. Yes, its portrayal of FBI procedures resonates with authenticity, and the romantic subplot is engaging. But, most of all, it is the savvy heroine/narrator, Brigid Quinn, who will capture the reader’s attention. Brigid is a 59-year-old retired FBI agent with a bad back, a history of alcohol abuse, and a questionable officer-involved shooting in her past. Yet she’s made a new life for herself in the outskirts of Tucson by marrying widowed philosophy professor and former priest Carlo DiForenza. She’s taken up cooking and gardening and has come to love twilight strolls with her new husband and their two rambunctious pugs. However, when the loose ends of an old unsolved case begin to intrude on her idyllic life, Brigid quickly finds herself caught up in the intrigue despite her desperate desire to shield Carlo from the reality of her past.
Verdict Masterman lives up to her name in this masterly combination of compelling character and plot to keep the pages turning. And readers of a certain age will love her middle-aged protagonist. [Library marketing; Minotaur 1st Edition Selection.]—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

Morgan, Victoria. For the Love of a Soldier. Berkley Sensation: Penguin Group (USA). Mar. 2013. 311p. ISBN 9780425264232. pap. $7.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Success isn’t in the cards for Alexandra Langdon, losing her last £100 to Garrett Sinclair, the Earl of Kendall, at the Duke of Hammond’s ball. Though dressed as Mr. Alex Daniels, she at least had an even chance. So why did Kendall return the blunt to her? Then Alex overhears a murderous plot against that same lord, but convincing him of the danger is another matter, until they are waylaid on the road. Alex is knocked unconscious, and Kendall uncovers her secret—or so he thinks. He wants Alexandra’s aid in thwarting the murder scheme, and as long as Kendall doesn’t know her true identity, Alex will play along. But does he have to be so distracting? As one of the few survivors of the deadly Crimean battle of Balaclava, Garrett can use all the distractions Alex provides as well.
Verdict A 2011 Romance Writers of America Golden Heart® Finalist, Morgan’s debut novel hits many of the right notes. Both of the protagonists are trying to conceal old torments, making them a perfect match in wit as well as emotion. Perhaps too much of the plot is settled “off stage” for readers who like to be in on the action, but that’s a minor quibble. Also, a bit less “crushing” would have been welcome, but this is a first novel and a well done one at that.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

starred review starScottoline, Lisa. Don’t Go. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9781250010070. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250025999. F
When he deployed to Afghanistan for the Army Medical Corps, Mike Scanlon left behind an enviable life, with a beautiful wife, an infant daughter, and a prospering practice as a podiatrist/orthopedic surgeon. Six months later, a freak accident changes Mike’s world forever. As Mike struggles with the aftermath and searches for answers, he soon learns that his bad luck has only just begun. Despite an overwhelming share of tragedy, betrayal, and rejection, Mike maintains his unwavering love for his daughter, Emily. After a series of bad choices, Mike finds his life spiraling deeper into a hopeless quagmire of despair, eventually learning what it’s like to lose everything.
Verdict This is not your typical Scottoline novel…it is Scottoline on steroids. In her first book featuring a male protagonist, Scottoline spins a compelling drama that reads like the literary lovechild of Jodi Picoult and Nicholas Sparks. Readers will fall in love with this war vet father who fights seemingly insurmountable odds, and his powerfully addictive story will haunt them long after the final page.—Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

starred review starWilson, Robert. Capital Punishment. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780547935195. $28. F
Alyshia D’Cruz, the privileged daughter of an Indian billionaire of Portuguese extraction, has grown up in London’s high society. After an unhappy stint in Mumbai to learn about her father’s international enterprises, she returns to London and finds a job on her own. Following a goodbye party for a coworker, a very drunk Alyshia leaves in what turns out to be decidedly the wrong cab. Her father, Francisco “Frank” Cruz, hires Charles Boxer, a homicide detective–turned–“kidnapping consultant” whom Frank somehow knows is sometimes willing to cross the line and erase perpetrators for an additional fee. Complicating matters is that the kidnappers will only deal with Alyshia’s mother, Isabel Marks, who is divorced from Frank. Furthermore, the kidnappers seem not to want the money that Frank is readily able to pay but instead demand “a demonstration of sincerity.”
Verdict British suspense author Wilson (A Small Death in Lisbon; The Company of Strangers) launches an exciting new series with this smart, sophisticated, and twisty thriller that keeps the reader guessing to the final page. Fans of Wilson’s other thrillers will definitely enjoy this one.—Vicki Gregory, SIS, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa

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"