December’s New Fiction In The Library

December 4, 2013

The Apartment by Greg Baxter
One snowy December morning in an old European city, an American man leaves his shabby hotel to meet a local woman who has agreed to help him search for an apartment to rent. The Apartment follows the couple across a blurry, illogical, and frozen city into a past the man is hoping to forget, and leaves them at the doorstep of an uncertain future-their cityscape punctuated by the man’s lingering memories of time spent in Iraq and the life he abandoned in the United States. Contained within the details of this day is a complex meditation on America’s relationship with the rest of the world, an unflinching glimpse at the permanence of guilt and despair, and an exploration into our desire to cure violence with violence.

Back To Back by Julia Franck
Back to Back begins in 1954, and centers around a single family living in Berlin in the socialist East. The mother, Käthe, is a sculptor of Jewish heritage, who has been leveraging her party connections in order to get more important and significant commissions. Devoted entirely to becoming a success in the socialist state, she is a cruel and completely unaffectionate mother, putting the party above her children, who she treats as if they were adults – there is no bourgeois mollycoddling in her household. Thomas and Ella’s father emigrated to West Germany after World War II, and they deeply long to see him again and dream of a life where they could be allowed to have the kind of childhood that other children enjoy. But Käthe’s hard-nosed brutality – a reflection of the materialistic, unsentimental state in which she lives – means Thomas and Ella are unable to live the lives they want to – instead of his dream of becoming a writer, Thomas is forced to study geology, and do hard labor at a quarry as the practical part of his education. And Ella, meanwhile, is becoming increasingly introverted and strange – not least because the Stasi lodger the government has billetted in their home is beginning to abuse her…

The Black Life by Paul Johnston
The story is told in alternating chapters, a narrative set in the present day and also a first person harrowing account of the persecution of the Holocaust years. Whilst it is an indictment of the wartime collaboration and subsequent profiteering to which many countries turned a blind eye, and whilst it also underlines the extent of anti-Semitism still existing in Greece and elsewhere today, the novel also contains accounts of working life in the concentration camps and how survival of some Jews might depend on their working for the SS and even sending one’s own family members to their deaths in the gas chambers.

A Christmas Hope by Anne Perry
Although she lacks for nothing, Claudine Burroughs dreads the holiday season for forcing her to face how empty her life has become. She no longer expects closeness with her coldly ambitious husband, and she has nothing in common with their circle of wealthy, status-minded friends. The only time she is remotely happy is when she volunteers at a woman’s clinic–a job her husband strongly disapproves of. Then, at a glittering yuletide gala, she meets the charming poet Dai Tregarron and finds her spirits lifted. But scarcely an hour later, the charismatic Dai is enmeshed in a nightmare–accused of killing a young streetwalker who had been smuggled into the party. Even though she suspects that an upper-class clique is quickly closing ranks to protect the real killer, Claudine vows to do her utmost for Dai. But it seems that hypocritical London society would rather send an innocent poet to the gallows than expose the shocking truth about one of their own.

Command Authority by Tom Clancy
The #1 New York Times -bestselling author and master of the modern day thriller returns with his All-Star team. There’s a new strong man in Russia but his rise to power is based on a dark secret hidden decades in the past. The solution to that mystery lies with a most unexpected source, President Jack Ryan.

The Death Trade by Jack Higgins
An eminent Iranian scientist has made a startling breakthrough in nuclear weapons research, but he can’t stand the thought of his regime owning the bomb. He would run if he could, but if he does, his family dies. He is desperate; he doesn’t know what to do. It is up to Sean Dillon and the rest of the small band known as the Prime Minister’s private army to think of a plan. Most particularly, it is up to their newest member, an intelligence captain and Afghan war hero named Sara Gideon, who thinks there just might be a way to pull it off. But plans have a way of encountering the unexpected. And as the operation spins out, from Paris and Syria to Iran and the Saudi Arabian desert, there is very much that is unexpected indeed. And much blood that will be spilled.

The Funeral Owl by Jim Kelly
When a reader contacts local newspaper The Crow to report a rare sighting of the Boreal or so-called ‘Funeral’ owl, the paper’s editor Philip Dryden has a sense of foreboding. For the Funeral Owl is said to be an omen of death. It’s already proving to be one of the most eventful weeks in The Crow’s history. The body of a Chinese man has been discovered hanging from a cross in a churchyard in Brimstone Hill in the West Fens. The inquest into the deaths of two tramps found in a flooded ditch has unearthed some shocking findings. A series of metal thefts is plaguing the area. And PC Stokely Powell has requested Dryden’s help in solving a ten-year-old cold case: a series of violent art thefts culminating in a horrifying murder. As Dryden investigates, he uncovers some curious links between the seemingly unrelated cases: it would appear the sighting of the Funeral Owl is proving prophetic in more ways than one.

Ghosts Of Bungo Suido by Peter Deutermann
In late 1944, America’s naval forces face what seems an insurmountable threat from Japan: immense Yamato-class battleships, which dwarf every other ship at sea. Built in secrecy, these ships seem invincible, and lay waste to any challengers. American military intelligence knows of two such ships, but there is rumored to be a third, a newly-built aircraft carrier, ready to launch from Japan’s heavily-defended and mined Inland Sea. Such a ship would threaten U.S. Pacific forces, allow Japan to launch air attacks against the U.S. mainland, and change the course of the war. No American submarine has penetrated the Inland Sea; five boats and their crews have perished in the Bungo Suido strait. Lieutenant Commander Gar Hammond-an aggressive, attacking leader with a reckless streak-is now captain of a new submarine. Hammond may be the navy’s only hope to locate and stop the Japanese super-ship before it launches . . . if it even exists.

The Gods Of Guilt by Michael Connelly
Mickey Haller gets the text, “Call me ASAP – 187,” and the California penal code for murder immediately gets his attention. Murder cases have the highest stakes and the biggest paydays, and they always mean Haller has to be at the top of his game. When Mickey learns that the victim was his own former client, a prostitute he thought he had rescued and put on the straight and narrow path, he knows he is on the hook for this one. He soon finds out that she was back in LA and back in the life. Far from saving her, Mickey may have been the one who put her in danger.

The Good Boy by Theresa Schwegel
For Officer Pete Murphy, K9 duty is as much a punishment as a promotion. When a shaky arrest reignites a recent scandal and triggers a multimillion-dollar lawsuit, all eyes are on Pete as the department braces for another media firestorm. Meanwhile, Pete’s eleven-year-old son Joel feels invisible. His parents hardly notice him–unless they’re arguing about his “behavioral problems”–and his older sister, McKenna, has lately disappeared into the strange and frightening world of teenagerdom. About the only friend Joel has left is Butchie, his father’s furry “partner.” When Joel and Butchie follow McKenna to a neighborhood bully’s party, illegal activity kicks the dog’s police training into overdrive, and soon the duo are on the run, navigating the streets of Chicago as they try to stay one step ahead of the bad guys–bad guys who may have a very personal interest in getting some payback on Officer Pete Murphy.

Hazardous Duty by WEB Griffin
Mexican drug cartels are shooting up the streets of Laredo and El Paso. Somali pirates are holding three U.S. tankers for ransom. The President is fed up and has what he thinks is a pretty bright idea#151;to get hold of Colonel Charley Castillo and his merry band and put them on the case. Unfortunately, that will be difficult. Everybody knows that the President hates Castillo’s guts, has just had him forcibly retired from the military, and now Castillo’s men are scattered far and wide, many of them in hiding. There are also whispers that the President himself is unstable; the word “nutcake” has been mentioned. How will it all play out? No one knows for sure, but for Castillo and company, only one thing is definite: It will be hazardous duty.

Hunting Shadows by Charles Todd
August 1920. A society wedding at Ely Cathedral in Cambridgeshire becomes a crime scene when a guest is shot just as the bride arrives. Two weeks later, after a fruitless search for clues, the local police are forced to call in Scotland Yard. But not before there is another shooting in a village close by. This second murder has a witness; the only problem is that her description of the killer is so horrific it’s unbelievable. Badgered by the police, she quickly recants her story. Despite his experience, Inspector Ian Rutledge can find no connection between the two deaths. One victim was an Army officer, the other a solicitor standing for Parliament; their paths have never crossed. What links these two murders? Is it something from the past? Or is it only in the mind of a clever killer? Then the case reminds Rutledge of a legendary assassin whispered about during the war. His own dark memories come back to haunt him as he hunts for the missing connection–and yet, when he finds it, it isn’t as simple as he’d expected.

Innocence by Dean Koontz
He lives in solitude beneath the city, an exile from society, which will destroy him if he is ever seen. She dwells in seclusion, a fugitive from enemies who will do her harm if she is ever found. But the bond between them runs deeper than the tragedies that have scarred their lives. Something more than chance–and nothing less than destiny–has brought them together in a world whose hour of reckoning is fast approaching.

The Land Across by Gene Wolfe
An American writer of travel guides in need of a new location chooses to travel to a small and obscure Eastern European country. The moment Grafton crosses the border he is in trouble, much more than he could have imagined. His passport is taken by guards, and then he is detained for not having it. He is released into the custody of a family, but is again detained. It becomes evident that there are supernatural agencies at work, but they are not in some ways as threatening as the brute forces of bureaucracy and corruption in that country. Is our hero in fact a spy for the CIA? Or is he an innocent citizen caught in a Kafkaesque trap? In The Land Across, Gene Wolfe keeps us guessing until the very end, and after. A Kirkus Reviews Best Fiction Book of 2013

The New Countess by Faye Weldon
From the award-winning novelist and writer of Upstairs Downstairs, the third book in a brilliant trilogy about what life was really like for masters and servants before the world of Downton Abbey. England, 1903. Lord Robert and Lady Isobel Dilberne and the entire grand estate, with its hundred rooms, is busy planning for a visit from Edward VII and Queen Alexandra just a few months a way. Preparations are elaborate and exhaustive: the menus and fashions must be just so, and so must James, the new heir and son of Arthur Dilberne and Chicago heiress, Minnie O’Brien. But there are problems. Little James is being reared to Lady Isobel’s tastes, not Minnie’s. And Mrs. O’Brien is visiting from America and causing trouble.

Noose by Bill James
Britain, 1956. A young actress seemingly tries to commit suicide over a tangled love affair, but is taken to hospital and her life saved. The story is just the sort of thing that journalist Ian Charteris likes to cover: a poignant mix of near tragedy, possible thwarted romance, and glamour, needing sensitive but – of course – dramatic treatment. It should be a routine assignment, a welcome assignment. It would be, if it wasn’t for the identity of the young woman. She may – just may – be Ian’s sister. The unwelcome reminder of the past drags Ian back into memories of places and events he’d rather forget.

Want Not by Jonathan Miles
Now, in his much anticipated second novel, Want Not , Miles takes a giant leap forward with this highly inventive and corrosively funny story of our times, a three-pronged tale of human excess that sifts through the detritus of several disparate lives–lost loves, blown chances, countless words and deeds misdirected or misunderstood–all conjoined in their come-hell-or-high-water search for fulfillment. As the novel opens on Thanksgiving Day, readers are telescoped into three different worlds in various states of disrepair–a young freegan couple living off the grid in New York City; a once-prominent linguist, sacked at midlife by the dissolution of his marriage and his father’s losing battle with Alzheimer’s; and a self-made debt-collecting magnate, whose brute talent for squeezing money out of unlikely places has yielded him a royal existence, trophy wife included. Want and desire propel these characters forward toward something, anything, more, until their worlds collide, briefly, randomly, yet irrevocably, in a shattering ending that will haunt readers long after the last page is turned.

The White Lie by Andrea Gillies
“One hot summer day, Michael Salter, nineteen-year-old scion of a posh Highland family, disappears. When his childlike aunt claims she drowned him during a fight, the family close ranks. No police. No memorial service. No titbits for village gossips. A decade of deceit begins.” — “Financial Times” The Salter family orbits around Peattie House, their crumbling Scottish highlands estate filled with threadbare furniture, patrician memories, and all their inevitable secrets. While gathered to celebrate grandmother’s seventieth birthday, someone breaks the silence. The web begins to unravel. But what is the white lie? How many others are built upon it? How many lives have been shaped by its shadow? Only one person knows the whole truth. From beyond the grave, Michael loops back into the past until we see, beyond perception and memory, how deeply our decisions resound, and just what is the place–and price–of grandeur.

The Yellow Eyes Of Crocodiles by Katherine Pancol
When her chronically unemployed husband runs off to start a crocodile farm in Kenya with his mistress, Joséphine Cortès is left in an unhappy state of affairs. The mother of two—confident, beautiful teenage Hortense and shy, babyish Zoé—is forced to maintain a stable family life while making ends meet on her meager salary as a medieval history scholar. Meanwhile, Joséphine’s charismatic sister Iris seems to have it all—a wealthy husband, gorgeous looks, and a très chic Paris address—but she dreams of bringing meaning back into her life. When Iris charms a famous publisher into offering her a lucrative deal for a twelfth-century romance, she offers her sister a deal of her own: Joséphine will write the novel and pocket all the proceeds, but the book will be published under Iris’s name. All is well—that is, until the book becomes the literary sensation of the season.

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