Fiction Reviews | March 15, 2013

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewAtkinson, Kate. Life After Life. Reagan Arthur: Little, Brown. Apr. 2013. 544p. ISBN 9780316176484. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780316230803. F

Life after life after life: Atkinson’s telling title suggests not some glorious afterworld but the structure of this remarkable novel, about an English girl born in February, 1910. In fact, Ursula is stillborn in an opening chapter but emerges a lusty babe in the next; Whitbread Award winner Atkinson (Behind the Scenes at the Museum) then hopscotches through time, circling back to offer alternate versions of Ursula’s life. Did Ursula endure an unwanted pregnancy, see her brother die of influenza, enter into a sour marriage—or not? Did she survive World War II Britain or instead marry a German and face down Hitler, a gun in her hand? One brief passage shows Ursula musing with a doctor about her fugue states, but Atkinson doesn’t waste time belaboring the idea, instead delivering a clear understanding that one life can take different avenues—and what a difference that can make. Atkinson works both large and small, capturing the sweep of history while perfectly rendering the dynamics of Ursula’s loving, contentious family: gentle father Hugh, disappointed mother Sylvie, generous sister Pamela, and more. VERDICT Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/12 and Editors’ Picks, LJ 2/15/13, “Editors’ Spring Picks.”]—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewLedgard, J.M. Submergence. Coffee House, dist. by Consortium. Apr. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9780062112244. pap. $15.95 F

Directed by the Secret Intelligence Service to assess al Qaeda activities in Somalia, Nairobi-based Englishman James More poses as a water consultant but is promptly taken prisoner by jihadists when he arrives in Kismayo and is confined to a lightless, vermin-infested room before being marched through the unforgiving Somali landscape. While marching, he recalls meeting Danielle Flinders the previous Christmas at France’s Hotel Atlantic, where they conducted a discreet, sparring affair. Half-Australian, half-Martiniquan, and coolly independent, Danny is on a journey of her own. A mathematician who applies her skills to the study of ocean life, she’s preparing to plunge deep into the ocean underworld, an almost unnatural act that “challenges our sense of who we are.” Since Ledgard wrote the coruscating Giraffe, which used a herd’s destruction in communist-era Czechoslovakia to explore totalitarian thinking, it’s no surprise that he offers not just an acute portrait of a man and a woman on the edge (or dangerously submerged) but an almost defiantly intensive novel of ideas. As Ledgard concludes, utopias come and go, but the intractable laws of survival in a damaged world and “the comfort of collective awareness” are what matter. VERDICT Highly recommended for thinking readers.—Barbara Hoffert, Library Journal

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewCoyle, Matt. Yesterday’s Echo. Oceanview. May 2013. 312p. ISBN 9781608090761. $26.95. F

“The first time I saw her, she made me remember and she made me forget.” This delectable opening line sets the tone for Coyle’s hard-boiled crime series debut, which introduces Rick Cahill, a former cop whose wife was brutally murdered eight years ago. Rick was accused of the crime but never convicted. Unable to fight the media maelstrom, he retreats to La Jolla, CA, to help run a restaurant with his best (and only) friend. It isn’t much of an existence but Rick is slowly regaining control of his life. Fate arrives in the figure of Melody, a gorgeous Filipina who embroils Rick in a lethal entanglement. Before too long, the protagonist finds himself back in the crosshairs of the media and the police, who remember all too well the cop that got away with murder. VERDICT Coyle does a superb job of drawing the reader in and keeps a steady pace of action along with solid character development. This celebration of the crime noir novels of old with a modern sensibility in Rick Cahill as hero will strongly appeal to fans of classic hard-boiled PI novels.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

The following titles are reviewed in the March 15 print issue. Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Ballantyne, Lisa. The Guilty One. Morrow. Mar. 2013. 480p. ISBN 9780062195517. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062195531. F

Caldwell, Megan. Vanity Fare: A Novel of Lattes, Literature, and Love. Morrow. 2013. 416p. ISBN 9780062188366. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062188434. F

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewCorbett, Gavin. This Is the Way. Faber & Faber. Mar. 2013. 240p. ISBN 9780865478916. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780865478923. F

Dean, Michael. I, Hogarth: A Novel. Overlook. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9781468303421. $26.95. F

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewDowning, David. Masaryk Station: A John Russell Thriller. Soho Crime. Jun. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781616952235. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616952228. F

Druon, Maurice. The Iron King. HarperCollins. (The Accursed Kings, Bk. 1). Mar. 2013. 368p. tr. from French by Humphrey Hare. ISBN 9780007491261. pap. $14.99. F

Egerton, Owen. Everyone Says That at the End of the World. Soft Skull. Apr. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781593765187. pap. $15.95. F

Ellmann, Lucy. Mimi: A Novel. Bloomsbury; dist. by Macmillan. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781620400203. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781620400258. F

James, B.H. Parnucklian for Chocolate. Red Hen. Mar. 2013. 266p. ISBN 9781597097901. pap. $16.95. F

McVeigh, Jennifer. The Fever Tree. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. Apr. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780399158247. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101609309. F

Pekkanen, Sarah. The Best of Us. Washington Square: S. & S. Apr. 2013. 335p. ISBN 9781451673517. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781101606063. F

Stothard, Anna. The Pink Hotel. Picador. Apr. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250026804. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781250026811. F

Trussoni, Danielle. Angelopolis. Viking. Mar. 2013. 302p. ISBN 9780670025541. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101606063. F

Van Booy, Simon. The Illusion of Separateness. Harper: HarperCollins. Jun. 2013. 224p. ISBN 9780062112248. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780062112248. F

Library Journal Reviews starred reviewWalker, Walter. Crime of Privilege. Ballantine. Jun. 2013. 414p. ISBN 9780345541536. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345541543. F

Williams, Beatriz. A Hundred Summers. Putnam. Jun. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780399162169. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101596517. F

Woods, Stuart. Unintended Consequences: A Stone Barrington Novel. Putnam. Apr. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9780399159879. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101621202. F

Short stories

Fire and Forget. Da Capo. 2013. 256p. ed. by Ray Scranton & Matt Gallagher.ISBN 9780306821769. pap. $15.99. F