Fabulous Fiction Firsts #101

The Queen Gambet: A Leonardo da Vinci Mystery* by Diane Stuckart is the first of a projected series.

Set in 15th-century Milan, the Renaissance artist/inventor was pressed into service by the Duke of Milan to solve a murder during a spectacular chess match played with human pieces.

With high-stake political maneuvers across Europe and a priceless painting in the balance, da Vinci must investigate quietly behind the scene, with only the help of Dino, his young apprentice who has his own secrets to guard.

This new historical whodunit renders a lively portrait of court life in Renaissance Milan, as well as fleshes out the humanity and the genius of the renowned master.

*=Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts#100

"Emily Haxby is an up-and-coming attorney at a big firm in Manhattan. From the outside, she seems to have her life tied up flawlessly with a big red bow; however, the package is coming unraveled." so begins The Opposite of Love*.

Then comes the break-up with the perfect guy, an assignment from hell, and Grandpa Jack slipping away in an Alzheimer's haze. Can Emily pull it together — work, family, love life, and all? You'll be turning pages until you find out!

First-time novelist and Harvard Law alum Julie Buxbaum handles Emily's tale "with notable intelligence and grace" (Booklist). Just the buzz of her very generous 2-book deal could be a clue to this being a newcomer worth watching.

* = Starred Review.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #99

Go with Me* by Castle Freeman Jr. is an engaging “small masterpiece of black comedy and suspense”~Kirkus.

The plot is simple, really – but the execution (wink wink), is marvelous! In a small backwoods Vermont hamlet, young Lillian has nowhere to turn with the sheriff claiming that his hands are tied when it comes to her stalker – big bad bully Blackway, not even after he butchered her kitty cat. But Sheriff Wingate did point Lillian to Whizzer; a wheelchair-bound mill owner and his gang of beer-drinking loafers.

With beautiful characterization, measured pace, and wicked quiet humor, this loose rendering of a King Arthur tale will entertain and delight, even though the ending won't surprise. Still, more fun than you would expect from a fiction debut.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #98

Critics are calling Alan Drew's The Gardens of Water "nothing short of extraordinary".

Set in a small town outside Istanbul, it opens as Sinan Basioglu, a Kurdish shopkeeper and devout Muslim, is preparing for his nine-year-old son Ismail’s circumcision ceremony. Among the guests are their American neighbors whom Sinan begrudgingly invite at the last minute.
When disaster strikes and both families suffer indescribable losses, their lives intertwined and become interdependent. Each must find a way to look beyond their disparate cultural backgrounds and centuries-old misunderstanding to survive.

Garden is ”a remarkable work from a compelling new voice in fiction”, ~Bookreporters.com, and " A richly detailed, finely plotted demonstration of culture clash." ~Booklist.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #97

Oh, how I hate being late to the party! At the American Library Association Midwinter in Philly last week, the hot topic was nordic mystery and the most eagerly anticipated read was The Redbreast* (and I am still #13 on the waiting list!)

People-in-the-know are calling Norwegian Jo Nesbo's English debut "an epic new novel, brilliant in scope and design - a deep and fearless investigation of betrayal spanning two centures and three continents". It also introduces to North American readers Police Detective Harry Hole who finds himself sitting on top of an international conspiracy during a presidential visit to Oslo.

This winner of the Glass Key prize for the best Nordic crime novel, "fans of Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum will have a seriously difficult time putting down", writes Bruce Tierney of BookPage.

*= Starred Reviews (Jessica: Enjoyed yours in LJ)

Fabulous Fiction Firsts # 96 (Books to Fall In Love With)

The countdown to Valentine's Day is on! (Already?) The wonderful folks at Bookrerporter.com have some sweet and heart-themed treats for you. From January 25th through February 6th, readers will have the chance to win one of five Bookreporter.com Valentine's Day baskets. They are filled with one copy of each of the featured books - from heartwarming novels, philosophical commentary, musical analogies, to some titles that are just plain fun.

I am especially excited with Beginner's Greek by first time novelist (former editor at the Times) James Collins.

Peter Russell is a deeply romantic guy who believes the woman of his dreams is destined to sit next to him on an airplane. And there is Holly, a pretty, strawberry blonde woman who reads Thomas Mann for pleasure. A thousand complications ensue in this delicious novel of missed opportunities, second chances, and lost love. I won't spoil it for you. Enjoy the ride.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #95

Shortlisted for the CWA's New Blood Dagger Award, this compulsively readable debut novel by Kitty Sewell is dark and intriguing.

Ice Trap* is set in Moose Creek, a tiny outpost in Canada's Northwest Territories where Dr. Dafydd Woodruff returns after an absence of 14 years to investigate a paternity claim against him. He was sure he never had sex with Sheila Hailey, a head nurse who is beautiful, cruel and manipulative but the positive DNA test clearly points to Sheila’s twin being his.

Sewell’s skillful mixing of long buried secrets and past shame, depiction of Dafydd’s crumbling marriage, and the puzzle surrounding his newfound family make for a compelling read.

For other mysteries set in the Canadian arctic, try The Tenderness of Wolves by Stef Penney and Consumption by Kevin Patterson.

* = Starred Review

Fabulous Fiction First #94

Critics are calling this a "remarkably moving and assured" debut. A Golden Age* by Tahmima Anam tells the story of Bangladesh's 1971 war for independence through the eyes of a widow.

Rehana, a Karachi version of the unsinkable Molly Brown, prizes above all her son Sohail and daughter Maya whom she lost once to a rich and powerful brother-in-law upon her husband's untimely death. Ten years later, secure and prosperous (how she got there is a shameful secret) she is being drawn into political turmoil by her children and it would take another supreme sacrifice on her part to ensure their safety.

"Panoramic in its sense of history, intensely personal in its sense of drama - a wonderfully sad yet joyous read" ~ Kirkus Reviews. This debut from the Dhaka born and Harvard educated Anam compares well with works of Monica Ali and Kiran Desai.

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #93

This engrossing British police procedural marks the debut of Elena Forbes and her Detective Inspector Mark Tartaglia – a stubborn cop who mystery fans will no doubt grow to love – much like Ian Rankin’s Inspector Rebus.

When 14 year-old Gemma Kramer's broken body is found on the floor of a church, the official ruling is suicide, that is - until a witness saw her kissing a much older man and the toxicology report comes back showing traces of GHB. Before long, Tartaglia has three more suspicious deaths on his hands and is looking at a charismatic psychopath with a terrifying predilection for lonely girls and deadly heights.

Critics are calling Die With Me* “an intelligently plotted, convincing and nicely textured read”, and Forbes is “definitely one to watch”. Fans of the television series Prime Suspect might want to check this one out.

One more thing... if you are not already a fan of David Lawrence's Detective Stella Mooney series, we also highly recommend the latest : Down Into Darkness*.

* = Starred Reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #92 (Small Gems #3)

A Tranquil Star: Unpublished Stories by Primo Levi - extraordinary writer, poet and a survivor of Auschwitz, is a collection of 17 (very short) stories, published originally in Italian between 1949 and 1986.

“ They reflect Levi's extraordinary range, revealing his abhorrence of bureaucracy, his passion for the most mysterious forces of astrophysics and other sciences, and his Shakespearean understanding of the nuances and peculiarities of human behavior."

This first English edition honors the 20th anniversary of his death in Turin, the city he called home.

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