Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, January 17, 2014

Week ending January 17, 2014

Day, Sylvia. Spellbound. Morrow. 2013.192p. ISBN 9780062305497. pap. $12.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062305503. PARANORMAL ROMANCE
Assigned by the High Council to tame (or vanquish) feral Familiar Victoria St. John, Max Westin had never expected to meet a woman so wild, so stubborn, and so obviously his perfect match. The passion is mutual, as Victoria realizes that sometimes submission is the highest form of aphrodisiac. When they solidify their powerful magical bond in defiance of the High Council, a whole host of darkness and enemies from their past are brought forth. Can the pair survive in the face of dark magic, or will they find out that it’s something neither of them wants to resist?
Verdict Hot, rough, and deeply sensual, this novel is a winning contribution to the supernatural erotic genre. Max and Victoria’s bond as Warlock and Familiar is predicated on the dominant/submissive element of their relationship and also helps validate the savage intensity of their otherworldly passion. Some parts of the book are a bit clunky and repetitive, particularly descriptions of sex acts and characters’ appearances, which might have something to do with two portions of the novel being previously published tales. Overall, this is a hot read with a great backstory to match. Fans of Day’s work (Bared to You; Entwined with You) will not be disappointed.—Ashleigh Williams, Library Journal

Gardner, Lisa. Fear Nothing. Dutton. Jan. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780525953081. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698148529. F
In Gardner’s latest D.D. Warren thriller (after Catch Me), the Boston detective is recovering from an attack she can’t remember, except for somone singing a lullaby. Now she’s got a seriously messed-up arm and isn’t sure if she’ll ever be able to return to the work she loves. In the meantime, her team is investigating a murder that is too eerily reminiscent of those committed by a now dead serial killer. When the copycat killer breaks into D.D.’s home and leaves her flowers, she is pulled back into the investigation, which eventuallly leads to the the two daughters of the orginal serial killer and the question of nature versus nurture. One daughter is an imprisoned murderer, and the other a psychiatrist who counsels patients in pain management techniques and who is incapable of experiencing pain herself. Can you inherit murderous genes? Does living in the home of a monstrous man make you into a killer? These are questions Detective Warren must answer.
Gardner excels at complicated plotting that melds great thrills, twisty characterizations, and larger thematic what-if questions. Fans of Dennis Lehane’s stand-alone thrillers would love this one. [See Prepub Alert, 7/15/13.]—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI

Lancaster, Jen. Twisted Sisters. NAL. Feb. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780451239655. $25.95. F
Reality television and deep-seated sibling rivalry issues come to life in Lancaster’s (Bitter Is the New Black) latest novel. Reagan Bishop is a psychologist who spends her days on the aptly named I Need a Push reality television show pushing her clients toward overcoming their difficulties. What she doesn’t realize is that she is simultaneously pushing herself toward a neurotic level of perfectionism and, as a result, is pushing her poor family toward misery. When a new director steps in to change the show’s aims, Reagan must go to extremes to heal her patients or risk losing her job and the semi-stardom she has come to enjoy. Through a solid dose of the occult, Reagan begins secretly swapping bodies with her patients, à la Freaky Friday. Throughout the novel Reagan’s painfully strained relationship with her family, especially her favored younger sister, dominates the plot—can she use her newfound magic to right a lifetime of wrongs?
Verdict With incredibly frustrating characters and a plot that just doesn’t flow, Lancaster scores points for modern satire and a few laughs but leaves much to be desired otherwise.—Chelsie Harris, San Diego Cty. Lib.

starred review starMina, Denise. The Red Road. Little, Brown. Feb. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780316188517. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316236522. F
redroad011714Tartan noir star Mina’s latest opens in 1997 when 14-year-old prostitute Rose Wilson lashes out against her life of despair by recklessly stabbing two men to death. She confesses to only one of the murders, getting off lightly with the help of a crooked lawyer. Fast-forward to the present and fractious Glasgow detective Alex Morrow—mother to young twins, sister of a known gangster, and witness in the trial of low-life gunrunner Michael Brown. What appears to be an open-and-shut case collapses when Michael’s fingerprints are found at the scene of a crime committed while he was in custody. Baffled by the evidence, Alex chases a trail of corruption and vice that ultimately leads her to a money-laundering ring, the enigmatic Rose, and a killing that hits very close to home.
Verdict Mina’s fourth novel featuring Alex Morrow (after Gods and Beasts) may be her best yet. She surrounds her fiercely independent detective with indelible supporting characters and explores the long-term damage of violence and abuse, demonstrating sensitivity toward society’s outcasts without minimizing their sins—not to mention evocative prose and a whisper of pitch-black humor, too. Mina’s growing body of fans won’t be able to put this one down. [See Prepub Alert, 8/19/13.]—Annabelle Mortensen, Skokie P.L., IL