David Bezmozgis, David Cronenberg, James Ellroy, Sarah Waters | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Sept. 2014, Pt. 2

Bezmozgis, David. The Betrayers. Little, Brown. Sept. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780316284332. $26. LITERARY
A New Yorker 20 Under 40 honoree, Bezmozgis writes incisive, propulsive prose that has won him a stack of awards and nominations; Natasha and Other Stories won the Toronto Book davidbezmozgis-175Award and the Commonwealth Writer’s Prize for First Book, and The Free World, a personal favorite, was shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award. Both books were New York Times Notable Books. All of which recommends this second novel, which has a riveting premise. When Soviet Jewish dissident turned Israeli politician Baruch Kotler offers principled opposition to West Bank settlements, his enemies retaliate by exposing his affair with a much younger woman. The couple flees to crumbling Yalta, where Baruch encounters the old friend whose betrayal sent him to the Gulag, even as he contemplates the family in Israel he has betrayed, including the wife who fought so long for his freedom. With a 50,000-copy first printing, a six-city tour to New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and Washington DC, and a reading group guide.

Cronenberg, David. Consumed. Scribner. Sept. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781416596134. $26. POP FICTION
The entwined narratives in this first novel by Cronenberg have all the creepy smartness of one of his famous films. Exemplary on-the-edge freelance journalists of the social media age, Naomi and Nathan meet in the occasional airport hotel room but otherwise compete fiercely. With the help of somewhat weird graduate student Hervé, whose motivations she begins to doubt, Naomi investigates what happened to Célestine Arosteguy, found dead and partly eaten in the apartment she shared with missing husband Aristide, like her a Marxist philosopher and sexual adventurer. Meanwhile, in Budapest to photograph Zoltán Molnár, an unlicensed surgeon once accused of organ trafficking, Nathan contracts a rare sexually transmitted disease and heads to Toronto to meet the doctor who first diagnosed it, Alas, the good doctor is busy studying his own crazed adult daughter. What, you expected Anne of Green Gables? With a three-city tour to Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.

Ellroy, James. Perfidia. Knopf. Sept. 2014. 608p. ISBN 9780307956096. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385353212. CD/downloadable: Penguin Random Audio. CRIME/HISTORICAL
Ellroy is back with the first book in a second “L.A. Quartet” and the same darkly stylish crime writing that made him famous. The novel opens on December 6, 1941, as the bombing of Pearl Harbor leads to internment of Japanese Americans. A Japanese American family is found dead in Los Angeles, leading to the question whether it was murder or ritual suicide. And that question ends up involving a top-notch Japanese American forensic chemist, a risk-taking young woman, real-life police officer Williard “Whiskey Bill” Parker, and corrupt police office Dudley Smith of L.A. Confidential fame. The blend of war, romance, and mystery with moral outrage at the internments will register instantly with Ellroy fans, but the reportedly linear plot might surprise. With a 75,000-copy first printing and an eight-city tour to Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, sarahwNew York, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.

Waters, Sarah. The Paying Guests. Riverhead. Sept. 2014. 640p. ISBN 9781594633119. $28.95. LITERARY
Three-time Man Booker Prize finalist, two-time Orange Prize finalist, and one of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists, Waters has earned the right to catch our eye with this next novel. In 1920s London, with the Great War having left families decimated, spinster Frances Wray and her widowed mother realize that to continue living in their grand house on Champion Hill, they must take in boarders. But they hadn’t bargained for the disruption caused by Lilian and Leonard Barber, the young couple who move in, which leads to love, crime, and deep insight into the changing times.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. LindaWolfe says:

    I happened upon your review of Bezmozgis. The Free World was a personal favorite of mine, too.

  2. Bezmozgis’ “incisive, propulsive prose” is exactly what I loved about The Betrayers: http://fashioningfiction.com/the-betrayers-david-bezmozgis/