Fiction from Dekker, Eden, Jeong, North, Talley, and Thomas, plus Lagos Noir | Xpress Reviews

Week ending April 27, 2018

starred review starDekker, Ted. The 49th Mystic. Revell. (Beyond the Circle, Bk. 1). May 2018. 432p. ISBN 9780800729783. pap. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781493414017. CF
The small community of Eden, UT, possesses a secret known only to a few. Rachelle Matthews is a blind teen who dreams of a Shadow Man who blinds her again and again. When an experimental procedure designed to restore her vision goes awry, she begins to dream about another world that is so vivid it becomes impossible to distinguish reality from fantasy. It turns out that Rachelle is the 49th Mystic and must find five seals to save both her world and the one of her dreams. Unfortunately, she has no idea what to do until the Shadow Man appears corporeally in Eden. A decade ago, Dekker’s “Circle” series of spiritual thrillers introduced these dual worlds. In the first volume of a new duology, he brings new characters together with those from the original books.
Verdict Dekker’s many fans will be lining up for this profound and multilayered allegorical tale, which will also appeal to readers of fantasy fiction with a spiritual bent who like a challenge.—Christine Sharbrough, Industry, TX

Eden, Sarah M. Ashes on the Moor. Shadow Mountain. (Proper Romance Victorian). Mar. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9781629724027. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781629736365. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Evangeline Blake was raised to be a lady of quality, but following the death from fever of almost her entire family, she and her younger sister, Lucy, fall under the guardianship of her grandfather. He tells Evangeline that she must prove her self-reliance if she wants to gain access to her inheritance and guardianship of Lucy, which means she must work as the schoolteacher in Smeatley, a factory town in Yorkshire. Evangeline has only two concerns: she has no idea how to live on her own, and she doesn’t know how to teach. Irishman Dermot McCormick is a mason and single father who has been taking care of himself and his son for a while. Evangeline has no issues with the differences in their class or background; she just wants to eat, teach, and prove herself to her grandfather. Her determination and compassion begin to earn for her the trust of everyone in Smeatley, until a secret from her past forces her to choose between her old life and the life she has created.
Verdict The dialog and character development in Eden’s (The Sheriffs of Savage Wells) latest are very well done; readers will particularly enjoy the banter between Evangeline and Dermot and will be eager know what happens next to the Smeatley townsfolk and our protagonists.—Colleen Sargent, Lincoln Lib., Springfield, IL

Jeong, You-Jeong. The Good Son. Penguin. Jun. 2018. 320p. tr. from Korean by Chi-Young Kim. ISBN 9780143131953. pap. $16; ebk. ISBN 9780525503743. F
Twenty-six-year-old Yu-jin has struggled with seizures for most of his life, and now he lives at home with his mother, studying for law school under her watchful, oppressive gaze. Yu-jin’s medication makes him drowsy, dopey, and not present, so once in a while he’ll skip the drugs, and the world becomes a new place, full of color and possibilities. One morning, Yu-jin is awakened by the overpowering smell of blood and a phone call from his adopted brother Hae-jin, wondering if their mother was okay. Yu-jin stumbles downstairs and finds his mother’s body, covered in blood and stab wounds. One of the side effects of his seizures is short-term memory loss. All he can remember from the night before is his mother screaming his name. Was she calling for help? Or was she screaming for her life? As Yu-jin investigates what happened, a young woman is found murdered not far from his house, and Yu-jin uncovers an unnerving and quietly sinister secret concerning his whole existence. Jeong has been called “Korea’s Stephen King,” and she lives up to the billing with this taut psychological thriller. Yu-jin is an intriguing protagonist, and the many twists and turns Jeong takes with this story arc set the reader up for quite a thrill ride.
Verdict Incorporating chilling prose, unpredictable characters, and blood by the gallons, Jeong has crafted an ominous and haunting experience. Hand to readers of Stephen King and Shirley Jackson. [See Prepub Alert, 1/22/18.]—Tyler Hixson, Brooklyn P.L.

Lagos Noir. Akashic. Jun. 2018. 224p. ed. by Chris Abani. ISBN 9781617755231. pap. $15.95; ebk. ISBN 9781617756481. MYS
The African megalopolis of Lagos, Nigeria, makes a perfect setting for mystery stories with a noir bent. Urban anonymity and alienation are key to noir, as are femmes fatales, con men, heist crews, crooked cops, and naïve newcomers from the sticks. The sights, sounds, and equatorial heat of the big city heighten the tensions inherent in tales of robbery, murder, and other desperate acts. Crime is no respecter of class either, with stories set in the wealthiest, gated enclaves and the poorest of the poor shantytowns. The smell of local street food cooking over fires on every street corner is omnipresent. As with the far-flung locations of some of Akashic’s other volumes, these exotic spots do not disguise the desperation lurking so closely under the surface of even the most sophisticated urban setting.
Verdict With its breadth of contributors, this latest volume in the publisher’s city noir series will satisfy both the fan of contemporary African fiction and the newcomer interested in discovering some new voices.—Dan Forrest, Western Kentucky Univ. Libs., Bowling Green

North, Claire. 84K. Orbit: Hachette. May 2018. 496p. ISBN 9780316316804. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9780316316781. SF
What is the value of a human life? Now that the English government has been privatized, all services monetized, prisons closed, and only people who can pay their way are able to move up, The Company uses Auditors such as Theo Miller to assess the exact value for crimes. If the perpetrators can pay, they go free; if not, it is into forced labor for The Company. Theo is content in his job, until a woman from the time before he was Theo returns with a tale of a lost daughter, his lost daughter, and corruption that could shake The Company to the ground. Now the man known as Theo, who once held a different name, is on the run, finally seeing the truth behind the slave-state of The Company. As he tries to find his daughter, to save his own life, and solve a murder, Theo also must find out who he really is.
Verdict North (The Sudden Appearance of Hope) has captured the horror of capitalism without empathy. Her prose style, dreamlike and full of unfinished thoughts and rambling sentences, is distracting enough that it might dissuade people from finishing the novel. But if readers can overcome the unusual style, the dense slow-to-start plot carries through to the end. [See Prepub Alert, 11/21/17.]—Jennifer Beach, Longwood Univ. Lib., Farmville, VA

Talley, Liz. Come Home to Me. Montlake Romance. Apr. 2018. 368p. ebk. ISBN 9781503900998. pap. $12.95. WOMEN’S FICTION
After a horrific accident, late-night star Rhett Bryan makes his way back to Moonlight, SC. Summer Valentine is also there following a struggling music career, reluctantly allowing her son to get to know his father, Hunt McCroy. Summer has had a crush on her friend Rhett since they were kids, and now they begin to get to know each other again. With story shifts between present-day and the past, with each character replaying an event or chain of events that lead them back to their hometown in hopes of healing. But as the stories unfold, it seems that one fateful prom night changed everyone’s path irrevocably. Told in three solidly different points of view, Talley’s novel takes great care to examine the outcomes of the lives of Rhett, Summer, and Hunt. The author also painstakingly reconciles those outcomes; the internal debates are relevant and moving.
Verdict While Talley’s (All That Charm) latest features an overarching theme of unrequited love, there are some triggers that readers should be aware of, such as a death resulting from a car accident and a detailed date rape. Talley does an excellent job of making her flawed characters vastly more gray than black and white…which creates a story of unrequited lives, redeemed.—Frannie Strober Cassano, North Bellmore P.L., NY

Thomas, Jodi. Mornings on Main. HQN: Harlequin. Apr. 2018. 313p. ISBN 9781335062956. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488029516. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Mayor Connor Larady has roots in Laurel Springs, TX, going back generations. Jillian James isn’t likely to stay long in any one place. Still, Jillian’s desire to find her long-missing father and Connor’s goal to organize a museum exhibit of the finished projects in his grandmother’s quilt shop don’t seem mutually exclusive. Gram is getting more forgetful, so Connor hires Jillian to catalog the pieces while Gram can still remember their stories. Jillian thinks the three-month job should suit her time line and allow her to inquire after Jefferson James, who, according to zip codes in journals he kept, spent time in the quaint Texas town. Jillian is enthralled by the histories of the quilts, as well as entangled with Gram; the quilting circle members; Sunnie, Connor’s 16-year-old daughter; and the soft-spoken man on whom they all depend. Will three months be long enough?
Verdict Thomas (Ransom Canyon) has drawn a warmly touching portrait of this small Southern town. The characters are multidimensional—even the young folk are engaging—while the quilts come alive whether readers are familiar with the craft or not. Stitching in several threads of mystery, Thomas hits another winner with this latest romance. Highly recommended for most libraries.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal

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