Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, March 29, 2013

Week ending March 29, 2013

Clark, Mary Higgins. Daddy’s Gone a Hunting. S. & S. Apr. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781451668940. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451668964. F
Kate and Hannah Connelly are no strangers to tragedy. Twenty-eight years ago, a boating accident killed their mother and uncle and injured their father. They were raised by their father, who owned the family antiques furniture reproduction plant and museum, but as the sisters reached adulthood and thrived as independent career women, their father’s personal life and business ventures spiraled out of control. Tragedy revisits the Connelly sisters when Kate makes a clandestine visit to her father’s business at 4:30 a.m. and is caught in a fiery explosion that lands her in a coma. Kate quickly becomes the prime suspect of attempted arson at her father’s floundering business. As the story unfolds, additional layers, clues, and twists emerge that hint that the destruction of the furniture plant is much more than an open-and-shut arson case.
Verdict Clark still delivers a delicious mystery after a 40-year reign as the prolific queen of suspense. Her tautly interwoven story lines, colorful characters, and suspenseful twists will enthrall mystery and fiction readers. [See Prepub Alert, 10/28/12.]—Mary Todd Chesnut, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights

Crompton, Richard. Hour of the Red God: A Detective Mollel Novel. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Apr. 2013. 304p. ISBN 9780374171995. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374709259. MYS
In this mystery set at the time of the 2007 elections in Kenya, Nairobi detective Mollel, a Maasai, is called to the scene of a murder in one of the city’s parks. The victim was a prostitute and also a Maasai. Mollel quickly realizes that there is more to this case, as clues lead him from the red-light district to the corridors of power, both political and religious. Mollel races to find the killer before he can strike again, or disappear into the political tumult and tribal rivalries that are threatening to engulf Nairobi.
Verdict A resident of Nairobi, Crompton paints a vivid picture of one of the world’s great cities, while providing glimpses into the history and politics of postcolonial Africa. His debut will appeal to mystery readers who appreciate a taut, fast-paced story in an exotic locale.—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green

starred review starOrr, Elaine Neil. A Different Sun: A Novel of Africa. Berkley: Penguin Group (USA). Apr. 2013. 448p. ISBN 9780425261309. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101622063. F
Here am I, send me. The prophet Isaiah’s words (9:6) echo through Emma Davis’s mind as she faces the emptiness of her days as a plantation owner’s daughter. The handsome and passionate preacher visiting her backwoods Georgia community in 1840 speaks of bringing light into the darkness of Africa. Smitten with Pastor Henry Bowman and thirsty for the new life he speaks of, Emma marries Henry and joins him at a new mission post in Lagos. Uncle Eli, who has been a slave on her father’s plantation Emma’s entire life, gives her a simple gift before she leaves, which takes on fresh meaning during the journey across the African continent.
Verdict Lush, evocative, breathtaking in its descriptions, and deeply spiritual in its themes of love, forgiveness, and transformation, this extraordinary novel shines with light and depth. Reminiscent of Barbara Kingsolver’s magnum opus, The Poisonwood Bible, with elements of Joseph Conrad and Louise Erdrich, Orr’s stunning debut is starkly beautiful and true to life.—Julia M. Reffner, Fairport, NY

starred review starSmith, Laura Lee. Heart of Palm. Grove. Apr. 2013. 496p. ISBN 9780802121028. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780802193568. F
This outstanding debut novel tells the story of the Bravo family, headed by matriarch Arla. Arla was once a sought-after beauty from a wealthy family in St. Augustine, FL, Dean Bravo stole her heart—Dean Bravo of the Utina Bravos, a family known for lawlessness and troublemaking in the trashy town nearby. Tragedy strikes on their honeymoon, and the young couple are never quite the same. In the present day, long after Dean’s subsequent desertion of Arla and their kids, the Bravos are sitting on now-valuable real estate, but whether it’s up for sale is a fight within the family: Carson, a shady “investment counselor”; Elizabeth, his long-suffering wife; Sofia, the oldest and only daugher, dealing with mental health issues; and Frank, the stoic defender of everyone else, denying his own dreams.
Verdict Reminiscent of the works of John Irving, with its close-knit but oddball family, weird tragedy at regular intervals, and its very dark sense of humor, this is an engrossing and rewarding read.—Amy Watts, Univ. of Georgia Lib., Athens

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"