Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, April 19, 2013

Week ending April 19, 2013

Brookmyre, Christopher. When the Devil Drives. Atlantic Monthly. May 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780802120892. $24. F
What’s not to like about a befuddled, yet plucky, wee lassie of an amateur detective? That’s the question posed by this follow-up to 2012’s Where the Bodies Are Buried. Aspiring actress Jasmine Sharp has inherited her late uncle’s detective agency and, with the publicity attached to her first case, now has a number of actual, paying clients. One such hires Jasmine to discover the whereabouts of her much younger sister, Tessa, who disappeared 30 years ago. Tessa had been a brilliant actress in a cutting-edge Glasgow theater company and then—nothing. All of the other members of the troupe have risen to the top of Scottish society. And all refuse to speak to Jasmine, who is forced to wonder if witchcraft might be the only explanation for their meteoric rise. Meanwhile DS Catherine McLeod investigates the murder of a prominent Scottish arts figure. Only gradually do the strands of these two stories blend, and once more Jasmine runs rings around her police counterpart.
Verdict Amid the Shakespearean allusions, the densely layered characterizations, and satiric asides about Scottish society, readers who enjoy the Glasgow-based mysteries of Denise Mina will be hard-pressed to find fault with our Scottish lass and will eagerly await the seemingly inevitable, and fiery, face-off between Jasmine and Catherine that surely will come as the series progresses.—Bob Lunn, Kansas City, MO

Grecian, Alex. The Black Country. Putnam. May 2013. 400p. ISBN 9780399159336. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101621066. F
The Murder Squad is back on the case! When a small boy and his parents go missing, Insp. Walter Day and Sgt. Nevil Hammersmith trade the fog of London for the coal mines of the British Midlands.The duo arrive in the tiny village of Blackhampton, weighted down under a thick layer of snow, secrets, and superstition. Soon, the case that was supposed to be open-and-shut has developed more twists and turns than the labyrinthine mining tunnels underlying the village. As a deadly stranger watches, more villagers disappear and Hammersmith develops a mysterious illness.
Verdict Grecian’s (The Yard) latest Murder Squad adventure is a fast-paced homage to the Victorian countryside mysteries of Wilkie Collins (The Moonstone; The Woman in White) and Charles Dickens (Bleak House; The Mystery of Edwin Drood). Recommended for Anglophiles, period mystery enthusiasts, and anyone interested in medical Victoriana. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]—Liv Hanson, Chicago

Lescroart, John. The Ophelia Cut. Atria: S. & S. May 2013. 432p. ISBN 9781476709154. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476709178. F
Fans of Dismas Hardy will welcome this 14th outing in Lescroart’s legal series. Hardy first appeared in 1989’s Dead Irish as a 38-year-old, between careers and between marriages. Now, at 60, he’s a respected, successful San Francisco attorney. With their children grown, he and wife Frannie have begun to explore their new life as empty-nesters. But before Hardy even has time to settle into his new fitness regimen, a disturbing case presents itself when Frannie’s brother, Moses McGuire, is charged with murder. The victim is Rick Jessup, a disreputable political aide who at one time had unsuccessfully pursued McGuire’s beautiful daughter, Brittany. Not only must Hardy and his old pal police detective Abe Glitsky sift through the conflicting evidence that surfaces about Jessup, but they’re forced to deal with recovering alcoholic McGuire’s fall from the wagon, which threatens to reveal the long-kept secret that could end the careers of Dismas and Abe.
Verdict Like wine, both Lescroart and Hardy have improved with age. Don’t let readers miss this one. [See Prepub Alert, 11/12/12.]—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

Loehfelm, Bill. The Devil in Her Way. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. May 2013. 288p. ISBN 9780374298852. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781466836808. F
Maureen Coughlin, gutsy heroine of The Devil She Knows, has changed her career and locale hoping to start anew. No longer a cocktail waitress on Staten Island, NY, she has moved to New Orleans and recently graduated from the police academy. Paired with the irascible Preacher Boyd as her training officer, she is determined to prove herself. Responding to her first domestic dispute, Maureen ends up putting a suspect in the hospital and garnering the attention of three local schoolboys. Maureen senses that the boys are mixed up in something criminal and discovers that they are being used in a deadly turf war by the local gangs.
Verdict Loehfelm (Fresh Kills) takes the reader on an exhilarating and often heartbreaking tour of a post-Katrina New Orleans. Abandoned homes, fractured families, and children searching for an identity all converge to make for suspenseful reading. A compelling relationship between Maureen and an older female superior provides interesting insight into the lives of women on the police force. The novel works well as a stand-alone but will please fans of the first installment.—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

McLane, LuAnn. Whisper’s Edge: A Cricket Creek Novel. Signet Eclipse: Penguin Group (USA). May 2013. 279p. ISBN 9780451415578. pap. $7.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
The retirement community of Whisper’s Edge in Cricket Creek, KY, has its share of drama, comedy, and neighborly disputes. Yet heroics rarely enter the mix until Tristan McMillan “saves” Savannah Perry, social director and girl Friday, from drowning in the pool. The identity of her would-be hero gives all the residents a reason to rejoice: Tristan, the grandson of the former owner who had let Whisper’s Edge go to seed, has bought the development and given the go-ahead for the purchase of long-deferred necessities and repairs. Hero, indeed. Tristan is rather fond of the appellation, even though his motives are a bit less Sir Galahad and a tad more Donald Trump. He left his Cincinnati law practice to move back to his mother’s hometown to show up his intractable grandparent by selling Whisper’s Edge or developing the property himself, sans seniors. Yet the spirited Savannah, with her straight talk and unfettered optimism, has him reconsidering.
Verdict This latest foray to McLane’s rural enclave (after Perfect Pitch) has all the flavor and charm of a small town where everyone knows everyone else and doesn’t mind butting in when the need arises. With a secondary romance between members of the slightly older generation, Whisper’s Edge offers a comforting read where love does “trump” insecurities, grief, and best-laid plans.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

starred review starWiden, Gregory. Blood Makes Noise. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. Apr. 2013. 458p. ISBN 9781611098990. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781611093872. F
Michael Suslov meets some very curious and dangerous people working in the hugger-mugger world of espionage in Argentina during the 1950s. Unfortunately for Michael, the course of his convoluted life and bizarre and often dark assignments may leave him as crushed and wounded as the people he is trying to understand. Strangely, he discovers, some individuals wield as much power dead as they did alive. Evita Peron (1919–52), for instance, with her cult following and traveling cadaver, still controls politics from her hidden grave.
Verdict Based on some startling facts surrounding the Juan and Eva Peron “Empire” and the broken country, people, and history they exploited, this debut novel by a well-known screenwriter (Highlander; Backdraft) grips the reader from the first intriguing page. Violent, intense, and utterly captivating, this will be required reading for anyone who enjoys a good thriller, spy story, historical fiction, or fast-paced suspense story. [Previewed in Kristi Chadwick’s “Following the Digital Clues: Mystery Genre Spotlight,” LJ 4/15/13.—Ed.]—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

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"