Fiction from Andersen, Bretherick, and Mishani, plus a Lost Beckett | Xpress Reviews

Week ending June 20, 2014

Andersen, Laura. The Boleyn Reckoning. Ballantine. (Boleyn Trilogy). Jul. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9780345534132. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780345534149. F
Henry VIII’s spirited daughters, Mary and Elizabeth, have inspired historical novelists for centuries, but his stubborn and charismatic son, William, belongs wholly to alternate history author Andersen, who asks readers to imagine how the history of England might have changed had Anne Boleyn given birth to a healthy son. In this strong conclusion to the trilogy begun with The Boleyn King and continued with The Boleyn Deceit, Elizabeth begins to imagine a previously unthinkable future for herself as William struggles successfully to steer his kingdom away from disaster. Meanwhile, lovers Minuette and Dominic must face the consequences of their reckless decision to betray the king.
Verdict Andersen has written an enjoyable ending to a series that has delighted many Tudor fans with its clever nods to actual history and well-researched forays into the land of “What if?” Though the love triangle portion of the plot strains credulity at times, the author ultimately brings all her main characters to an emotionally satisfying and entertaining denouement that should thoroughly please fans of the first two books.—Mara Bandy, Champaign P.L., IL

Beckett, Samuel. Echo’s Bones. Grove. Jul. 2014. 128p. intro & notes by Mark Nixon. ISBN 9780802120458. $22; ebk. ISBN 9780802194077. F
echosbones062014On one hand, posthumous releases allow one last crack at an old favorite; on the other, there are countless instances of literary executors publishing lesser work by big names simply on reputation. Beckett (Waiting for Godot) penned the story “Echo’s Bones” to round out his 1933 collection More Pricks Than Kicks, but his editor politely declined to include it. The present edition features all the hallmarks of Beckett’s mature style: the gallows humor, the aphoristic quality of the dialog, and the brilliant density of the plot. Belacqua, the protagonist, who was killed off in an earlier story, is here resurrected, but death gives him no perspective on living: “I know no more than I did.” Lord Gall, the obscene and hilarious foil to Belacqua—one who invites comparisons to Alfred Jarry’s Pa Ubu—is a creature so absurd that he refers to his “own, dear bowels” as his most valuable possession.
Verdict This riotous work is a rare find for Beckett aficionados, as well as for those who like their fiction with a generous dose of repartee. [See Prepub Alert, 1/26/14.]—Chris Pusateri, Jefferson Cty. P.L., Lakewood, CO

Bretherick, Diana. City of Devils. Pegasus Crime. Jul. 2014. 464p. ISBN 9781605985770. $25.95; ebk. ISBN 9781605986043. MYS
The most brilliant minds of criminology gather for a conference in 1887 in Turin, Italy. When a series of gruesome murders occur, notes left at the crime scenes implicate Prof. Cesare Lombroso, the famous father of modern criminology. Scottish doctor James Murray, who has studied with Dr. Bell, Arthur Conan Doyle’s inspiration for Sherlock Holmes, and learned the value of the deductive process in solving crimes, has recently arrived to continue his studies with Lombroso. Now Murray collaborates with Ottolenghi, Lombroso’s assistant; Inspector Tullio, a Turin investigator who advocates scientific policing; and Sofia, Lombroso’s beautiful housekeeper and Murray’s love interest, to catch the serial killer in their midst before Lombroso is arrested or, worse, becomes a victim himself.
Verdict Vivid descriptions of late 19th-century Turin, so real the reader can almost smell and taste the city, enhance this enthralling debut crime novel. Stand-out characters are Lombroso, the proponent of the theory that criminals are born, not made, and Murray, who struggles to reconcile his past experiences with the criminally insane and Dr. Bell’s theories of scientific criminal investigation with Lombroso’s ideas. Readers of historical crime fiction who are interested in forensics and criminology will eat up this novel, which won the Good Housekeeping new novel competition in 2013.—Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton P.L., CT

Mishani, D.A. A Possibility of Violence. Harper. Jul. 2014. 304p. ISBN 9780062195401. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062195418. MYS
possibilityofviolence062014In Mishani’s debut novel, The Missing File, Insp. Avraham Avraham, rushed by events, nearly fumbled his case. This near-failure scarred him, and in this work, the second in what promises to be an exceptional series, he’s trying to get his life back in order. Avraham returns to Tel Aviv after a vacation. He’s not even officially on the job when he’s put in charge of an investigation: a fake bomb has been left outside a day-care center. In the course of his probe, he interviews an elderly man whose wife has disappeared. The man claims she returned home to the Philippines, but something smells off about the story. This substantial novel just happens to be about police work: it’s also about what it’s like to live in Israel, in a confusion of peoples. Avraham is an Israeli version of Georges Simenon’s Maigret, progressing in his scrutiny not by deduction but by soaking up atmosphere and getting inside his adversaries’ heads. He pushes ahead of the evidence at times, but his missteps are human and thus forgivable.
Verdict An exceptional police procedural that should appeal to mystery lovers of all types.—David Keymer, Modesto, CA