Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, September 20, 2013

Week ending September 20, 2013

starred review starChapman, Emma. How To Be a Good Wife. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 288p. ISBN 9781250018199. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250018205. F
In an unnamed Scandinavian village, Marta lives a claustrophobic life with her controlling husband, Hector. Her son is grown, her nest empty, and her husband’s solution to her increasingly dark and unsettling moods are the little pink pills he forces upon her each day. In an act of rebellion, Marta stops taking the pills and begins to experience startling flashbacks and increasing waves of anger and suspicion. Are they the result of drug withdrawal, or is she remembering another life, before Hector? Did he really rescue her from despair after her parents died, or was their whirlwind courtship something else? Marta tries to explain her flashes of another life to her son, but he’s worried, confused, and turns to his father to seek help for his mother, with startling results.
Verdict With hints of the classic film Gaslight and Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House, this confident and compelling debut novel is a chilling and very creepy tale of deception and distrust. Drawing upon the increasing body of knowledge about post-traumatic stress and her significant writing talent, Chapman has penned a stunning tale of repression, loneliness, and denial. She sharpens the feminine experience to a knife’s edge and tells a story that is sure to keep readers awake well into the dark nights of winter. Fans of S.J. Watson and Elizabeth Haynes will find this a satisfyingly scary addition to this growing subgenre. [See Prepub Alert, 4/29/13; 75,000-copy first printing; library marketing.]—Susan Clifford Braun, Bainbridge Island, WA

Francis, Felix. Dick Francis’s Refusal. Putnam. Sept. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780399160813. $26.95. F
Last seen in Under Orders (2006), Sid Halley—ex-jockey, ex-PI—is forced back into sleuthing to protect himself, his family and friends, and, ultimately, the British racing world from the deadly machinations of a bookmaker thug ring. Ulster murderer Billy McCusker is rigging races, using barn burning, blackmail, incrimination, extortion, and murder to force jockeys to ride to his dictates. But McCusker hits an obstacle when he tries to control Sid by terrorizing his family. Halley uses his prosthetic left hand, his stouthearted Welsh wits, and his friendships to protect and prevail. The promise of a hand transplant (to replace the one Halley lost in a riding accident) inspires guilty hope for rain, which increases the risk of fatal motorcycle accidents and a possible donor. Does Halley succeed? Does it ever rain in springtime in southern England?
Verdict Francis (Dick Francis’s Bloodline) successfully resurrects his late father’s most popular series character, evoking a similar dry British humor and vividly bringing the racing world to life—all true to Dick Francis form. [See Prepub Alert, 3/25/13.]—Edith Lawraine Smith, San Francisco

Higgins, Kristan. The Perfect Match. HQN: Harlequin. (Blue Heron, Bk. 2). Nov. 2013. 384p. ISBN 9780373778195. pap. $7.99; ebk. 9781460320976. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Stunned when the longtime friend (with benefits) she’d always thought she’d eventually marry gets engaged to her ex–best friend, 35-year-old family winery manager Honor Holland knows if she ever wants to get married and have a family, the time is now. Unfortunately, the pickings are slim in tiny Manningsport, NY. Then she learns that Tom Barlow, a visiting engineering professor from England, needs to find a way to stay in this country to look after his 14-year-old unofficial stepson, and marriage could just be an option. The trick, of course, will be convincing the folks at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (and everyone else) that they are really in love!
Verdict Zingy dialog and hilarious asides (Honor’s “eggs” make pithy comments) pair with thoroughly appealing characters and plenty of Finger Lake country charm to make this refreshing riff on the classic marriage-of-convenience plot a delightfully unorthodox, captivating winner. Higgins (The Best Man) lives in Durham, CT.

Rawles, James Wesley. Expatriates: A Novel of the Coming Global Collapse. Dutton. Oct. 2013. 336p. ISBN 9780525953906. $26.95. F
It’s Crunch time, the name of the utter economic collapse of the United States and other countries. As chaos ensues and America is reduced to a barter economy, fundamentalist Muslim nations embark on wars of conquest. A brutal United Nation–backed dictatorship has taken over the United States, but resistance begins to mount. Jumping in time from pre-Crunch to Crunch and locale to locale and told through a number of protagonists, Rawles’s latest survivalist tale set in the midst of a global economic collapse (after Founders; Survivors; Patriots) offers an adventure that is chilling and intriguing.
Verdict Although the constant jumping makes it choppy, this book is a fast and sometimes exciting read. However, three things might turn readers off. First, there is a lot of gun-tech, much in the style of Tom Clancy or Larry Bond. Second, this thriller is unabashedly told from a staunchly Christian perspective. Third, could the inept UN really take over the United States? Purchase for demand. The best-selling author and founder of SurvivalBlog.com is a retired military intelligence officer and a survivalist who lives at an “undisclosed location west of the Rockies.”—Robert Conroy, Warren, MI

Scottoline, Lisa. Accused: A Rosato & Associates Novel. St. Martin’s. Oct. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781250027658. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250027665. F
Thirteen-year-old Allegra Gardner is determined to bring her sister’s murderer to justice. Although another man sits in jail for the crime, she is convinced of his innocence and will stop at nothing to get to the truth. His determination is what brings Allegra to Rosato & Associates, specifically to Mary DiNunzio, looking for representation. Intrigued, Mary takes the case, but she is thwarted at nearly every turn by Allegra’s parents. Allegra has a trust fund and a high-profile family resolved to keep their secrets buried, even if it means sacrificing an innocent man’s freedom.
Suspense and series fans will be very pleased with Scottoline’s 12th Rosato & Associates outing (after Lady Killer). [See Prepub Alert, 4/29/13.]—Cynthia Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC

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"