Fiction Reviews | November 1, 2013

redstar Albom, Mitch. The First Phone Call from Heaven. Harper. Nov. 2013. 272p. ISBN 9780062294371. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062294395. F

A series of tragic circumstances land widower Sully Harding back in his hometown of Coldwater, MI, just months before the mysterious phone calls start occurring. The calls, from deceased family members or acquaintances, are made to a few select members of this small community. Some choose to keep the calls a secret while others decide to tell all. When a small news station picks up the story, it isn’t long before it goes viral and the sleepy little town is overrun by extreme believers and vitriolic protesters, all demanding proof. Even Sully’s young son, Jules, believes his mother will contact him from heaven. But Sully’s skepticism prods him to investigate either to uncover a hoax or believe in a miracle. VERDICT ­Albom (The Five People You Meet in Heaven) artfully captures the emotional turbulence caused by the testing of faith. His story clips along at an increasingly frenetic pace, realistically displaying the ugliness wrought when combining the media circus, mass hysteria, and greed of commercialism. This moving tale of loss, recovery, and the power of love will be snatched up by Albom’s many fans. [See Prepub Alert, 5/20/13.]—Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV

redstarMcHugh, Laura. The Weight of Blood. Spiegel & Grau. Mar. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780812995206. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812995213. F

Debut novelist McHugh comes out swinging with this gripping tale set in the Ozarks of Missouri. Lucy Dane’s family is intricately linked to the “hollers” and woods of her hometown of Henbane: her father and uncle grew up there, and her mother—a bewitching young beauty named Lila—disappeared from the area when Lucy was just a year old. When her friend Cheri goes missing and is later found murdered, Lucy begins to investigate the crime. But her search for the truth soon expands to include the mystery of her mother’s disappearance—and it puts Lucy herself in jeopardy. By telling the story from multiple points of view, McHugh reveals some of the town’s dark secrets even as Lucy works to uncover them. Her prose will not only keep readers turning the pages but also paints a real and believable portrait of the connections, alliances, and sacrifices that underpin rural, small-town life in Henbane. VERDICT Strongly recommended for readers who enjoy thrillers by authors such as Laura Lippman and Tana French. [See Prepub Alert, 9/13/13.]—Amy Hoseth, Colorado State Univ. Lib., Fort Collins

redstar Koontz, Dean. Innocence. Bantam. Dec. 2013. 352p. ISBN 9780553808032. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780345539656. F

Most often, offerings from the thriller/horror genre force an everyman character to confront an extraordinary circumstance, compelling the reader to wonder, “What would I do if this were happening to me?” Koontz (Deeply Odd) has, of late, taken the opposite approach. His “Odd Thomas” series chronicles a young man endowed with a sixth sense—and more—while his “Moonlight Bay” trilogy features a hero who lives under the cover of darkness because of a rare genetic disorder. Now Koontz introduces Addison Goodheart, a grotesquely deformed young man who has remained in the shadows for all of his 24 years. The story he tells, in the elegant prose of one whose understanding of language has come more from reading than from conversation, is that of his venturing forth into a fuller life than he had ever imagined for himself. It is Addison’s encounter with Gwyneth, a Goth girl who boldly embraces her own solitary existence while she seeks to prove that her father’s seemingly accidental death was actually a murder, that draws him into the light. ­VERDICT Fans of Koontz’s previous series will be left hoping that Addison and Gwyneth, too, will return. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13.]—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

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The following titles are reviewed in this month's print issue.
Visit Book Verdict for the full reviews.

Carrisi, Donato. The Lost Girls of Rome. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Nov. 2013. 432p. tr. from Italian by Howard Curtis. ISBN 9780316246798. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316246811. F

Flagg, Fannie. The All-Girl Filling Station’s Last Reunion. Random. Nov. 2013. 368p. ISBN 9781400065943. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812994636. F

Frame, Janet. In the Memorial Room. Counterpoint. Dec. 2013. 208p. ISBN 9781619021754. $23. F

Greenwood, Kerry. Cassandra: A Delphic Woman Novel. Poisoned Pen. Nov. 2013. 410p. ISBN 9781464202056. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781464202070. $14.95. F

Hall, James W. Going Dark. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Dec. 2013. 320p. ISBN 9781250005007. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250038333. F

Hannah, Sophie. The Orphan Choir. Picador. Jan. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250041029. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781250041036. F

Hawkins, Margaret. Lydia’s Party. Viking. Jan. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780670015764. $26.95. F

redstar Kidd, Sue Monk. The Invention of Wings. Viking. Jan. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780670024780. $27.95. F

MacDonnell, Julia. Mimi Malloy, at Last! Picador. Apr. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781250041548. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781250041555. F

Maupin, Armistead. The Days of Anna Madrigal. Harper. Feb. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780062196248. $26.99. F

Ndibe, Okey. Foreign Gods, Inc. Soho. Jan. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781616953133. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781616953140. F

Offill, Jenny. Dept. of Speculation. Knopf. Jan. 2014. 192p. ISBN 9780385350815. $22.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385351027. F

redstar Parsons, Kelly. Doing Harm. St. Martin’s. Feb. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781250033475. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250033468. F

Popkin, Nathaniel. Lion and Leopard. Head & Hand. Nov. 2013. 376p. ISBN 9780989312516. $22. F

Quindlen, Anna. Still Life with Bread Crumbs. Random. Feb. 2014. 272p. ISBN 9781400065752. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780812995756. F

redstar Richmond, Michelle. Golden State. Bantam. Feb. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385343282. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780345532404. F

Straley, John. Cold Storage, Alaska. Soho Crime. Feb. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9781616953065. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616953072. F

Unger, Lisa. In the Blood. Touchstone. Jan. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781451691177. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781451691191. F

Waldman, Ayelet. Love and Treasure. Knopf. Apr. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780385533546. $26.95. F


Golden, Christopher. Snowblind. St. Martin’s. Jan. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250015310. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466840904. HORROR