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Seduced

Randy Wayne White. Putnam, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-399-16977-9

Early in bestseller White’s suspenseful fourth Hannah Smith novel (after 2014’s Haunted), the Florida fishing guide has to deal with the death of 80-year-old Harney Chatham, a former Florida lieutenant governor, in the arms (and bed) of her mother, Loretta. Smith reluctantly agrees to help the governor’s chauffeur, Reggie, move Chatham’s body to a more respectable place to die, the Chatham estate. Her involvement puts Smith at odds with Chatham’s widow, Lonnie, and introduces her to Chatham’s handsome grove manager, Kermit Bigalow, whose comments on the blight ravaging Florida’s oranges propel Smith on a high-stakes hunt for an ancient orange tree, whose fruit might be disease resistant, in a remote, tangled mangrove area called Choking Creek. There she encounters the giant pythons that are decimating Florida’s native animals, as well as lethal human snakes trying to beat her to the prize tree. White smoothly infuses an intriguing plot with timely environmental issues. Author tour. Agent: Esther Newberg, ICM. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Love You Dead

Peter James. Macmillan U.K. (IPG, dist.), $27.95 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4472-5581-9

James’s immensely satisfying 12th Roy Grace procedural (after 2015’s You Are Dead) finds the Brighton detective superintendent taking a month off to recuperate after being shot in the leg by Dr. Edward Crisp, a suspected serial killer he was trying to arrest. In addition, Grace faces a horrid boss and demoralizing budget cuts to the police force. Fortunately, a convoluted case soon returns Grace to his favorite occupation—solving murders. Psychopathic gold digger Jodie Bentley has been luring one elderly suitor after another into her lethal web. The doggedly determined Grace leads his team in the dual effort to apprehend black widow Jodie and also Crisp, who has so far eluded justice. On the personal side, Grace is the happy husband of pathologist Cleo and the besotted father of an infant son. But then his first wife, who’d been declared dead, turns up, leaving him with a 10-year-old son he never suspected he had. James juggles his multiple story lines with panache as the action hurtles to a shattering conclusion. Agent: Carole Blake, Blake Friedmann Literary (U.K.). (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Storm Rising

Douglas Schofield. Minotaur, $25.99 (336p) ISBN 978-1-250-07276-4

A dash of the paranormal spices this exciting crime novel from Schofield (Time of Departure). Five years after the murder of Kevin Hendricks’s police detective father, the four-year-old boy demands to go home to Bayonne, N.J., a place he has never been. Kevin’s mother, Lucy, grows increasingly uneasy as he recalls memories he couldn’t possibly have. Lucy fled to Florida from New Jersey when the investigation into Jack’s death concluded that he was crooked. At last ready to face her past, Lucy returns to Bayonne, where she looks into Jack’s death, uncovering a car theft ring and another police officer’s murder that Jack was investigating on his own time. Turning her evidence over to deputy prosecutor Robert Olivetti leads to Lucy learning of her own family’s ties to a Mafia don, Dominic Lanza, and when forced into a partnership with Lanza, Lucy must untangle the lies of the past to save her son and herself. Readers will gladly suspend disbelief as Schofield takes them on a whirlwind ride. Agent: Kim Witherspoon, Inkwell Management. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Land Uncharted

Keely Brooke Keith. Edenbrooke Press, $12.99 trade paper (310p) ISBN 978-0-692-26751-6

The simple life of physician Lydia Colburn expands with the introduction of an enigmatic stranger in Keith’s (Aboard Providence) chaste Christian romance that insufficiently blends science fiction with Amish-style culture. In 2025, a world war rages over natural resources. Navy pilot Lt. Connor Bradshaw ejects and parachutes into the Land, an isolated, pre-industrial island in the South Atlantic Ocean. The settlers are descendants of pioneers who left America in 1861 and maintained a society of horse and buggy and prairie dresses. Unfortunately, it’s also a society in which Lydia fears that her reputation will be destroyed because of deranged stalker Frank Roberts. Meanwhile, Connor embraces his peaceful new life and virtuous courtship of Lydia. He also encourages local inventors to stop experimenting with electricity, so the outside world won’t discover the Land and its abundant fresh water. Science fiction elements intrude on the idyllic life of the villagers adding little to the story of a peaceful people and their homespun troubles. An inadequate background for Connor leaves his character and his quick adoption of the Land incomplete. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Winter Storms

Elin Hilderbrand. Little, Brown, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-316-26117-3

The complicated web of familial turmoil created by Hilderbrand in this concluding chapter of her Winter Street trilogy is almost too much to bear as the Quinn family prepares for one last holiday season on Nantucket Island. This fictional depiction of a family working through the tragedies of loss, love, divorce, and addiction brings to the forefront the issues of living in a dysfunctional family and surviving the repercussions of each other’s decisions. As readers follow career-driven Margaret, romantically confused Ava, Jennifer, the interior designer addicted to pharmaceuticals, and Margaret’s ex-husband, Kelley, now undergoing treatment for prostate cancer, they become exhaustively entangled in the events that unfold. Unfortunately, Hilderbrand’s writing does not construct a thrilling plot line. By developing all of her characters at once, leaping from one character’s perspective to another, she leaves the story without a solid, defining climax. By the time the reader becomes invested in Jennifer’s battle against addiction, Ava takes over the story as she, once again, tries to sort out her tangled love life. Those already familiar with the series will find solace in learning the fate of the main characters, but readers looking for a light read will be disappointed by this emotionally-wrought, scattered conclusion to the trilogy. Agent: David Forrer and Michael Carlisle, InkWell Management. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Eastern Shore

Ward Just. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25 (208p) ISBN 978-0-544-83658-7

In this clever novel, Just (American Romance) explores the journalistic ethics of Ned Ayres through his six-decade career as a successful newspaper editor. As editor of his small hometown Indiana newspaper, Ned is challenged early in his career with a blockbuster story—William Grant, a popular, prosperous local businessman who is really a violent ex-convict with a phony new name. Ned must decide whether to publish a human interest story or a juicy, ruinous scandal. His decision results in tragedy, but Ned justifies it as news no matter the consequences. Untroubled by that fateful decision, Ned moves up to editor jobs in Chicago and Washington, D.C., into the Kennedy and L.B.J. years where journalistic ethics get more blurred. He changes jobs and lovers, consumed by the newspaper business. As years pass, Ned loves his work, never marries, and has no close friends. And he never again faces the dire consequences of that ex-con’s exposure story so many years before. When Ned finally retires in 2005, he realizes his decrepit old Maryland manor house is just like the newspaper business—old, decayed, poorly maintained, and corrupted by rot. The William Grant sequence is the high point of the novel but occurs early on, and unfortunately the subsequent portions fail to match its power. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The Clay Girl

Heather Tucker. ECW (Perseus/Legato, U.S. dist.; Jaguar Book Group, Canadian dist.), $16.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-77041-303-0

Tucker’s triumphant debut novel is the story of a childhood lost, a family found, and a coming-of-age, recounted in precise and poetic language. Harriet Appleton is eight years old, the littlest of the six sisters scattered among their relatives after a tragedy befalls the already struggling family. Sent to Nova Scotia to stay with her aunts Mary and Nia, who rename her Ari, a name she keeps, she finds herself safe and loved for the first time in her life. The idyllic period is cut short when Ari’s mother insists that she be sent back to her family in Toronto. Ari will spend the rest of her childhood trying to get back to the only place where she was allowed to be a child. She is aided by sympathetic teachers and a beloved stepfather, held back by her mother’s cruelty and a sense of duty to protect her step-siblings. Ari writes, “all the houses that have kept me, slept me, have written their own songs,” and indeed the broken homes that Ari moves between, while devastating to consider, contribute to the intricate beauty of the tale. It is at times difficult to read, but this novel is worth every moment of pain and every tear. Agent: Hilary McMahon, Westwood Creative Artists. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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Bob Stevenson

Richard Wiley. Bellevue Literary (Consortium, dist.), $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-942658-16-0

It is a truism that writers live on through their works, but Wiley’s (Soldiers in Hiding) clever latest considers the strange case of a classic author reanimated by other means. Ruby Okada is a psychiatrist swept off her feet by “Bob,” an enigmatic stranger spouting orotund phrases in a Scottish brogue. Their brief affair concludes when she finally discovers that her lover is really Archie Billingsly, a psychiatric patient prone to fugue states in which he convincingly takes on the identities of Robert Louis Stevenson and his most famous creation, Henry Hyde, among others. Mortified that she has “fallen so deeply in love with a lie and a ghost,” and pregnant with Bob/Archie’s child, Ruby delves into the curious case of a man as “sick and fractured” as Dr. Jekyll. Wiley skillfully balances the psychological explanations for Archie’s strange behavior with the more fanciful notion that he has been possessed by Stevenson’s spirit, one of those “metaphysical rovers” seeking out corporeal forms. It’s an elegant conceit around which to craft a tale about the ambiguities of character, but the novel slackens considerably in the second half. Moreover, the supporting characters don’t manage to bewitch the reader as completely as the great Scotsman does through Archie. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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The House of Silence

Blanca Busquets, trans. from the Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. Regan Arts, $25.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-68245-030-7

A quartet of voices narrates Busquets’s first book translated into English (La Nevada Del Cucut) formulaic but often lovely novel of music and romance. Each narrator takes turns explaining their relationship to a 300-year-old rare violin and, through this, their relationship to the famed and secretive composer Karl T: Teresa, who found the violin as a child while dumpster-diving with her mother; Maria, Karl’s longtime maid who accidentally threw away the violin; spoiled and spiteful Anna, who was Teresa’s violin student and now will be performing alongside her; and Mark, Karl’s son, a less accomplished composer. The four are drawn together at a performance done in honor of the now deceased Karl. The stories each narrator tells are deeply intertwined and contain soap opera twists and turns: a secret pregnancy, a not-so-accidental death, a revelatory letter, and a momentous concert where tricks are played and truths are revealed. While each character maintains an independent, intriguing emotional arc, the voices are often similar, in part due to an overuse of undescriptive dialogue. With a fast pace and plenty of plot twists, Busquet’s ode to music is an entertaining performance surveying envy, love, and revenge—with a handful of missed notes. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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A Greater Music

Bae Suah, trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith. Open Letter, $13.95 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-940953-46-5

After a three-year absence, an unnamed writer returns to Berlin in this dulcet, contemplative novel from the author of Nowhere to Be Found. The visit becomes a “continuation of a dream” for the narrator, one that began when she was first being tutored in German by M, a sickly woman with “eyes like a winter lake with an iceberg at its heart” whose twin loves of literature and classical music matched the narrator’s own. Their relationship swiftly turned to romance, and instilled in the narrator “the desire to write, the blazing desire to set down sentences that were true, sincere, and not the stuff of children.” After a fit of jealousy sent the narrator spiraling into a “swamp of shame,” she abandoned M for Seoul. At home, the screening of a banal film makes her realize she’s made a terrible mistake. A far cry from that “unbearable celebration of the conventional,” this novel stutters through its recollection of events, digressing regularly to ruminate on figures like the composer Bernd Alois Zimmerman or the German writer Jacob Hein. The structure bedevils as much as it illuminates, but ultimately, this book serves as an articulate and moving reflection of how life can stop “for a time in a certain fluid place between past and future.” (Oct.)

Reviewed on 08/19/2016 | Details & Permalink

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