New Fiction: Since We Fell – Dennis Lehane

After focusing much of his attention in recent years on two books that constituted an epic American crime saga, Lehane is back to the cat-and-mouse psychological suspense that brings his fans out in droves. And rightly so—he’s a master. So says another master of the genre, Gillian Flynn:

Lehane has written two books—one, an insightful examination of the search for identity and belonging, and two, a thriller that constantly leaves you guessing-and then smashed them together into one terrific read. Lehane is the master of complex human characters thrust into suspenseful, page-turning situations. I’ll read anything he writes.”

The plot this time involves a former TV journalist reduced to living as a shut-in after an on-air meltdown suffered while covering the devastation in Haiti. This claustrophobic background serves as the stage where Rachel Childs’ anxieties play out as her marriage to the perfect husband unravels into deception, violence, and possibly madness.

Advance reviews are terrific and the book will be covered widely at on sale, starting with a first serial in Playboy, features in New York magazine, Entertainment Weekly and NPR’s Morning Edition. Review coverage starts with The Washington Post, The New York Post and O, the Oprah Magazine. As you might expect, it’s both an Indie Next and LibraryReads pick.

Set in contemporary Boston, this expertly wrought character study masquerading as a thriller from Edgar-winner Lehane features his first-ever female protagonist. Once a star journalist… Rachel Childs now barely leaves her house. Lehane portrays the frantic hamster wheel of waxing and waning anxiety with unnerving clarity. A lifetime of tension, much of it spawning from her now-deceased mother’s refusal to disclose the identity of Rachel’s father, weighs on Rachel. The quest to put a name to half her DNA is what first sets Rachel on a collision course with Brian Delacroix…. Their eventual marriage is romantic and life-affirming, as Brian coaxes Rachel through the swamp of her psyche, until it’s suddenly not. The book’s conspiracy plot doesn’t cut the deepest; it’s Lehane’s intensely intimate portrayal of a woman tormented by her own mind.”
—  Publishers Weekly

“[T]his narrative vehicle never veers out of control, and when Lehane hits the afterburners in the last 50 pages, he produces one of crime fiction’s most exciting and well-orchestrated finales-rife with dramatic tension and buttressed by rich psychological interplay between the characters. Don’t be surprised if Since We Fell makes readers forget about that other psychological thriller featuring an unstable heroine named Rachel.”
Booklist (starred review)

“A crafty, ingenious tale of murder and deception-and a deeply resonant account of one woman’s effort to heal deep wounds that don’t easily show.”
Kirkus

Since We Fell (9780062129383) by Dennis Lehane. $27.99 hardcover. 5/9/17 one day laydown.

Fiction Short Take: Mississippi Burning – Greg Iles

This conclusion to Iles’ three-part thriller on race and the American South is such a slam dunk to be yet another bestseller that I almost skipped mentioning it. But watching my wife immerse herself in all three books over the last couple weeks reminded me what a completely compelling experience this story is.

With three stared advance reviews, Mississippi Blood does right be the fans–and there are still plenty of new fans to be found. I recommend displaying it along with the first two books in the series—Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree.

Iles’s terrific conclusion to his Natchez Burning trilogy is a sweeping story that remains intimate. The Double Eagles, a savage KKK splinter group, have declared a personal war on Penn Cage, a former prosecutor who’s now the mayor of Natchez, Miss., necessitating 24-hour security protection for him and his family. The toxic bigotry escalates as Penn’s father, Tom, once a respected physician, goes on trial for the murder of his former nurse and one-time lover, Viola Turner, an African-American who was suffering from terminal cancer…. [R]elentless pacing keeps the story churning, with unexpected brutality erupting on nearly every page. The trial scenes are among the most exciting ever written in the genre.”
Publishers Weekly (boxed starred review)

“Faulkner meets John D. MacDonald, and that’s all to the good. A boisterous, spills-and-chills entertainment from start to finish.”
Kirkus Reviews

“From his opening line, Iles draws you back into Penn Cage’s deep South in this phenomenal trilogy’s final novel…. [A] heart-racing, enthralling thriller.”
Library Journal (starred review)

“This trilogy is destined to become a classic of literary crime fiction.”
Booklist (starred review)

Mississippi Blood (9780062311153) by Greg Iles. $28.99 hardcover. 3/21/17 one day laydown.

Fiction Short Take: The Seventh Plague – James Rollins

There are some novelists who hit the bestseller list so consistently it’s easy to start to take them for granted. So as a corrective, let me note that Rollins’ latest novel will not no doubt land on the bestseller list–it gets a boxed, starred review in PW and a starred Booklist review. These are brainy, action-filled adventures by a master.

Bestseller Rollins’s epic 12th Sigma Force adventure features exotic locales, heroic quests, quixotic villains, action galore, and enough science and scientific curiosities to titillate even casual readers…Rollins’s characters are as large as his landscape in this vast and vastly entertaining thriller saga.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“The vanished leader of a British archaeological expedition appears and then dies before he can reveal where he has been and what has happened. The evidence from the professor’s autopsy shows that he was mummified while still alive….The professor, we learn, had been researching the biblical 10 plagues of Egypt….The intensity never lets up for a second as the narrative unfurls. When it comes to the blending of action, adventure, history, and science, there is no other author who does it better than Rollins. Fans of Clive Cussler, Steve Berry, and Michael Crichton should already have Rollins on their mandatory reading list.”
Booklist (starred review)

The Seventh Plague: A Sigma Force Novel (9780062381682) by James Rollins. $27.99 hardcover. 12/13/16 one day laydown.

 

 

Fiction Short Take: Girls on Fire – Robin Wasserman

Wasserman is a well-known YA author making her adult suspense debut with this tale of two teens negotiating the treacherous territory between girlhood and adulthood in the early 1990s. With two love triangles gone violently wrong, Kirkus calls this a story of “[g]irls behaving very, very badly.”

“The story unfolds as a maddening tease, with shocking events waiting around every corner-and an ending that will leave readers stunned.”
Booklist

Girls on Fire will utterly terrify you — in the best way possible…. A dark, chilling story of secrets, violence, and female friendship, Girls on Fire will burn in the mind long after you finish reading.”
BuzzFeed

 A book so wonderful, so terrible, so nightmarishly compelling that I hardly knew what to say when I finished reading it. Wasserman has wrapped up a love story inside a murder mystery, a promise and a testament inside a confession—and has a title ever been truer? The reader comes away singed.”
— Kelly Link

“A chilling mix-tape of love, girl crushes, secrets, and revenge… Read it on vacation; read it on the train; read it at the beach; read it at a campfire just about to burn out—but don’t miss it.”
Ploughshares

“This book would not let me go. Wasserman crafts a love so sharp and utterly insatiable that the edges separating one body from another blur. This is the story of Hannah and Lacey, whose need for one another is nothing short of parasitic. Girls on Fire is neither a testament to the power of female friendship nor is it a story of first loves. It is a foray into the realm of propulsive desire, and an unsettling answer to the question, ‘who am I without you?’”
— Tara Bagnola, Literati Bookstore, Ann Arbor, MI

Girls on Fire (9780062415486) by Robin Wasserman. $25.99 hardcover. 5/17/16 on sale.

Fiction Short Take: The Stopped Heart – Julie Myerson

What to call a delightfully scary entertainment like this? That it’s a ghost story seems a bit tame for the roller coaster ride the plot offers. Horror always brings to mind more contemporary slasher genre stuff. Our marketing team suggests maybe “highbrow horror” is the right term for this deft. emotionally complex take on two families marked by tragedy through time and haunted by the same mysterious…something.”

Releasing in the US and UK at the same time, this is getting great reviews on both sides of the ocean.

“Myerson twines a delightfully twisted tale, exposing the dark underbelly of love and the gaping, raw wounds of grief… By turns terrifying and heartbreaking; an enthralling spine-chiller.”
— Kirkus Reviews

On the first page, it’s clear that something indescribably horrific has happened…. [Myerson] has…vividly limned the pain felt by so many of her well-drawn characters. Despite its length, this novel is impossible to put down; it will be read compulsively to learn the what of what has happened, if not the why. A stunner.”
— Booklist (starred review)

“Beautifully written and cleverly told…. An extraordinarily potent experience and not for the faint-hearted.”
— The Guardian

“In this hair-raiser, Mary Coles moves to a country cottage that seems too good to be true…and it turns out, she’s right. Goose-bumps ensue.”
— Cosmopolitan

“The story is heart wrenching, unremittingly grisly…. A thriller and…a page-turner…. The Stopped Heart exposes the flesh of the lives cut in half, the pain and loves of the past, and why they are no less real than the present.”
— Independent (UK)

The Stopped Heart (9780062409324) by Julie Myerson. $15.99 trade paper original. 3/19/16 on sale.

SHORT TAKE: Depraved Heart – Patricia Cornwell

Props to one of the consistently best-selling thriller writers in the industry. This is Cornwell’s twenty-third Scarpetta novel and advance reviews point to another winner.

“Another gritty, world-weary tale of mayhem by masterful mysterian Cornwell….Stir phony IRS agents and wisecracking Boston cops and a few red herrings into the mix, and you’ve got the makings of a real puzzler. Suffice it to say that there’s enough familial psychodrama here to fuel a couple of dozen episodes of Dr. Phil. . . . A trademark Cornwell mystery: terse and tangled, messy and body-fluidy, and altogether satisfying.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“In bestseller Cornwell’s stirring 23rd novel starring Dr. Kay Scarpetta, what at first appears to be an accident quickly turns to murder….Meanwhile, Scarpetta receives a mysterious text… [with video from] a surveillance camera clearly planted by Carrie Grethen, Scarpetta’s archenemy, who was Lucy’s one-time mentor and lover, and now sociopath Carrie is sending potentially incriminating video to Scarpetta at the same time Lucy’s nearby house is being raided by the FBI. Scarpetta’s current case, Lucy’s troubles with the Feds, and Carrie’s spooky blast from the past are all on an inevitable collision course, and Cornwell shows surprising restraint in reining in her plot and keeping it tightly focused on her well-developed core characters.”
— Publishers Weekly

Depraved Heart: A Scarpetta Novel (9780062325402) by Patricia Cornwell. $28.99 hardcover. 10/27/15 one day laydown.

 

Short Takes: Three Supernatural Thrill Rides

Zombies. Zombies on the Mexican border. It might sound like a bridge too far but in Mansbach’s hands, Dead Run, the first book in this sly, violent series felt like watching a Tarantino or Robert Rodriquez movie. Reviewers called it “surreal…ambitiously plotted…full throttle…first-rate entertainment based on a fascinating cultural mashup.”

The Devil’s Bag Man continues the saga of protagonist Jess Galvan, now inhabited by the soul of a savage, five-hundred-year-old Aztec priest. It’s action packed terror for the dog days of summer. J Entertainment Weekly featured it in its Summer Books Preview and advance reviews are great.

[R]arely has a writer demonstrated he’s having as much fun as Mansbach clearly is with this demented series combining contemporary crime action, Mexican mythology, irreverent comedy, and straight-up horror….Jess is living out in the desert with a head full of angry Aztec god. On the plus side, he’s been imbued with inhuman strength and endurance, but on the minus side, he’s having a hell of a time keeping Cucuy at bay. ‘Two souls, one body. The math was a bitch,’ …. Like great pulp fiction or midnight movies, the book’s profane, hyperactive, and gloriously violent style will repel more sensitive readers and make those who revel in Tarantino scripts, Breaking Bad, or zombie flicks giddy with anticipation.”
— Kirkus Reviews

“Mansbach skillfully keeps the characterization and language of ancient priests and gods distinct from the modern idiom, so when Mexican prisons, cross-border cartels, modern police investigations, and fatherly concern finally come together with magically beating hearts and armies of undead virgins, the effect of worlds colliding is devastatingly effective….”
Publishers Weekly

“[A]n adrenaline-pumping bang teeming with vivid, violent imagery. Imagine an Indiana Jones–style story, starring the Hulk and directed by Robert Rodriquez; surely satisfying for readers craving a bloody supernatural jolt.”
Booklist

The Devil’s Bag Man (9780062199683) by Adam Mansbach. $24.99 hardcover. 7/21/15 on sale.

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Farnsworth is the author of the cult-favorite President’s Vampire series and this new book finds us back in the land of high-concept historical horror with a tale of Spanish conquistadors who drink from the Fountain of Youth and become immortal. Bad immortals. When an ancient adversary sworn to revenge destroys the Fountain, the conquistadors turn to modern science to replicate the waters of eternal life. Carnage, plot twists galore and lot of witty dialogue ensue. Of his last book, the Washington Post said, “Farnsworth summons his talents as a scriptwriter and journalist to spin a complex and unnervingly realistic tale . . . The supernatural elements here are dazzlingly clever.” That’s certainly true for this new book, too.

In 1537, Simón de Oliveras y Seixas and five of his closest soldiers claim the fountain of youth in the Florida swamps after slaughtering the members of the Water Clan of the Uzita, who guard ‘The Water.’ Nearly 500 years later, Simon Oliver III, as Simón now calls himself, heads Conquest Biotech, a firm best known for its anti-aging pharmaceuticals, and his fellow Spanish conquistadors run the board. With the fountain’s water supply dwindling, Simon hires scientific genius David Robinton to find its secret. Meanwhile, Simon and his cohorts remain locked in a centuries-old war with Shako, the daughter of the Uzita chief and the massacre’s only survivor. Each man is obsessed with living forever, yet exhausted from the lies and hiding they’ve done for centuries and bored by life’s pleasures.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A fantastical witch’s brew of Spanish conquistadors, biotechnology, and hubris . . . with cinematic pacing and colorful action scenes, Farnsworth blends a unique premise into fun summer reading . . . entertainingly explores the border where science fantasy meets reality.”
— Kirkus Reviews

The Eternal World (9780062282927) by Christopher Farnsworth. $25.99 hardcover. 8/4/15 on sale.

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Just a heads up for Kadrey’s legion of fans that the seventh installment is here. If you are not familiar with this dark, comic urban fantasy series, William Gibson pretty much nails it:

The best B movie I’ve read in at least twenty years. An addictively satisfying, deeply amusing, dirty-ass masterpiece, Sandman Slim swerves hell-bent through our culture’s impacted gridlock of genres, sideswiping so many, so brilliantly, so constantly, that it’s like watching Sergio Leone and Clive Barker co-direct from a script by Jim Thompson and S. Clay Wilson: an LA noir spaghetti western grudge-war apocalypse, fought with magic, shotguns, occult artifacts, and (at one point) the broken wooden handle of a toilet plunger. Sweet.” [I never get tired of that blurb!]

Seven books in you might think the premise is getting a little long in the tooth–but not according to Cory Doctorow: “Kadrey’s done amazing work keeping one of literature’s great anti-heroes in adventures this long, and Killing Pretty proves that he isn’t slowing down.”

After you’ve saved the universe and defeated the old gods, what do you do for an encore? In the case of James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, Death finds you – but only because you’re the only one who can help him out. Someone wants to take over for Death, and has bound him to a body that they then tried to kill. Meanwhile, Stark is starting to realize that his standard approach to problems – that is, killing things and making people angry – is putting everyone he cares about in danger. Kadrey is a master of nonstop pacing, surreal violence and off-the-wall humor, and Sandman Slim’s latest adventure is his best yet. Highly recommended!”
— Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books & Music, Okemos, MI

“Urban fantasy fans who place a premium on humor are most likely to enjoy Kadrey’s seventh Sandman Slim novel. Slim, aka James Stark, is one of the nephilim—half human, half angel—who’s working as a PI in Los Angeles….Kadrey gives him another daunting challenge: someone dragged Death into a human body and cut out his heart, killing him, and Stark’s boss, Julie Sola, wants him to find out whodunit. Julie hopes that finding Death’s killer will restore some normalcy, as after the assault ‘no one is dying anywhere’….plenty of over-the-top entertainment.”
Publishers Weekly

Killing Pretty: A Sandman Slim Novel (9780062373106) by Richard Kadrey. $25.99 hardcover. 7/28/15 on sale.