Fiction from Brown, Bussi, Deaver, and Leigh, plus a Trio of Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Fast-paced action from Beck; Bell’s psychological thriller is impossible to put down; for sf readers who like to see plucky heroes fight impossible odds; a psychological drama that is at times overwrought but always suspenseful; Deaver cranks out another convoluted narrative; will also appeal to readers who like their romantic suspense with a bit on the criminal side; a slow read, with too many side stories that are never fully developed

Week ending March 2, 2018


Beck, Peter. Damnation. Point Blank: Oneworld. Apr. 2018. 480p. tr. from German by Jamie Bulloch. ISBN 9781786073273. $24.99; ebk. ISBN 9781786073266. F

[DEBUT] Tom Winter heads security for a private Swiss bank with wealthy Middle Eastern clients. When his associate and lover and an important Saudi client die in a helicopter crash in the Alps, he quickly determines that they were murdered. Later, Winter and the Saudi’s twin are attacked, but Winter manages to kill four assailants. It’s increasingly clear that there is a mole at the bank, part of an international plot to get into a highly secure data center beneath a mountain in order to disrupt world financial markets. He teams up with a beautiful Egyptian CEO and they travel to Norway and the United States seeking to unravel this threat. Back in the Alps near the end, he manages a literal cliff-hanger while trying to defuse a bomb.

Verdict Making his English-language debut, Beck has a doctorate in psychology, an MBA, and corporate experience to go with a judo black belt. This is the first in a projected series featuring Tom Winter. Although the book is too long and wordy, the action is fast-paced, the high-finance dealings ring true, and Winter is an impressively modern Bond figure.—Roland Person, formerly with Southern Illinois Univ. Lib., Carbondale


starred review starBell, Natasha. Exhibit Alexandra. Crown. Mar. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9781524761073. $27; ebk. ISBN 9781524761097. THRILLER

[DEBUT] From the opening page of this debut thriller, Bell grabs readers’ attention. Marc’s wife Alexandra hasn’t returned from work, and he’s called the police because this is so out of character for her. But Alexandra is narrating the story—how does she know? Is she dead? Back home with her family? In the clutches of a kidnapper? As the story of their marriage and Alexandra’s disappearance is revealed, the reader is drawn deeper into the mystery that is Alexandra until the final plot twist reveals all.

Verdict Bell’s psychological thriller explores some big questions about relationships and art while being absolutely impossible to put down. Highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, 9/27/17.]—Lisa O’Hara, Univ. of Manitoba Libs., Winnipeg


Brown, Jeremy K. Zero Limit. 47North: Amazon. Mar. 2018. 335p. ISBN 9781503946651. pap. $14.95; ebk. ISBN 9781477809921. SF

Take The Martian, throw in a bit of Apollo 13, and mix well with the latest environmental disaster movie and you’ll reach Zero Limit. In this near-future caper, veteran Caitlin Taggart is stuck on the Moon after a xenophobic change in immigration regulations turns all Moon-born into noncitizens—even war heroes such as Caitlin. Her desperate attempt to get back to Earth and her young daughter puts her on a collision course with an asteroid—and sends the asteroid on a collision course with Earth. Only the skills of her crew and the smarts of the scientists on the ground stand between the planet and an extinction-level meteor strike. However, there may be nothing left to save as a panicked Earth population descends into chaos and obliteration.

Verdict Brown’s (Ocean of Storms) space opera reads much like the scripts of one of the movies it resembles. After a slow start, the action picks up, but the disasters are somewhat predictable. Recommended for sf readers who like to see plucky heroes fight impossible odds.—Marlene Harris, Reading Reality, Duluth, GA


Bussi, Michel. Time Is a Killer. Europa. Apr. 2018. 512p. tr. from French by Shaun Whiteside. ISBN 9781609454425. pap. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781609454432. F

In August 1989, along a dangerous stretch of Corsica’s coastline, 15-year-old Clotilde Idrissi survives a car accident that kills her parents and older brother. Returning to the scene decades later with her husband and teenage daughter, Clo dreads meeting her Corsican grandparents, knowing the encounter will dredge up unwanted memories. As she struggles to understand what happened in the past, someone else delves into her diary, written just before and lost after the accident. Events from past and present unfold, parallels mount, and the mystery deepens. Is Clo’s mother, always an outsider in the powerful Idrissi family, still alive? Was the accident sabotage, and, if so, who was responsible and who was the intended victim? Clo must find answers if she hopes to save not only her sanity but her daughter’s life.

Verdict Harlan Coben fans will enjoy Bussi’s (After the Crash) mystery with its intriguing characters and twisty conclusion, though the pace is as relaxed as a three-week vacation. The family dynamics, seen through the eyes of Clotilde, are complex and compelling. The Corsican settings add to the pleasure of a psychological drama that is at times overwrought but always suspenseful.—Ron Terpening, formerly with Univ. of Arizona, Tucson


Deaver, Jeffery. The Cutting Edge. Grand Central. (Lincoln Rhyme, Bk. 14). Apr. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9781455536429. $28; ebk. ISBN 9781455536412. THRILLER

Justin Pavel’s jewelry shop in Manhattan’s famed Diamond District beckons a couple to celebrate their engagement with a pricy diamond. Instead, they are brutally murdered by a killer who leaves behind gems and cash. Although maimed, the surviving witness, diamond cutter Vimal Lahori, goes into hiding—making finding him difficult for Lincoln Rhyme and Amelia Sachs, the NYPD detectives working the case. More killings follow, indicating that the murderer, known as the Promisor, is targeting engaged couples. Initial yet inconclusive forensic evidence leads to Vladimir Rostov, who works for the world’s largest diamond mining monopoly in Moscow. Rhyme and Sachs fear they may be the Promisor’s next victims as the recently married couple had also purchased a diamond.

Verdict As if anticipating a blockbuster film adaptation (think Denzel Washington and Angelina Jolie in The Bone Collector), Deaver cranks out another convoluted narrative embellished with extensive setting details that lumbers along, making for a tedious read. Still, fans of the series (The Burial Hour) will want this.—Jerry P. Miller. Cambridge, MA


starred review starLeigh, Lora. Collision Point. St. Martin’s Paperbacks. (Brute Force, Bk. 1). Feb. 2018. 350p. ISBN 9781250110329. pap. $7.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250110336. ROMANTIC SUSPENSE

The action begins with the dangerous rescue of a crime lord’s daughter from her father’s deadliest enemies. After the rescue goes haywire, the story picks up six months later, as Amara Resnova goes looking for the man who saved her life—but of whom she has no memory. Riordan Malone remembers everything that Amara has forgotten, including their love affair. It’s up to him to find a way to protect her from the enemies who are still after her, while keeping her overprotective father at bay and fighting to help her restore what they were to each other and remember who intended to keep them apart. It’s a race to the finish to see if Amara can bring back the time she has suppressed without tearing her whole world apart. This series is a spinoff from Leigh’s “Elite Ops” titles (e.g., Live Wire and Heat Seeker) and features many of the characters from those books in secondary roles.

Verdict The romance between Amara and Riordan is hot as well as tender, and Riordan is the kind of alpha hero about whom readers love to fantasize. The suspense plot with its family betrayals and connections to the Russian Mafia will also appeal to readers who like their suspense with a bit on the criminal side. A spicy treat.—Marlene Harris, Reading Reality, Duluth, GA


Tully, Daniela. Hotel on Shadow Lake. St. Martin’s. Apr. 2018. 256p. ISBN 9781250126962. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9781250126979. F

[DEBUT] Spanning two world wars and two continents, this first novel revolves around Maya Wiesberg and her grandmother Martha. The book opens in 1990, a year after the Berlin Wall has come down and the two Germanys reunited. Martha receives a letter dated December 27, 1944, that she is frightened to open and that leads to her disappearance. Flashback to 1938, when Martha’s twin brother and mother have become avid followers of Adolf Hitler. Martha, however, is more like her deceased father, with whom she shared a love of forbidden books. In 2017, Maya, a Munich bookseller, learns that her grandmother’s remains have been found in upstate New York; she travels to Shadow Lake to discover what she can about why Martha was in New York and what happened to her there.

Verdict The book’s promotional materials recommend it to fans of Kate Morton, but those readers, expecting a story that is psychologically suspenseful, even disturbing, will be disappointed. Tully’s novel is a slow read, with too many side stories that are never fully developed. It tries to be too much—romance, suspense, and mystery—while never really succeeding at being any of those things.—Nanci Milone Hill, M.G. Parker Memorial Lib., Dracut, MA

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