Fiction from Doughty, Grose, and Jagears | Xpress Reviews

Doughty takes a page from John le Carré, crafting a riveting, psychological, morally ambiguous tale; Grose's latest is for yoga practitioners with a sense of humor and all who self-examine; evenhanded evangelical dialog will have readers wondering on which side of the moral issues they would land

Week ending August 26, 2016


starred review starDoughty, Louise. Black Water. Sarah Crichton: Farrar. Sept. 2016. 352p. ISBN 9780374114015. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374713669. F

Alone in a remote Balinese hut, the man now known as John Harper tries to prepare himself for the men he is certain are coming to kill him. He is both terrified and resigned, convinced he has become a liability to his firm and that the sins of his past are about to catch up with him. Though ostensibly a financial analyst for a Dutch security contractor, Harper is, and has been, a black ops agent for the Institute since 1964. Born in a Japanese internment camp on Sulawesi to a half-Dutch, half-Indonesian father and a Dutch mother, Harper has the right skin tone and language skills to blend in. Now, years later, Harper remorsefully remembers his role in Jakarta’s Communist purge as well as his culpability in the death of his younger brother. A chance encounter with a middle-aged American teacher with her own ghosts gives Harper hope to begin again.

Verdict Doughty (Apple Tree Yard) takes a page from John le Carré, crafting a riveting, psychological, morally ambiguous tale. Harper’s backstory is richly detailed, and his budding relationship with Rita is convincing. Finally, the role of mercenaries in world affairs adds a new perspective to the spy novel genre. [See Prepub Alert, 3/21/16.]—Christine Perkins, Whatcom Cty. Lib. Syst., Bellingham, WA


Grose, Jessica. Soulmates. Morrow. Sept. 2016. 288p. ISBN 9780062391575. $25.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062391568. F

soulmates082616Attorney Dana Powell learns of her ex-husband’s death from the front page of the New York Post. Drawn by the photo of his familiar eyes, she’s stunned as she absorbs the news that Ethan and Amaya (the Other Woman) were found dead in a cave in New Mexico. Once she’s been contacted by local law enforcement with a tip about the pair’s last whereabouts as yoga instructors, a hint at foul play, and a nudge toward citizen investigation, Dana heads off to the Zuni Retreat in search of answers. If Ethan was to blame in a murder-suicide, she needs to know what went wrong. Disguised as a yoga student in search of grounding, she encounters the famed guru Lama Yon and sifts through Ethan’s past to come to terms with her own. Dana’s journey through the world of yoga practice and spirituality is sharp, funny, and bizarrely attuned to her detective work.

Verdict This new novel (after Sad Desk Salad) by the editor in chief of Lena Dunham’s email newsletter Lenny is part satire, part mystery novel, part yet-to-be-determined, and fully digestible. For readers of Emma Cline’s The Girls, yoga practitioners with a sense of humor, and all who self-examine. [See Prepub Alert, 3/28/16.]—Julie Kane, Washington & Lee Lib., Lexington, VA


Jagears, Melissa. A Heart Most Certain. Bethany House. (Teaville Moral Society, Bk. 1). Aug. 2016. 400p. ISBN 9780764217517. pap. $14.99; ebk. ISBN 9781441230126. CF

Hoping to avoid her family’s certain financial ruin, Lydia King allows Sebastian, the mayor’s son, to court her. To please Sebastian’s mother, who heads the Teaville Moral Society to which she belongs, Lydia is tasked with asking the town’s wealthiest man for a donation to supply the group with sewing machines to make quilts for the poor. Although Nicholas Lowe turns down her request many times, Lydia’s tenacity piques his interest. Still, he challenges her Christian “charity” by taking her to see the town’s “soiled doves.” Her response shocks and shames her. Despite a growing attraction between the two, piety and politics conspire to keep Lydia and Nicholas apart until they can decide where their beliefs and hearts stand. Inspired by the real-life work of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd in St. Louis, MN, Jagears (A Bride at Last) launches a new series with a heartwarming historical romance that also offers an eye-opening look at small-town societal norms of the turn of the 20th century.

Verdict Evenhanded evangelical dialog among the characters will have readers wondering on which side of the moral issues they would land. A good read for fans of Amy Clipston, Susan Anne Mason, and Francine Rivers’s Redeeming Love.—Christine Sharbrough, Chelmsford P.L., MA  

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