Mary Williams, Skylight Books, Los Angeles, Calif.

David McConnell's The Silver Hearted (Alyson Books, Feb.) brims with an old-fashioned sense of adventure. A narrator attempts to smuggle a load of silver coins—not his own, which makes their potential loss all the more frightening—from one port city to another, then to yet another, as a terrifying mob of insurgents tries to take over each city in turn. An evocative haze hangs over the setting—a series of cities named only with letters in a fictitious, unnamed tropical country, where no one can tell the narrator who's really in charge and who's fighting whom. McConnell contrasts this vague sense of place with brightly detailed characters and scenes and the elaborate rituals of the locals. The author's lively turns of phrase help him pull off the neat trick of creating a work that feels both gauzy and fully formed, like a memory of a classic of old. It's a unique book, perfect for those who like their literary fiction with a dash of derring-do!