Fiction from Clinton & Patterson, plus Buckley, Hamdy, and Debuter Fleet | Xpress Reviews

A wry, witty, enjoyable romp—Buckley knows how to turn a phrase; Clinton offers the inside scoop on life in the White House, and Patterson spins a tense plot; this debut psychological family drama is perfect for fans of domestic thrillers who do not mind a slower pace; the pace and writing have a cinematic flair, defining this as a true page-turner

Buckley, Christopher. The Judge Hunter. S. & S. May 2018. 368p. ISBN 9781501192517. $26.95; pap. ISBN 9781982100070. $18; ebk. ISBN 9781501192524. F

Satirist Buckley (Thank You for Smoking; Boomsday) travels to 17th-century New England for his second historical novel, part of the century-jumping series he began with The Relic Master. With an almost British, Monty Python–esque dryness, Buckley traipses through the American Colonies and skewers the foibles of the inhabitants. “Balty” (Balthasar de St. Michel) is brother-in-law to Samuel Pepys. To keep his inept, freeloading relation occupied, Pepys directs him to New England to track down two judges responsible for ordering the death of King Charles I. Arriving in the New World, Balty becomes embroiled in a political bramble patch that may bring about war with Holland. At his side during his misadventures is a former militiaman named Huncks. Buckley cleverly weaves his story line with historical threads taken from Pepys diaries and other notes from the Colonial period.

Verdict A wry, witty, enjoyable romp. Buckley knows how to turn a phrase. Recommended for fans of George MacDonald Fraser and those who prefer some P.G. Wodehouse in their Bernard Cornwell. [See Prepub Alert, 11/26/17.]—Laurel Tacoma, Fairfax Cty. P.L., VA

starred review starClinton, Bill & James Patterson. The President Is Missing. Little, Brown & Knopf. Jun. 2018. 528p. ISBN 9780316412698. $30; ebk. ISBN 9780316412711. F

Uneasy lies the head of the person who is the President of the United States. This thriller, copenned by former president Clinton (“42”) and best-selling author Patterson, opens with President Duncan preparing for an impeachment hearing. He has been accused of preventing the death of known terrorist Suliman Cindoruk, who is still on the loose. But unbeknownst to his congressional accusers, Duncan needs to keep Cindoruk alive because of a cyberterrorism threat known as Dark Ages. This virus, once activated, would wipe out data on all electronic devices and violently disrupt the country in a matter of minutes. Time is running out, and Duncan will personally stop at nothing to prevent this chaos from engulfing the country.

Verdict Clinton, offering the inside scoop on life in the White House, and Patterson, spinning a tense plot, are a dynamic duo weaving a suspenseful and gripping technohriller that will leave readers wondering,Could this really happen?” Highly recommended for thriller and suspense fans. [See Prepub Alert, 12/11/17; Clinton and Patterson will be appearing at BookCon.—Ed.]—Susan Moritz, Silver Spring, MD

Fleet, Rebecca. The House Swap. Pamela Dorman: Viking. May 2018. 304p. ISBN 9780525558835. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780525558842. F

[DEBUT] In the hopes of fixing their troubled marriage, Caroline and Francis try a house swap. Francis is still recovering from crippling depression and a pill addiction. Caroline, having sought comfort in the arms of her coworker Carl, is now newly committed to her spouse. Because things are still tense, they decide a week away from their son and their home will help. Right away, Caroline senses that something is wrong with the swap. What was supposed to be a cozy suburban London townhouse is mostly empty of personal effects. The items that are there remind Caroline of her affair with Carl, and she starts to worry that something more than a mere house swap is happening. As Caroline tries to assemble the pieces of this mystery, the narrative flashes back to her time with Carl two years previously. Readers slowly realize the reason that the house and the affair still haunt her.

Verdict This debut psychological family drama is perfect for fans of domestic thrillers who do not mind a slower pace. Although slightly weakened by the poorly defined character motivations and the relationship between Caroline and Francis, there is still enough creepiness here to keep the pages turning.—Lynnanne Pearson, Skokie P.L., IL

Hamdy, Adam. Freefall. Quercus. (Pendulum Trilogy, Bk. 2). Jul. 2018. 512p. ISBN 9781635060003. $32.49; ebk. ISBN 9781635060027. THRILLER

In Hamdy’s follow-up to Pendulum, journalist John Wallace is coming back from a dark place after the events that transpired bringing down a killer. He blames himself for the deaths inflicted by Pendulum, and hiding in a war zone gives him time to reflect. When his life is threatened, John, compelled to pursue his demons, must convince the people he worked with before, including FBI agent Christine Ash and DI Patrick Bailey struggling with post-traumatic stress disorder, that the threat is not over but rather just beginning. For Pendulum was not just a solo killer but an organization.

Verdict Hamdy rethinks the standard serial killer thriller by exploring violence’s shattering impact on victims and survivors, in this case his three flawed protagonists. The pace and writing have a cinematic flair, defining this as a true page-turner. Reading the previous title is not necessary, but it does help readers to understand the full scope of this trilogy.—Jeff Ayers, Seattle P.L.

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