Fiction from Clark, Montana Noir, Witt & Z, plus Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Week ending August 25, 2017

Burns, Catherine. The Visitors. Scout: S. & S. Sept. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781501164019. $26; ebk. ISBN 9781501164033. F
[DEBUT] Unmarried and friendless at 54, Marion Zetland lives with her domineering brother John, a disgraced former schoolteacher, in their dilapidated family home in Northport, England. Marion’s days are spent daydreaming, watching made-for-TV movies, and trying to ignore the cries and screams coming from the cellar where John spends most of his days. With no one to confide in but her stuffed animals, Marion buries her head in the sand and tries her best not to think about the many sandwiches John takes into the basement each day or where the extra pieces of women’s clothing come from on laundry day. When John ends up in the hospital for an extended stay, he relies on Marion to take over his role as caretakers for “the visitors.” Forced to confront her fears, Marion must decide if she will do the right thing or let her true nature take hold.
Verdict In her debut novel, Burns slowly uncovers an unsettling and grim world where unspeakable cruelty is passed down through generations like family china. The story will appeal to fans of recent psychological thrillers by Paula Hawkins or Gillian Flynn as well as classic suspense such as V.C. Andrews’s Flowers in the Attic or Stephen King’s Carrie.—Portia Kapraun, Delphi P.L., IN

Clark, Marcia. Snap Judgment. Thomas & Mercer: Amazon. Aug. 2017. 460p. ISBN 9781542045995. $24.95; pap. ISBN 9781542045551. $15.95 F
Fans of Clark’s legal thriller series featuring defense attorney Samantha Brinkman will be pleased to learn that this third installment (after Moral Defense) continues to deliver fast-paced plotting and savvy style laced with a healthy dose of humor. This time out, Sam’s client is fellow attorney Graham Hutchins. Hutchins’s daughter, Alicia, was brutally murdered, then her ex-boyfriend Roan Sutton—a likely suspect in her death—was discovered dead as well. Is it suicide, or did Hutchins, in his grief, seek the ultimate revenge? Brinkman and her homespun team—paralegal/office assistant/best friend since childhood Michelle Fusco; Alex Medrano, a former client now investigator-in-the-making; and Sam’s police detective father, who warily contributes information from time to time—immediately begin to search for other possible suspects. Meanwhile, Sam must cope with a bitter media crusade launched by Sutton’s mother against her client and the vicious fallout from a previous case that threatens her, her family, and her associates.
Verdict Clark, once again, nimbly handles the warp and weft of her interwoven characters and story lines, knitting them into a satisfying conclusion that will leave readers eagerly anticipating another Brinkman episode.—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

Hooper, Elise. The Other Alcott. Morrow. Sept. 2017. 432p. ISBN 9780062645333. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062645340. F
[DEBUT] How do you know when you become an artist?, ponders May Alcott, younger sister of author Louisa May. May painted for years, furnishing illustrations for the first edition of Little Women (1868). Reviews that praise Louisa’s novel while criticizing May’s drawings, saying they “lack realistic proportion and look stiff,” devastate the 28-year-old artist. Disappointment pushes her to seek artistic instruction, first in Boston, then in Europe. Other female artists offer support, with one telling her, “Don’t wait for anyone else to call you an artist. If you wait around for other people to define you, you’ll be saddled with their expectations.” Newcomer Hooper (American history and literature, Bush Sch., Seattle) interlaces May’s story with the struggle women of the time faced in becoming something other than merely wives and mothers. With the sesquicentennial of Little Women set to be celebrated in 2018, this title is not to be missed by the classic’s many fans who will want to get an insider’s look at the real people who inspired the March family.
Verdict Like other novels that illuminate lesser-known relatives of famous people (e.g., Marie Benedict’s The Other Einstein and Melanie Benjamin’s The Aviator’s Wife), this one focuses on the artist whom Little Women fans first knew as Amy March.—Wendy W. Paige, Shelby Cty. P.L., Morristown, IN

Montana Noir. Akashic. (Noir). Sept. 2017. 288p. ed. by James Grady & Keir Graff. ISBN 9781617755798. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617756054. F
This latest addition to the publisher’s “Noir” series features 14 stories set in Big Sky Country. Much like a travel map that divides Montana into regions, this volume is partitioned into four sections that reflect the geography of the state: Copper Power, The Hi-Line, Custer Country, and Rivers Run. The tales are typical of the noir genre with crime, guilt, punishment, abandonment, and the social and economic pressures that plague the modern-day characters portrayed in these pages. Many of the book’s contributors, such as coeditors Grady and Graff, were born in Montana, and others live in the state; all the authors have strong emotional ties to the area’s particular lifestyle. The editors tout this book as the first-ever anthology of Montana-set noir short stories.
Verdict Fans of the genre and regional fiction will be intrigued.—Patricia Ann Owens, formerly with Illinois Eastern Community Coll., Mt. Carmel

starred review starMcLellan, Erin. Controlled Burn. Riptide. Aug. 2017. 258p. ISBN 9781626495777. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781626495760. MALE/MALE NEW ADULT ROMANCE
[DEBUT] With the possibility of being outed by the local paper after the death of his boyfriend and dealing with his own toxic parents, Joel Smith needs to start over. He moves far away for college, changes his name, and begins a long series of hookups to put the past behind him…or so he hopes. He maintains a cool, safe distance from everyone he encounters. That is until adorable classmate Paulie McPherson begins to warm the soul Joel’s kept hidden away—and the heartbreak that through the irony of an assignment stares him in the face. Not dealing and the push and pull of surfacing grief stand to threaten the love that could end up saving both Joel and Paulie.
Verdict This debut is an A+ example of young friends-to-lovers romance as well as new adult genre-theming. McLellan crafts a beautiful, angst-filled, and heart-wrenching debut that readers will not be able to put down.—Frannie Strober Cassano, North Bellmore P.L., NY

Witt, L.A. & Cari Z. Suspicious Behavior. Riptide. (Bad Behavior, Bk. 2). Aug. 2017. 253p. ISBN 9781626496309. pap. $17.99; ebk. ISBN 9781626496293. LGBTQIA ROMANTIC SUSPENSE
Detectives Darren Corliss and Andreas Ruffner are back at work after taking down crooked cops at the cost of being accused of crossing the line and betraying their brothers in blue in Risky Behavior. The cost almost included Darren’s life, and his recovery from a stab wound proves slow and painful. Darren also deals with his brother’s rapid descent into early-onset Alzheimer’s, while Andreas’s daughter learns more about her father than she may have wanted to know when she interns with Internal Affairs. As Darren and Andreas continue to build their relationship in private, the lack of support they receive at work means a serial killer has gone unidentified and now no one is willing to believe them. Will an innocent man take the fall for a murderer on the loose, or will these partners build a convincing case before the next death occurs? Witt is the pseudonym of an Epic and Rainbow Award–winning author who also writes in a wide range of genres as Lauren Gallagher, Lori A. Witt, and Ann Gallagher. Z is a multi–Rainbow Award–winning author.
Verdict Witt and Z pack suspense, action, and family ties into this series installment, which will be popular with fans of the authors and with readers of the romantic suspense/thrillers by HelenKay Dimon. The series is recommended for all libraries.—Melanie C. Duncan, Washington Memorial Lib., Macon, GA

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