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Eighth Grave After Dark

Darynda Jones. St. Martin's, $25.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-04565-2

The eighth entry in Jones's tongue-in-cheek supernatural soap opera with ever escalating stakes (after 2014's Seventh Grave and No Body) finds Charlie Davidson and her super-sexy, literally-from-hell husband, Reyes, hiding from hellhounds in a convent while awaiting the birth of their daughter, Beep. Somehow they're still doing bits of ghost-supported detective work despite these desperate circumstances. Series followers will appreciate significant turns in the many ongoing characters' stories as well as Jones's signature fiery sex and some surprisingly spicy soul-devouring scenes. But while Charlie attempts to find a missing teenager, understand a ghost nun, and stay on the trail of her father's killer, fans of the sleuthing side may find that work gets lost amid all the personal drama. The series' biggest problem is that the widening gap between the characters' power level and their concerns, which puts humor at odds with plot: though Charlie is a god preparing to interfere with Lucifer's takeover of the Earth, she's worried about whether pregnancy makes her look like a blimp. Agent: Alexandra Machinist, Janklow & Nesbit. (May)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Camille

Pierre Lemaitre, trans. from the French by Frank Wynne. Quercus/MacLehose, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-62365-439-9

At the start of the stunning final volume of Lemaitre's Commandant Camille Verhoeven trilogy (after 2014's Irène), Anne Forestier, the diminutive Paris detective's new girlfriend, surprises two thugs in a restroom as they are preparing to rob the Galerie Monier, a shopping mall on the Champs Elysées. The men beat her severely, and later, in a near miss, one of them fires his shotgun at her from their getaway car as she staggers along the street. In the aftermath of this outrage, Camille does all he can to have the case assigned to him. Clues point to master criminal Vincent Hafner, and the hunt begins. Camille keeps his assistant, Louis Mariani, in the dark, and lies to his boss, Commissaire Michard. In addition, he's forced to confront his late wife's imprisoned killer, and dig deep into the background of physically and psychologically scarred Anne. Meanwhile, the man who took the shot at Anne aims to finish her off. The author won the CWA International Dagger Award for 2013's Alex, the first book in the trilogy to be published in the U.S., and this gut-wrenching entry may well garner similar honors. (May)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Tom Clancy's Op Center: Into the Fire

Dick Couch and George Galdorisi. St. Martin's Griffin, $15.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-250-02684-2

Couch and Galdorisi's stirring sequel to 2014's Out of the Ashes pits Cmdr. Kate Bigelow, captain of the USS Milwaukee, and her crew against North Korean naval and special forces units intent on seizing the ship, which has been conducting training exercises in the sea off South Korea. The North Koreans have found vast undersea energy deposits in international waters and have made a secret deal to sell them to the Chinese. Taking the ship hostage will give them leverage against the U.S., which will surely oppose this deal. Bigelow proves to be a formidable foe, managing to outrun and outgun her North Korean adversaries. She runs the Milwaukee aground on the small island of Kujido, sets up a defensive base, and settles in to wait for friendly forces to come to the rescue. Tasked with that mission is Chase Williams, director of the secret Op-Center, who with other elements of the U.S. military attempt to pull off a daring, skin-of-the-teeth operation. A terrorist attack on the United Nations provides an exciting coda. Agent: Mel Berger, WME. (May)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Wrestling with Gods: Tesseracts Eighteen

Edited by Liana Kerzner and Jerome Stueart. Hades/EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy, $15.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-77053-068-3

The enjoyable but unexciting eighteenth installment of Tesseracts, an anthology series collecting short science fiction, fantasy, and horror prose and poetry by Canadian writers, is focused on religious themes. Some of the religions discussed are real, such as the Christianity of Robert J. Sawyer's rather clichéd priest building a congregation on Mars in "Come All Ye Faithful"; some are real but extrapolated into possible future strangenesses, such as the kitschy android maybe-messiah of Derwin Mak's "Mecha-Jesus." But the standouts of the collection make up their own religions and cultures, such as James Bambury's charming "Chromatophoric Histories of the Sepiidae," which traces the entire course of a civilization of octopi, or Megan Fennell's powerful "Where the Scorched Man Walks," in which a young woman has to confront her feelings about her culture's enigmatic death god. The poems are generally slight, but Tony Pi's "A Hex, with Bees," structured around the I Ching, is the book's best single piece. When the collection errs, it's on the side of cliché and occasional clumsy language, and a higher percentage of the book is set in post-apocalyptic hellscapes than seems necessary. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Women in Public

Elaine Kahn. City Lights (Consortium, dist.), $13.95 trade paper (104p) ISBN 978-0-87286-681-2

Kahn's precise and attentive debut full-length collection probes at notions of femininity with a sharp dagger, her terse but assertive stanzas carrying an understated conviction. "Listen, I'm not political, I am distracted," she proclaims, though her focused language will convince readers of her intelligence and savvy. Kahn examines and attempts to understand womanhood, relationships, and the abjection surrounding both. Deeply personal, her poems exude a careful intimacy. "Every observation is perverse," she writes, "So kiss me/ like you're eating/ soft serve/ from a cone." Despite her constant self-examination, Kahn's curiosity and doubts remain: "I have seen a million/ pictures of my face/ and still/ I have no idea." In this outward radiation one finds sensations of simultaneous self-disgust and self-fascination. "I make myself into a line," she exclaims, before finding "The horror of myself/ and the meanness of myself./ The black boxes of my body / floating just above the earth." This sense of disembodiment and self-removal permeates the collection: "I call out from the water perfectly/ oh hello glossolalia my God." Kahn's poems emulate both the microscope and telescope, looking at once inward and outward in succinctly speaking to and about womanhood. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Some Habits

C. Violet Eaton. Omnidawn (UPNE, dist.), $17.95 trade paper (72p) ISBN 978-1-63243-004-5

Eaton's debut, selected by Forrest Gander as winner of the 2013 Omnidawn Open Prize, buzzes with idiosyncrasies and personal meditations. The collection is organized as a series of letters to a man named David that take on the appearance of an ars poetica and journal: "David I am trying to scratch into what are observations. Hollow out : will write of them here." Folkloric remedies abound alongside jinxes and grimoires: "sevenbark : ninebark : sheepshit tea/ ... the black ant powdered, mixt w/ lard/ will prod an infant slow to walk." Ozark dialect colors the collection, inhabiting the poem with local voices: " ‘What view have ye of God?'/ Predestination./ ‘What think ye of man in his first/ erectitude?'/ A few ready switches set beside the doorframe." Occasionally, the letters to David, composed by an unidentified speaker, appear propelled by sound over meaning: "Dear David,// the cleft in your dinnerplate pockets a swift./ that pink on my kerchief is waltzing away./ at first I seen you standing one aspect in two halves." Elsewhere, the speaker offers guidance: "I will tell you david how to rid yourself of this melancholie: Bind the entrails of a chicken to your left palm." Eaton's distinctive idiolect is full of jarring and inventive juxtapositions. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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A Roll of the Dice

St%C3%A9phane Mallarm%C3%A9, trans. from the French by Jeff Clark and Robert Bononno. Wave (Consortium, dist.), $25 (96p) ISBN 978-1-940696-04-1

French poet Mallarmé's 1897 text, both a poem and a work of visual art, has long been heralded as the very beginning of the international avant-garde. Writers for decades have seen its amazements: sentences broken up and reassembled, words in many type sizes and conjunctions, splayed all over each page. Indeed, the poem's lightning-frantic, arresting phrases alert readers that it seeks a new verbal world, a "whirlwind of hilarity and horror// above the abyss." Poet and book designer Clark (Music and Suicide) and prolific translator Bononno produce a fine contemporary English to match the dazzle of Mallarmé's French. But their real claim to attention is the physical, typographical form of the book, which—more neatly than any prior version—matches the visual experience of "Un coup de des"; Clark and Bononno duplicate the layout and design that Mallarmé wanted (but never got before his death), first in their English, and then in Mallarmé's French, using different typefaces for the two languages, but otherwise the same design. The full-page photographs between text pages come uncomfortably close to illustration, yet the pages of text do something to and for a reader's attention, reaching places that a more conventional printing might not find. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Revenge of the Kremlin: A Malko Linge Novel

G%C3%A9rard De Villiers, trans. from the French by William Rodarmor. Vintage Crime/Black Lizard, $14.95 trade paper (240p) ISBN 978-0-8041-6935-6

In de Villiers's draggy third Malko Linge novel to be published in the U.S. (after 2014's Chaos in Kabul), a prominent Russian exile, corrupt oligarch Boris Berezovky, is found dead with a length of cord around his neck that's tied to the shower head in the master bathroom of Berezovky's English manor. When the British authorities refuse to investigate, the CIA station chief in London turns to Linge for help. The crafty agent, assisted by his usual assortment of secret sources, tradecraft tricks, and sex-hungry female informants, tracks the killing back to the Kremlin and Vladimir Putin's desire to eliminate potential rivals. De Villiers (1929–2013) never bragged about literary pretentions, but the writing in this installment is even more clichéd and artless than usual. Scenes of true action are scarce, and readers should be prepared for the author's distinct signature: raunchy, detailed sex that serves no discernible plot purpose. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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Pelvis with Distance

Jessica Jacobs. White Pine (Consortium, dist.), $16 trade paper (128p) ISBN 978-1-935210-66-5

In this detailed, raptly lyrical debut collection, Jacobs mixes scenes from the life and letters of Georgia O'Keeffe—alone and alongside her husband, Alfred Steiglitz—with the poet's own present-day responses to the great painter. "Construct meals with a life-raft eye. Go to bed before full dark," Jacobs advises herself, writing "a letter to the poet I cannot finish." In Jacobs's account, Steiglitz, a photographer, tells O'Keeffe, "Look/ closely and you will see// the self I want you to be." Her long, admiring, well-researched examination of a woman very used to being looked at switches with ease among points of view, while paying homage to O'Keeffe's passion for solitude and her independent eye. In a project constructed as a set of short poems, each keyed to one moment, Jacobs finds ways to vary her pace and her forms, from very short lines to thick prose paragraphs: her tones, however pursue a rapt, observant constancy. This work should delight the painter's many fans, and its sentences evoke her paintings' beauty. At the same time, though, it's hard to know how much Jacobs's labor adds, either to the trove of ways to think about this particular painter, or to the set of modes in which earlier poets have told the story of somebody's life. (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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The Nomads, My Brothers, Go Out to Drink from the Big Dipper

Abdourahman A. Waberi, trans. from the French by Nancy Naomi Carlson. Univ. of Chicago/Seagull, $21 (96p) ISBN 978-0-85742-238-5

Novelist Waberi, the best-known contemporary writer from the East African nation of Djibouti, evokes "an entire life in the echo of my tongue" in his first collection of poems. His terse sequences incorporate the region's recent troubles with civil wars and Islamic extremists ("the Somali bullet: bloom of a new genus/ that bans/ all transports of joy") along with ancient fable and history. The Koranic story of Bilal recurs as a myth of national origin; the poet asks us to "let nomadic words live," with "oral ancestors' shadow/ resisting harsh winters." Sometimes Waberi returns to the landscape: "my tree the aloe/ my flower the crack in the cactus/ my river none in my land." But his verse, in its trim stanzas and its thin lists, insists on its modernity too: "for miniature republic/ parsimonious poems." Carlson's translation sounds spare and clear, though not always distinctive: few readers will cherish the English for the style alone. More than a few, though, will be glad to find the unity of place and feeling, "native soil/ between fig trees and loose stones" where "the dog of my deepest self/ is there/ curled on the ground." (Apr.)

Reviewed on 05/01/2015 | Details & Permalink

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