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December 2006

Librarians’ Choice 2006 · Fiction

cover of Jar City Jar City
Arnaldur Indridason
Reykjavik police detective Erlendur probes the murder of an elderly man with a sordid history of rape: an accusation against the deceased was dismissed after a botched police interrogation. Outside the murder case, Erlendur contends with personal issues—failing health and an estranged daughter—in a gritty whodunit from the chilly waters of the North Atlantic.

cover of Duchess of Aquitaine Duchess of Aquitaine
Margaret Ball
The history of Eleanor of Aquitaine is a fascinating story in its own right, and this fictionalized account lives up to its subject. When her father dies, the teenaged Eleanor marries Louis VII of France in an effort to safeguard her family’s land. But when that marriage fails and she subsequently weds Henry II of England, Eleanor must protect her very life.

cover of Arthur & George Arthur & George
Julian Barnes
This elegantly constructed, beautifully written novel is based on actual events. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle responds to an appeal from George Edalji, an immigrant’s son unjustly convicted of a crime. Barnes arranges this fascinating story as a pair of contrasting character studies, which he gradually intertwines. Highly recommended for readers of sophisticated fiction.

cover of Slipping into Darkness Slipping into Darkness
Peter Blauner
As Francis X. Loughlin prepares to retire with honors from the police force, Julian Vega, a man whom he helped to convict of murder, is released from prison on a technicality. Vega maintains his innocence, but Loughlin wants to prove the earlier conviction was correct in Blauner’s stunning, character-driven novel of suspense.

cover of The Mortician’s Daughter The Mortician’s Daughter
Elizabeth Bloom
Following a frantic phone call from a childhood friend whose son has just been murdered, suspended New York City policewoman Ginnie LaVoie returns to her small hometown in Western Massachusetts to look into the killing. But the local police investigation and an old flame complicate Ginnie’s efforts in this mystery rich in small town atmosphere.

cover of Restless Restless
William Boyd
In 1976 England, language tutor Ruth Gilmartin learns that her widowed mother was not originally British, but a Russian-born spy, Eva Delectorskaya, recruited by the British Secret Service early in World War II. Eva’s gripping espionage adventures unfold in alternating chapters in Boyd’s compulsively readable story of a woman’s secret past.

cover of Fledgling Fledgling
Octavia Butler
The passing of African-American author Octavia Butler was a shock to readers of her deeply moral works of fantasy and science fiction. In the final book published before her death, Butler provides a subtle examination of racism and species interdependence as backdrop to the tale of a young vampire seeking her true identity.

cover of Summer Crossing Summer Crossing
Truman Capote
In Manhattan in the summer of 1945, a willful young socialite pursues an affair with a 24-year-old parking attendant, while her parents sail to Europe. The release of two biographical films, Capote (2005) and Infamous (2006), and the publication of this lost first novel underscore the relevance of this American literary original.

cover of Winkie Winkie
Clifford Chase
Winkie, a teddy bear come magically to life, is captured in a SWAT team raid on a remote log cabin. Seeking a terrorist bomber, police authorities settle instead for Winkie, who is subsequently charged with thousands of crimes. Chase’s whimsical, cautionary parable reminds that an irrational response to a perceived threat endangers freedom.

cover of The Thin Place The Thin Place
Kathryn Davis
Davis employs elements from the natural and supernatural worlds, and enlists the viewpoints of various characters (including a dog) to explore the history and secrets of a small New England town on the Canadian border. This is an offbeat literary novel, comic and cosmic, filled with memorable characters and surprising events.

cover of The Madonnas of Leningrad The Madonnas of Leningrad
Debra Dean
Once a guide at the Hermitage Museum in Russia, Marina struggles now with Alzheimer’s disease, but her recollection of the German siege of Leningrad during World War II is crystal clear. Memories of bitter cold and starvation haunt Marina’s life in a beautiful novel that shifts between past and present with agonizing intensity.

cover of The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell The Bad Behavior of Belle Cantrell
Loraine Despres
In 1920’s Louisiana, rebellious Belle Cantrell chafes at the expectations set forth in the Primer of Propriety and the Southern Belle’s Handbook. When the local leader of the Ku Klux Klan plans a major demonstration against her good friends, the Rubensteins, Belle charges to their defense. Prequel to the popular The Scandalous Summer of Sissy LeBlanc.

cover of The Cat Dancers The Cat Dancers
P.T. Deutermann
In North Carolina, two men charged with robbery and murder are released on a legal technicality. Each dies later in a violent act of retribution. Police detective Cam Richter probes rumors of a band vigilante cops that initiates its new members in a bizarre rite of passage in the Blue Ridge Mountains. A gripping, top-shelf police suspense novel.

cover of The Stolen Child The Stolen Child
Keith Donohue
Those watchful may still glimpse fairies in the forests and glens of mid-twentieth century America. But seven-year-old Henry Day and the changeling who steals his identity represent the last of their kind in Donohue’s deliciously dark and dramatic fantasy debut. Inspired by a poem by W.B. Yeats, Donohue writes with striking detail and vivid imagination.

cover of Kornwolf Kornwolf
Tristan Egolf
After a 25-year hiatus, the Blue Ball Devil, an elusive monster, returns to terrorize the citizens of a Pennsylvania Dutch community. Egolf imbeds this tale of a marauding teenaged werewolf in a mordant satire of the Amish and their rites of passage. This is a final subversive howl from a remarkable literary voice: Egolf took his life in 2005.

cover of Between the Bridge and the River Between the Bridge and the River
Craig Ferguson
Take two half-brothers from a rather colorful Las Vegas showgirl-mother, introduce them to a pair of Scotsmen who have been friends since childhood, send the whole party on a wild, vulgar, terribly funny road trip through the American South, and you’ll have this oddly charming first novel by the host of CBS’s The Late Show.

cover of Paint It Black Paint It Black
Janet Fitch
When Michael Faraday commits suicide in a dingy motel room, he leaves a mother and girlfriend who must find a way to move on. At odds before the tragedy, the grieving women discover mutual consolation. Fitch deftly handles her difficult subject in a moving and emotional novel about the lives of those left behind following a suicide.

cover of Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven Can’t Wait to Get to Heaven
Fannie Flagg
One moment octogenarian Elner Shimfissle is on a ladder picking figs, and the next she’s, well…off to the afterlife, reuniting with her sister, Ida, and some old friends! Not for long, though. The people of Elmwood Springs still need Elner’s wisdom and guidance in Flagg’s charming, life-affirming, halfway-to-heaven comedy.

cover of Playing God Playing God
Kate Flora
In the early hours of a frigid February day, Portland, Maine, police sergeant Joe Burgess finds a prominent physician brutally murdered in his Mercedes and investigates the possibility that either a disgruntled patient or one of several mysterious women is responsible for the crime. This is an excellent page-turner for a cold winter night!

cover of Sharp Objects Sharp Objects
Gillian Flynn
A brutal crimes of a serial killer who preys on young girls brings journalist Camille Preaker home to Wind Gap, Missouri. Camille’s investigation diverges from that of the police, and her interviews with locals trigger memories of a traumatic childhood and incidents of self-mutilation. This is a dark and shocking debut thriller from the critic for Entertainment Weekly.

cover of City of Shadows City of Shadows
Ariana Franklin
In an asylum in Weimar Berlin, caberet-owner Nick finds Anna, a disturbed woman who believes she is Grand Duchess Anastasia. Nick orders Esther, his Russian-Jewish secretary, to tutor Anna to claim the Imperial fortune. As a mysterious killer stalks the girl, Esther and the police endeavor to save Anna’s life in a stunning novel of historical suspense.

cover of The Myth Hunters The Myth Hunters
Christopher Golden
Lawyer Oliver Bascombe is kidnapped on the eve of his wedding and forced to help a strange frozen man escape from deadly pursuers. Jack Frost is just one of the characters from myth and folklore summoned vividly to life in this introductory volume of a trilogy set in a fascinating, and very dangerous, parallel world.

cover of Dope Dope
Sara Gran
In Hell’s Kitchen of the 1950s, ex-hooker and former addict Jo Flanigan is an off-the-books investigator. A Long Island couple hires to find their daughter, who has vanished into the city’s subculture of drugs. The author of the chilling horror tale,Come Closer, offers a stark noir featuring a street-smart guide to a Beat Era netherworld.

cover of Water for Elephants Water for Elephants
Sara Gruen
Distraught and penniless after the death of his parents, Jacob Jankowski jumps a freight that turns out to be the circus train for the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Jacob earns a job with the circus, falls in love with the beautiful equestrian, and tames a contrary elephant in Gruen’s mesmerizing story of Depression-era America.

cover of Spot of Bother Spot of Bother
Mark Haddon
Recent retiree George Hall just wants to lead an uneventful life. But a dreadful impending family wedding, nettlesome relations, and a curious skin discoloration on his hip cause George considerable anxiety. This is a riotously funny British domestic comedy from the author of the bestseller, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night.

cover of Gentlemen and Players Gentlemen and Players
Joanne Harris
Young Snyde, a working-class urchin, can’t resist infiltrating the hallowed halls of elite St. Oswald’s School for Boys. He delights in pulling pranks, until one of his japes results in a tragedy. In a chilling psychological study of class and obsession, Snyde returns to the school fifteen years later, harboring a dark agenda of revenge and murder.

cover of Afterlands Afterlands
Steven Heighton
This fascinating novel of exploration and intrigue is based on the Arctic expedition of the Polaris in 1871. Stranded on an ice floe, members of the multinational crew divide along nationalistic lines, as the possibilities for survival and rescue grow slimmer. Gorgeous language and stunning acuity of character and place mark this magnificent tale.

cover of Some Nerve Some Nerve
Jane Heller
Heller’s latest effort demonstrates once again that the best Chick Lit combines sparkling characters with a deliciously entertaining story. Celebrity journalist Ann Roth is fired after a disasterous encounter with actor Malcom Goddard. But when Ann returns home to Missouri, she unexpectedly encounters Malcom once more in this charming romantic frolic.

cover of Grief Grief
Andrew Holleran
Following the death of his invalid mother, a gay middle-aged professor relocates to Washington, D.C., to teach a seminar on literature and AIDS, and to elude memories of the past. Andrew Holleran (Dancer from the Dance-1978) offers a moving and literary meditation on the nature of loss and sorrow in post-AIDS, and post-9/11, America.

cover of Between, Georgia Between, Georgia
Joshilyn Jackson
In tiny Between, Georgia, the feud betwixt the orderly Fretts and the dysfunctional Crabtrees has simmered for decades. Spunky narrator Nonny was born a Crabtree, but raised as a Frett. She’s drawn back home when a violent incident awakens the dispute. With irrepressible mirth and honesty, Jackson spins a tale of smalltown Southern families at odds.

cover of My Lucky Star My Lucky Star
Joe Keenan
Screenwriter Philip Cavanaugh is happy to sacrifice nobility as a starving artist in order to work on a film with Hollywood superstar Stephen Donato. But when rumors brew about Stephen’s sham marriage, Philip scrambles to save the film and his career, while remaining loyal to Stephen. A witty romp by one of the writers for television’s Frasier.

cover of Timothy: or, Notes of an Abject Reptile Timothy: or, Notes of an Abject Reptile
Verlyn Klinkenborg
This beautifully written study is narrated by Timothy, a female tortoise living in the garden of Gilbert White, the 18th-century naturalist and author of The Natural History of Selborne. In a week of freedom spent beyond the gate, Timothy artfully observes nature and reflects upon the curious ways of humans. A charming and irresistible little book.

cover of The Mission Song The Mission Song
John Le Carré
Bruno Salvador, a young, idealistic London interpreter, was born in the Congo of an African girl and an Irish Catholic priest. When a government agency in negotiations with Congolese leaders asks Bruno for professional help, he is eager to assist. But Bruno comes to realize that the agency’s benevolent agenda is fraught with deceit in this stylish thriller.

cover of The Liquidators The Liquidators
Tom LeClair
Middletown businessman Tom Bond runs a mobile surplus company covering the Midwest. Professional and family crises inspire Tom’s dream of establishing a memorial to human facility and folly in his hometown. This fourth novel from University of Cincinnati professor Tom LeClair is a discerning character study and a satire of American business.

cover of The Road The Road
Cormac McCarthy
A father and his small son trudge down the highway in a near-future America devastated by cataclysmic fire. Life is a constant search for food. Other survivors are to be avoided: savagery and cannibalism are the rule. Short, powerful sentences and lush poetic language bring an almost biblical authority to this dark and chilling post-apocalyptic vision.

cover of Shadow Man Shadow Man
Cody McFadyen
Following the murders of her husband and daughter, FBI agent Smokey Barrett wonders whether to return to work, or to kill herself. But when an friend is slain by a serial killer obsessed with Jack the Ripper, her decision is made for her. McFadyen’s suspenseful debut offers a conflicted character who defies grief through her courage and professionalism.

cover of Duchess of Nothing Duchess of Nothing
Heather McGowan
After several failed relationships, an eccentric and opinionated American woman takes up with a man in Rome and grows to enjoy the time she spends mothering his seven year-old brother. When it’s time for her to turn over care of the boy to someone else, however, the woman confronts a difficult choice that gives this touching novel real poignancy.

cover of The Good Life The Good Life
Jay McInerny
Corrine and Russell endure loveless marriages, and both have been shaken by the events of September 11, 2001. As volunteers at a kitchen serving rescue workers near Ground Zero, they meet and fall in love. Two Manhattan couples must reassess family and commitment in McInerny’s powerful study of love, loss, and the human reply to tragedy.

cover of Explorers of the New Century Explorers of the New Century
Magnus Mills
In a remote and desolate corner of the world, rival expeditions race to achieve an objective known as the Agreed Furthest Point. What begins as a story of 19th century adventure and discovery becomes, following a surprising inversion, a devious satirical fable. British author Mills is a master of understated farce, and this is a delightful turn.

cover of Black Swan Green Black Swan Green
David Mitchell
Award-winning British novelist David Mitchell pens a tender and wryly humorous novel about a thirteen-year-old boy in Thatcher-era England. As war rages in the Falklands, Jason Tyler tries desperately to overcome a stammer and struggles to find his place in the world at large, as well as the smaller more crucial universe of home and school.

cover of Here They Come Here They Come
Yannick Murphy
In 1970s New York City, an unnamed 13-year-old narrator lives in a squalid flat with her French mother, two musical sisters, a druggie-brother, and a dog. Abandoned by their father, a feckless filmmaker, the kids pull together following news of his disappearance. This is a frank and audacious account of a girl growing up among gifted eccentrics.

cover of Suite Francaise Suite Francaise
Irene Nemirovsky
This bestseller from France, written by a Russian-born Jewish novelist in the early years of World War II, has been hailed as masterpiece. It comprises the first two “suites” of an uncompleted cycle concerning the lives of French citizens under the Nazi occupation. Nemirovsky perished in Auschwitz in 1942, but her daughters faithfully preserved this remarkable work.

cover of Purity of Blood Purity of Blood
Arturo Perez-Reverte
Captain Alatriste agrees to help a man whose daughter is held in a convent run by a lascivious priest, but the rescue will be dangerous. Complicating matters, Inquisition Spain is virulently anti-Semitic, and the worried father lacks a “purity of blood” that would afford him protection. This is the second outstanding entry in a series set in 16th century Madrid.

cover of Dancing in the Dark Dancing in the Dark
Caryl Phillips
A native of the Bahamas, Bert Williams achieved celebrity as a performer in musical theater at the turn of the last century. In becoming the highest paid black performer of his day, however, Williams paid a heavy price emotionally and psychologically. This fictional treatment of Williams’s life is literary, impressionistic, and absorbing.

cover of  The Echo Maker The Echo Maker
Richard Powers
A brain injury following a mysterious highway accident leaves a Nebraska truck driver with an unprecedented case of non-psychiatric Capgras syndrome: he believes that his beloved older sister is an imposter. This compelling character study concerns the mysteries of the brain, the secrets of the heart, and hidden truths of the past and present.

cover of Three Days to Never Three Days to Never
Tim Powers
A mysterious death at California’s 1987 Harmonic Convergence and the discovery of the only surviving copy of a film by Charlie Chaplin set the stage for Powers’ latest supernatural thriller. Frank Marity and his daughter investigate their inexplicable connection to Albert Einstein and the weapon he feared more than the atomic bomb.

cover of The Assassins Gallery The Assassins Gallery
David L. Robbins
On New Years Eve in 1944, a deadly female agent, trained by an ancient sect of Persian assassins, lands on a Massachusetts beach. The Secret Service calls Mikhal Lammeck, an authority on assassination, to track the cold-blooded killer. This taut thriller concerns a fictional plot to assassinate FDR, fitting it neatly into the historical record.

cover of Everyman Everyman
Philip Roth
Beginning with a burial in a Jewish cemetery, Roth limns the life of an unnamed art director who was a success in business, but a failure in marriage. Afflicted with ailments all of his life, the man develops a fierce will to live along with an abiding fear of death. This finely written character study shows the circumstantial play of mortality in a man’s life.

cover of Poison Poison
Susan Fromberg Schaeffer
The legal wrangle over the legacy of Peter Grosvenor—a poet, a Nobel Laureate, and a notorious womanizer—obscures the bitterness of the personal quarrel that develops among member of his family. The life and loves of poet Ted Hughes served as a template for Schaeffer’s novel of celebrity, passion, and madness in a family of the literary elite.

cover of Absurdistan Absurdistan
Gary Shteyngart.
Nouveau riche Russian narrator, Misha Vainberg, longs to return to the U.S., but a visa is denied because his crime-boss father murdered an Oklahoma businessman. Misha’s attempts to buy a false passport in the tiny nation of Absurdistan embroils him in a wild conspiracy in this scathing satire of American tastes and values.

cover of A Meeting at Corvallis A Meeting at Corvallis
S. M. Stirling
In Oregon's Willamette Valley, ten years after “the Change” brought an end to technological society, the Clan Mackenzie, the Bearkillers, and the city-state of Corvallis face destruction from the army of the Lord Protector of Portland. Stirling brings his stirring and violent post-apocalyptic trilogy to a satisfyingly mythological conclusion.

cover of A Death in Vienna A Death in Vienna
Frank Tallis
The unaccountable murder of an attractive medium in a locked room leaves few clues for the police, so Detective Oscar Rheinhardt consults psychoanalyst Max Lieberman. A student of the controversial theories of Sigmund Freud, Max follows his training to uncover a cunning, ambitious murderer. This puzzling mystery is set in fin de siecle Vienna.

cover of The Rules of Perspective The Rules of Perspective
Adam Thorpe
In the final days of the war, an American G.I. finds a masterpiece in the bombed-out vault of a German art museum, where the museum director had hidden it from Nazi confiscators. The narratives of the soldier and the curator unfold in alternating chapters in an absorbing and philosophical novel concerning art, history, and a common aesthetic.

cover of Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction Adrian Mole and the Weapons of Mass Destruction
Sue Townsend
Twenty years following the debut of the humorous, self-obsessed diary ramblings of British teenager Adrian Mole, he still has a lot to say. Adrian is now middle-aged, divorced, and has a son serving in the Middle East. His journal entries are worldlier and shaded with sadness, but Adrian’s sense of humor comes through clear and strong.

cover of Digging to America Digging to America
Anne Tyler
This lovely novel about the power of familial connections opens with Dave and Maryam, an Iranian immigrant, meeting as their respective children adopt Korean babies. The two families form a friendship, and the grandparents begin a romance. But as the relationship progresses, Maryam must decide if this degree of assimilation into American culture is right for her.

cover of Beautiful Lies Beautiful Lies
Lisa Unger
Ridley Jones enjoyed her fifteen minutes of fame after she saved a toddler from certain death on a busy Manhattan street. But her life is later disrupted by the arrival of a package containing a photo of an unidentified couple and child. Is Ridley's past—and her family—really her own? Or, is her entire world founded on an intricate web of beautiful lies?

cover of Terrorist Terrorist
John Updike
Ahmad is an Arab-American teenager living in New Jersey, who cultivates his role as an outsider by studying the Koran in Arabic. An ideal candidate for recruitment by jihadists, Ahmad harbors a deep hatred of Western American culture. Updike’s suspenseful and high-styled character study shows the procurement and shaping of a native-born terrorist.

cover of Night Watch Night Watch
Sarah Waters
Noted for Victorian-era melodramas, Waters here offers a masterful novel of literary suspense in a setting of wartime London. Weaving the stories of a quintet of characters, Waters relates events in reverse fashion, from 1947 back to 1941, showing ordinary Londoners coping with deprivation and hardship, and finding love and passion amid the conflict of war.

cover of Happiness Sold Separately Happiness Sold Separately
Lolly Winston
Elinor and Ted Mackey, a suburban Northern California couple, can’t seem to pull their lives back together after fitness and health guru Gina Ellison infiltrates their seemingly rock-solid marriage. Winston hits the ground running in a brutally honest, tongue-in-cheek look at a contemporary marriage in the aftermath of an adulterous affair.