John Grisham, Joseph Kanon, Val McDermid, Chuck Palahniuk, Jodi Picoult | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Oct. 2014, Pt. 3

Grisham, John. Untitled Thriller. Doubleday. Oct. 2014. NAp. ISBN 9780385537148. $28.95 CD: Random  Audio. SUSPENSE
After Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008, so did a number of related law firms and businesses. Here, third-year law associate Samantha Kofer loses her job at the big Manhattan firm Scully & Pershing—and with it goes all her dreams. She ends up as an unpaid intern at a legal aid clinic in Appalachia, where the problems are vividly real and the secret she discovers truly dangerous. Good for Grisham for a plot acknowledging economic hard times. Lots of print and television kanonjoeadvertising, of course.

Kanon, Joseph. A Spy in Berlin. Atria. Oct. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781476704647. $26. SUSPENSE
A former publishing executive and Edgar Award winner of thrillers ranging from Los Alamos to Istanbul Passage, Kanon writes smart, gripping works that raise real moral issues—and he doesn’t pass out easy answers. Here’s the tough issue faced by his latest protagonist, Alex Meier, a young Jewish writer who fled the Nazis for America before the war. Because of his early political activism, Alex has run afoul of McCarthyites and can forestall his deportation only by agreeing to return to his native, still-ruined Berlin as an agent for the CIA. In short order, an East German agent is killed, and Alex discovers that his real task is to spy on the woman he loved and left behind—and remains faithful to still. Given this abhorrent task, does he change sides? Plenty of book club outreach.

McDermid, Val. The Skeleton Road. Atlantic Monthly. Oct. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780802123091. $25. THRILLER
While this new work features Karen Pirie, seen in McDermid’s The Distant Echo and A Darker skeletonroadDomain, it’s essentially a standalone—and one with a politically and morally charged issue at its center that draws readers like me. As builders in Edinburgh launch the conversion of an old Victorian structure into luxury flats, they find a skeleton hidden in one of the long-abandoned towers. Imagine cold case detective Karen Pirie’s surprise when she learns that the bones may be from what was once Yugoslavia, reflecting the violence that exploded as it fractured in the 1990s. From a Diamond Dagger Award winner with ten million copies of her books out there.

Palahniuk, Chuck. Beautiful You. Doubleday. Oct. 2014. 240p. ISBN 9780385538039. $25.95. SATIRE
A lowly associate in a hard-driving Manhattan law firm, Penny Harrigan is surprised to find herself wined and dined by C. Linus Maxwell, software multibillionaire and squire to the world’s most traffic-stopping women. But when he takes her to Paris, it’s with an ulterior motive: he’s using her to test a line of sex toys for a chain of boutiques called Beautiful You, which turn out to be so pleasure-inducing that women desert men in droves and head to the bedroom alone. What’s to be done, lest men suffer sexually, psychologically, and every other way? The author of Fight Club offers barbed social satire that turns Aristophanes’ Lysistrata sideways; giving readers something to talk about.

Picoult, Jodi. Leaving Time. Ballantine. Oct. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780345544926. $28: ebk. picoultISBN 9780345544933. CD: Random Audio. CONTEMPORARY WOMEN’S FICTION
Picoult writes another of those affecting family studies that has brought her eight No. 1 New York Times best-selling novels. At the heart of her most recent work is 13-year-old Jenna, whose mother, Alice Metcalf, has vanished, apparently abandoning both the family she loved and the elephants she had studied so devotedly. Doubly abandoned because her grieving father has no time for her, Jenna seeks to discover what happened to her mother by joining forces with shady psychic Serenity Jones and Virgil Stanhope, the world-weary detective who had first investigated Alice’s disappearance. Look for two e-originals, Where There’s Smoke (May 19) and Larger Than Life (August 5), introducing Serenity and Alice, respectively.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @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.