Fiction from Berne, Crais, Glickman, Guild, Holohan, Koontz, Reed, & Thomas | Xpress Reviews

Week ending October 27, 2017

Berne, Lisa. The Laird Takes a Bride. Avon. (Penhallow Dynasty, Bk. 2). Sept. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780062451811. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062451804. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Nine years earlier, Fiona Douglass watched the love of her life marry her beautiful younger sister, one of many weddings she’d had to witness. Her father keeps offering her up to one nasty suitor after another, and Fiona is getting nervous. Then disaster strikes. Drunken Scottish wastrel Alasdair Penhallow is told his family lives under a curse: he must wed one of the eligible maidens of the Eight Clans of Killaly before his 35th birthday or forfeit his life. Fiona is forced to go to Castle Tadgh along with three more enthusiastic maidens. Penhallow and his men are pretty squalid, having drank and wenched their way through Scotland. However, as Alasdair begins to make an effort to be a decent companion, Fiona finds him to be not so abhorrent. Unfortunately, circumstances lead to the pair getting married. Things move along fairly well as they get to know each other until Penhallow’s emotional scars cause him to wound Fiona deeply.
Verdict Berne (You May Kiss the Bride) takes a comparatively unlikable fellow and shows why he took the path he did, allowing the reader and Fiona to empathize with and forgive him. Fiona is a wonderful character, with her own scars, self-doubt, kindness, and need for love. Readers who can wait for Alasdair’s redemption will be rewarded in this tale of two wounded people.—B. Allison Gray, Goleta Lib., CA

starred review starCrais, Robert. The Wanted. Putnam. Dec. 2017. 336p. ISBN 9780399161506. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780399573903. F
Single mom Devon Connor calls Elvis Cole to investigate why her son, Tyson, has a $40,000 watch and wads of cash. The PI soon discovers Tyson and two friends committed a string of high end–home burglaries and attempts to convince Devon that her son should turn himself in. Meanwhile, two ruthless, highly intelligent, and competent killers named Harvey and Stemms chase Tyson and his pals, leaving a trail of bodies as they seek to recover information believed to be hidden on a laptop stolen by the teens. As the body count rises, Elvis calls in Joe Pike as reinforcement. This follow-up to The Promise adroitly spins a treatise on relations between mothers and sons, fathers and sons, and bonds of friendship, nestled within a hair-raising chase between cold-blooded murderers and naïve adolescents. Crais’s trademark humor and thoroughly accurate, genuine depictions of human interactions make this one of his best yet. The mutual respect and “buddy” admiration between Harvey and Stemms mirrors that between Elvis and Joe. A tremendously rewarding climax and touching epilog conclude with the nurturing of another treasured connection.
Verdict Crais delivers another highly and deeply satisfying page-turner that will please his many fans.—Jeffrey W. Hunter, Royal Oak, MI

Glickman, James. Crossing Point. Rare Bird. Oct. 2017. 448p. ISBN 9781945572425. pap. $17.95. F
A crossing point is where a human can meet the spirits who will provide a vision of the future. For Guy Watson, enslaved on a Rhode Island farm in Revolutionary times, the visions are clouded. Perhaps it’s because his story is entwined with that of his neighbor Capt. Samuel Ward as they both join the rebellion, one willingly, the other not. The war takes Guy away from his small world in that small colony to fight the British in Quebec, New York, and Philadelphia and ultimately to be court-martialed as a possible spy. Glickman (Sounding the Waters) has a fascinating premise but clutters his tale with too many adjectival descriptions and too much name-dropping. It’s as if he’s trying to prove that this is really history. The horrors of life in perpetual servitude and the American attack on Quebec City ring true enough and make the story interesting most of the time.
Verdict A unique angle on the well-trod Revolutionary War path, but only New Englanders and those interested in the African American experience during this period will be taken enough with the story to wade through the overwritten prose.—W. Keith McCoy, Somerset Cty. Lib. Syst., Bridgewater, NJ

Guild, Nicholas. The Macedonian. Forge. Dec. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780765378460. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466861619. F
When a child, born of the favorite wife of a king, comes into the world attempting to crush its own umbilical cord with its tiny hands, omens abound. Send this child off to be raised outside of the elite family by a servant’s household, and legends are born. This is the story of Philip of Macedon, a discarded son who became a prince, then a king, then a leader whose ambition and rare abilities made it possible for him to save his country and become an icon in Greek history. His final contribution to that legacy was siring Alexander the Great. Prolific author Guild (The Spartan Dagger; The Assyrian; Angel; Blood Star) has written another readable tome.
Verdict Guild’s well-paced historical novel offers a terrific feel for the times and a great imagining of the principal characters. The events read plausibly and accurately. Fans of historical novels, good action yarns, and Greek myth and royal quandary will thoroughly enjoy this book.—Russell Miller, Prescott P.L., AZ

Holohan, Dan. Dominic Murphy’s Walk. CreateSpace: Amazon. Aug. 2017. 388p. ISBN 9781974467600. pap. $15.99. F
Dominic Murphy, a retired Long Island plumber mourning the loss of his wife, decides to travel to Hawaii to live out the rest of his life. On the plane ride, he meets radiologist Tim Tu, who is following a similar end-of-life path. After spreading his wife’s ashes on Diamond Head, Dominic runs into Tim, who is staying at the same hotel, and they opt to go local. What follows is a tale of two men who think they have nothing left to lose living it up in paradise. The book skips through time and jumps from different points of view to build an interconnected world that attempts to explore how guilt and anger can be as deadly as any cancer.
Verdict The novel initially follows Mitch Albom’s model of straightforward prose that deals with the human condition, but as the book evolves, the story lines veer more darkly toward Dennis Lehane country. Holohan (Singer Island) provides plenty of twists and turns into the light and dark of human nature.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

Koontz, Dean. The Whispering Room: A Jane Hawk Novel. Bantam. Nov. 2017. 528p. ISBN 9780345546807. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780345546814. F
For those who were left breathlessly awaiting the conclusion of rogue FBI agent Jane Hawk’s plight depicted earlier this year in The Silent Corner, the release of this sequel can’t come too soon. Jane, readers will recall, was seeking an explanation for her husband Nick’s unanticipated suicide when she discovered a bizarre network of similar deaths across the country that set her on a quest to locate a common source. Her clandestine investigation led to the discovery of a sinister group employing nanotechnology to control the actions of an alarming number of individuals without their knowledge or consent and to her suspension from the FBI. In this second volume of Koontz’s new series, Jane’s mission is retribution. Employing her impressive skill set that combines tech-savviness with physical prowess, she methodically pursues the powerful and evil masterminds behind this malevolent conspiracy, hoping to put an end to the destruction it has caused. The results she achieves both satisfy and leave the door open for Jane’s promised return.
Verdict Koontz delivers another winner. [See Prepub Alert, 7/1/17.]—Nancy McNicol, Hamden P.L., CT

Reed, Deborah. The Days When Birds Come Back. Houghton Harcourt. Jan. 2018. 272p. ISBN 9780544817357. $24; ebk. ISBN 9780544817401. F
Recently returned to the Oregon coast of her youth, June struggles with sobriety, a cure for her writers block, and a divorce. She inherited the family compound from her grandparents and is living in their carriage house but isn’t sure what to do with the memory-laden dilapidated bungalow that she shared with her widowed father until his suicide when she was seven. She decides to renovate and sell the bungalow and hires contractor Jameson. He and his wife, Sarah Ann, live in eastern Oregon and have been trying for years to outrun the tragic deaths of their seven-year-old twins. On the day Jameson loses a construction job that was going to put them back on their feet financially, June calls and presents him with the details of her project and offers him enough compensation to justify making the long trip across the state and being away from home for months. Over the summer, the two spend little time together, yet they bond over their sorrows and walled-up secrets.
Verdict Reed (Things We Set on Fire) provides a nice description of the Oregon coast, but her story is filled with self-centered characters, a forced romance, and too many coincidences.—Susan Santa, Shelter Rock P.L., Albertson, NY

Thomas, Will. Old Scores: A Barker and Llewelyn Novel. Minotaur: St. Martin’s. Oct. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9781250077967. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466890299. MYS
In 1890, the first Japanese diplomatic delegation arrives in London to open an embassy, and Cyrus Barker, a private enquiry agent connected with the Foreign Service, is asked to display his Japanese garden to the visiting legation. When the Japanese ambassador is murdered later that night, Barker becomes the prime suspect as he was spotted watching the ambassador’s office and holding a pistol. Barker and his assistant, Thomas Llewelyn, move through the London underworld and between two cultures to solve the dangerous case.
Verdict The ninth (after Hell’s Bay) entry in the critically acclaimed historical series features an engaging dynamic duo, pithy historical detail, and grand cultural clashes. The emerging personal notes about Cyrus Barker tantalize and make for a grand escapade. This is bound to attract readers who enjoy such authors specializing in Victorian crime fiction as Alex Grecian and Claude Izner.—Ann Chambers Theis, Henrico Cty. P.L., VA

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