New Novels: A Serial Killer, the Murder of Chinese Miners in Idaho Territory, Fun in a Candy Factory, and a Former LA Cop Who Answers a President’s CallWednesday, February 17th, 2010
Recommended new novels
Safe from the Neighbors by Steve Yarbrough (Knopf, $25.95)
In his fifth novel, Mississippi-based author Steve Yarbrough introduces Luke May, a high school teacher in Loring, Mississippi. When a long-lost friend resurfaces, he quickly realizes that his connection with the woman runs much deeper than he had first imagined. Even though they were young children in 1962, the violence and hatreds triggered by the Civil Rights Movement from that period still lingers. With he discovers that his parents are either unwilling or unable to help him piece together the seminal events from more than a half century ago, he digs deeper and becomes even more determined to uncover the truth. In that quest, he quickly learns that the past isn’t dead, or for that matter, even past. This crisply written story, set against the dramatic backdrop of the Deep South, deals with racial angst and moral complexities in a prose that is both intimate and authentic.
The Dark Divine by Bree Despain (Egmont, $17.99)
Bree Despain rediscovered her childhood when she began writing and directing plays for at-risk, inner-city teens from Philadelphia and New York. Her new novel focuses on Grace Divine, the daughter of a local pastor. Grace is haunted by the memory of the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude arrived home covered in his own blood. This story of a prodigal son, a dangerous love, and a deadly secret is surprisingly original. The characters literally seem to leap from the printed pages and the plot has enough twists and turns to entertain until the final climax.
Deep Creek by Dana Hand (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $25)
Set in Idaho Territory during the spring of 1887, this story begins when a judge takes his daughter fishing and they discover the first of what would eventually become thirty Chinese gold miners brutally murdered. When the last of the bodies are pulled from the creek, Idaho lawman Joe Vincent is hired by the San Francisco employer of the miners and charged with tracking down the killers and bringing them to justice. Based on actual events and people, this story is set mainly in the remote and beautiful Hells Canyon and has all the literary bite of a cranky rattlesnake. Dana Hand, the joint pen name of Will Howarth and Anne Matthews, two New Jersey-based writers. “Deep Creek” is masterfully written and dazzling in every sense of the word.
True Confections by Katharine Weber (Shaye Areheart Books, $22)
This frothy, light-as-a-meringue story is about a family-owned-and-operated candy factory that is struggling to compete with the big guys. When Alice Tatnall sees her college application rescinded because of an arson problem, she applies for a job at Zip’s Candy Factory. As the ex-wife of the candy factory founder’s grandson, she is determined to see that the company survives. When a large company makes an attractive offer for a buyout, Alice must decide if 85 years of the mom and pop candy-making operation will become history. This story is as timeless and pertinent as the little coffee shop with a Starbucks just down the street.
The Hadrian Memorandum by Allan Folsom (Forge, $25.99)
Following a deadly shoot-out involving fellow officers, John Barron, once a top detective in the Los Angeles Police Department’s elite 5-2 squad, changes his name, flees the country, settles in the north of England where he reinvents himself as Nicholas Marten, a landscape architect. When he is asked by the president of the United States for help, he can hardly refuse. Much of this book is set in the West African country of Equatorial Guinea. Tribesmen, a merciless dictator, a priest with important information, and Conor White, a highly decorated former SAS commando turned elite killer spill from the pages in a story that is gripping, suspenseful, and chilling. Hold on tight for one of the best literary thrill-rides of the spring.
Blacklands by Belinda Bauer (Simon & Schuster, $23)
In this thrilling debut novel, the wiles of an incarcerated serial killer are pitted against the naivete of a twelve-year-old boy. Set in desolate moors of western Britain, this cat-and-mouse game centers around Arnold Avery, a convict serving time at Longmoor Prison after being convicted of murdering several children, and Steven Lamb, an unhappy boy who lives with his single mother and finds himself under the thumb of a disapproving grandmother. Steven’s uncle, Billy Peters, vanished twenty years previously and might be one of Avery’s victims. As Steven begins to research the case, he contacts Avery for help which triggers a series of encrypted messages. This story of a remorseless killer and a guileless boy seeking the truth is compelling and emotionally wrenching.
Scones and Sensibility by Lindsay Eland (Egmont, $15.99)
Despite the fact that Polly Madassa was born in twenty-first century New Jersey, the twelve-year-old girl images that she is from a much more romantic period in history. In her mind’s eye, she sees herself strolling arm-in-arm with Mr. Darcy through the stone halls of Pemberley or with Diana by her side, as Anne Shirley gazing out on the wild seas off Prince Edward Island. While delivering baked goods from her parent’s bakery, she is determined to find true romance. As the author suggests, mix heaping cupfuls of romanticism with two quarters of laughter, blend well, and add a splash of sadness, a dash of utter despair, and four cups of heartwarming fun. This story is geared for young teens.