Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, May 3, 2013

Week ending May 3, 2013

Fante, Dan. Point Doom. Bourbon Street: HarperCollins. Jun. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780062229014. pap. $14.99. MYS
Private investigator–turned–recovering alcoholic JD Fiorella used to have his life together. When a job went south and ended in bloodshed, JD turned to drinking and eventually went back home to Malibu, CA, to clean up while living with his mother. Just as he’s gotten some traction in the form of a steady job and a new apartment, JD’s life goes to hell once again when a friend from Alcoholics Anonymous is gruesomely mutilated and murdered.The investigation leads down a rabbit hole of old Hollywood money, a serial killer, and 11 bodies buried on Point Dume. But JD is more than ready to handle it, as the hardship in his life has left him almost as savage as the people he’s chasing.
Verdict This fifth novel (after 86’d; Chump Change; Mooch; Spitting off Tall Buildings) by the son of bohemian novelist John Fante has more violence and gore than the average murder mystery and the ambiguity of a brick wall. The gruesome descriptions might titillate some readers, but the violence seems done for its own sake and does nothing to save a very straightforward narrative. The characters lack nuance and, aside from the occasional slick one-liner, don’t have much to say or do beyond moving the plot forward. Only recommended for hard-core crime fiction fans with a taste for the ultraviolent.—Peter Petruski, Cumberland Cty. Lib. Syst., Carlisle, PA

Rindell, Suzanne. The Other Typist. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. May 2013. 368p. ISBN 9780399161469. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 978110162108. F
New York City in the 1920s is a time of speakeasies and bathtub gin, an era when women smoke in public and bob their hair. An orphan raised by nuns, Rose Baker has learned to follow the rules as a means of self-preservation. Now employed as a typist in a New York City police precinct, she transcribes confessions that will eventually become irrefutable evidence in court. When an enchanting typist named Odalie joins the precinct, everything changes. Despite her better judgment, Rose is soon under Odalies’s spell. Rose quickly learns that there are several versions of Odalie’s past, and much to Rose’s chagrin, the importance of knowing which is true becomes increasingly less important as time goes on. What begins for Rose as the promise of the bosom-friend she never had quickly becomes a complicated mess of lies, deceit, and insanity.
Verdict Fans of Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr. Ripley are sure to love Rindell’s debut novel, which parallels Ripley in its examination of our fascination with wealth and the potential consequences of keeping the wrong company. [See Prepub Alert, 11/19/12.]—Caitlin Bronner, St. Joseph’s Coll. Lib., Brooklyn

Robuck, Erika. Call Me Zelda. NAL: Penguin Group (USA). May 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780451239921. pap. $16. F
Robuck (Hemingway’s Girl) has again written a novel about a Roaring Twenties literary figure. This time she focuses on Zelda Fitzgerald, author, painter, dancer, and famous wife of novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald. Robuck creates a fictional character named Anna Howard, who acts as Zelda’s nurse, first in a mental hospital and then in the Fitzgeralds’ home. By crafting a narrator external to the Fitzgeralds’ social circle, Robuck is able to write about Zelda from an outsider’s perspective. Anna examines her own life’s tragedies through the lens of Zelda’s memories, marital failure, and mental collapse. Anna becomes Zelda’s confidante, providing opportunities for intimate conversation, honest criticism, and enduring promises.
Verdict Though less biographical than other recent fictional works about Zelda (such as Theresa Fowler’s Z or R. Clifton Spargo’s Beautiful Fools), this historical novel will appeal to readers interested in the famous Jazz Age couple. As an intimate portrait of a mentally ill artist and wife, Robuck’s latest work will be an easy read for fans of historical fiction or women’s interests. [See also the Tantorious audio podcast with Robuck, ow.ly/kCBs4.—Ed.]—Shannon Marie Robinson, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH

Roby, Kimberla Lawson. A House Divided: A Reverend Curtis Black Novel. Grand Central. May 2013. 336p. ISBN 9781455526062. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781455526079. F
In the tenth entry (after The Reverend’s Wife) in the popular Rev. Curtis Black series, Charlotte and Curtis Black eagerly await the arrival of their first grandchild, but Charlotte ruins the happy occasion when she becomes possessive over the baby. Vanessa, the maternal grandmother, confronts Charlotte about her behavior, and a battle erupts between the two. A growing attraction between Charlotte and Vanessa’s husband throws readers yet another messy and captivating turn. Curtis appears to be doing fine until he starts receiving strange letters and phone calls from a mysterious enemy threatening to reveal a long-forgotten secret no one, not even Charlotte, knows.
Verdict A deeper exploration of the challenges that Matthew, the Blacks’ son, faces as a teenage father might have been interesting. Nevertheless, Roby delivers a well-developed and entertaining plot and fascinating characters readers just love to hate. A good choice for fans of popular African American fiction.—Lisa Jones, Birmingham P.L., AL

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"