Fiction from Fairstein, Pearson, Janes, and Trenow, with a new Veronica Mars | Xpress Reviews

Week ending May 23, 2014

starred review starFairstein, Linda. Terminal City. Dutton. Jun. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9780525953883. $27.95; ebk. ISBN 9780698157217. F
terminalcity052314Need a good thriller that describes the intricate details and history of one of New York City’s better known landmarks? Then Fairstein’s 16th adventure with Assistant DA Alexandra Cooper is just the ticket. A young woman is found brutally murdered in a room in the Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Strange markings on her body provide a clue that isn’t quite decipherable at first. The next day, another body is found with the same markings. All clues lead to the Grand Central Terminal. A third victim is found within the terminal with the same markings. Three corpses in three days! As we are drawn into the mystery, we learn more about the city’s past and the landmark train station and about the homeless communities in the tunnels beneath.
Verdict Fairstein’s many fans will love this newest addition to the series, while readers new to the books won’t feel left behind, though, as Fairstein provides plenty of background to keep everyone caught up enough to know the characters and to enjoy the story. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Elizabeth Masterson, Mecklenburg Cty. Jail Lib., Charlotte, NC

Janes, J. Robert. Carnival: A St-Cyr and Kohler Mystery. Open Road. May 2014. 373p. ISBN 9781480468153. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781480468115. MYS
In the 15th outing (after Tapestry) of Janes’s World War II–set series, Jean-Louis St-Cyr, a French policeman, and Hermann Kohler, a Gestapo officer, travel to a POW camp in Alsace to investigate two mysterious suicides that occurred less than a week apart. Set on the grounds of an abandoned carnival, the camp operates as a textile factory, leading to an uneasy industrial relationship between the French prisoners and the German soldiers. Kohler, too, is unable to escape an unwieldy overlap: the factory’s military commander is his former superior. At the camp, speaking French and the Alsatian patois is forbidden, further complicating the investigation, and both Kohler and St-Cyr are haunted by the similarities they see to the Great War in which they both fought.
Verdict Janes’s ability to convey the simmering political tension of 1940s France is still a draw for historical mystery fans, but the trench reminiscences of the two protagonists often cloud the story, and the moral quandaries are even more opaque. For series devotees.—Liza Oldham, Beverly, MA

Pearson, Ridley. The Red Room. Putnam. Jun. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780399163746. $26.95. F
Freelance operative John Knox and forensic accountant Grace Chu return for a third international adventure (after Choke Point) that at first glance seems easy and straightforward. Knox deals in art when he’s not working on missions for the Rutherford Risk Company, and his boss asks him to use his art world connections to sell a priceless sculpture to one of Knox’s favorite clients. All that Knox knows is that he will be working with Chu again, and the assignment involves his client’s brother with a guarantee of no violence. Of course, things go wrong from the start.
Verdict It’s nice to see John and Grace in action again, but this time the novel feels a bit padded. How many times does Grace need to be abducted and have John rescue her before she comes across as weak and helpless? Even so, Pearson has crafted a great series with characters and settings the reader will enjoy, and demand will be heavy owing to his growing fan base. [See Prepub Alert, 1/6/14.]—Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.

Thomas, Rob & Jennifer Graham. Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line. Vintage. 2014. 336p. ISBN 9780804170703. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9780804170710. MYS
In a novel that picks up shortly after the events in the recent Veronica Mars movie, the titular young detective is back in Neptune, CA, holding down the fort at her father’s agency while he recovers from injuries sustained in an accident. It’s spring break, and Neptune has been overrun by college students looking for a good time—until one girl goes missing, then another. Veronica goes undercover as a spring breaker, learning that the raucous parties the missing girls attended were thrown by men with connections to drugs and organized crime. And while her professional activities edge Veronica closer to real danger, a figure from her past reappears, unsettling things in Veronica’s personal life.
Verdict The dialog is crackling, but most of the book is distractingly overwritten. Still, fans of the show will enjoy another chance at adventure with Veronica and company. Recommend to those who enjoy Sue Grafton or other books featuring female private investigators. [The second book in the series, Mr. Kiss and Tell, will be released this October.—Ed.]—Stephanie Klose, Library Journal

Trenow, Liz. The Forgotten Seamstress. Sourcebooks Landmark. May 2014. 320p. ISBN 9781402282485. pap. $14.99; ISBN 9781402282492. F
In 1911, 14-year-old Maria went from an orphanage in London’s East End to Buckingham Palace thanks to her remarkable skills with a needle and thread. Within two years of her arrival, the young woman was sent to Helena Hall Hospital owing to her delusions over a supposed relationship with Edward, the Prince of Wales. Or was she hidden in the English countryside to keep a royal secret? A century later, Caroline, a young designer, discovers a silk quilt in her mother’s attic and starts to research its origins.
Verdict In Maria, Trenow (The Last Telegram) cleverly creates an unreliable narrator, a character with a sketchy mental health history, whose conviction in the truth of her story leaves readers having to decide her credibility. It’s the unintended inconsistencies that begin to distract from the overall narrative. For example, Maria’s spoken grammar doesn’t always reflect her limited education, and her confusion over how the monarchy functions contradicts her knowledge of famous explorers of her time. Readers willing to avert their eyes from those pesky loose threads will find intriguing portraits of British royalty and textile trivia to carry them along. [Selected as a LibraryReads May pick,—Ed.]—Stacey Hayman, Rocky River P.L., OH