Fabulous Fiction Firsts #106

In this Olympic year, all eyes are on China. Coincidentally, we have a bumper crop of FFF by expat. Chinese writers, as well as a number of outstanding mysteries set in China.

The Eye of Jade, by Chinese exile Diane Wei Liang who fled her country after participating in the Tiananmen Square protests, is an impressive debut.

Set in the late 1990s' Beijing, P.I. Mei Wang was hired by a family friend to track down a jade seal from the Han Dynasty, supposedly destroyed by the Red Guards. Challenging family relationships, bureaucratic intricacies and an unconventional protagonist made for a fascinating read.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #105

Literature professor (Louisville, Kentucky) Will Lavender’s debut novel Obedience is one tautly strung thriller!

Students at Winchester University’s Logic and Reasoning 204 are greeted on the first day of class with one startling assignment – find a hypothetical missing girl name Polly before the end of term or she will be murdered.

As the clues set forth by the creepy prof. point more toward something real and sinister rather than a logic exercise, three of the students find disturbing personal connections with Polly. What looks like an academic exercise at first could turn deadly.

Obedience hooks you fast and hard. Ride it out and brace for the shock.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #104 (The Fourth Man)

"An absorbing study of sexual enthrallment, dogged policework and a harrowing twist or two" marks The Fourth Man, the American debut of Oslo police inspector Frank Frolich.

Soon after Frolich rescues Elisabeth in a robbery-homicide, he is drawn into a risky and sorted tangled web of "art theft, blackmail, torrid sex and double crosses". With his career and his life on the line, all the likely suspects turning up dead and Elisabeth missing, the identity of a possible 4th man becomes ever more crucial. Recommended for fans of Karin Fossum and Kjell Eriksson.

K.O Dahl is an award-winning author in his native Norway. Another new name to watch for nordic mystery fans.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #105

Black Ships* is debut novelist Jo Graham's captivating retelling of Virgil's The Aeneid from the perspective of Gull, a slave girl taken at the sacking of Troy.

At 17, Gull was chosen by the oracle Pythia as her successor for her prophetic visions, but she must decide if she would give up her exalted position and sail with exiled Trojan Prince Aeneas on the black ships, in order to guide him to his destiny.

Graham ably re-creates a vivid picture of the ancient world in this historically based fantasy. Her spare style complements the action-filled plot, and the “smoldering emotional resonance” fully engages the reader.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #104

L.A., gangs, turf war. Sound familiar? Well, Toby Barlow's debut Sharp Teeth* is anything but!

Written in free verse, this "highly addictive, enormously enjoyable, and unexpectedly moving", horror/thriller is about the fantastical world of werewolves. Caught in the middle of savage pack rivalry is Anthony, a kindhearted, down-and-out dogcatcher and the girl he loves who is in fact, a female werewolf.

This adrenaline-packed, fast-paced, darkly comic (card-playing dogs, crystal meth labs, surfing) debut by a Michigan author will surprise and entertain. Barlow is the Executive Creative Director of the giant ad agency JWT, whose clients include Ford, Shell and MTV. He lives in downtown Detroit.

* = Starred reviews

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #103

Tired of the bleak Feb. days? Looking for something light and engaging? You might want to try Gods Behaving Badly by first time novelist Marie Phillips.

The immortals of Mount Olympus have fallen, and not just on hard times. Apollo, Aphrodite, Artemis, Eros and Zeus are slumming in modern day London, working menial jobs as a dogwalker, a phone sex operator, a TV psychic; and falling for their cleaning woman, all the while worrying about their waning power and each other with their endless squabbling.

"Phillips imagines a hilarious world that explains all that is inexplicable in our own". "Fanciful, humorous and charming, this satire is as sweet as nectar" ~ Publishers Weekly.

Phillips is a graduate of Cambridge University currently working at the BBC and writes for the blog StrugglingAuthor.blogspot.com.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #102

"Shades of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Caleb Carr's The Alienist, Neil Gaiman's Neverwhere, and Kim Newman's Dracula-inflected Victoriana"(Kirkus)... now, if that does not intrigue you, let me tell you this is by far one of the best thrillers I have come across in quite awhile.

A guaranteed page-turner, British(Oxford)scholar Jonathan Barnes' hectic, layered, odd and oddly affecting literary extravaganza The Somnambulist* features the shadowy magician/private detective Edward Moon and his sidekick - the 8' tall, bald, mute somnambulist.

"Barnes is up to something very special here. He's created a new genre, really, a graphic novel written in longhand, and it combines the subtle horror of Patricia Highsmith, the goofy gore of Christopher Moore, and the cartoon action of the TV series Heroes. Read for the sheer fun of it"~ Jen Baker for Booklist. Trust us on this one.

* = Starred Reviews

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

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