Lippman, McCall Smith, Minot, Teicholz, Werth | Barbara’s Picks, Feb. 2014, Pt. 3

Lippman, Laura. After I’m Gone. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062083395. $26.99. CD: HarperAudio. lrg. prnt. THRILLER
Investigating cold cases for some extra cash, retired Baltimore detective Roberto “Sandy” Sanchez looks into the murder 26 years earlier of Julie, once mistress to rich but shady businessman Felix Brewer, who disappeared ten years before Julie’s death. No one knows what happened to Felix, but Sandy soon finds himself untangling a web of greed, jealousy, and deceit linking Julie; Felix’s devoted wife, Bambi; and their three daughters. Lippman has deservedly won every mystery award out there and routinely racks up New York Times best sellers; with a 150,000-copy first printing and a six-city tour to Austin, Baltimore, Houston, New Orleans, Kansas City, and Washington, DC.

McCall Smith, Alexander. The Forever Girl. Pantheon. Feb. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780307908254. $24.95. lrg. prnt. POP FICTION
No, not another “No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” or “Isabel Dalhousie” novel. This touchingly conceived standalone features the story of childhood playmates Thursday and James, whose lives become a star-crossed love affair. Thursday falls for James as a six-year-old, but he drifts off—about the time Thursday’s mom falls out of love with her husband and notices James’s father noticing her. Thursday follows James to college and eventually around the world—to London, Sydney, and Singapore—each time remaking her life in a bid to recapture James’s attention. In the end, we see that love unfulfilled still makes a difference. Look for a big prepublication tour.

Minot, Susan. Thirty Girls. Knopf. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780307266385. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385350525. LITERARY FICTION
Minot, who made her name when she debuted in 1986 with Monkeys, which won the Prix Femina Étranger, generally uses her delicate, affectingly wrought fiction (and her screenplay for the Bertolucci film Stealing Beauty) to unpack the complications of love. Here she does something different, taking us to Uganda to meet Esther, a teenager kidnapped by the Lord’s Resistance Army and compelled both to witness and to commit atrocities. She also introduces us to Jane, an American journalist traveling through Uganda to report on the fate of girls like Esther and to escape a cascading series of failed relationships, and the stories of Esther and Jane create a resonant counterpoint throughout. Minot’s first big work since 1997’s Evening, made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Vanessa Redgrave. It’s a long time coming!

Teicholz, Nina. The Big Fat Surprise: A Nutritional Investigation. S. & S. Feb. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781451624427. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781451624441. HEALTH
Talk about upsetting the apple cart. Teicholz, a journalist who has published in venues ranging from the Economist to Gourmet, challenges decades’ worth of nutritional wisdom by arguing that increased dietary fat makes us healthier. Noting that even as we abandoned red meat and embraced the Mediterranean diet, we’ve become a less healthy nation, Teicholz went back to the original research and talked with hundreds of experts, finally claiming to have discovered real misinterpretation. Here’s a book, says its publisher, that Michael Pollan will hate. Okay, bring on the French pastries, and expect demand.

Werth, Barry. The Antidote: A Small Competitor Challenges the Drug Giants: Conquests in New Pharma. S. & S. Feb. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781451655667. $30; ebk. ISBN 9781451655698. BUSINESS
Big Pharma has its challenges—a 30-to-1 failure rate after a drug passes muster for human testing, a billion-dollar-plus layout to introduce a successful product, and (fortunately) tough regulations accompanied by the anxiety of making something that radically affects human health and life. It’s also one of America’s most profitable businesses, raking in $325 billion a year. Here, award-winning journalist and author Werth continues the story he started in The Billion-Dollar Molecule, showing how the upstart drug company Vertex—created by a bunch of visionary young scientists who broke away from Merck—have sought for 25 years to deliver innovative medicine while radically changing the drug industry. Billed as Moneyball for Big Pharma and bound to get attention.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.