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The Nightingale Won’t Let You Sleep

Steven Heighton. Hamish Hamilton, $18 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-7352-3256-3

Heighton’s (Afterlands) fascinating novel takes place largely in Varosha, the tourist quarter of the Cypriot town of Famagusta. The town was abandoned in 1974 when Turkish forces invaded and occupied it, but this story begins three decades later in the shadow of a different conflict. Following a traumatic military incident in Afghanistan, Elias Trifannis, a Canadian soldier who enlisted to please his dying Greek father, is shipped off to Cyprus for stress leave and therapy. A romantic night with a prominent journalist goes terribly wrong when Turkish soldiers, objecting to a relationship between a Turkish woman and someone they think is a Greek man, ambush them. Elias is rescued and then held captive by the villagers—a ragtag bunch hiding out, most presumed dead, in the ruins of Varosha. Elias’s arrival threatens the villagers’ safety, which was previously ensured by Kaya, a happy-go-lucky Turkish officer. He’s more concerned with his prowess on the tennis court than issues of military security, but a zealous young subordinate who wants to bring Kaya down starts prowling around Varosha, determined to prove that there are people living in the ruins. As this well-plotted novel draws to a tense conclusion, Heighton skillfully knits together the difficult history and politics of the region, military machinations, and the nuanced inner lives and relationships of Elias and the villagers. Agent: Martha Magor, McDermid Agency. (Mar.)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Naomi’s Hope

Jan Drexler. Revell, $14.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-8007-2665-2

In the final book of her Journey to Pleasant Prairie trilogy (after Mattie’s Pledge), Drexler focuses on the relationships among widower Cap Stoltzfus, single mother Naomi Schrock, and Naomi’s adopted son, Davey, in 1840s Indiana. After Cap’s wife and infant son die during childbirth, Cap relocates to LaGrange County, Ind., for a fresh start and strikes up an early friendship with seven-year-old Davey. Naomi, who feels unattractive and ineligible to be married, begins to dream of the possibility of a relationship with Cap. When Shem Fischer, Cap’s childhood nemesis, shows up expecting to be made a minister in the fledgling settlement, Cap is sure he’s is up to no good. Not long after Shem’s arrival, Cap and Naomi find themselves up against challenges (some concocted by Shem) that threaten to destroy their prospects of a happy family. Amid criminal activity and profound personal tragedies, both Cap and Naomi question whether God truly cares about them. Drexler’s historical elements set a solid foundation for this unforgettable story of learning to trust God amid misfortunes, insecurities, and heartbreak. Agent: Sarah J. Freese, WordServe Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Late Show

Michael Connelly. Little, Brown, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-22598-4

The title of this excellent series launch from bestseller Connelly (The Wrong Side of Goodbye and 20 other Harry Bosch novels) refers to the midnight shift at LAPD’s Hollywood Division. Det. Renée Ballard has landed there in retribution for filing sexual harassment charges against her former boss, Lt. Robert Olivas. Two major crimes soon concern Ballard: the vicious beating of a woman, who says she was assaulted in the “upside-down house” but passes out before she can explain, and a nightclub shooting that kills five people. Though most “late show” cops hand off cases to their day shift counterparts, Ballard personally investigates the assault (with official approval) and the nightclub shooting (without). Olivas, who’s leading the latter investigation, wants her nowhere near the case. What follows is classic Connelly: a master class of LAPD internal politics and culture, good old-fashioned detective work, and state-of-the-art forensic science—plus a protagonist who’s smart, relentless, and reflective. Talking about the perpetrator of the assault, Ballard says, “This is big evil out there.” That’s Connelly’s great theme, and, once again, he delivers. Agent: Philip Spitzer, Philip G. Spitzer Literary. (July)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Camino Island

John Grisham. Doubleday, $28.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-385-54302-6

The opening chapters detailing an elaborate scheme to steal five F. Scott Fitzgerald manuscripts from Princeton are the best part of this thriller from bestseller Grisham (The Whistler). A sophisticated gang pulls off the theft after faking a campus shooting that causes widespread panic. The university’s insurance company, liable for millions, reaches out to unemployed academic and struggling writer Mercer Mann, who has just lost her position at the University of North Carolina and is in desperate financial straits. Mercer grew up spending summers on Florida’s Camino Island, where Donna Watson, the shadowy insurance company representative, believes the stolen manuscripts are; she thinks they’re in the possession of Bruce Cable, who runs a successful independent bookstore there. Despite Mercer’s initial misgivings about functioning as a spy, she agrees to return to Camino Island and insinuate herself into its literary community as a precursor to gaining Bruce’s confidence—and determining whether he has the stolen goods. But after this promising setup, the plot follows predictable lines to a conclusion that genre fans have seen before. Author tour. Agent: David Gernert, Gernert Company. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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About a Dog

Jenn McKinlay. Berkley, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-0-399-58471-8

McKinlay, best known for cozy mysteries (Better Late than Never), skillfully handles the transition to romantic comedy in a series opener set in present-day small-town New England. Mackenzie Harris hasn’t been back to Bluff Point, Maine, since she was dramatically left at the altar by her fiancé, and she’s only returning now to fulfill maid of honor duties for her best friend Emma. The only secret Mac keeps from her best friend is that after being dumped she slept with Emma’s younger brother, Gavin—and seven years later, attentive, handsome Gavin is her escort for the wedding. When sparks begin to fly, Mac tries to remember she is a no-nonsense accountant who’s only home for two weeks, but the sexy veterinarian and an irresistible dog have other ideas. McKinlay’s novel is a refreshing change from predictable return-to-hometown-and-reconcile-with-ex stories. Despite the lack of real conflict, the story has charm and appeal, due to well-drawn characters with enjoyable personalities. Fans of Jill Shalvis, Kristan Higgins, and Kate Angell will enjoy this romance and look forward to future installments. Agent: Christina Hogrebe, Jane Rotrosen Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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An Unnatural Vice: Sins of the Cities, Book 2

K.J. Charles. Loveswept, $4.99 e-book (250p) ISBN 978-0-399-59397-0

After the meticulous, empathetic evocation of two quiet men in An Unseen Attraction, Charles piles it on thick in this Regency-era romance, pairing self-absorbed attention-seekers who dominate the room. Unsurprisingly, they clash titanically but can’t take their eyes off one another. Nathaniel Roy is an archbishop’s son turned atheist and journalist. Justin Lazarus is a workhouse brat who’s mastered a 19th-century grifter’s dream gig as a medium. Nathaniel begins investigating Justin, not knowing the charlatan’s all-too-material connection to a lost-heir drama unfolding in the lives of Nathaniel’s friends. The action here depends entirely upon the events of the earlier book. The romance is sexually explosive but Charles never puts in the work to make the protagonists’ exchange of revelations or character growth plausible. Like a lovely bit of clockwork, the story’s movements are precise and its figures are appealing, but readers can hear the mechanism ticking. Nathaniel and Justin are too abruptly swept into an emotional whirlwind after countless pages of antagonism that make it hard for the reader to like either of them or believe they like each other. Agent: Courtney Miller-Callihan, Handspun Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Highland Hellion

Mary Wine. Sourcebooks Casablanca, $7.99 mass market (320p) ISBN 978-1-4926-0250-7

Wine’s third Highland historical romance (after Highland Vixen) takes readers back to 16th-century Scotland and another strong-minded heroine. Katherine Carew, abandoned illegitimate daughter of an English lord, is a marked woman. The despotic Earl of Morton orchestrates her forced marriage to war chief Marcus McPherson; when the plot fails, she’s unable to return to her former life, and she causes considerable unease among the Scots because of her English blood. In addition, Katherine flouts social mores by covertly training as a warrior and learning how to ride a horse. Disguised as a young man, she embarks on a late-night gallop and is briefly captured by Rolfe McTavish, who discerns her true gender and finds her very attractive. Later, the hated Gordon clan abducts Katherine and Rolfe vows to save her. When the escape leads to Katherine again becoming Morton’s political pawn, Rolfe tells her that marrying him is her only route to safety. But even as their passion builds, Katherine wrestles over whether the hasty union should last. Wine’s skillful pacing and thoughtful characterizations shine, and her proto-feminist heroine is a delight. Agent: Jill Marsal, Marsal Lyon Literary. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Black Elfstone: The Fall of Shannara, Book 1

Terry Brooks. Del Rey, $28 (336p) ISBN 978-0-553-39148-0

The first volume of Brooks’s quartet, which will bring this decades-old Shannara epic fantasy saga to a close, works best for readers at opposite poles: series devotees who are conversant with the lengthy backstory, and newcomers who can focus on the three major plot threads. Two of the three are mysteries: Who is the stranger who seeks out master assassin Tigueron to contract for the murder of Drisker Arc, a skilled druid who left his order? And who are the powerful scarlet-robed forces that can make themselves invisible, massacre an army of mighty trolls, and follow that shocking event with more devastation? But it’s the third, less familiar, story line that works best, and is most emotionally engaging: a teenage girl, Tarsha Kaynin, must deal with her older brother’s violent use of magic and balance her own safety, and that of others, with her feelings for her sibling. The conclusion will have most readers eager for the sequel. Agent: Anne Sibbald, Janklow & Nesbit. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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The Chase

Vanessa Fewings. HQN, $10.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-0-373-80411-5

Fewings (Enthrall Him) feeds the current taste for over-the-top power fantasies featuring impossibly wealthy, mysterious, charming, and dramatically dominant men in the opener to a new trilogy. Heiress Zara Leighton, an art forensics specialist still carrying trauma from a fire during her childhood that destroyed most of her father’s art collection, brings an awkward naïveté to the job assigned by her London employer: serving as a discreet private consultant to American tech billionaire Tobias Wilder. Tobias, who can generously be described as controlling, invites Zara to his mansion, dresses her in designer underwear, and brings her to the exhibitions and gender-stereotyped orgies of the rich and famous, instructing her to stealthily evaluate the priceless artworks that furnish their homes. Directive but not rough sex is paired with Tobias’s protective possessiveness; conversation reveals how passionate he is about both art and charity. But Zara worries about the increasing evidence she sees that her client and lover may be connected to the international art heists committed by mastermind Icon. The book’s not very original and far too sincere, but those who crave the esthetics of Fifty Shades of Grey and James Bond will find them competently executed here. Agent: Kimberly Whalen, Whalen Agency. (June)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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Comeback Cowboy

Sara Richardson. Forever, $7.99 mass market (368p) ISBN 978-1-4555-4077-8

Richardson shines in the emotionally rich second Rocky Mountain Riders contemporary romantic thriller (after Hometown Cowboy). Lucas Cortez left tiny Topaz Falls, Colo., in disgrace after he was convicted of setting a fire that destroyed the rodeo center and served time in jail. His former lover, Naomi Sullivan, stayed behind, and her brief marriage with one of Lucas’s friends left her a single mother to adorable Gracie. Ten years after Lucas’s departure, he returns to be with his family after his father’s diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease. Lucas has long since paid his debt to society and made a name for himself as a successful ranch employee. At first Naomi tries to stay away from him—and when they do rekindle their relationship, it soon becomes apparent that not everyone is as forgiving of past crimes as she is. Both their lives and Gracie’s could be in jeopardy. Richardson beautifully illustrates the rocky road of love and the power of redemption in this emotionally charged tale. With a tight, compelling plot and expert characterization, she creates a warm, comfortable world readers will want to visit again and again. Agent: Suzie Townsend, New Leaf Literary & Media. (July)

Reviewed on 05/26/2017 | Details & Permalink

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