New Books by Big Authors: Joyce Carol Oates, Isabel Allende and Armistead Maupin

After her recent bestselling exercise in the historical vampire novel, The Accursedthe prolific Ms. Oates returns to contemporary America with a suspenseful, sinister story involving a troubled veteran and a missing girl. Those of you who are fans can only imagine the dark story Oates is able to spin out from this scenario.

Both Kirkus and PW have weighed in with starred reviews. Expect lots more to come, starting with the NYTBR.

“Oates returns with another novel that ratchets up the unsettling to her signature feverish pitch. …[T]he story chronicles the creepy circumstances surrounding the girl’s assumed murder. Was she, as many in the upstate New York town of Carthage suspect, beaten to death and dumped in the Black River by her older sister’s ex-fiancé, Brett Kincaid, a decorated Iraqi War vet? Or did she, the ‘dark twisty’ daughter prone to excessive self-loathing, play some perverse role in her own disappearance? What transports the story beyond a carefully crafted whodunit is Oates’s dogged exploration of each character’s culpability in the case….When the truth and its fallout finally becomes clear at the end, the mood is not surprisingly claustrophobic and grim. Once again, Oates’s gift for exposing the frailty—and selfishness—of humans is on display.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Knotted, tense, digressive and brilliant.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

Carthage (9780062208125) by Joyce Carol Oates. $26.99 hardcover. 1/21/14 on sale.

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Is Oates not tense and grim and literary enough for you? Try Allende’s contemporary turn on Jack the Ripper. Add a young protagonist and social media and you have a truly 21st century turn with a richly atmospheric San Francisco setting.

Bestseller Allende successfully tries her hand at a mystery, which features an unlikely team of sleuths united by an online mystery game named after the infamous Whitechapel murderer. High school senior Amanda Martín is the games master… [who] persuades her cohorts to investigate real-life crimes in 2012 San Francisco, starting with the murder of Ed Staton, a school security guard. A month earlier, Amanda’s astrologer godmother predicted that San Francisco would suffer a bloodbath. The prophecy seems more credible when other murders follow Staton’s…. [Allende’s] facility with plotting and pacing will keep readers turning the pages.”
Publishers Weekly

Allende’s tightly plotted tale of crimes obvious and masked is sharply perceptive, utterly charming, and intensely suspenseful.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“Appealing characters, a fast-paced plot, and a successfully imagined killer add up to great entertainment.”
— Library Journal

Ripper (9780062291400) by Isabel Allende. $28.99 hardcover. 1/28/14 on sale. 

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No murders in this one. 🙂 It’s the conclusion to Maupin’s beloved “Tales of the City” series which has sold over three million copies.  I suspect that–like me–thousands and thousands of fans are devoted to the remarkable Anna Madrigal (played with such grace and humor by Olympia Dukakis in the 1990’s PBS series). The story here has an elderly Anna traveling with friends to Burning Man, with a private agenda of also returning the Nevada town she ran away from as a 16-year old boy. Both poignant and hilarious (catch Maupin’s description of Burning Man: “a Fellini carnival on Mars”) this conclusion does honor to the series.

Strong advance reviews and lots of media at on sale for this, including the NYTBR, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post and an interview with Lynn Neary on NPR’s Weekend Edition Saturday. And it’s both and Indie Next and LibraryReads pick.

“[U]pdates fans with 28 Barbary Lane’s now-92-year-old transgendered landlady, Anna Madrigal. Anna is given the snappy, plucky dialogue she’s known for, and some chapters reveal her backstory, including her 1930s childhood, when she was a boy named Andy. Everyone is on hand here…. The story culminates in the group’s attendance at the Burning Man ‘Fertility 2.0 festival, as Shawna searches for a sperm donor while Brian, Wren, and Anna detour off to Winnemucca for a revelatory reunion with Anna’s past. Limned with the comfort of unconditional love yet reflective of the frailty, the uncertainty, and the beauty of aging, this installment is a memorable, satisfying capstone to his series.”
Publisher Weekly

The Days of Anna Madrigal (9780062196248) by Armistead Maupin. $26.99 hardcover. 1/21/14 on sale.

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