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Courtship: A Novel of Life, Love, and the Law

RL Sommer. Ankerwycke, $26.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-62722-842-8

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This cliché-riddled “old-fashioned love story” is unlikely to appeal either to lawyers or fans of romance novels. Anne Strong, the daughter of a prominent Southern family, is awarded a Thayer scholarship to study at Cambridge University for two years after college. On the ship journey across the Atlantic, Anne encounters fellow scholar Micah Lehman, a hardworking Jew from Chicago, who appears to be her complete opposite. To their surprise, they fall for each other, hard and fast, and arrive in England a deeply devoted couple. Predictable hurdles on their way to the altar include Anne’s bigoted parents objecting to her marrying outside of her faith. In other melodramatic developments, Micah’s father dies suddenly of a heart attack, and when he finally returns to England to reunite with Anne, he’s met with the news that she’s near death after a fall from a horse and that she’s carrying his child. Sommer is the penname of attorney Ronald Goldfarb. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Storme Warning: A Wyatt Storme Thriller

W.L. Ripley. Brash (brash-books.com), $12.99 trade paper (280p) ISBN 978-1-941298-66-4

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In Ripley’s appealing fourth thriller featuring reclusive ex-football star Wyatt Storme thriller (after 1996’s Electric Country Roulette), Chick Easton, an old friend now providing security for obnoxious movie star Cameron Fogarty, shows up with movie director Geoffrey Salinger, who wants to film an epic western about Jesse James and his gang, on Storme’s 275-acre property in rural Missouri. Complications arise almost immediately after the arrival of the Hollywood crew, which includes Fogarty’s sycophants. Rory Marchibroda, once beaten by Storme, is seeking vengeance. When Bobby Frank Ventura, a hood with a stake in the movie—and Marchibroda’s former employer—makes trouble, Storme manages to get rid of Ventura and his bodyguards. Storme, a wise-cracking tough guy, does his best to avoid violence, until someone tries to kill him and a shooter wounds Easton during the filming of a gunfight scene. Readers will hope that Storme’s latest performance will earn him a quick encore. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Heartbreak Cove

Lily Everett. St. Martin%E2%80%99s Paperbacks, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-01838-0

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Everett’s faltering third Sanctuary Island contemporary (after Shoreline Drive) suffers from inconsistent characterization. Sheriff Andie Shepherd is suspicious of Sam Brennan from their first meeting, not least because of his criminal record, but even in an election year, she’s willing to follow her heart—or her lust. News spreads around the tiny Atlantic-coast town in no time flat, and Andie’s involvement with Sam puts her job in danger. Andie is also struggling to deal with surprise custody of the 10-year-old niece she’s never known. Andie and Sam’s relationship is supposedly built on respect and trust, but when straitlaced Andie—who begins the novel with a fairly rigid belief that things will work out if one just follows the rules—seems to tip her entire moral code on its head in support of a man she’s only known for a few weeks, her credibility as a strong and substantial heroine begin to crumble. Agent: Deidre Knight, Knight Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Darkside War

Zachary Brown. S&S/Saga, $14.99 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-1-4814-3178-1

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The pseudonymous Brown opens an SF series with a novel that can’t quite figure out where it’s going or what it’ll do when it gets there. A group of aliens occupying Earth, called the Accordance, is battling another group known as the Conglomeration. Devlin Hart, the son of human protestors, is told he must serve in the Accordance army if he wants to save his parents from execution. When he stands up to an alien who’s about to kill a human child, he is sent to train for his fate as cannon fodder. Devlin’s training and first encounter with alien enemies show him to be more fallible than the average action hero; his choices are split evenly between intelligent and disastrous. The various aliens aren’t distinguished particularly well, usually only described by comparison to some terrestrial animal. Devlin’s adventures have the feel of a young adult coming-of-age novel, but some of the language and situations feel too strong for that audience. Perhaps future installments will find more of a groove. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Death by Roses

Vivian B. Probst. SelectBooks, $16.95 trade paper (320p) ISBN 978-1-59079-148-6

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A catchy premise and entertaining characters mostly outweigh the unpolished writing of Probst’s debut. When smalltown housewife and busybody Mae Rose dies ignominiously on the toilet, killed by a lifetime of rage against her husband and just about everyone else, she’s set up to learn a heavenly lesson in forgiveness and being careful what you wish for. Mary Lee is a famous horror-movie writer, terrible mother, and outrageously difficult cancer patient with a burning desire to finally win an Oscar before she kicks the bucket. Nearly dead, she is revived when Mae Rose’s spirit joins hers in Mary Lee’s body, leading to hilarious situations and an unlikely—yet oddly believable—connection between their family members. As their families, friends, frenemies, and others circle like curious vultures, the two women cobble together one life between them, irrevocably changing both their destinies. Humorous and flowing despite awkward prose, this should elicit giggles all the way through. Agent: Neil Gudovitz, Waterside Productions. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Washington Lawyer

Allan Topol. SelectBooks, $16.95 trade paper (288p) ISBN 978-1-59079-266-7

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Topol (The Argentine Triangle) successfully portrays the panicked terrors of that Washington staple, the public figure trying to escape a scandal by lying his way out of trouble. Sen. Wesley Jasper has slipped off to the island of Anguilla for some “mind-blowing sex” with his beautiful mistress, Vanessa Boyd, who announces that he had better marry her or she’ll go to the Washington Post with a CD she’s recorded of him having a meeting with a Chinese secret agent. Wesley retaliates by drowning Vanessa. To cover up the crime, he enlists the help of his friend, Washington power lawyer Andrew Martin, who loaned Wesley his beach house for the tryst. Martin, who’s in line for a seat on the Supreme Court, knows that if this gets out he’ll be pulled from consideration, so he calls friends on the island for assistance. Meanwhile, Vanessa’s plucky twin sister, Allison, has decided that the cover story of accidental death is a lie and throws herself into an investigation to find her sister’s killer. The story follows familiar patterns, but Topol ties up all the loose ends, and all the principals, except poor Vanessa, get what’s coming to them. Agent: Pam Ahearn, Ahearn Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Quicksand: A Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery

Gigi Pandian. Henery (henerypress.com), $16 trade paper (276p) ISBN 978-1-941962-27-5

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In Pandian’s lively and humorous third Jaya Jones Treasure Hunt Mystery (after 2014’s Private Vishnu), a letter and plane ticket purportedly from former art thief Lane Peters sends San Francisco history professor Jaya to Paris. There, one of Lane’s former associates forces him into a plot to rob the Louvre; Jaya must reluctantly insist on participating. When Jaya realizes the significance of the artifact to be stolen—a page from an illuminated manuscript—she and Lane determine to thwart the others involved in the theft. A coded message from Sanjay, Jaya’s magician friend back in San Francisco, helps her locate Sébastien: a remarkably energetic 90-year-old with a brilliant mind, a houseful of amazing automatons, and a set of invaluable skills to help them in their quest. Charming characters, a hint of romantic conflict, and just the right amount of danger will garner more fans for this cozy series. Agent: Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Illuminations

Andrew O%E2%80%99Hagan. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (240p) ISBN 978-0-374-17456-9

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This empathetic novel from O’Hagan (Our Fathers) revolves around a fictional, largely unknown photographer named Anne Quirk, and Luke, her grandson, who serves in the British Army. Anne suffers from dementia and lives in a retirement community. Luke is serving in Afghanistan, where he listens to death metal, gets stoned, and watches the war tear apart his mentor, Major Scullion. In her youth, Anne was a sharp woman, with a keen eye for beauty in the commonplace. Luke often reminisces on the moments they had together, and the ways she encouraged him to look closely at the world around him. When Luke was 12, she took him to Dunure Harbour, where “they stood holding hands on the jetty, the wind pushing them back as they took great gulps of air. ‘Breathe, Luke!’ she said. ‘You can’t argue with that! Fresh wind off the sea. Oh my. I wish I could catch it with the camera.’ ” As Anne’s memory deteriorates, Luke seeks out details about her life and discovers a life marked by tragedy and self-deceit. O’Hagan sympathetically dissects how falsehoods burrow into daily life; his story provides a deeply felt urge to look more closely at the world and those we love. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Shame and the Captives

Thomas Keneally. Atria, $26 (384p) ISBN 978-1-4767-3464-4

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The author of Schindler’s List again novelizes a small yet revealing event from World War II. Based on the 1944 Cowra breakout in New South Wales, Australia, the novel interweaves perspectives of people in and around the fictional Gawell prisoner-of-war camp, where Japanese captives suffer less from conditions than from living with the shame of having been captured while more amiable Italian prisoners work on local farms, sing, or share news. The novel opens during the spring of 1943, after Italy has joined the Allies. Keneally explores the lives and innermost thoughts of, among others, Abercare, the English camp commandant trying to avoid conflict with his wife, his prisoners and his subordinates; Suttor, the radio writer in charge of Compound C, more in touch with his surly unpredictable prisoners than his commanding officer; Emily, Abercare’s unhappy wife; Nevski, the intelligent Russian-born translator. Keneally depicts the tragic reach of the war on a number of different lives, including the horror of a war crime and the neatness of the cover-up. Other writers may be more adept at portraying female emotions or dinner-party chatter, but no one equals Keneally for documenting the actions of human beings caught up in war, some desperate to hold onto their humanity, others desperate to die. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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My Sunshine Away

M.O. Walsh. Putnam, $26.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-16952-6

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In Walsh’s debut, a horrible crime shatters a community in 1989 Baton Rouge, La., when teenager Lindy Simpson is raped and her attacker is never caught. The nameless narrator of this tale is an adolescent boy with a crush on Lindy. The narrator’s love for Lindy manifests in a desperate desire to connect with her under any circumstances, causing him to be suspected of her assault. This need to connect grows stronger after his sister dies in a freak accident and that draws him and Lindy closer together. Everything comes to a head when he tries to play the hero and expose the man he thinks was her rapist on their street. Walsh’s novel is both tenderly nostalgic and a window into a unique and specific corner of America. The narration moves seamlessly between the adult narrator’s thoughts and his memories as a teenager. Despite the dark subject matter, this book is often charming, and thoroughly immersive. Agent: Renee Zuckerbrot, the Renee Zuckerbrot Literary Agency. (Feb.)

Reviewed on 01/23/2015 | Details & Permalink

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