Dan Brown, Egan, Ide, Maguire, & More | Barbara’s Fiction Picks, Oct. 2017, Pt. 1

Brown, Dan. Origin. Doubleday. Oct. 2017. NAp. ISBN 9780385514231. $29.95; ebk. ISBN 9780385542692. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. THRILLER
What’s Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon up to next? With the felicitous mix oforigin art, religion, science, history, and lots of symbols that made The Da Vinci Code such a craze, he’s investigating the collision of two of humankind’s most pressing questions. And he looks as if he finds an answer. Pushed back a bit from the September 26 pub date announced originally; with illustrations, too.

Cash, Wiley. The Last Ballad. Morrow. Oct. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780062313119. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062313133. lrg. prnt. LITERARY
Having won us over with the darkly lyrical A Land More Kind Than Home and This Dark Road to Mercy, best sellers and award winners both, Cash takes us South again as he draws inspiration from the life of Ella May Wiggins, a workers’ rights activist murdered in 1929 Gastonia, NC. Ella May, who works for a pittance at the local textile mill to support her four children after her husband runs off, makes the fateful decision to join the union the mill’s owners so angrily denounce as Bolshevism. Decades later, her daughter relates the awful consequences. With a 100,000-copy first printing.

Doyle, Roddy. Smile. Viking. Oct. 2017. 224p. ISBN 9780735224445. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780735224452. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY
In Booker Prize winner Doyle’s latest, a novel about the vagaries of memory, Victor Forde is enjoying a pint at his favorite pub when a loudmouth in a pink shirt sits down next to him and reminds him that they went to school together. Victor is thus forced to recall many painful things—not just his now-famous wife and a terrible gaffe he committed on live radio, but his five years with the Christian Brothers and one Brother in particular who upended his life.

Egan, Jennifer. Manhattan Beach. Scribner. Oct. 2017. 448p. ISBN 9781476716732. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781476716756. CD: S. & S. Audio. LITERARY
The Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad goes historicalegan as she recounts the story of Anna Kerrigan, who was barely adolescent when her father forged a secret agreement with the powerful Dexter Styles that she senses saved her family during the Depression. Later, while working as the first female diver helping to repair ships at the Brooklyn Navy Yard during World War II, she encounters Styles and begins to understand the consequences of her now-vanished father’s decision.

Helprin, Mark. Paris in the Present Tense. Overlook: Norton. Oct. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781468314762. $28.95. LITERARY
In his seventies, widower Jules Lacour sits at the top of an accomplished life—he’s a maître at Paris-Sorbonne, having survived both the Holocaust and fighting in Algeria, and he enjoys the golden glow of music, family, and rowing on the Seine. But the pleasures of the present are vying with obligations to past and principle as Jules risks fraud to save a dangerously ill grandson, becomes unaccountably involved in an act of violence, and falls for a cellist a third his age. From the New York Times best-selling author of Winter’s Tale, as always rooted in history and ethical debate.

Ide, Joe. Righteous. Mulholland: Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780316267779. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780316267762. lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316510233. Downloadable: Hachette Audio. THRILLER
Remember IQ, hero of the celebrated, spiky-tongued debut starring a genius idejoeloner in Los Angeles who solves crimes in the manner of Sherlock Holmes? He’s back, thank goodness, investigating the long-ago death of his beloved older brother, which caused him deep grief and moral conundrum. He’s also trying to find the younger sister of his brother’s girlfriend, now missing in Las Vegas and pursued by a horde of bad guys. With a 35,000-copy and TV series looming ever closer.

Maguire, Gregory. Hiddensee: A Tale of the Once and Future Nutcracker. Morrow. Oct. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780062684387. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062684400. lrg. prnt. CD: HarperAudio. LITERARY/HISTORICAL
Maguire really knows how to reimagine classic stories—look what he did with his “Wicked” series, which inspired the forever-on-Broadway musical of the same name, and his recent, New York Times best-selling After Alice—so we can all look forward to his version of the Christmas favorite. He provides backstory showing how slightly spooky godfather Drosselmeier came to carve the nutcracker while investigating the roots of German Romanticism and considering how those who have suffered can reach out and help others. With a 175,000-copy first printing and promotion everywhere

Morrow, Bradford. The Prague Sonata. Atlantic Monthly. Oct. 2017. 480p. ISBN 9780802127150. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780802189233. CD: Dreamscape Audio. LITERARY
Bard professor, founding editor of Conjunctions, and American Academy of Arts and Letters honoree, Morrow has been working on this novel for two decades, which is evident in its sweep. When an elderly Czech immigrant gifts her with the yellowed pages of an entrancing but incomplete sonata, musicologist Meta Taverner realizes immediately that it has the sound and feel of an authentic 18th-century work. She heads to Prague to find the missing movements and the score’s original owner, whom her immigrant friend hasn’t seen since World War II. Unfortunately, Meta has competition. With a seven-city tour to Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Francisco; Morrow’s The Forgers was a LibraryReads pick.

St. Aubyn, Edward. Dunbar. Hogarth: Crown. Oct. 2017. 256p. ISBN 9781101904282. $25; ebk. ISBN 9781101904299. Downloadable: Random Audio. LITERARY
The author of the beloved Patrick Melrose series joins the Hogarth Shakespeare fold with a contemporary retelling of King Lear. St. Aubyn’s Lear is the wealthy and powerful Henry Dunbar, who is placed by his three daughters in the best Swiss sanatorium money can buy when he has a breakdown of sorts. Eager to reclaim his empire, he breaks out of the sanatorium with loyal, laughing friend Peter but comes up against the ambitions of his two avaricious elder daughters.weiner

Weiner, Matthew. Heather, the Totality. Little, Brown. Oct. 2017. 144p. ISBN 9780316435314. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780316435307; lib. ebk. ISBN 9780316558310. CD/downloadable: Hachette Audio. POP FICTION
Not your average debut novelist, Weiner was writer, creator, executive producer, and director of Mad Men and also worked on The Sopranos. This work is set in the world of Manhattan’s one percent and features a husband and wife frantically competing for their daughter’s attention even as a dangerous young man steps threateningly in view. Obviously an attention getter, with rights sold to a dozen countries so far. With a 150,000-copy first printing.


Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (bhoffert@mediasourceinc.com, @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.


  1. Dan Brown was my Illinois grandfather.
    Who is this?

  2. Jesse Grillo says:

    Loved your article. Origin is one of my favorite books.

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