Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, March 15, 2013

Week ending March 15, 2013

starred review starLeon, Donna. The Golden Egg. Atlantic Monthly. Apr. 2013. 284p. ISBN 9780802121011. $24. MYS
Leon fans will welcome the newest entry (after Beastly Things) in her superb series featuring Commissario Guido Brunetti, Venetian police officer extraordinaire. Interwoven among Leon’s seductive cameos of Venetian life, the plot is especially compelling. Paola, Brunetti’s wife, implores him to investigate a case that hits close to home—the tragic death of the visibly deaf, dumb, and retarded man who was a fixture in the local dry cleaning shop. To complicate matters, there is no official trace of the man’s (commonly referred to as “the boy”) existence. In the end, of course, Brunetti arrives at the subtle, sad conclusion that will move readers.
Verdict Leon delivers an intricate plot couched in spare, Hemingwayesque prose. Her elegant, masterly use of language captures perfectly the quality and pace of life in Venice. Readers will particularly savor the long, leisurely, enticing lunches enjoyed by Venetians, and Brunetti’s numerous breaks in cafés will elicit envy from espresso aficionados. A sine qua non for Leon fans who also enjoy Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano series.—Lynne Maxwell, Villanova Univ. Sch. of Law Lib., PA

Lilliefors, James. The Leviathan Effect. Soho Crime. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9781616952495. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616952501. F
Having successfully predicted a series of global natural disasters, the latest communications from a hacker named “Janus” to the president and Homeland Security secretary Catherine Blaine offers them a chance to stop the next disaster, a Category Five hurricane threatening the East Coast, by following Janus’s instructions. Meanwhile, journalist Jon Mallory has a list of prominent scientists who have been murdered, and when his contact mysteriously disappears, he turns to his ex–CIA agent brother Charles for protection. Secretary Blaine also reaches out to Charles to help her identify Janus, whose new technology threatens America’s existence.
Verdict Drawing on actual government experiments and projects, award-winning journalist Lilliefors convincingly sells the tale of natural disaster modification in the hands of a Russian mobster out to blackmail the U.S. government. This follow-up to Virus is a fairly suspenseful book with believable action and interesting science that will captivate weather buffs and fans of bioterrorism plots.—Michelle Martinez, Sam Houston State Univ. Lib., Huntsville, TX

Talty, Stephan. Black Irish. Ballantine. Mar. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780345538062. $26. F
Best-selling nonfiction author Talty (Empire of Blue Water) sets his debut thriller, a grisly and complex tale, in his hometown of South Buffalo, NY, a working-class Irish American community. Harvard-educated homicide detective Absalom “Abbie” Kearney returns home to care for her ex-cop father and begins investigating an ongoing series of brutal murders with a puzzling signature and some kind of connection to her family. But her probe is stymied by her colleagues, leading her to uncover a secret Gaelic organization.
Verdict To say this book is an utterly compelling read would be an understatement, although the necessary background information on the Irish Republican Army and Gaelic groups is a bit dense for readers unfamiliar with the subject. However, some terrific surprises, which are more than welcome in a genre that can often be predictable, make up for the difficult history lesson. Buffalonians will love all the references to their city (e.g., Tim Hortons, the Skyway, and the perennially losing Buffalo Sabres hockey team), and homesick ex-pats will crave a Super Mighty from Mighty Taco. Fans of exciting and unpredictable thrillers will add this one to their must-read list. [See Prepub Alert, 8/3/12; library marketing.]—Samantha Gust, Niagara Univ. Lib., NY

Upson, Nicola. Fear in the Sunlight. Harper: HarperCollins. Apr. 2013. 432p. ISBN 9780062195432. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062195449. MYS
The year is 1936, and English crime novelist Josephine Tey is turning 40. A celebratory weekend has been planned in the idyllic resort village of Portmeirion, but the holiday is not entirely focused on leisure because famed director Alfred Hitchcock will also be present to discuss transforming one of her mysteries into a film. The festivities quickly turn sour when Hitchcock’s penchant for mischief transforms a relaxing respite into a violent and deadly weekend. As usual, Tey’s close friend CI Archie Penrose is close at hand to investigate.
Verdict This novel is the fourth installment (after Two for Sorrow) in Upson’s mysteries featuring real-life playwright and novelist Tey. This latest work is more concerned with concocting a tale about Tey’s personal life, of which very little is actually known, than with weaving a compelling mystery. An abundance of characters and an overly intricate plot make for a long slog to the finish line. Recommended for purchase only if you have a strong following of the series.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

starred review starYehoshua, A.B. The Retrospective. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780547496962. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780547501673. F
If you’re an author of a half-century’s standing with a stack of prizes to your name, you, too, might want to write a book that probes the responsibilities of the artist. What’s intriguing here is that Yehoshua (A Woman in Jerusalem) makes his central character a film director, facilitating reflections on time and memory while highlighting the complexities of interpretation. Yair Moses has traveled to Santiago de Compostela—symbolically, a pilgrimage city—for a retrospective of his work. With him is Ruth, his longtime leading lady and the former lover of Trigano, the brilliant but difficult screenwriter from whom Moses is now estranged. Above their bed is a rendering of the legend Caritas Romana, in which an elderly prisoner is nursed at the breast by his daughter, which recalls the reason for the traumatic split between director and screenwriter. Trigano had written a similar scene for Ruth that she balked at playing and was infuriated when Moses sided with Ruth. As the story unfolds, Trigano comes off as not just a purist but rigid and monomaniacal—until a final moment when Yehoshua delivers a stunning explanation of the ethics of art.
Verdict A fluid and absorbing novel of ideas; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/17/12.]—Barbara Hoffert, 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"