Fiction from Aitcheson, Brown, Haas, Rollins; Canadian zombies; a forensic debut | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 1, 2014

Aitcheson, James. The Splintered Kingdom. Sourcebooks Landmark. (Conquest, Bk. 2). Aug. 2014. 416p. ISBN 9781402286193. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781402286209. F
The second volume of this trilogy (after Sworn Sword) of the aftermath of the Norman Conquest finds its hero, Tancred a Dinant, as lord of a small manor town near the Welsh border. Crops come in, his consort is expecting, and life is good. But barely three years after the Battle of Hastings, the native English are rising up, this time in cooperation with the Welsh and the Danes, to threaten King William from several directions. Tancred is commissioned to lead a raiding party into Wales to distract one rebel leader, but through his own bullheadedness and some deceit, his soldiers are killed or scattered, while Tancred is captured for the price on his head. Tancred escapes only to discover his lands desolated and his lord and love interest both hostages. Tancred heads off to find them and the king in the east, as a great battle for supremacy looms.
Verdict There are enough swordplay and chases amid the historical detail to warrant returning to this series or even starting it. Aficionados of tales about England’s historic warriors, in the tradition of Bernard Cornwell, will enjoy this muscular outing.—W. Keith McCoy, Somerset Cty. Lib. Syst., Bridgewater, NJ

starred review starBrown, Sandra. Mean Streak. Grand Central. Aug. 2014. 384p. ISBN 9781455581122. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781455581139. F
meanstreak080114Preeminent Atlanta pediatrician and philanthropist Emory Charbonneau leaves her home and begins what should have been an ordinary marathon training run. It is anything but when she wakes up concussed and confused in a remote cabin in the North Carolina mountains in the care of a nameless secretive, seductive man who is obviously in hiding. Little does she realize the irrevocable changes that are put in motion, the viper’s nest of deceit her ordeal is uncovering, and the extreme danger in which she’ll find herself.
Verdict Fans of the best-selling Brown (Deadline; Low Pressure) will be thrilled with her latest spine-tingling page-turner. A mix of chilling suspense, dark humor, and romance, it stars a mysterious hero/villain and a respectable heroine who might be suffering a touch of Stockholm syndrome. The no-nonsense dialog and intense, twisty narrative will keep romantic suspense fans on edge until the final page. [See Prepub Alert, 3/10/14.]—Debbie Haupt, St. Charles City–Cty. Lib. Dist., St Peters, MO

Dead North: Canadian Zombie Fiction. Exile Editions. (Book of Anthology, No. 8). 2014. 352p. ed. by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. ISBN 9781550963557. pap. $17.95. HORROR
This compilation of zombie short stories set in Canada vary widely in time period, type of zombie, and cast of characters, as well as level of horror and tone. The more classic tales of shoot-’em-up survival contrast nicely with familial stories and pieces deeply entrenched in indigenous myth or foreign cultures. The strength of the anthology lies in its strong Canadian roots, which provide a theme without restricting the scope of the stories within it. Some stories strongly identify with Canada, either through the setting, mannerisms of characters, or allusions to hockey and the French-Canadian dish poutine (french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy). Others only briefly reference their Canadian association. All of them manage to captivate, with no story failing to entertain.
Verdict A few of the stories contain scenes of a graphic nature, but for the most part this anthology is appropriate for teenage audiences and up. If you’re a fan of zombie fiction, this book has enough originality mixed with the usual tropes to make it a worthwhile read.—Matt Schirano, Grand Canyon Univ. Lib., Phoenix

Garrett, A.D. Everyone Lies. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. 2014. 432p. ISBN 9781250045720. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466845343. MYS
DI Kate Simms is assigned to investigate an alarming increase in heroin overdoses in the Manchester area. What was supposed to be a routine review suddenly escalates into a media circus when reality TV star StacyC dies. After digging deeper into the toxicology reports, Simms turns to forensic consultant Nick Fennimore for aid. But she and Nick have a tainted history; their past collaboration almost cost Kate her career and marked a tragic chapter in Nick’s life. The case becomes increasingly charged after another overdose victim is gruesomely mutilated and Kate realizes that there are forces at work to impede her probe.
Verdict This is the first collaboration between British crime writer Margaret Murphy (Now You See Me) and forensic scientist Dave Barclay writing together as A.D. Garrett. It is a very detailed police procedural, and the expertise of a trained forensic scientist certainly shows. The authors adeptly tease out the gripping backstory between our two protagonists, and readers will be pleased to know that this is the first in a promising series. It is important to note that there are some torture scenes that could prove too grisly for some readers. Hand this to fans of Patricia Cornwell and those who enjoy forensic thrillers. [Library marketing.]—Amy Nolan, St. Joseph, MI

Haas, Wolf. Come, Sweet Death! Melville House. 2014. 240p. tr. from German by Annie Janusch. ISBN 9781612193397. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781612193403. MYS
This fourth entry in the Simon Brenner (Brenner and God; The Bone Man; Resurrection) series, winner of the German Thriller Prize, holds true to form. Ex-cop Brenner, trying desperately to distance himself from his former life in the police, takes a job as an ambulance driver at Rapid Response in the city of Vienna. Brenner just wants an ordinary job and an ordinary life, but his boss cons him into acting the cop again. He asks Brenner to investigate how their ambulance company’s major rival, Pro Med, is managing to listen in on their radio conversations and beat them to every job. Complications arise when one of the Rapid Responders, Bimbo, is murdered. Is it because Bimbo himself witnessed a murder? Brenner discovers plenty of criminal activity afoot, putting himself in danger and forcing him to be a policeman once again—for the very last time, he swears.
Verdict Darkly humorous writing, filled with witty banter, is the trademark of this mystery series, perfect for fans of European crime novels with a comic flair.—Barbara Clark-Greene, Groton P.L., CT

starred review starRollins, James. The 6th Extinction: A Sigma Force Novel. Morrow. Aug. 2014. 448p. ISBN 9780061784811. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062194923. F
A remote California military research station broadcast a distress call with the message “Kill Us All!” A young park ranger and her dog flee the cloud of toxic gas spreading over the countryside meant to kill whatever was released from the lab. Every living thing in a 50 square mile radius is dead, and the blight is spreading. In their tenth outing (after The Eye of God), the Sigma Force must decipher the threat and find a remedy before the blight destroys all life on Earth. From the strange underground ecosystems in the rivers and caves far under the ice of Antarctica to a tepui (a table-top mountain, or mesa) in the rainforests of Brazil, where a crazed ecologist seeks to help mankind’s extermination along in his lab, the team race to find the key to reversing the damage before it’s too late.
Verdict Best-selling author Rollins has again crafted an excellent nail-biting thriller that all action adventure readers will love. Rollins always provides author notes with the science and historical facts behind his stories, and the creatures the team encounter are frighteningly possible!—Cynde Suite, Bartow Cty. Lib. Syst., Adairsville, GA

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox ( is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"