Fiction from Connelly, Healy, Hearne, Koontz, Kuhn, Mallery, plus Two Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Put this one in your beach bag; fans will clamor for Connelly’s new protagonist, a female Bosch; Healy delivers a striking, heartbreaking story; this compact volume affirms the strength of Hearne’s urban fantasy series; this new (series!) heroine from Koontz is bound to be an immediate hit; urban fantasy fans seeking novels featuring diverse protagonists should snap up Kuhn’s works; for romance fans and admirers of fresh women’s fiction; debut novelist Maynard crafted a heartwarming coming-of-age story

Week ending June 23, 2017

Baker, Angelica. Our Little Racket. Ecco: HarperCollins. Jun. 2017. 512p. ISBN 9780062641311. $27.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062641335. F

[DEBUT] This ambitious debut novel about the emotional fallout in 2008 for the family of Bob D’Amico, a high-flying investment banker under criminal investigation, tries to go deep into the character of the women in his household—ice-queen wife Isabel and her teenage daughter Madison and loyal college-grad nanny Lily—but succeeds more in giving readers a snarky peek past the security gates and up the long driveways of the Greenwich, CT, homes of the well-off and the unbelievably well-off Wall Street moguls. The book is getting a lot of buzz and should appeal to readers of Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest, Randy Susan Meyers’s The Widow of Wall Street, and Holly Peterson’s It Happened in the Hamptons.

Verdict Put this one in your beach bag for its dissection of the reshuffling of the social order when public scrutiny falls on a family in the small circle of the fabulously wealthy. [See Prepub Alert, 1/8/17.]—Laurie Cavanaugh, Thayer P.L., Braintree, MA


Connelly, Michael. The Late Show. Little, Brown. Jul. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9780316225984. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780316225977. F

LAPD officer Renée Ballard was relegated to the “late show,” the midnight to 8 a.m. street patrol, after her allegation of sexual harassment against her supervisor Lieutenant Olivas was dismissed. On duty one night, she and her partner respond to a robbery and are directed to two crime scenes: the brutal beating of a transgender prostitute and a multiple shooting. Rather than pass off the robbery to the detective squad, Ballard volunteers to investigate. She also probes the other incidents on the sly—in the case of the shooting, against Olivas’s direct order. Her intuition tells her the shooter was a police officer, namely her boss. This new police procedural series’ lackluster entry by the creator of the Harry Bosch series (The Wrong Side of Goodbye) pits the driven Ballard against an increasingly hostile Olivas. While the action builds in the second half, it is halfhearted, and the quick and tidy solutions to the robbery and beating are anticlimactic. An early reference to Bosch is gratuitous.

Verdict Fans will clamor for Connelly’s new protagonist, who is a female Bosch, caring and driven to finding the truth at all costs, but she will need more grit to survive.—Edward Goldberg, Syosset P.L., NY


Darnton, Nina. Risking It All. Griffin: St. Martin’s. Sept. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781250075253. pap. $16.99; ebk. ISBN 9781466886643. F

Marcia and Jeff have tried all methods to have a baby but are unable to conceive. When Marcia suggests surrogacy, Jeff balks; he is worried about the moral, emotional, and financial issues. Marcia is able to convince him that it is worth the costs. They meet Eve, a single mother, and all parties agree that she should be the gestational surrogate. Eve needs the money to improve her life and that of her son. When a tragedy affects both families, Marcia is the one who has to pick up the pieces. While there are many interesting conflicts inherent in a story about surrogacy, Darnton (An African Affair; The Perfect Mother) doesn’t give them any depth. Jeff and Marcia are shallow, unpleasant characters, with Jeff’s actions bordering on abusive. It is impossible for the reader to feel any sympathy for their problems or to hope that they are able to repair their marriage. More problematic, the book is tone-deaf when it comes to diverse characters. All people of color, besides a young child, are either servants or criminals.

Verdict Not recommended.Lynnanne Pearson, Skokie P.L., IL


Healy, Sarah. The Sisters Chase. Houghton Harcourt. Jun. 2017. 304p. ISBN 9780544960077. $25; ebk. ISBN 9780544960121. F

Diane Chase is a single mother raising two daughters on the income from her family’s struggling seaside motel. When Diane dies in a car accident, 18-year-old Mary and four-year-old Hannah are left to fend for themselves. Beautiful, fearless, and passionately devoted to her younger sibling, Mary will stop at nothing to protect and provide for Hannah. Together, the Chase girls take to the road, immersed in their own private world. Driven by her own restless spirit and an instinct for survival, Mary charts their course up and down the East Coast, from Florida to Maine, and across the West.

Verdict Healy (Can I Get an Amen?; House of Wonder) delivers a striking, heartbreaking story about love, motherhood, and family, with a powerful and elusive protagonist at its heart.Lindsay Morton, P.L. of Science, San Francisco


Hearne, Kevin. Besieged: Stories from The Iron Druid Chronicles. Del Rey: Ballantine. Jul. 2017. 237p. ISBN 9780399181733. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780399181740. FANTASY

Hearne’s 11-volume “Iron Druid Chronicles” focuses on Atticus O’Sullivan, a 2,000-year-old Irishman and one of the last Druids to walk the earth. In this collection of nine original short stories, Atticus takes on an array of ancient gods. In “The Eye of Horus,” he hunts for scrolls underneath the Great Library of Alexandria, where he encounters two members of the Egyptian pantheon. The Archdruid Owen Kennedy takes a turn at narrating in “The Bogeyman of Boora Bog,” in which he meets a young boy who will one day become Atticus O’Sullivan. An Irish goddess of the hunt and Slavic god of thunder walk into a sex dungeon (“Cuddle Dungeon”), and then strange things happen. In a prequel to the series’ final book (out in 2018), the last story, “The End of Idylls,” has Atticus reminiscing to his best friend wolfhound Oberon about companionship and traveling solo.

erdict This compact volume affirms the strength of Hearne’s urban fantasy series. Fans of the TV show American Gods will find it a relatable and enjoyable read.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., South Deerfield


starred review starKoontz, Dean. The Silent Corner. Bantam. Jun. 2017. 464p. ISBN 9780345545992. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780345546784. F

Meet Jane Hawk. Jane is an FBI agent, but Jane isn’t Jane anymore. Jane has gone off the radar. On leave and assuming she’s suspended as unknown entities attempt to track her whereabouts, she’s simultaneously researching and hunting for those responsible for her husband’s death—a presumed suicide. Jane is certain that her husband, a decorated marine colonel, would never take his own life. Her probe shows alarming upticks in inexplicable suicides with bizarre coincidences, and as she gets closer to the truth, those coincidences spin into ever-expanding entanglements, isolating Jane even further from the few people she can trust. Solving this mystery becomes her singular purpose, but at what cost? Staying alive, undetected and ahead of the people bent on widespread destruction, keeps Jane on her toes.

Verdict This new (series!) heroine from Koontz is bound to be an immediate hit. While there are no supernatural elements here, Jane Hawk is fighting a gripping terror realistic enough to keep readers up at night and talking about the book long after putting it down. [See Prepub Alert, 12/12/16; library marketing.]—Julie Kane, Washington & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA


Kuhn, Sarah. Heroine Worship. DAW. Jul. 2017. 384p. ISBN 9780756413262. pap. $15; ebk. ISBN 9780698197794. FANTASY

Aveda Jupiter, demon-fighting superheroine of San Francisco, is having an identity crisis. After saving the city from annihilation by a deranged demon princess, Aveda, aka Annie Chang, is bored. She is also increasingly unsure of her role, now that her best friend (and former assistant) Evie Tanaka is a superheroine in her own right. When Evie gets engaged to her half-demon love Nate, Aveda jumps into action to be the best maid of honor ever. But can she put aside her diva ways to support Evie, especially when a possible new demon threat is targeting the bride-to-be? Aveda needs to find her mojo, save her beloved City by the Bay, plan a bridal shower, and sort out her own love life. No problem.This sequel to Heroine Complex is nearly as fun, sexy, and smart as the series launch. While the demon-fighting action is not as sharp as readers might expect, the relationships among the main characters are strong and relatable, and the sexual chemistry between Annie and Scott is palpable. Annie’s struggles to merge her kick-ass Aveda persona with her everyday Annie Chang tendencies can be hilariously slapstick, while her emotional growth provides its own tearjerker moments.

Verdict Urban fantasy fans seeking novels featuring diverse protagonists should snap up Kuhn’s works.—Jennifer Beach, Longwood Univ. Lib., Farmville, VA


Mallery, Susan. Secrets of the Tulip Sisters. HQN: Harlequin. Jul. 2017. 416p. ISBN 9780373802760. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9781488023224. F

Kelly Murphy and her father, Jeff, own a nationally recognized tulip farm in Tulpen Crossing, WA. Their routine is thrown for a loop when younger daughter Olivia decides to come back for the summer. Though Olivia and Jeff have been in touch, it’s been nearly 11 years since Olivia was sent away to boarding school. It seemed the right thing to do at the time, as their mother, Marilee, had picked up and left two years earlier, but Kelly feels responsible for both events. Meanwhile, Kelly’s old high school crush Griffith Burnett wants to begin a secure and lasting relationship with her that will definitely not lead to love or marriage. Olivia, who keeps her own secrets, takes up inadvertently with Kelly’s ex-boyfriend, and Kelly’s best friend Helen pines for Jeff, despite their 16-year age difference. If things weren’t complicated enough, Marilee shows up on their doorstep.

Verdict Mallery (Daughters of the Bride) adds lots of tulip growing detail and business acumen to this charming tale of love unrequited (maybe), love ignited, and wild sex with naked cooking. The men here are pretty awesome, while the gals have a lot to learn about facing the truth. For romance fans and admirers of fresh women’s fiction.—Bette-Lee Fox, Library Journal


starred review starMaynard, Frances. The Seven Rules of Elvira Carr. Sourcebooks. Jul. 2017. 400p. ISBN 9781492649274. pap. $15.99; ebk. ISBN 9781492649281. F

[DEBUT] At 27, Elvira Carr has led an extremely sheltered life owing to the “incidents” caused by her “condition.” Readers will quickly realize that Elvira is someone on the autism spectrum and will be reminded of Don Tillman in Graeme Simsion’s The Rosie Project. When her mother suffers a stroke and ends up in a nursing home, Elvira is suddenly thrust into a world she finds quite alien. Arming herself with a list of seven rules and the help of next-door neighbor Sylvia, Elvira is determined to survive. Some rules are easier to follow than others. A shopping trip with Sylvia goes a long way toward Rule #2: “If you look or sound different you won’t fit in.” Others take some time to understand, such as Rule #5: “Not everyone who is nice to me is my friend.” In the end, Elvira follows her rules to a new life.

Verdict Debut novelist Maynard puts her background as a teacher of adults with learning difficulties to good effect in crafting this heartwarming coming-of-age story. Perfect for book clubs and for readers who enjoyed The Rosie Project and Julia Claiborne Johnson’s Be Frank with Me.—Catherine Coyne, Mansfield P.L., MA

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