Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, February 21, 2014

Week ending February 21, 2014

starred review starCoben, Harlan. Missing You. Dutton. Mar. 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780525953494. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698148635. F
missingyou022114NYPD detective Kat Donovan has learned to live without a romantic partner. She doesn’t even miss it, since it’s been over20 years since she really cared about someone. Besides, she loves her job and that’s more than a lot of people have, right? But when her well-meaning best friend Stacy buys her a year’s subscription to an online dating service, adding, “Who knows, you might meet Mr. Right,” Kat decides to give it a shot. At first it seems like just another profile like so many of the other profiles on the dating site, but she can’t stop staring at the picture. The man in the bears an uncanny resemblance to her high school sweetheart, Jeff—the only man to whom she ever gave her heart. Then a young man asks Kat to help him find his missing mother, who was also a member of the dating site. Worse, the woman may also have a link to Jeff. Things start to spiral out of control as Kat struggles to connect the dots and solve a mystery that has hit entirely too close to home.
Verdict Coben (Hold Tight; Live Wire), the best-selling master of suspense, has written another twisty ripped-from-the-headlines page-turning stand-alone that could be his best yet. This one will be flying off your shelves; order multiple copies. [See Prepub Alert, 9/16/13.]—Cynthia Price, Francis Marion Univ. Lib., Florence, SC

Griffiths, Elly. The Outcast Dead. Houghton Harcourt. Mar. 2014. 372p. ISBN 9780547792774. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780547792804. MYS
Griffiths’s sixth Ruth Galloway mystery (after A Dying Fall) opens with the forensic archaeologist attending an annual memorial service for the unknown dead of Norwich, England: “the bodies thrown into unmarked graves, the paupers, the plague victims, forgotten, unmourned….” But one of those outcast dead, whose remains Ruth uncovered during a dig at Norwich Castle, may be the notorious Mother Hook, hanged in 1867 for the murders of five children. Now her discovery has propelled the reticent Ruth to appear on the TV show Women Who Kill with her publicity-seeking boss and a very attractive American historian who believes Mother Hook to be innocent. At the same time, DCI Harry Nelson, Ruth’s former lover and the father of her toddler daughter, is investigating a mother whose three infants died under suspicious circumstances. His case is further complicated when a kidnapper dubbed the Childminder snatches two children.
Verdict Griffiths’s leisurely paced mystery is more of a character study than a pure whodunit; she sprinkles plenty of red herrings that lead nowhere and the ending feels a bit rushed and forced. The novel’s strength lies in the author’s sympathetic exploration through her lead protagonists’ complicated personal lives of the nature of parenthood and family life. And she sets it all against the stark beauty of Norfolk’s salt marshes. [A March 2014 LibraryReads pick.]—Wilda Williams, Library Journal

Littlefield, Sophie. House of Glass. Mira: Harlequin. Mar. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780778314783. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460327067. F
Some of us look on our past fondly, while others would just as soon forget that they had a past and live only in the present. Jen Glass falls into this latter category, having driven with her sister Tanya to their hometown to make sure their past, i.e., their estranged father Sid, was really dead. Jen’s life is pretty good now. Married to a nice guy, with two kids, they live in the suburbs of Minneapolis. Sure, Ted has been laid off and her 15-year-old daughter is doing typical teenage girl things, but, all in all, Jen is lucky. One evening, though, this great life comes to a screeching halt as two men force their way into the Glasses’ home and take them hostage.
Verdict Littlefield (Garden of Stones; A Bad Day for Sorry) has written quite the page-turner that keeps readers guessing. How will the family survive? Did Ted set this up? Is it one of Sid’s old pals coming to exact justice from Jen? Those who like thrillers with satisfying conclusions should find this an engaging read.—Robin Nesbitt, Columbus Metropolitan Lib., OH

Lynch, Sarah-Kate. The Wedding Bees: A Novel of Honey, Love, and Manners. Morrow. Feb. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780062252609. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062252616. F
Sweet-natured Sugar Wallace attracts troubled strangers the way flowers attract her honey bees. Fifteen moves in 15 years have taken her around the country; her latest stop is an East Village studio apartment in New York on the top floor of a walk-up, perfect for her hive. Also in residence are five souls in need of Sugar’s good listening and gentle heart and a healthy dose of something special from her hive. Sugar has repeated this pattern many times to a satisfying conclusion, but it’s different now. She must learn how to accept as much help as she’s been giving, or the consequences could cost her everything. Individual and collective secrets build into dramatic moments and allow the happy results for all to taste even sweeter in the end.
Verdict This charming novel by a New Zealand writer (Dolci Di Love; Blessed Are the Cheesemakers) mixes such original touches as bee lore, New York City charms, and the protagonist’s traditional Southern upbringing into a gently appealing tale. Above all, it’s the endearing characters who will draw readers in and the various conflicts that keep the pages turning. A perfect escape from winter’s chill. [Library marketing.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH

Robuck, Erika. Fallen Beauty. NAL. Mar. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780451418906. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781101615638. F
fallenbeauty022114Pulitzer Prize–winning poet Edna St. Vincent Millay was a tragically beautiful figure of the Jazz Age, and in Robuck’s latest historical novel, Millay becomes a foil for her fictional protagonist. Edna, who enjoys wild parties and sexual trysts, has fallen for Laura, a quiet seamstress living in a small New York town near Millay’s Berkshire estate, Steepletop. After having a daughter out of wedlock, Laura constantly frets over how she is viewed by the townspeople. Her desire to placate others keeps her from befriending the reckless poet and pursuing new romances, despite her personal longings. When Edna asks Laura to sew the costumes for her upcoming reading tour, the young mother must decide whom to please, herself or others.
Verdict Fans of Robuck’s Hemingway’s Girl and Call Me Zelda will notice a similar narrative device, a fictional woman’s connection to a historical literary figure. Here readers form an immediate intimacy with both Laura and the poet because their individual narratives are woven into a single story. Full of drama with every turn of the page, this compelling novel will delight fans of romance, historical fiction, or women’s fiction.—Shannon Marie Robinson, Denison Univ. Lib., Granville, OH