Xpress Reviews: Fiction | First Look at New Books, March 14, 2014

Week ending March 14, 2014

Camilleri, Andrea. Hunting Season. Penguin. Apr. 2014. 160p. tr. from Italian by Stephen Sartarelli. ISBN 9780143126539. pap. $15. MYS
huntingseason031414Camilleri (Treasure Hunt) is the author of a distinguished series of crime noir novels featuring inspector Montalbano and the fictional Sicilian town of Vigata. Here, he turns his hand to historical fiction: the result is another success. In the 1880s, a stranger steps off the boat in Vigata and things start happening. A lecherous marchese impregnates a servant. His wife has cuckolded him so many times he no longer notices, and his son is in love with a goat. A host of other characters keep the narrative bubbling like a spicy stew, while Camilleri observes his ofttimes deceitful characters with a loving but cool eye. By the end, nine people are dead. Still, no one can make a connection among them. Then for a brief moment, this comedy of manners becomes a mystery with a denouement of sorts. The language throughout is salty, occasionally obscene, but always humorous, and the characters are lively. It would take a saint not to crack a smile at the antics that take place in these pages.
Verdict Mystery lovers, definitely, will love this book, but it has much to offer all fans of fiction.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA

Khair, Tabish. How To Fight Islamist Terror from the Missionary Position. Interlink. 2014. 184p. ISBN 9781566569460. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781566569705. pap. $15. F
Our nameless narrator, a Pakistani English professor in Denmark, shares a flat with Bollywood-handsome, ingenious/genius bon vivant Ravi (a PhD student, well beyond his years in experience) and devout Muslim Karim. Readers are told that this is not a novel; the events forthcoming are well chronicled, and we are supposed to know of them. Indeed, foreshadowing occurs with unnecessary frequency. In the first 150 pages, the narrator muses on English literature and starts an affair with someone known only by Ravi’s fey nickname, Ms. Linen Marx; Ravi riffs on various literary/cultural themes and falls deeply in love, which comes to nothing; and Karim drives his taxi, leads Quran sessions, and disappears mysteriously from time to time. The last 25-plus pages move fast, but the Big Event, the “Islamic Axe Plot” (a hardly developed character attacks a cartoonist) concerns the main protagonists only peripherally, and our fears that Karim is a Jihadist are baseless—his absences are rather sentimentally sweet-tempered and humanitarian. Does the book ask questions about offhand prejudicial and possible racist assumptions about Karim? Yes, in its own meandering way.
Verdict There’s a lot going on in Khair’s latest (after The Thing About Thugs), some of it satiric, some of it thought-provoking, but pacing is a problem. In the end, the sum of the parts far exceeds the whole.—Robert E. Brown, Oswego, NY

Kincaid, Kimberly. Turn Up the Heat. Zebra: Kensington. (Pine Mountain, Bk. 1). Mar. 2014. 331p. ISBN 9781420132830. pap. $6.99; ebk. ISBN 9781420132847. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Bellamy Blake isn’t as broken up as she could be when she discovers through his website that her newscaster boyfriend is moving across the country, without her. Getting away to clear her head is probably a good thing. The Pine Mountain Resort in the Blue Ridge Mountains, just 100 miles from her home in Philadelphia, is the perfect spot for chilling with buddies Holly and Jenna. Unfortunately, Bellamy’s Mazda Miata breaks down just outside of her destination. Mechanic Shane Griffin knows all about big-city girls and their hot cars, and Bellamy seems no different. Shane has been living in Pine Mountain for about a year now, working at Grady’s garage, and money is always in short supply. Seeing the Miata and its owner brings out the rough and rude in Shane. Yet when he spies Bellamy in the hallway at the Double Shot bar, he can think of nothing but kissing her. A very bad idea.
Verdict Kincaid’s (contributor, The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap) twentysomethings figure out that they do have a few things in common beyond lust. But secrets always come back to bite you, as Shane eventually figures out. The internal commentary from the pair is uproariously funny as they try to outsass each other. At the same time, the constant “giggling” among Bellamy and her friends can be grating. We’re in our twenties, ladies. Grow up. Still, a sweet romance for most collections.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

McDougall, Claire R. Veil of Time. Gallery. Mar. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781451693812. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9781451693829. F
When newly divorced Maggie Livingstone retreats to an isolated cottage in Scotland, her intention is to work on her thesis, prepare for the brain lobectomy intended to cure her lifelong epilepsy, and grieve the deceased daughter who succumbed to the same condition. But her plans evaporate when she surfaces from a seizure and finds herself in eighth-century Scotland among medieval villagers, Druid priestesses, and a particularly fetching Celtic prince. Maggie longs to make a new life with the captivating Prince Fergus and his little girl, who bears a striking resemblance to her own lost daughter, but what of her remaining child—the son left back in the 21st century?
Verdict Though the cover blurb likens Veil of Time to Outlander, it bears only a cursory resemblance to Diana Gabaldon’s time travel flagship. The pace of this novel is slow, with none of the relentless impetus that makes the latter such a compulsive page-turner. But McDougall’s poetic prose shines, as do her thoroughly researched, detailed descriptions of life in the Dark Ages. Veil of Time is a worthy addition to the time travel genre.—Jeanne Bogino, New Lebanon Lib., NY