12 Novels by Women Writers: Murder, Secrets, and a Skeleton Under a Peach Treeby Larry Cox on Apr. 08, 2011, under Uncategorized
The Peach Keeper by Sarah Addison Allen (Bantam Books, $25)
North Carolina-based author Sarah Addison Allen returns with her latest novel following the success of both “The Sugar Queen” and “Garden Spells.” Set against the backdrop of a small Southern town, thirty-year-old Willa Jackson tries to find a life for herself beyond the almost suffocating restrictions of her family. When she learns that a former well-to-do classmate has plans to restore the crumbling old mansion that once belonged to her grandfather, Willa hopes she can put aside her troubled past with the new renovation. What is discovered, instead, is a skeleton buried beneath the property’s lone peach tree. This well-crafted story has all of the punch of of bourbon and branch water.
Breaking the Rules by Suzanne Brockermann (Ballantine, $26)
During the last decade, Suzanne Brockermann has built a solid literary reputation earning her the title of “queen of military suspense.” In her latest novel, Navy SEAL Izzy Zanella and his estranged wife, Eden Gillman, can barely tolerate each other but when Eden discovers that her brother Ben is being abused by his stepfather, she decides to save him any way that she can even if that means reconciling with her husband. This steamy, romantic suspense story has unexpected twists, interesting characters, and is brilliantly crafted.
The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton (Ballantine, $25)
In this story that is a riveting tale of friendship and the secrets we keep, four old friends from law school — Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger — unite for a long weekend as the Senate confirmation for an appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court unfolds for Betts. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their studies at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979, the four women have supported each other through the speed bumps of life including rocky marriages, divorces, births and deaths. When the Senate hearings uncover a damaging secret that threatens to derail Betts’ confirmation, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on Chesapeake Bay where they try to sort out and contain the current calamity but in the process uncover a multitude of secrets that they’ve kept for and from each other. What gives this novel its legs is that it examines the complex and deep friendships of women and the lengths they will go to protect the people they love.
The Bird Sisters by Rebecca Rasmussen (Crown, $24)
In Spring Green, Wisconsin, Milly and Twiss are known as the bird sisters because of the special gift that they have nursing injured birds — and sometimes their owners — back to health.
This engaging story, set against the backdrop of small town life in 1947, is compelling in that it captures on the printed page day-to-day life of life in a small community. Milly, known when she was young as a great beauty, and Twiss, the family’s wild child who was stubborn and liked to climb trees, are confronted by an automobile that causes their pro-golf father to lose his ability to play as well as his charm. When they cousin arrives in town, it changes the course of their lives forever. Bittersweet, original, and featuring indelible characters, this is perfect summer reading.
This Thing Called the Future by J.L. Powers (Cinco Puntos Press, $16.95)
In a little matchbox house on the outskirts of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, Khosi lives with her beloved grandmother, Gogo, her little sister, Zi, and her often absent mother who works in another city. With death and disease all around her, 14-year-old Khosi views life through the eyes of a conflicted teenager. The struggling country and ever-present poverty are just as much a part of the young girl’s existence as old beliefs and powers that seem to prevent progress.
This is the second novel for young adults by J.L. Powers, a San Francisco-based author. “This Thing Called the Future” explores such social issues as violence, sexuality, and race. It is highly readable and full of unexpected pleasures and surprises.
Hiss of Death by Rita Mae Brown & Sneaky Pie Brown (Bantam, $26)
This is one of the few, if not only, mystery series co-written by a cat. As explained on the book’s cover, it takes a cat to write the purr-fect mystery. Indeed.
As spring comes to Crozet, Virginia, ex-postmistress Mary “Harry” Haristeen and her tiger cat detective Mrs. Murphy are looking forward to their first grape harvest. When a health crisis lands Harry in the hospital, the plot thickens when a young nurse and another hospital employee — both seemingly in perfect health — are found dead. With a baffling mystery at hand (or paw), it might just prove to be one of their most perplexing cases.
Rita Mae Brown lives in Virginia and has generated more than five million book sales world-wide.
Learning to Swim by Sara J. Henry (Crown, $24)
This debut novel is a stunner.
Freelance writer Troy Chance’s life takes an unexpected turn when she sees a small boy tumbling from the back deck of a ferry during what began as routine crossing on Lake Champlain. She immediately dives in to rescue the child. She later discovers that his plunge into the water was no accident. This selfless act triggers an unforeseen aftermath that includes kidnapping, murder, and the shocking truth behind the boy’s abduction. This disturbing, moving, compelling book will keep readers engaged until the very last page.
Sara J. Henry, who lives in Vermont, has crafted her first novel like a seasoned pro. It is smart, intense, and full of unexpected plot twists.
I think I love You by Allison Pearson (Knopf, $24.95)
It is 1974 and Petra and Sharon, two thirteen-year-old girls in Wales, are obsessed with the pop singer David Cassidy. When they enter a contest featuring the Ultimate David Cassidy Quiz in a fan magazine with a prize of a trip to America to meet the singer in person, they tackle the project. Two decades later, Petra is pushing 40, on the brink of divorce, and fighting almost daily with her teenage daughter. Bruised with grief and her disappointments in life, she reunites with Sharon for an all-expense paid trip to Las Vegas so finally meet their teen idol. Funny, moving, and unexpectedly witty, this book will sneak up on your like an old rock tune.
Love You More by Lisa Gardner (Bantam, $26)
Lisa Gardner is a New York Times bestselling author of thirteen novels. “Love You More” is one of her better plots and is edgy and resonates with authenticity.
Boston homicide detective D.D. Warren is called to a murder scene where a man lives dead on the kitchen floor, killed by his wife, a state police trooper who claims she committed the violent act in self defense. The big question is what happened to the couple’s missing child. To find the answer, D.D. partners with a former lover, Bobby Dodge, in order to break through the blue wall and find the answers they both need to crack the case. In this gripping, twisted tale, the body on the kitchen floor is only the first clue in an unspeakable crime.
Treason at Lisson Grove: A Charlotte and Thomas Pitt Novel by Anne Perry (Ballantine, $26)
No one captures the multi-layered richness of Victorian London quite like Anne Perry.
In her first Thomas and Charlotte Pitt novel in three years, the action begins when an informant with knowledge of potential anti-government treason is murdered. Thomas Pitt follows the suspected killer to France, where he believes other political dissidents may be hiding. As with most of her previous books, “Treason at Lisson Grove” is as satisfying a treat as a box of chocolates from Fortnum & Masons. The Scotland-based Perry proves once again that she has lost none of her ability to spin a plot that never fails to capture readers in its literary web.
Restless Heart by Wynonna Judd (New American Library, $25.95)
Wynonna Judd, the country music superstar, makes her fiction debut with a story loosely based on her experiences of finding her way through the Nashville music scene. The plot revolves around a young woman with a special gift who is determined to make it big. Destiny Hart knew even as a youngster that she wanted to be a singer. What she didn’t realize is just how difficult it would be. Judd’s book is a story about fame, following dreams, and learning exactly who you are along the way.
Best Laid Plans by Lynn Schnurnberger (Ballantine, $25)
This is one of those when life hands you lemons, make lemonade stories.
Tru Newman is an Upper East Side M&M, a stay at home mom who is into personal Maintenance and Mothering). When her investment banker husband is given the sack, she soon discovers their crushing credit card debt. What to do? Quicker than Tru can say Mayflower Madam, she hatches a plan that she hopes will replenish the family nest egg. With a friend, she opens an escort service featuring “working girls” who cater to a roster of thirty-year-old clients. The cougar call-girl agency is a hit but as the money begins to roll in, she realizes her problems are just beginning.