Fiction Reviews | February 15, 2014

redstarBox, C.J. Stone Cold. Putnam. (Joe Pickett). Mar. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780399160769. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698150171. F

stonecold030414In this 14th outing (after Breaking Point), Joe Pickett is back at his job as game warden with a pay increase, retention of his seniority, and the title of “special liaison to the executive branch.” Joe is once again working on a special assignment for Wyoming governor Rulon, who has an unhappy relationship with the federal government. To keep the Feds from running roughshod over his state and its citizens, Rulon sends Joe to Medicine Wheel County to investigate quietly a mysterious man named ­Wolfgang Templeton who might be operating an elite murder-for-hire operation. What Joe uncovers is a tangled puzzle of philanthropy, murder, and corrupt county and state officials, mixed together with the reappearance of his old friend Nate Romanowski and Joe’s mother-in-law, Missy Vankueran. Never one to hesitate, Joe jumps right into the fray. At the same time Joe’s mind is also with daughter Sheridan’s challenges at the university and foster daughter April’s obsession with a rodeo star. VERDICT With each book, Box just gets better. Nonstop action, a twisty plot, and great characters make his latest a must-read for fans of this series. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/13.]—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with ­Illinois Eastern Community Colls., Mt. Carmel

redstarCastillo, Ana. Give It to Me. Feminist. May 2014. 262p. ISBN 9781558618633. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781558618503. $16.95; ebk. ISBN 9781558618510. F

giveittome030414American Book Award winner Castillo (The Mixquiahuala Letters) continues the themes of Latina identity and sexuality prevalent in her previous fiction. Palma Piedras is a strong-willed and recently divorced Latina. Her erratic relationship with Pepito, her younger gangsta cousin recently released from prison, is just one example of her sexual independence. A cast of colorful characters accompanies Palma on her humorous though sometimes emotionally distressing adventures between Albuquerque and Chicago, with side trips to Los Angeles. Her journey to uncover and understand family secrets while staying true to herself is entertaining from the beginning. VERDICT Castillo has established a solid reputation as one of the most powerful writers giving voice to the contemporary Chicana experience. While this novel is a departure from the experimentation she demonstrated in previous fiction, Palma lives up to Castillo’s reputation of ­creating strong characters that defy stereotypes.—Faye Chadwell, Oregon State Univ., Corvallis

redstarIles, Greg. Natchez Burning. Morrow. May 2014. 800p. ISBN 9780062311078. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062311108. F

The murder of retired nurse Viola Turner in the natchezburning030414small Mississippi town of Natchez sets off a firestorm of vicious attacks to prevent the unearthing of long-buried secrets. Penn Cage, a former prosecutor and now the town’s mayor, becomes personally involved when his father, Dr. Tom Cage, is arrested for Viola’s death. Reporter Henry Sexton has accumulated years of information about the Double Eagles, a small splinter cell of the Ku Klux Klan. A young Dr. Cage and his nurse Viola had the misfortune of crossing paths with them during the 1960s. The septuagenarian members have never stopped their illegal operations, and now their children continue their violent legacy. With fiancée Caitlin, Penn must use Henry’s information to uncover the truth and save his father. VERDICT In this first of a trilogy, best-selling author Iles brings back his Southern lawyer (The Devil’s Punch Bowl) in an absorbing and electrifying tale that thriller fans will be sure to devour. [See Prepub Alert, 11/10/13.]—Joy Gunn, Paseo Verde Lib., Henderson, NV

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

redstarCussler, Clive & Justin Scott. The Bootlegger: An Isaac Bell Adventure. Putnam. Mar. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780399167294. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698140738. F

Duffy, Erin. On the Rocks. Morrow. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780062205742. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062205759. F

Ellison, J.T. When Shadows Fall. Mira: Harlequin.

Mar. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780778316046. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460327029. F

Fishman, Zoe. Driving Lessons. Morrow. Apr. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780062059826. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062059833. F

Gwyn, Aaron. Wynne’s War. Eamon Dolan: Houghton Harcourt. May 2014.

256p. ISBN 9780544230279. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780544230323. F

redstarHayder, Mo. Wolf. Atlantic. (Jack Caffery). May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780802122506. $24. F

Hemmings, Kaui Hart. The Possibilities. S. & S. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781476725796. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476725819. F

Laukkanen, Owen. Kill Fee. Putnam. Mar. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780399165528. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101624777. F

McMurtry, Larry. The Last Kind Words Saloon. Liveright: Norton. May 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780871407863. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780871407870. F

Marklund, Liza. The Long Shadow. Emily Bestler: Atria. Apr. 2014. 544p. tr. from Swedish by Neil Smith. ISBN 9781451607031. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781451607079. F

Morley, Isla. Above. Gallery. Mar. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781476731520. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781476735641. F

Oyeyemi, Helen. Boy, Snow, Bird. Riverhead. Mar. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781594631399. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101613108. F

Rieger, Susan. The Divorce Papers. Crown. Mar. 2014. 496p. ISBN 9780804137447. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804137454. F

Riley, Lucinda. The Midnight Rose. Atria. Mar. 2014. 496p. ISBN 9781476703572. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476703589. F

Rosenberg, Charles. Long Knives. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. Apr. 2014. 504p. ISBN 9781477817520. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781477867518. F

St. Aubyn, Edward. Lost for Words. Farrar. May 2014. 272p. ISBN 9780374280291. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374711481. F

redstarStone, Jonathan. Moving Day. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. May 2014. 298p. ISBN 9781477818244. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781477868249. F

Storr, Will. The Hunger and the Howling of Killian Lone: The Secret Ingredient of Unforgettable Food Is Suffering. Atria. Mar. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781476730431. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781476730448. F

Short Stories

Oates, Joyce Carol. High Crime Area: Tales of Darkness and Dread. Mysterious: Grove/Atlantic. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780802122650. $25.50; ebk. ISBN 9780802192134. F

Royal Historicals

aking'sransom030414Penman, Sharon Kay. A King’s Ransom. Marian Wood: Putnam. Mar. 2014. 704p. ISBN 9780399159220. $35; ebk. ISBN 9780698167179. F

Still stinging from his failure to retake Jerusalem in the Third Crusade, King Richard I finds his pride further assailed in Penman’s sequel to Lionheart when he is taken captive while en route back to England to defend his kingdom against enemies closer to home. Shifting alliances and behind-the-scenes manipulations constantly alter the playing field as Richard and his strong-willed mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, work to bring Richard home and to defeat his rivals, particularly his ambitious younger brother John and the bitter French king Philippe, who is jealous of Richard’s charisma and battlefield prowess. VERDICT Popular historical fiction novelist Penman (The Sunne in Splendour) again gives readers a well-researched and impressively detailed narrative displaying a strong commitment to historical accuracy and richly drawn, sympathetic characters. Penman has a rare gift for making the complicated political world of medieval Europe accessible to today’s readers, and her many fans will be well rewarded by this latest offering.[See Prepub Alert, 8/12/13.]—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL

Stachniak, Eva. Empress of the Night: A Novel of Catherine the Great. Bantam. Mar. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780553808131. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780553908053. F

This sequel to 2012’s Winter Palace begins with an aging and ailing Catherine the Great recalling her difficult, stifled life as daughter-in-law to Empress Elizabeth. After Elizabeth’s death, Catherine organizes a coup that leads to the death of her husband, Peter, and her ascension to the Russian throne. In expanding her empire she also broadens cultural influences both within and outside of Russia. As she slips in and out of consciousness, the dying ruler reflects on her many lovers and advisers, her years in power, and her complicated relationships with her family. As Catherine faces her own death, she balances the sacrifices and privileges of her extraordinary life and seeks solace in the small moments when she experienced love and tenderness. VERDICT Stachniak’s insight into the opulent lives of Russia’s rulers continues in this reflective second novel. Though the story wanders through time and memory, historical fiction fans will appreciate this personal account of a formidable and, indeed, infamous ruler. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/13.]—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib.

This article was published in Library Journal's February 15, 2014 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.