Fabulous Fiction Firsts #438 - Contemporary Israeli Fiction

The #1 bestselling author in Israel Liad Shoham makes his American debut with Lineup * * (translated from the Hebrew by Sara Kitai) - a superbly plotted, uncompromising crime thriller, "a twisted tale of mistaken identity, organized crime, a disgraced detective looking for redemption, a tireless young reporter, and an innocent man with a not-so-innocent past."

A brutal rape in a quiet Tel Aviv neighborhood has the police baffled. There are no witnesses, suspects, or clues, until the victim's father steps in and finds overwhelming evidence pointing to Ziv Nevo, a small-time crook with no alibi. Veteran detective Eli Nahum, under pressure to wrap up this high-profile case, is willing to take short cuts in order to get a quick confession.

"Lineup focuses on these two men, detective and suspect, as they both end up betraying what they value most, fighting for their lives, and struggling to make amends for their mistakes in this gritty, fast-paced, complex novel of suspense."

"The vagaries and details of big-city life are well drawn, and events and characters appear and vividly form as the story gains momentum." For fans of the urban crime thrillers of Michael Connelly and Robert Crais.

Award-winning novelist Orly Castel-Bloom is considered a leading voice in contemporary Hebrew literature. A frequent lecturer in the US (Harvard, UCLA, NYU) and UK (Oxford, Cambridge), she teaches at Tel Aviv University. Her newest (and the first in English translation in our collection) Textile * * "captures the culture of modern-day Israel with provocative deadpan humor."

Mandy Gruber, proprietor of a successful pajama factory catering to the ultra-Orthodox Jews, is hamstrung by deathbed promises made to her mother, binding her to an unhappy marriage and an antiquated business. Alienated from her self-proclaimed genius husband Irad, her daughter Lirit, and Dael, a son who serves as a sniper in the Israel Defense Force, Mandy takes solace in the too-frequently scheduled cosmetic surgeries. But when the surgery goes awry, everyone closely and distantly related to Mandy will feel the repercussions.

"With understated flair and stoic wit, Castel-Bloom uses the Gruber family to explore the themes of globalization, materialism, superficiality, and longevity, anchoring her story in a neighborhood and attempting to connect all this beauty and luxury to some kind of posterity beyond grasp."

A welcomed addition to modern family sagas played out in a setting steeped in culture and history.

* * = 2 starred reviews

Teen Fiction Recommendation: Picture Me Gone

Meg Rosoff draws an array of connections in her sixth young adult novel, Picture Me Gone: connections between children and adults, perception and reality. Twelve year old Mila has the same name as an old dog that she never knew, and her uncanny sense of perception links back to this fact. Her eyes work like a metal detector across a room, scanning every little detail and layer of reality that is hidden beneath the ordinary.

This extraordinary characteristic of Mila’s comes in handy when her father’s best friend Matthew goes missing in the United States. We follow Mila and her father, who she refers to as Gil throughout the novel, from England to the States where they embark on a missing person search together. The search is a reality reminiscent of the imaginary mystery games that her and her best friend Catlin used to play together when they were younger.

In the midst of flipping through the possibilities of why Matthew may have chosen to vanish, leaving behind his family and beloved dog Honey, Mila also struggles with the reality of her own friendship with Catlin vanishing. Rosoff pulls these two separate strings of friendship together to make connections that force us to reflect on what it means to change into different people as we grow up, and how our relationships reflect those changes.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #429 - "Good books don't give up all their secrets at once" ~ Stephen King

The Bookman's Tale : a novel of obsession by Charlie Lovett is set in Hay-on-Wy where the antiquarian bookseller/restorer Peter Byerly relocates after the death of his wife, Amanda. While casually browsing in a bookshop, a portrait of Amanda stumbles out of an 18th-century study of Shakespeare forgeries. Of course, it isn't really her. The watercolor is clearly Victorian. Yet the resemblance is uncanny, and Peter becomes obsessed with learning the picture's origins. In the process, he learns the truth about his own past, and discovers a book that might definitively prove Shakespeare was, indeed, the author of all his plays.

"(A) sparkling novel and a delightful exploration of one of literature's most tantalizing mysteries with echoes of Shadow of the Wind and A.S. Byatt's Possession: a romance."

"Drawing on debates about the authorship of Shakespeare's plays as well his own experience in the cutthroat world of antiquarian books, debut author Lovett (bio.) has crafted a gripping literary mystery that is compulsively readable until the thrilling end.

"A cheerily old-fashioned entertainment." Shakespeare aficionados might further their excursion with Jennifer Lee Carrell and her Shakespearean scholar-turned-theater-director Kate Stanley thriller series.

I am totally captivated with Mark Pryor's The Bookseller : the first Hugo Marston novel (in BOCD). Hugo Marston, head of security for the U.S. embassy in Paris is at loose ends. Contemplating a visit stateside to his estranged wife, he purchases a gift for her from his friend Max, an elderly bouquinistes. When Max is abducted in broad daylight, Martston looks on powerlessly to intervene. The police is uninterested, calling it a hoax but it piqued the interest of Claudia Roux, an attractive crime reporter.

With the help of semiretired CIA agent Tom Green, Marston launches an investigation. Pressure mounts as other booksellers are found floating in the Seine, they suspect that Max's disappearance is connected somehow to his activities as a Nazi hunter, and to the precious volume now in Marston's hands.

"Pryor's (true crime blogger, D.A.Confidential) steady and engrossing debut combines Sherlockian puzzle solving with Eric Ambler-like spy intrigue... the author winningly blends contemporary crime with historical topics. Pair with Cara Black's Aimée Leduc series for both locale and tone."

Reader might also enjoy the bookseller/amateur sleuth Victor Legris series set in belle-epoque Paris by Claude Izner, the pseudonym for sisters Liliane Korb and Laurence Lefevre, both second-hand booksellers on the banks of the Seine and experts on 19th c. France.

The Anthony Awards 2013 have been announced

The Anthony Awards, which acknowledge the best in crime fiction, were announced at the conclusion of the 44th Boucheron, the conference for mystery writers and readers.

Among the winners were:

Louise Penny for her fourth consecutive Anthony. This year her Anthony was for The Beautiful Mystery, the eighth book in her Inspector Armand Gamache series. Her previous three Anthonys were also for entries in this critically acclaimed series.

Chris Pavone's The Expats received its second Best First Novel award. The first was a 2013 Edgar in the same category.

Books to Die For: The World's Greatest Mystery Writers on the World's Greatest Mystery Novels took the Best Critical/Non-Fiction Work category.

For a complete list of 2013 Anthony Winners, check here.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #423 - Paris, any which way you can, but be very afraid

In Sarah Bruni's engaging debut The Night Gwen Stacy Died *, 17-year-old Sheila Gower has plans. She is moving to Paris. Misunderstood at home by her working-class family and a loner at school, she works at a small-town (Iowa) gas station where she conscientiously practices her conversational French aloud. She is attracted to the oddball cab-driver named Peter Parker, who stops in for cigarettes, and is intrigued when Peter begins to regard her as the fictional character's (Spider-Man) first girlfriend, Gwen Stacy. One night, Peter shows up with a gun...

In this "unusual and inventive love story,.. two lost souls hold the key to each other's salvation". "(F)iercely smart and delectably unpredictable...A genuine page-turner." ~ Kathryn Davis.

"Rough with dark psychology, rich with introspection and emotion, this beautifully written book will appeal to fans of Spider-Man comics as well as coming-of-age fiction."

Winner of the prestigious 2013 Crime Writers Association International Dagger Award, Pierre Lemaître's Alex * * (the first in a trilogy and his first novel to be translated into English) which the judges praised as having "(a)n original and absorbing ability to leash incredulity..., is (a) police procedural, a thriller against time, a race between hunted and hunter, and a whydunnit, written from multiple points of view..."

30-year-old Alex Prévost spots a man who clearly has been following her. That night, Alex is grabbed on a Paris street and thrown into a white van. She is savagely beaten, suspended from the ceiling of an abandoned warehouse in a tiny wooden cage filled with rats (an updated version of torture favored at the time of Louis XVI).

Meanwhile, apart from a shaky eyewitness report of the abduction, Police Commandant Camille Verhoeven has nothing to go on: no suspect, no leads, and no family or friends anxious to find a missing loved one. He knows from bitter experience (in a heartbreaking backstory) the urgency of finding the missing woman but as he uncovers the details, Camille is forced to acknowledge that the person he seeks is no ordinary victim, thus setting the investigation off in an equally disturbing direction.

Expect plenty more twists and surprises that will keep you at the edge of your seat and the pages turning. And if you have a strong stomach and nerves of steel, may I also suggest Maegan Beaumont's Carved in Darkness* ? Another FFF, and first in a projected series, set in SF, that boasts "pulse-pounding terror, graphic violence and a loathsome killer". Be very very afraid...

* = starred review
* * = starred reviews

Elmore Leonard, crime writer extraordinaire, has died

Elmore Leonard, longtime Michigan resident who captivated his readers for years, died this morning in his beloved Detroit.

Born in New Orleans in 1925, he started out as a writer of western fiction. One of his earliest (1953) westerns, 3:10 to Yuma, was the first of many of his novels to be made into a movie. In the case of Yuma, both the 1957 original release, starring Van Heflin and Glenn Ford and the 2007 remake, with Russell Crowe and Christian Bale, were popular.

Once westerns reached their peak in the early 1960s, Leonard stuck with his copywriting career which had funded his writing since the 1950s. Then in 1965, his agent sold the film rights to Hombre(1961) (on order) which was released two years later, starring Paul Newman and Fredric March.

With the money from that sale, Leonard switched gears and began writing one entertaining, suspenseful crime novel after another, many of which, again, were optioned into movies. First up was The Big Bounce, 1969, which hit the the silver screen in 1969 and again with the remake in 2004.

Get Shorty, the movie (John Travolta and Rene Russo, 1995), was based on his 1990 novel by the same name.

In all, more than two dozen Elmore Leonard novels got the Hollywood treatment.

Critics and fans adored his books, marveling at his gift for dialog and spare storytelling. On July 16, 2001, Leonard wrote an article for the New York Times. In WRITERS ON WRITING; Easy on the Adverbs, Exclamation Points and Especially Hooptedoodle, he laid out his ten rules for writing which have become revered guidelines ever since.

Elmore Leonard was the recipient of multiple awards, including a couple of Edgars, a Peabody, and the Owen Wister Award.In addition he had honorary PhDs from The University of Michigan, Florida Atlantic University and University of Detroit Mercy.

Mr, Leonard, who had suffered a stroke on July 29th of this year, was 87 years old.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #420 - Sugar 'n spice and everything nice?

Well, I'll let you be the judge. But seriously, 2 phenomenal debuts from across the pond, with unforgettable young protagonists, not to be missed.

A published poet, and one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists Jenni Fagan knocked it out of the park with her dazzling The Panopticon * *, which has been named one of the best books of the year by the Times Literary Supplement and The Scotsman.

Anais Hendricks, 15 is headed for the Panopticon, the much dreaded last-resort for chronic young offenders after she is found covered with the blood of a police officer. Violent, "permanently whacked on...drug(s)", and the product of foster homes (23 before she turned 7), she is a survivor and a counter-culture outlaw. Though experience taught her to only rely on herself, she finds a sense of belonging among the residents of the Panopticon, and soon forms strong bonds with the other troubled teens. Their struggle is with their keepers, especially when Anais is convinced she is part of a sinister experiment.

"Dark and disturbing but also exciting and moving thanks to a memorable heroine and vividly atmospheric prose."

"Anais's story is one of abandonment, loss, and redemption."

2013 Thriller Award nominee for Best Paperback Original Novel, Alex Marwood's (the pseudonym of a successful journalist) debut The Wicked Girls * * * is "(a) gritty, psychological thriller that asks the question: How well can you know anyone?"

On a fateful summer morning in 1986, 11 year-olds Jade Walker and Annabel (Bel) Oldacre meet for the first time. By the end of the day, they will both be charged with murder. Journalist Kirsty Lindsay, while following leads on a series of attacks on young female tourists in a seaside vacation town comes face to face with Amber Gordon, now a janitor for a carnival where the most recent crime is committed. This is their first meeting in 25 years after spending years in two separate British correctional facilities.

Kirsty and Amber, with new, vastly different lives, and unknowing families to protect, are desperate to keep their wicked secret hidden, and to uphold their probationary condition never to have contact with each other.

Marwood intersperses the contemporary serial-killer story line and hour-by-hour accounts of what happened the day the girls met 25 years ago. "This chilling debut is chock-full of surprises. If Tana French and Gillian Flynn stayed up all night telling stories at an abandoned amusement park, this is awfully close to what they might come up with."

"Gripping and fast-paced", it will appeal to fans of the Academy Award-nominated film Heavenly Creatures and the novels of Rosamund Lupton and Chevy Stevens."

"A suspenseful, buzz-worthy novel offering a sure-footed depiction of two women who lost their childhoods."

* * * = starred reviews
* * = starred reviews

Author Iain Pears and the Art History Mysteries

Iain Pears is a superlative, British author, whose fiction and mysteries are well worth your time. He has a doctorate in art history from Oxford, has lived in France, Italy and the U.S., and all of his books reveal his cosmopolitan, erudite background and his astounding grasp of history, art and language.

I started with his stand-alone novels, of which there are four, and was hooked from the first. One of these, The Portrait, which is a quirky, stream-of-consciousness, almost-plot-less, monologue about an artist’s relationship with a devastatingly severe critic is unusual and hard to read, but rewardingly saturated with Pears’ extensive knowledge of art and art history. The other three – An Instance of the Fingerpost, The Dream of Scipio and Stone’s Fall – are incomparable historical novels. Intricately plotted, steeped in the history of many different eras, with characters which walk off the page they are so real, at least one of them belongs on one of those “100 Best Novels of All Time” lists which Time and Entertainment Weekly have recently published. In fact, if I could do my own version of such a list, all three of these novels would appear on it.

Then, to my surprise and delight, I discovered that Pears’ first venture into fiction writing was a 7-book mystery series known as the Art History Mysteries. Set mostly in Italy, with sleuth Flavia di Stefano from the Art Fraud Squad and her unwitting partner-sleuth, art historian and dealer, Jonathan Argyll, these strike me as Pears-lite. Shorter and snappier than his other novels, with wry humor and regular romps around Europe, they all feature the theft and/or forgery of great art work and the subsequent murders which inevitably result from such shenanigans (as mystery readers know, murder happens). Though you could read them in any order, if you are compulsive like me, you should start with the first, The Raphael Affair.

Though reading these mysteries cannot compare with actually going to Rome, Florence and Venice – walking spell-bound through their great buildings, museums and plazas; viewing the paintings, sculpture and fountains; sipping wine and eating in little bistros and cafés – it comes as close I am likely to get in the near future. Pears gets the ambience just right, presents you with painless art history lessons and a peek at the politics, economics and dangers of the art world, and creates seven whacking-good stories to boot.

J.K. Rowling's New Book

As many of you have probably heard, J.K. Rowling, famous for her Harry Potter series, recently released a book under the pseudonym of Robert Galbraith called The Cuckoo's Calling.

Although the novel was released on June 1st, the official word of Rowling being the author didn't hit until little under a week ago. This has come as a surprise to many fans and readers across the world; in fact, CNN reported that "on Amazon.com, sales soared more than 507,000% after Rowling acknowledged being the author." However, Rowling wasn't even expecting the leak herself, explaining that she trusted her lawyers with the knowledge of her secret novel. After one of the lawyers told his wife's best friend, the news trickled onto Twitter... and from there, well... chaos ensued!

The AADL's copies of The Cuckoo's Calling are now on high demand, but you can still put your name on the list to read Rowling's mysterious novel about supermodel Lula Landry. Be prepared to fall into a world of "multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers" (dust jacket).

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #414 - Spectacular Crimes, Foreign Climes

The Abomination * * is Book 1 of Jonathan Holt's Carnivia Trilogy, a propulsive tale of murder, corruption, and international intrigue set in 2 Venices, the modern physical world and its virtual counterpart.

Captain Kat Tapo must unravel a dark conspiracy linking the CIA and the Catholic Church when the Carabinieri fish a woman's body out of the icy water, dressed in the sacred robes of a Catholic priest - a desecration that is known as the Abomination. When another murder victim is discovered, a connection develops between Kat's case and an investigation being conducted by an American army lieutenant, Holly Boland, who is on the trail of classified documents that could reveal CIA involvement in inciting civil war in the Balkans. Throw in a computer wizard who has created a virtual Venice - Carnivia.com, which has become a repository for every sort of secret— - sexual, political, ­religious, —and you have a multistranded conspiracy thriller with plenty of pop.

"(A) beautifully complicated thriller... (a) brilliant blend of fascinating story lines, serious issues, impeccable research, gripping intrigue, and engaging characters, ... eminently satisfying from start to finish." Did someone mention Dan Brown?

The Square of Revenge * * is the English-language debut of Flemish crime writer Pieter Aspe (translated by Brian Doyle), set in the idyllic medieval city of Bruges.

When the wealthy and powerful Ludovic Degroof's jewelry store is broken into, nothing is stolen, but millions in jewels have been dissolved in aqua regia, an acid so strong it could melt gold. The only clue found is a scrap of paper on which a strange square has been drawn. Inspector Pieter Van In and the new DA Hannelore Martens find themselves unraveling a complex web of enigmatic Latin phrase, generations of sordid family secrets, a priceless collection of art.

"This best-selling European series...(with) its fair share of mayhem and intrigue but with little blood spilled, maintains a fast pace, a light touch, and a joy in the telling." For fans of the noir comedy In Bruges (2008), and Georges Simenon's Maigret series.

Professional translator of English-language fiction into Spanish, Antonio Hill's debut thriller The Summer of Dead Toys is already a bestseller in Spain.

A riveting crime thriller set during a sultry Barcelona summer, Inspector Hector Salgado, recently returned from a forced "holiday" is assigned to investigate the accidental death of a college student in one of the ritzier neighborhoods. As Salgado follows a trail that will lead him deep into the underbelly of Barcelona's high society, he comes face to face with dangerous criminals, long-buried secrets, and, of course, his own past.

"Gripping, sophisticated, and wickedly entertaining". "Reminiscent of Ian Rankin's Inspector John Rebus, or Jo Nesbø's Harry Hole series as crime fiction fans explore the gritty side of another European city."

* * = starred reviews

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