The literary world has never lacked for crime-solving heroines who cleverly and genteelly solve all manner of conundrum. There is, however, a new breed of women in town and they are also cracking cases but in a decidedly angry, messy, and bloody way. Meet Vanessa Michael Munroe in The Doll by Taylor Stevens, and Frieda Klein in Tuesday’s Gone by Nicci French.
Raised in Africa by her American missionary parents, Munroe is tough. She likes to go on missions disguised as a man, has an amazing facility for languages, relishes physical combat, and harbors a rage which drives her to tackle the seamy international underworld of human trafficking. In The Doll, she is working for the independent security firm Capstone when she is abducted by minions of the creepy Doll Man. She must match wits with him in order to save herself and the next “doll.” Author Stevens was raised in the Children of God cult, infamous for its alleged sexual practices involving the children in the group’s care. This is her third book in the fast-paced Munroe series.
British psychotherapist Frieda Klein finds herself working with the police once again in Tuesday’s Gone. Called in to analyze both a bizarre crime scene and the nearly catatonic probable perpetrator of the murder, Klein believes the solution isn’t as easy and obvious as the chief of police would like it to be and is drawn into the investigation. French (actually a husband/wife writing duo) is skilled at creating complex psychological thrillers, and as Klein works to untangle the clues and prove one suspect innocent, she can’t shake the feeling that she is being watched and manipulated. Look for Klein to make repeat appearances in this days-of-the-week series which began with Blue Monday.
The Smart One by Jennifer Close deals with grown children moving home with their parents after college, an occurrence becoming more common lately. The Coffey family encounters this when all three of their grown children move back home. Close’s novel is sure to hit close to home for twenty-somethings and their parents.
Claire, the middle Coffey child, is happily living in New York City with her fiancé until their engagement falls apart. After racking up mounds of credit card debt, she is unable to afford her apartment anymore and begrudgingly moves back to Pennsylvania with her family. Once there, she takes a job with a temp agency while she reconnects with friends from high school. The oldest daughter, Martha’s anxieties get the better of her, pushing her to give up her dream of being a nurse just months into her first nursing job. Instead, she moves back home and takes a job at J. Crew folding sweaters, seeming content to give up her ambitions and live in her childhood bedroom for the rest of her life. Max, the youngest of the three siblings, is still in college and has a wonderful girlfriend. Everything seems to be going well in his life until one of life’s surprises brings him home too.
Meanwhile, Wheezy, the Coffey matriarch, tries to keep peace amongst the family while she secretly continues to plan Claire’s cancelled wedding. Her husband, Will, stays wrapped up in his job, doing his best to avoid the increasing familial mess. As the family learns to live with each other as adults, readers become engrossed in this quirky family’s many dramas. The Smart One is a great follow-up to Close’s 2011 novel, Girls in White Dresses, and is perfect for readers who enjoy family stories.
John Grisham’s fans were surprised and delighted by the recent announcement that Sycamore Row, his next novel for adults, will be a sequel to his debut novel A Time to Kill. When it was first published in 1989, A Time to Kill was not successful. The novel was re-released after The Firm and The Pelican Brief became bestsellers, and it became a bestseller in its own right. It has long been the favorite of many Grisham fans, and Grisham also admits that it’s his favorite of his novels. The book was later made into a movie starring Matthew McConaughey, Samuel L. Jackson, and Sandra Bullock.
A Time to Kill is the story of a young lawyer named Jake Brigance who defends a man on trial for taking the law into his own hands and killing the men who raped his young daughter. As the trial progresses, the small town of Clanton, Mississippi, is torn apart by the conflict. In Sycamore Row, Jake Brigance will again fight for justice in Clanton, Mississippi. Last year, Grisham teased audiences in a Today interview with Matt Lauer when he said that he had never considered writing a sequel to one of his novels until recently. He said that over the years he had waited for the next great trial for Jake Brigance to tackle. Grisham said that he finally had the story in mind. Sycamore Row will be published in October.
Actress Lauren Graham delivers a delightful debut novel featuring Franny Banks, a struggling actress, in Someday, Someday, Maybe. Graham, familiar to viewers of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood, drew on her own history in sharing the story of a young woman finding her way in New York City. The novel opens in January, 1995 – six months before Franny’s self-imposed deadline to make it as an actress. So far all she has to show for her two and a half years in The Big Apple is a coveted waitress gig and a television commercial for ugly Christmas sweaters. Things are looking grim and all her hopes rest on the upcoming showcase put on by her acting class. Although her performance doesn’t go exactly as planned (think wardrobe malfunction), she does receive two offers from prominent agents and lands a guest spot on a sitcom. Franny’s Filofax is soon packed with auditions, appointments, and dates with James Franklin, her sexy and successful classmate.
All too quickly, the agent stops calling, the auditions dry up, and the sitcom is on hiatus. Her Filofax is now filled with soap opera viewing and cheese doodle consumption. Through the highs and lows, Franny is supported by her father and her roommates, Jane and Dan. When her agent offers her a movie role that involves nudity, Franny comes to a career crossroads. And when Dan starts to feel like more than a roommate and James’ self-absorption grows tiring, she faces a romantic muddle. This is a funny and optimistic coming-of-age story about an audacious young woman fighting for her dreams and overcoming self-doubt. Graham has said that there is a little bit of her in every character and her own experiences as an actor struggling to make it adds an added layer of authenticity.
Small town life, folklore, Norse mythology and a senseless murder are all threads skillfully woven together into the amazing literary work Little Wolves by Thomas James Maltman. A farming community, inhabited by descendants of the first German families to settle the area, is rocked when a troubled teen murders the town sheriff and then commits suicide. The boy’s father is left devastated and confused; unable to understand what possessed his son to perpetrate such an awful crime.
As the new pastor tries to help his congregation heal, his pregnant wife Clara struggles with the knowledge that she was also an intended victim. She believes herself to be haunted by the boy, who was a student in her English class at the high school. Clara, herself a student of ancient literature, focuses on Old English words and phrases to calm herself in times of stress. As a result, the novel is peppered with interesting vocabulary from a lost era, which adds an almost mystical element.
The mystery of what really brought Clara and her husband to this remote area from the city, as well as the unanswered questions from the shooting, keep the reader captivated. A reoccurring element of the story is the presence of the wolves. Wolves play an omnipresent role in the tales Clara’s father would tell her as a child, now wolves have started coming into the town at night; they haunt her dreams and fill the residents with fear. This is an intriguing novel, beautifully written and full of suspense.
Two new books invite readers to the scintillating world of gourmet dinner parties and secret supper clubs. Foodies will appreciate the mouthwatering menus while others will relish the relationships and romance.
Table for Seven by Whitney Gaskell takes place over the course of one year and twelve delightful dinner parties. Following a successful New Year’s Eve party, the group creates the Table for Seven Dinner Party Club and decides to take turns hosting monthly meals. But what starts as an epicurean excuse for get-togethers evolves into a test of relationships. Married couples Fran and Will and Jamie and Mark deal with lethargy, carping, and infidelity. Young widow Audrey has to move forward, while man-about-town Coop finds himself in love for the first time. Only, Leland, the elderly widower seems steady and at peace with his situation offering counsel to his younger friends.
In The Girls’ Guide to Love and Supper Clubs by Dana Bate we meet Hannah Sugarman who is in love and living with Adam in D.C.’s hip DuPont Circle. While her personal life is aces, her job at an influential economic think tank is not fulfilling. She has dreams of culinary school and chef’s coats. However, her academic parents and her would-be politico boyfriend think cooking is a nice hobby at best. When Adam dumps her, Hannah seizes the opportunity to create an underground supper club. With the help of her best friend Rachel, the monthly events soon become the hottest ticket in town. But supper clubs are illegal and she’s using her new landlord’s swanky townhome without his permission. This is a delightful romantic comedy featuring the charming Hannah who is looking for love and a meaningful career all while enjoying a cupcake or two along the way.
The publishing industry has been buzzing about a subgenre dubbed New Adult literature. Although the content has existed for years, the tag is new, and these novels are taking publishing by storm. Many of them began as self-published e-books that were New York Times and USA Today bestsellers before they were released in print by traditional publishers. New Adult novels are geared toward readers who are 18-23 years old, but are also popular with adult readers of teen fiction. In New Adult books, the characters are older and their demeanor is more mature. Author Cora Carmack explains, “The characters' mind-sets are more adult, their actions are more adult, and the consequences of their actions are more adult.”
In Jessica Sorensen’s The Secret of Ella and Micha, Ella is a wild child who never met a rule she didn’t want to break, but when she left for college, she reinvented herself. Returning home is a challenge because she has to be the new Ella in the old Ella’s world. That’s especially hard with her next-door neighbor Micha in the picture. Micha knows everything about Ella, and he is determined to keep her in his life.
Camryn Bennett spontaneously boards a Greyhound bus on a journey to find herself, in J. A. Redmerski’s The Edge of Never. She never expected to meet Andrew Parrish, the sexy and mysterious guy who lives his life so differently from Camryn and pushes her to try things she never thought she would. Andrew has a secret, though, and that secret might push Camryn away forever.
In Jamie McGuire’s bestselling Beautiful Disaster, Travis Maddox and Abby Abernathy made a fateful bet that changed both of their lives. Now, McGuire brings readers Walking Disaster, which tells the same story from Travis’s perspective. Every story has two sides, and readers will finally get the other side of the story in this highly-anticipated companion novel.
Take one American working as the head of security at the Paris embassy, add one psychologically disturbed killer suffering from a traumatic past life and throw in a murder in the historic Père Lachaise cemetery, close to the final resting spot of Jim Morrison, and you will find yourself in the middle of The Crypt Thief by Mark Pryor, a cracking good thriller featuring Hugo Marston. Hugo is an accomplished profiler, so when an American tourist is shot while apparently sightseeing in the cemetery, he is immediately notified. The victim turns out to be the son of a United States senator. When the woman he was with is identified as a Pakistani traveling on a false passport, red flags are raised and the embassy begins to fear the work of terrorists. Hugo is not convinced. The crime itself does not strike him as being the work of a professional assassin. The type of weapon, the location of the wounds on the body, and the apparent removal of a tattoo on the woman’s arm all point to someone with a more personal interest in the victims. The senator doesn’t hold with this theory and wants to not only release information to the press that may cause a city wide panic, but also begin a manhunt for the female victim’s traveling companion who may have links to terrorist groups. Hugo must work quickly to solve the crime before all hell breaks loose.
The Crypt Thief is the second in the Hugo Marston series that started with The Bookseller. Pryor creates an interesting thriller featuring a demented killer with added elements of investigation that will appeal to mystery lovers. He also includes interesting tidbits about the city of Paris, so readers who appreciate good detail about the locale will find plenty to enjoy.
Whoever said growing old gracefully was easy has not met the residents of Pine Haven Estates, a retirement community in Fulton, North Carolina. Decisions regretted and bittersweet memories are countered with surprising friendships and old fashioned orneriness. The confederate jasmine and wisteria arbor may shield the cemetery next door, but Pine Haven residents know it is the next stop. Oh well, such is life and death in Jill McCorkle’s stirring new novel, Life After Life, where the challenge to keep from disappearing meets the desire to embrace life at any age.
McCorkle, whose previous five novels were New York Times notable books, has loaded this, her first novel in 17 years, with quirky, well-drawn characters from both in and out of the retirement village. Making sense of it all is hospice volunteer Joanna Lamb, who ensures that dying residents are not forgotten. Arriving after her own tough spell, Joanna is there for their last day in the sun, "one more song, word, sip of water" before they pass. So she holds the hands of the dying and writes in her journal touching, eloquent remembrances of those who have died. For the eccentric group of residents still around, life remains a journey defined by their own choices. A former lawyer who feigns dementia, a retired school teacher who thinks everyone is really eight-years-old at heart, a Jewish resident from up north who wonders how she ended up in "the land of quilts and doilies," are among the repertoire of voices. Youth, too, passes through Pine Haven, as seventh grader Abby prefers the residents to spending time with friends her own age, and a tattooed young mother named CJ does pedicures to escape her own past.
At times witty and other times poignant, McCorkle's brief narratives show off her penchant for short story form, along with the soul-searching that takes place when the life one has always known coalesces with the realities of aging. Fans of this southern writer are likely welcoming her return.
Mike Greenberg is best known as one-half of ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning. But here, in his debut novel, All You Could Ask For, Greenberg leaves sports behind and hits a home run with this powerful novel about three women connected by cancer. Meet Samantha, Katherine, and Brooke, who share Greenwich, Connecticut as their hometown but are all at different places in their lives. Samantha is twenty-eight and two days into her honeymoon she discovers pictures of a naked woman in her husband’s email. Nude photos are also on Brooke’s mind. At forty, and after fifteen years of marriage and two kids, she is trying to muster the courage to present her husband with a personal portfolio featuring her and not much else. Finally, there is Katherine, a high-powered executive with a fabulous lifestyle. Her only problem is that her boss is the man who broke her heart eighteen years ago. Each woman works through her issues and gradually reaches resolution and happiness.
Those flashes of bliss are soon shattered as each receives a diagnosis of cancer and must face the disease head on. It is through a support group message board that the three meet and share their anger, fear, and hope for the future. The posted messages add more depth to each of these women as their innermost thoughts are revealed. These realistic, modern women struggle with the disease, treatment options, and side effects, yet they are strong and courageous. As their friendship grows, so does their spirit as each resolves to experience more “best days” of their lives. Perhaps the women’s voices are so honest because Greenberg, like so many of us, has personal experience with cancer and wrote the book to honor the memory of a close friend. Greenberg and his wife are donating all of the author proceeds to The V Foundation for Cancer Research.