Ambitious & Legendary Debuts (Collins, Rahman, Woodroof), Immigration Lit by De Sa, Successful Returns (Lazar, Trout), + Thrillers, & More | Fiction Reviews

redstarCollins, Courtney. The Untold. Amy Einhorn: Putnam. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780399167096. $26.95. F

The UntoldCollins’s gripping debut novel is based on a legendary wild woman who roamed a rugged valley in 1920s Australia. On the run after murdering her abusive husband, Fitz, 26-year-old Jessie delivers her baby in the woods and, without waiting for death to claim her frail infant, buries her and continues her flight. From the grave, the baby becomes the narrator of her mother’s story. After serving two years for horse stealing, Jessie had gone to work as a horse wrangler for Fitzgerald Henry. He brutally mistreats her, so she defies him in the only way she can. Once Jessie is on the run, her ally and lover, Jack Brown, Fitz’s aboriginal stockman, sees it as a sign that she is alive and well when a rancher reports 100 head of cattle missing. Jack seeks help from an unreliable local policeman, and together they set off to find Jessie before an outlaw band can get to her for the reward. VERDICT A fast-paced, heart-wrenching story that never loses speed, this extraordinary first novel is not to be missed. [See Prepub Alert, 11/22/13.]—Donna ­Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Palisade, CO

redstarDe Sa, Anthony. Kicking the Sky. Algonquin. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9781565129276. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616203931. F

Kicking the SkyAt the core of De Sa’s (Barnacle Love) ­coming-of-age story is an element uncommon to such narratives—a true crime. In 1977, 11-year-old Emanuel Jacques was kidnapped, brutalized, and killed in Toronto, Canada. As we learn through this book’s narrator, Antonio Rebelo, a boy from Emanuel’s neighborhood, the murder changed the lives of Emanuel’s family, their close-knit Portuguese immigrant community, and the city itself. Trying to sort out his turbulent feelings and how those closest to him are reacting to the tragedy, ­Antonio discovers an unsavory world of sex workers, family secrets, and much more. At the same time, he struggles with changes in his own body as he matures. VERDICT These heartfelt, intertwining stories depict the immigration of Antonio and his father, Manuel, to Canada, and deserves a key place in immigration literature. A complete success.—Lisa Rohrbaugh, Leetonia Community P.L., OH

redstarLazar, Zachary. I Pity the Poor Immigrant. Little, Brown. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780316254038. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316254045. F

Ipitythepoorimmigrant041414When investigative crime reporter Hannah Groff decides to write about the murder of Israeli poet David Bellen, she has no idea what she will uncover. Soon she is learning about the 1972 attempt by American Jewish gangster Meyer Lansky to gain Israeli citizenship. She meets Bellen’s son, Eliav, a recovering drug addict; learns that her ­Hebrew school teacher Gila Konig had an affair with Meyer Lansky and also with Hannah’s father; and she reads Bellen’s depiction of King David as a biblical thug. As various stories converge, the reader is taken on a dizzying ride through the crimes of the Jewish mob in the 1920s and 1930s, through the mind of an antiestablishment Israeli poet, through the lives of the women who service these men, and eventually to a challenging definition of Jewish identity. VERDICT Lazar, whose novel Sway brought together Charles Manson’s horrific crimes, the life of filmmaker Kenneth Anger, and the rise of the Rolling Stones, is a master of combining disparate stories into one complicated revealing narrative. In this novel, he has again succeeded in taking the reader through various seemingly unconnected lives and demonstrating how we are all immigrants striving for some inexplicable dream.—Andrea Kempf, formerly with Johnson Cty. Community Coll. Lib., Overland Park, KS

redstarTrout, Nick. Dog Gone, Back Soon. Hyperion. Apr. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9781401310899. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9781401305987. F
Dog Gone Back Soon
Who says you can’t go home again? Trout’s second novel, and sequel to The Patron Saint of Lost Dogs, opens with Cyrus Mills, a former veterinarian pathologist, back in his hometown trying to pull his deceased father’s veterinary clinic out of financial ruin. Cyrus’s father ran the practice by making sure pets got the best care possible and not worrying about whether their owners could pay. Cyrus is facing increasing pressure from the ruthless corporate chain Healthy Paws, which is trying to run him out of business. Will Cyrus be able to make his clinic thrive and still provide pets, and their owners, with the most exceptional treatment available? ­VERDICT Animal lovers can unite in heartfelt agreement on the delightful charm, drama, and humor of Trout’s follow-up. The book is full of intriguing and colorful characters but none so engaging and endearing as Cyrus, the socially awkward, but genuinely kind, country vet.—­Susan Moritz, Silver Spring, MD

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

Bacharach, Jacob. The Bend of the World. Liveright: Norton. Apr. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780871406828. $25.95. F

Beverly-Whittemore, Miranda. Bittersweet. Crown. May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780804138567. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804138574. F

Bohjalian, Chris. Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands. Doubleday. Jul. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780385534833. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385534840. F

redstarBond, Cynthia. Ruby. Hogarth: Crown. Apr. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780804139090. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780804139106. F

Carr, Robyn. Four Friends. Mira: Harlequin. Apr. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9780778316817. pap. $14.95. F

Crouch, Katie. Abroad. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780374100360. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374711351. F

de Rosnay, Tatiana. The Other Story. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781250045133. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466843530. F

Guinn, Jeff. Glorious: A Novel of the American West. Putnam. May 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780399165412. $26.95; ebk. ISBN 9781101623213. F

Kohler, Sheila. Dreaming for Freud. Penguin. Jun. 2014. 256p. ISBN 9780143125198. pap. $16. F

McDermid, Val. Northanger Abbey. Grove. Apr. 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780802123015. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780802180391. F

Michaels, Sean. Us Conductors. Tin House. Jun. 2014. 456p. ISBN 9781935639817. pap. $15.95. F

Moran, Eleanor. The Last Time I Saw You. Quercus. Apr. 2014. 496p. ISBN 9781623651336. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781623651343. F

Padukone, Pia. Where Earth Meets Water. Mira: Harlequin. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780778315971. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460330050. F

Pelzman, Adam. Troika. Putnam. May 2014. 288p. ISBN 9780399167485. $25.95;

ebk. ISBN 9780698141957. F

redstarRahman, Zia Haider. In the Light of What We Know. Farrar. Apr. 2014. 512p. ISBN 9780374175627. $28. F

redstarRollins, James & Grant Blackwood. The Kill Switch: A Tucker Wayne Novel. Morrow. May 2014. 400p. ISBN 9780062135254. $27,99; ebk. ISBN 9780062135285. F

Shattuck, Shari. Invisble Ellen. Putnam. Jun. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780399167614. $25.95. F

Sissel, Barbara Taylor. Safe Keeping. Mira: Harlequin. Apr. 2014. 320p. ISBN 9780778316169. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781460328620. F

Tallis, F.R. The Forbidden. Pegasus. May 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781605985558. $25.95. F

Thompson, Margaret. The Cuckoo’s Child. Brindle & Glass. Apr. 2014. 264p. ISBN 9781927366295. pap. $19.95. F

redstarWilliams, Niall. History of the Rain. Bloomsbury USA. Apr. 2014. 368p. ISBN 9781620406472. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781620406489. F

Winton, Tim. Eyrie. Farrar. Jun. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9780374151348. $27. F

redstarWoodroof, Martha. Small Blessings. St. Martin’s. Aug. 2014. 320p.ISBN 9781250040527. $25.99;ebk. ISBN 9781466835887. F

Short Stories

Page, Katherine Hall. Small Plates: Short Fiction. Morrow. May 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780062310798. $24.99;ebk. ISBN 9780062310811. F

I Spy FIction

Brookes, Adam. Night Heron. Redhook: Hachette. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9780316399838.$26;ebk. ISBN 9780316399852. F
This first novel from Brookes, a BBC correspondent to China, relocates the traditional Cold War thriller to modern China. Jailed for protesting in Tiananmen Square, an ­engineer-turned-spy known as Peanut resumes his undercover work after a dramatic prison break. Picking a British journalist as his new contact, Peanut resurrects what is left of his old network, but the game has changed. Agents have retired. Revolutionaries have vanished or taken comfortable jobs with the state. Agencies are hampered by contractors. Peanut discovers that even technology is working against him as he tries to arrange a deal that will get him out of China for good. VERDICT Fans of the international espionage genre will inhale this fast tale in a few suspenseful breaths. Brookes uses multiple narrators—the spy, the engineer, the journalist, the agent, the boss—whose conflicting alliances tell the real story. [See Prepub Alert, 1/19/14.]—Catherine Lantz, Univ. of Illinois at Chicago Lib.

Downing, David. Jack of Spies. Soho Crime. May 2014. 352p. ISBN 9781616952686. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9781616952693. F
Jack of Spies
Known for his John ­Russell espionage series set in World War II Berlin (Masaryk Station), Downing begins a new historical series featuring Scottish car salesman Jack ­McColl. ­McColl’s affinity for languages and a job that takes him around the globe make it possible for him to covertly collect intelligence for His Majesty’s Navy. It’s 1913, and the world is on the brink of war, escalating McColl’s spy duties and danger quotient. He makes his way from China to the United States and Mexico, then back to Europe as he chases German spies and their conspirators and falls in love with Caitlin Hanley, a spirited Irish American journalist, whose brother may be involved in a plot against the British. Now McColl will have to choose between love and country as he arrives in Ireland and tries to stop an explosive plan that could cost many lives. ­VERDICT Fans of Downing’s previous spy tales will not be disappointed with this excellent series launch that is full of rich historical and cultural details, revealed as his protagonist learns the espionage business on the eve of World War I. [Previewed in Editors’ Spring Picks,LJ 2/15/13, p. 28.]—Melissa DeWild, Kent ­District Lib., Comstock Park, MI

Literary Assassins

redstarKoryta, Michael. Those Who Wish Me Dead. Little, Brown. Jun. 2014. 400p. ISBN9780316122559. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316279963. F

thosewhowishmedead041414Kortya (The Prophet) opens his latest thriller with a very likeable 13-year-old Jace Wilson witnessing a brutal murder committed by assassins—and brothers—Jack and Patrick Blackwell. Instead of being placed in the regular witness protection program, the boy is hidden in a Montana wilderness survival camp for troubled teens, run by Ethan and Alison Serbin. Jace and Ethan are soon putting their outdoor skills to the test as they are hunted down by the Blackwell brothers. Allison and a former firefighter named Hannah round out the cast of characters in this fast-paced, terrifically entertaining novel. VERDICT The Blackwell brothers’ devious methods, the fire raging across the mountains, and the actions of those trying to save Jace will keep readers up well into the night. With a national author tour and movie rights already sold, this, Kortya’s tenth novel, could be the one that brings the talented writer into the mainstream. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Jason L. Steagall, Gateway Technical Coll. Lib., Elkhorn, WI

Kuhn, Shane. The Intern’s Handbook. S. & S. Apr. 2014. 288p. ISBN 9781476733807. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781476733852. F

Plucked from a miserable childhood in foster care, John Lago was trained as a skilled assassin by a shadowy organization called ­Human Resources, Inc., which infiltrates companies using killers posing as interns in order to do away with highly ranked executives (who usually have it coming). John is cunning, ruthless, and very successful, and as he nears the mandatory retirement age of 25, he begins to question how he will transition out of this life of violence, seek redemption, and connect with his past. If he can survive his final job, that is. Interference from a sexy FBI agent and John’s brutal handler stand in his way, and his candid, irreverent handbook, full of tips for the next generation of hit men, is the most fun you’ll have reading about an assassin. ­VERDICT Kuhn’s debut novel is darkly hilarious and action packed from the first page, and filled with graphic and humorous asides on myriad ways to kill someone. This fresh, swift thriller will be devoured by all but the most squeamish fans of the genre, as well as by dark-comedy ­lovers. Recommend to Tim Dorsey fans. [See Prepub Alert, 10/20/13; an April LibraryReads pick.]—Emily Byers, ­Tillamook Cty. Lib., OR


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