Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, January 10, 2014

Week ending January 10, 2014

Baker, Tiffany. Mercy Snow. Grand Central. Jan. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781455512737. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781455512744. F
On a cold November day in Titan Falls, NH, June MacAllister, wife of the paper mill owner, feels lucky that her teenage son survived the school bus crash out on Devil’s Slide Road. June suspects her husband was involved in the incident but isn’t about to let that ruin what she’s built in 20 years of keeping up appearances. Instead, June pushes the theory that the itinerant Zeke Snow, brother of Mercy Snow, is to blame. Mercy knows differently and sets out to clear her brother’s name by getting townspeople on her side, leading to not one but several long-held secrets coming to light.
Verdict Baker’s (The Little Giant of Aberdeen County; The Gilly Salt Sisters) third novel deftly conjures the hardscrabble life of a rural New England mill town, rendering the polluted river, the bitter weather, and tensions between mill workers and owners in stark relief. An element of magic runs through the story as well, as the despised Snows reveal their talents with animals, healing, and communing with the dead. Recommended for readers of literary fiction who like stories of rural life and New England history. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13.]—Nancy H. Fontaine, Norwich P.L., VT

Haldeman, Joe. Work Done for Hire. Ace: Berkley. Jan. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780425256886. $25.95. F
Multiple Hugo and Nebula Award winner Haldeman turns to the near-future in this heart-pounding thriller. As with Haldeman’s hero Jack Daley, writers still type their stories on laptops, and snipers, which Jack was in the latest desert war, still fire rifles with bullets. Jack isn’t much of a writer, so he jumps at the chance to pen a movie novelization for $50,000 with the possibility of a cool half million if the movie gets made. He begins his story of a cannibalistic serial killer dubbed “Hunter,” but, soon after, something else literally arrives on his doorstep to alter his priorities. Jack also wasn’t above average as a sniper, so when a rifle shows up one morning with vague directions to prepare to kill an unnamed “bad man” and implied threats on his girlfriend’s life, one of Jack’s top questions is, “Why me?” Jack and his girlfriend Kit decide, though, that fleeing now and asking questions later are their best options. Mysteriously, no matter how far the couple run and how cleverly they hide their trail, “the Enemy” is always able to find them.
Verdict This fast-paced novel will please Haldeman devotees while garnering him new fans among thriller readers.—Eric Norton, McMillan Memorial Lib., Wisconsin Rapids

Pinborough, Sarah. Mayhem. Jo Fletcher: Quercus. Jan. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781623650865. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781623650872. F
Pinborough (Feeding Ground) has created some serious competition for Jack the Ripper in her latest historical thriller. Based upon the real-life “Thames Torso Killer” who stalked the London streets of the 1880s, this multinarrative horror story doesn’t skimp on the gore and throws in a bit of the supernatural for good measure. Intuitive police surgeon Dr. Bond is tormented by the Torso Killer as well as the Ripper and is determined to put a stop to the deadly madness infecting his city. But does he have the stomach for what is necessary? Victorian London is well rendered in all of its glorious filth, and excerpts from newspapers of the era are interspersed throughout, serving as chilling reminders of the reality that inspired the novel. However, Pinborough’s effort to show all sides of the story—victims, murderer, police, sleuth—dilutes the mystery. The numerous transitions among perspectives also stifle the tension, and the abrupt ending will raise eyebrows.
Verdict The heady depiction of 19th-entury London can’t quite make up for the muddy shifts in narration, but those interested in all things Jack the Ripper won’t be disappointed.—Liza Oldham, Beverly, MA

starred review starYork, Robin. Deeper. Bantam. (Caroline & West, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780804177016. pap. $14; ebk. ISBN 9780804177023. NEW ADULT ROMANCE
deeper011014College sophomore Caroline Piasecki is the victim of revenge porn. Without her consent, her boyfriend Nate took a picture with his cell phone of her giving him a blow job. After they broke up, he posted the picture on the Internet and included her name and contact info. Caroline couldn’t go anywhere on campus without being followed by nasty whispers; she was cyberstalked on Facebook and Twitter. Caroline is devastated, hiding and sleepwalking through her days, until she decides she has to redefine herself as someone other than a victim. Her friends rally ’round her, but a big part of her new identity is West Leavitt. West doesn’t let Caroline pretend to be “fine.” He demands that she give the truth or nothing at all. But even though West reveals little of himself, the pair’s initial “not friendship” becomes a turning point for them both.
Verdict York (aka Ruthie Knox; Along Came Trouble) wraps a heart-stoppingly beautiful love story around a life-shattering problem and shows the strength of spirit of a young woman who grows up stronger for her broken places. Deeper will haunt you long after you turn the final page and lives up to the promise of the genre tag new adult, delivering a rich tale about college-age protagonists facing very real problems that will impact their lives into the future. Highly recommended for contemporary romance and new adult romance readers.—Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.