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December 2007

Librarians’ Choice 2007 · Fiction

cover of A Visitor for Bear A Visitor for Bear
Bonny Becker
Bear�s efforts to keep out visitors to his house are undermined by a very persistent mouse.

cover of Nerve Damage Nerve Damage
Peter Abrahams
Sculpture Roy Valois is diagnosed with a fatal illness, just as he completes a masterwork honoring his late wife, Della. Allowed to preview his Times obituary, Roy notices a minor error regarding Della’s employment. In this heart-pounding thriller, the artist investigates his wife’s past and discovers that everything he knew about her was wrong.

cover of House of Meetings House of Meetings
Martin Amis
An unnamed 84-year-old Russian survivor of the Gulag bears witness to the death of the Soviet Union in a book-length letter written to his American stepdaughter. At the core of his account of imprisonment by the Soviets is the narrator’s agonized obsession with a beautiful woman, whom both he and his brother loved. This powerful novel is one of Amis’ best.

cover of Heyday Heyday
Kurt Andersen
British aristocrat Benjamin Knowles flees revolutionary Paris for New York, where he falls in love with Polly Lucking, an actress and sometimes-prostitute. When Polly decamps for the West, Benjamin trails her to the gold fields of the ’49ers, unaware he’s being tracked by a killer. This is a rich, involving historical adventure full of sublime coincidences.

cover of Harpsong Harpsong
Rilla Askew
In Depression-era Oklahoma, a gifted harmonica player marries the 14-year-daughter of a traveling preacher and hits the rails. American Book Award-winner Askew offers a vivid portrait of the Okies who refused to flee Dust Bowl hardships, in a colorful regional novel that brings to life the music, language, and populist spirit of the era.

cover of Quantico Quantico
Greg Bear
In this high-tech thriller of the near future, three young FBI agents hunt for a homegrown terrorist selling biological weapons to radical movements throughout the world. Discredited after their first takedown fails, the young agents ramp up their investigation to thwart deployment of an insidious biological weapon in one of the world’s holiest cities.

cover of Buried Buried
Mark Billingham
Billingham’s sixth procedural features London detective Tom Thorne and new partner DI Louise Porter, who investigate the kidnapping of an ex-cop’s son. The suspect is a seasoned criminal carrying a grudge, and, unexpectedly, the kidnapping turns into murder. Billingham skillfully blurs the lines between cop and criminal in this gripping suspense thriller.

cover of Away Away
Amy Bloom
Russian-Jewish Lillian Leyb arrives in New York City in 1924, after her parents were killed in a pogrom. While Lillian escaped death, she was separated from Sophie, her 3-year-old daughter. In her determination to be reunited with Sophie, Lillian proves a pragmatic and resilient survivor in Bloom’s brilliant, absorbing, and passionate immigrant’s tale.

cover of The Double Blind The Double Blind
Chris Bohjalian
Laurel Estabrook, from West Egg, Long Island (home to Gatsby in a celebrated novel), uncovers the past of a mentally ill homeless man, once a notable photographer. In this engrossing and literary mystery, Laura believes that the old man’s photographic archive holds clues to family secrets of West Egg, as well as the answer to an enigma in her own life.

cover of Boomsday Boomsday
Christopher Buckley
Frustrated by the reckless spending habits of her father and others of his generation, PR guru Cass Devine conceives a radical idea. To ease the strain on the Social Security system, Cass proposes that Boomers be offered incentives to kill themselves at age 70. In the intra-generational warfare that ensues, neither side escapes Buckley’s witty and acerbic barbs.

cover of Five Skies Five Skies
Ron Carlson
A Hollywood set builder who feels responsible for his younger brother’s accidental death, joins two other troubled men on a dubious construction project high in the Rocky Mountains. Under the vast dome of Western sky, the three men slowly bond and find equanimity in this beautifully written and compelling novel—Carlson’s first in 30 years.

cover of The Song Before It Is Sung The Song Before It Is Sung
Justin Cartwright
A South African journalist probes the execution of one of the conspirators in the 1944 attempt on Hitler’s life. The reporter’s mentor at Oxford had denounced this man, who returned home to Germany in the 1930s, as a Nazi. Based on the lives of Adam von Trott and Isaiah Berlin, Cartwright’s dramatic novel of courage and betrayal revisits a dark era of 20th century history.

cover of New England White New England White
Stephen L. Carter
Pillars of Elm Harbor’s African-American community, Lemaster and Julia Carlyle happen upon the murdered corpse of a prominent economist. Their grisly discovery unearths long buried secrets, sows racial discord, and causes the Carlyle family great discomfort in this ultra-successful legal suspense thriller from the author of The Emperor of Ocean Park.

cover of Sacred Games Sacred Games
Vikram Chandra
This dazzling literary crime novel, set in contemporary Mumbai, concerns an inevitable showdown between a notorious Hindu crime lord and his world-weary nemesis, a Sikh police inspector. Chandra’s ambitious and remarkable crime epic of India employs the sprawling, teeming city of Mumbai as an ancillary character.

cover of The Yiddish Policeman�s Union The Yiddish Policeman’s Union
Michael Chabon
Post-World War II Alaska is the Jewish homeland (as FDR once suggested it be) in Chabon’s bold and darkly comic mystery-pastiche. A chess prodigy is murdered in the shabby hotel where down-and-out homicide detective Meyer Landsman resides. Meyer’s relentless investigation leads to a conspiracy involving the very salvation of the Jewish state.

cover of An Arsonist�s Guide to Writer�s Homes in New England An Arsonist’s Guide to Writer’s Homes in New England
Brock Clarke
Teenaged Sam Pulsifer accidentally set fire to the Emily Dickinson House in Amherst, Massachusetts, burning it down and killing two people. After prison, he attempts to move on with his life. But when an arsonist begins torching houses belonging to writers, Sam again comes under suspicion in this satirical novel from Clarke, a UC writing professor.

cover of Acceptance Acceptance
Susan Coll
This witty comedy about the college admissions process follows three suburban Washington, D.C. high school seniors, contending with SATs, entry essays, and pushy parents. The Dean of Admissions at Yates College, meanwhile, enjoys windfall attention after U.S. News & World Report erroneously lists it among the nation’s top 50 schools.

cover of Falling Man Falling Man
Don Delillo
Delillo’s affecting novel opens with a harrowing scene of a lawyer walking, trance-like, out of the inferno at Ground Zero. He winds up at the door of his ex-wife and his young son. In the months that follow, this fragmented family struggles to cope with the aftermath of 9/11. A somber, significant work from one of America’s great novelists.

cover of The Serpent Bride The Serpent Bride
Sara Douglass
This first volume of the DarkGlass Mountain trilogy is set in the same universe as Douglass’ acclaimed Wayfarer Redemption series. Lady Ishnel Brunelle, the arch-priestess of a serpent cult, foresees the future in the entrails of human sacrifices. The Great Serpent orders her to marry the king of another land, but her terrifying visions warn against it.

cover of I Love You, Beth Cooper I Love You, Beth Cooper
Larry Doyle
During his high school valedictorian speech, Denis Cooverman proclaims his love for the head cheerleader, Beth Cooper. The problem is, Beth barely knows him. Beth’s response to Denis’ declaration is the first revelation in an evening full of wonderfully unpredictable events in this funny, bawdy, and surprisingly poignant coming-of-age story.

cover of The Savior The Savior
Eugene Drucker
Exempted from military service, a young German violinist is ordered to play for Jews in a concentration camp, as part of a macabre Nazi social experiment to see how great music affects those facing death. A member of the Emerson String Quartet, Drucker draws upon his father’s wartime experience in this powerful novel of music, death, and regret.

cover of A Good and Happy Child A Good and Happy Child
Justin Evans
George Davies regards his newborn son with a detachment that moves his wife to demand he seek professional help. In his therapy journal, George reveals that he was institutionalized as a child for hearing demonic voices. Mental instability, or, perhaps, supernatural evil lies at the tantalizing core of this terrifying debut psychological thriller.

cover of Knots Knots
Nuruddin Farah
Cambara, a Somali woman raised in North America, returns to war-torn Mogadiscio to reclaim her family’s property, now in the possession of a warlord. Though trained as a fighter, Cambara directs her energy toward nonviolent change with the help of other women activists. A beautifully written study of a Somali emigrant caught between cultures.

cover of Then We Came to the End Then We Came to the End
Joshua Ferris
At the end of the dot.com boom, copywriters and managers at a Chicago advertising agency express betrayal and fear as the company prepares to downsize. In this ferociously funny debut, former ad man Ferris distills brilliantly the collective grief of a paranoid office cadre. An accomplished corporate satire for our times.

cover of Heartstopper Heartstopper
Joy Fielding
Sandy Crosbie moved her two teenaged children from the East coast to a safe little town in Florida. But a killer is stalking the prettiest girls at the local high school, and Sandy’s daughter is a beauty. Old pro Joy Fielding expertly builds her thriller to a shocking conclusion by splicing the suspenseful narrative with the killer’s journal entries.

cover of The Unknown Terrorist The Unknown Terrorist
Richard Flanagan
After spending the night with an Arabic man, a 26-year old stripper in Sydney, Australia, becomes the object of a nationwide hunt for terrorist accomplices. Flanagan offers a cautionary tale that paints a caustic picture of tabloid television, xenophobia, fear-mongering government propaganda, and society’s obsession with celebrity.

cover of World Without End World Without End
Ken Follett
Eighteen years after the publication of the medieval historical Pillars of the Earth, Follett returns to Knightsbridge, England, to limn the lives of the descendents of the builders of the town’s great cathedral. War, political conflict, and the scourge of the Black Death have altered and challenged their lives. Fans of Pillars won’t want to miss this.

cover of Keeping the World Away Keeping the World Away
Margaret Forster
Welsh painter Gwen John (1876-1939) has a passionate affair with the sculptor Rodin in Paris. After a painful breakup, Gwen paints a spare, powerful canvas depicting the corner of her room. As the mesmerizing work changes ownership over years, Forster follows its affectivity on the lives of the women it touches, in a novel that recalls Vreeland’s The Girl in Hyacinth Blue.

cover of The Scandal of the Season The Scandal of the Season
Sophie Gee
In 1711, young Alexander Pope travels to London, where he hopes to make his name with his poetry. The city is turbulent with Jacobite and anti-Catholic intrigue. It’s not these great events that immortalize the poet, however, but a satire about high-society scandal, as this lively and persuasive work of biographical and historical fiction recounts.

cover of Volk�s Game Volk’s Game
Brent Ghelfi
Alekei “Volk” Volkovoy prowls the underworld Moscow as a brutal assassin who leads two lives: one as a powerful mobster, the other as a secret agent for the Russian military. When his plan to heist a da Vinci from a St. Petersburg museum is betrayed, Volk embarks a course of savage revenge in this high-octane debut thriller.

cover of Sight Unseen Sight Unseen
Robert Goddard
Historian David Umber witnessed the abduction of a 2-year-old girl from Avebury village in 1981. The crime was never solved, and Umber’s was among many lives shattered after that day. The retired inspector who investigated the kidnapping wants Umber’s help to reopen the case in a stylish literary thriller, involving historical scholarship and secrets of the past.

cover of Second Chance Second Chance
Jane Green
When Tom Fitzgerald, a British man living in the U.S., is killed in a terrorist incident, four of his former classmates gather at the London home of Holly Macintosh to mourn his passing. The old friends honor Tom’s life and reflect on the ways their lives were altered by knowing him, in a warm-hearted novel of love and remembrance.

cover of Playing for Pizza Playing for Pizza
John Grisham
Following a disastrous performance in a playoff game, Cleveland Browns backup quarterback, Rick Dockery, is cut. But the reviled QB finds a job as a starter and discovers the pleasures of Italian living, when he signs to play for the fighting Panthers of Parma, Italy. Grisham offers a good-natured story of an innocent athlete abroad.

cover of The Accidental Time Machine The Accidental Time Machine
Joe Haldeman
An MIT grad student builds a photon calibrator that disappears when he turns it on. When it reappears, he realizes that the device traveled forward in time. The gadget proves its usefulness when the student, falsely accused of murder, has to quickly disappear. This is an entertaining variation on a classic SF theme from the venerable veteran Haldeman.

cover of Magic City Magic City
James W. Hall
A photo of the crowd at the1964 Clay-Liston bout in Miami holds a clue to the unsolved murders of a Cuban-American family that same night. Two homicidal brothers try to steal the picture from a retired cop suffering from Alzheimer’s. Instead, they encounter Thorn, the hero of Hall’s long-running series, who shows once more that he is a very stubborn and very capable man.

cover of North River North River
Pete Hamill
Dr. James Delaney, a WW I veteran living in Depression-era Greenwich Village, treats an ailing mobster, incurring the wrath of a rival gangster who threatens Delaney’s family. Hamill’s latest is a hopeful novel about a courageous man who survives a tormented and turbulent life that is symbolized by the swirling eddies of the nearby Hudson River.

cover of A Lick of Frost A Lick of Frost
Laurell K. Hamilton
Meredith Gentry, a private investigator in the mortal world, is a royal princess in the realm of fairies. She defends her retinue of virile bodyguards against false charges brought by her evil uncle. This is the sixth erotic paranormal romance in a wildly popular series.

cover of Generation Loss Generation Loss
Elizabeth Hand
A London music magazine sends Cass Neary, a washed-up lesbian photographer, to interview a reclusive counterculture artist on an island off the coast of Maine. Finding her subject is unforthcoming, Cass probes instead a conspiracy involving an unsolved murder at the island’s former commune in this dark, provacative, offbeat noir.

cover of Death By Chick Lit Death By Chick Lit
Lynn Harris
Attending a swanky Chick Lit release party, budding writer Lola Somerville tries not to be jealous of the book’s author, Mimi McKee. Lola is less envious, however, after Mimi is murdered. Lola searches for the killer, as well as her own book deal, in this breezy read that both satirizes and pays homage to the Chick Lit genre.

cover of Barefoot Barefoot
Elin Hilderbrand
Vicki, a Connecticut mother of two, has just been diagnosed with cancer. Brenda, her sister, has been fired recently. Melanie, Vicki’s pregnant best friend, learned that her husband is cheating. In this great beach read, three women summer at a cabin on Nantucket, where they grapple with the familial, emotional, and medical issues in their lives.

cover of Heart Shaped Box Heart Shaped Box
Joe Hill
Aging rock star Jude Coyne impulsively buys a haunted suit to add to his collection of macabre souvenirs. When he learns that the garment’s ghost seeks retribution for a past deed, Jude is forced to engage demons in a struggle for possession of his soul. This is a scarily good debut from the son of horror master Stephen King.

cover of Robbie�s Wife Robbie’s Wife
Russell Hill
On retreat in the English countryside, 60-year-old screenwriter Jack Stone becomes entangled in a love triangle. Infatuated with the innkeeper’s wife, Jack battles romantic temptation. But it’s a struggle that both renews his creative impulses and awakens dark and dangerous thoughts, in a novel that simmers with lust and suspense.

cover of Body of Lies Body of Lies
David Ignatius
Ignatius, a columnist for the Washington Post, has written a taut and masterful spy novel set amid the contemporary war on terrorism. The head of the CIA’s Jordan station executes a daring plan, based on one run by British Intelligence against the Nazis, to thwart an elusive al-Qadea terrorist known as Suleiman and destroy his deadly network.

cover of The Penny Tree The Penny Tree
Holly Kennedy
With two kids and no prospects, divorcee Anne Hillerman returns to her small hometown in Washington. Personal ads seeking news of Anne, placed anonymously, begin appearing in the classifieds. This unexpected turn of events makes Anne a local celebrity and brings her an awareness of her truly good fortune in ways she never imagined.

cover of A Thousand Splendid Suns A Thousand Splendid Suns
Khaled Hosseini
Encompassing 30 years of Afghan history, Hosseini’s heartbreaking and powerful novel follows Mariam and Laila, women born of different generations, united by grief, the bonds of family, and the depredations of war. The author of the international bestseller, The Kite Runner, offers an Afghan women’s story of courage and survival that carries universal appeal.

cover of Home to Holly Springs Home to Holly Springs
Jan Karon
The beloved Episcopal priest, Father Tim, returns to his hometown of Holly Springs, Mississippi, where flashbacks reveal his early life and seminary days. But the heart of this inspiring story is Father Tim’s discovery of a dark family secret. With this warmhearted novel, the author of the bestselling Mitford books begins a new series.

cover of The God of Animals The God of Animals
Aryn Kyle
Six months after her older sister eloped with a rodeo cowboy, 12-year-old Alice becomes her father’s primary helper around the stables of the family’s Montana horse ranch. Through the tragic death of a friend, and contact with the wealthy customers, Alice is exposed to the heartaches and mysteries of the adult world in this assured coming-of-age debut.

cover of Dead Boys: Stories Dead Boys: Stories
Richard Lange
Lange’s striking and meaty debut collection of stories is set in Southern California and offers first-person narratives of characters who have known trouble and expect more of the same. The wonderful “Bank of America,” featuring a housepainter, who is a good husband, father, and a bank robber, was selected for The Best American Stories of 2004.

cover of The Indian Clerk The Indian Clerk
David Leavitt
In 1913, British mathematician G. H. Hardy received a letter from Srinivasa Ramanujan, an unschooled, self-styled mathematical genius in India. Based on historical events, Leavitt’s well-researched novel depicts the complex and difficult relationship shared by the men, in a story contrasting the certainty of science with the indeterminacy of the human heart.

cover of Vinnie�s Head Vinnie’s Head
Marc Lecard
Small-time crook Johnnie Loduco is out on bail when he reels in the severed head of his old pal, Vinnie, while fishing off a Long Island pier. And Vinnie’s noggin attracts quite a crowd. Crooked cops, bounty hunters, and a mob hit man come looking for Johnnie, and the dough they assume Vinnie left him, in this riotously funny debut crime novel.

cover of Consequences Consequences
Penelope Lively
In 1935, Lorna Bradley and Matt Faraday meet by chance on a London park bench. Despite class differences—Lorna is upper class, Matt works a trade—a spark is struck between them. So begins Lively’s engrossing and beautifully written family saga that follows the lives of three generations of British women over the course of seven decades.

cover of Christopher�s Ghosts Christopher’s Ghosts
Charles McCarry
The seventh novel in McCarry’s distinguished series about the Christopher family of American spies opens in pre-war Berlin, where teenaged Paul falls in love with Rima, a Jewish girl. A generation later, in the now divided city, Paul seeks retribution against the man responsible for Rima’s death in a somber and heartbreaking espionage novel.

cover of Red Rover Red Rover
Deirdre McNamer
When the U.S. enters WW II, Montana brothers Aidan and Neil volunteer. Aidan goes to the FBI, while Neil becomes a bomber pilot. After the war, Aidan shocks his brother by committing suicide, a fact Neil never accepts. But by chance, Neil finds closure half a century later in this beautifully written novel of wartime experiences and fraternal love.

cover of Michael Tolliver Lives Michael Tolliver Lives
Armistead Maupin
Eighteen years have past since Maupin last visited the beloved cast of his Tales of the City series. Michael Tolliver, now 55-years-old and still HIV-positive, is managing quite well, thank you, with modern medications and a boyfriend half his age. Fans of this popular and enduring series will savor the delightful comic turns in this latest entry.

cover of Swimming Lessons Swimming Lessons
Mary Alice Monroe
The work of Miss Lovie Rutledge, the “turtle lady,” carries on after her death in this warm sequel to The Beach House. When numerous sea turtles beach themselves near Charleston, South Carolina, rescuers are overwhelmed. Single mom Toy Sooner is asked by the handsome director of the local aquarium to find funding to establish a sea turtle hospital.

cover of The Office of Desire The Office of Desire
Martha Moody
The chummy staff of a small Ohio medical practice is thrown into disarray when William, a recently divorced physician, acts on his feelings for Alice, a nurse raising a teenaged son. Their affair and subsequent marriage undermine the office’s delicate balance of personalities in Moody’s comic novel of friendship and love in the workplace.

cover of Devotion Devotion
Howard Norman
On honeymoon in London in 1985, David Kozol came to blows with his new father-in-law, William, who fell and was seriously injured. Returning to Nova Scotia, David becomes William’s caregiver. Moving back and forth in time, Norman’s slim novel explores the way pain is reconciled and love endures in the hearts of the emotionally wounded.

cover of Coal Black Horse Coal Black Horse
Robert Olmstead
In the mountains of the South in 1863, the mother of fourteen-year-old Robey Childs dispatches him to bring his father home from the war. “You are not to die,” she warns. Young Robey rides off on a great black horse to a violent and soul-killing journey of maturation in a stunning, mythic, literary novel that reads like an instant classic.

cover of Songs without Words Songs without Words
Ann Packer
The author of The Dive from Clausen’s Pier writes novels with a deep sense of emotional closeness to her characters. Here, she gives us the story of Liz and Sarabeth, friends since childhood, when Sarabeth’s mother committed suicide. Now it’s Liz’s daughter who’s in danger, plunging her family into tragedy and upsetting the balance of the old friendship.

cover of Fifth Vial Fifth Vial
Michael Palmer
A terrifying conspircy to circumvent accepted protocols for organ donation and transplantation lies at the center of Palmer’s rivetting novel of medical suspense. An innocuous green stopper in a simple vial of blood is key to unraveling the mystery of a shadowy group of elitist who harvest human organs for their own ends.

cover of Run Run
Ann Patchett
On a snowy Boston evening, Tip and Teddy, adopted African American sons of the ex-mayor, are out walking when Tip steps into the path of an SUV. A woman shoves Tip to safety, but she is hit by the vehicle and seriously injured. Spanning a dramatic 24 hours, this beautifully written novel draws a surprising connection between two very different families.

cover of The Sun Over Breda The Sun Over Breda
Arturo Perez-Reverte
The third volume the the Captain Alatriste series departs the social life and customs of 17th century Madrid to focus on a muddy, bloody battlefield in Holland. The Spanish expeditionary army lays siege to recapture the town of Breda in a story that depicts the fighting of the Eighty Years’ War in vivid and cold-eyed detail.

cover of The Abstinence Teacher The Abstinence Teacher
Tom Perrotta
Human sexuality instructor Ruth teaches students that pleasure is good, until she comes under fire from local evangelicals. Among them is Tim, her daughter’s soccer coach, who routinely leads the team in a pre-game prayer. Conflict on the playing field brings Ruth and Tim to an unexpected détente in Perrotta’s enjoyable novel of suburban cultural war.

cover of The Year of Endless Sorrows The Year of Endless Sorrows
Adam Rapp
In Rapp’s first adult novel, a young writer from the Midwest shares an East Village apartment with three eccentric roommates in the early 1990s. Working a low-paying job in publishing, the narrator labors on a novel with themes of knee pain and the end of the world. This is a hilarious and often touching satire of the publishing industry and Gen X angst.

cover of The Edge of Winter The Edge of Winter
Luanne Rice
Following a rough divorce, Neve Halloran opens a gallery on the Rhode Island coast. Mickey, her daughter, soon joins an effort to prevent a developer from destroying wildlife habitat. Neve and Mickey both find romance through involvement with environmental causes in a story that features characters in need of love and healing.

cover of Love and Lies Love and Lies
Kimberla Lawson Roby
Roby resumes her series featuring the “all-too-human” Reverend Curtis Black. Still prominent in the black church, Curtis appears to have reformed his philandering ways, but his third wife isn’t convinced. She hires a detective to find out. Past deceptions cannot long stay buried in this soapy, entertaining, African American melodrama.

cover of Recovery Man Recovery Man
Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Rusch’s terrific Retrieval Artist science-fiction-plus-mystery series (The Disappeared, 2002) takes some jaw-dropping turns here. In a future where humanity interacts with many alien races, crime and punishment are complicated. Miles Flint helps find people hiding from alien justice, and his latest case involves his own family. (Rusch also writes mysteries as Kris Nelscott.)

cover of Bridge of Sighs Bridge of Sighs
Richard Russo
In the ailing town of Thomaston, N.Y., reprised from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls, Louis Lynch and his wife plan a trip to Italy. Louis will visit his boyhood pal, Bobby Marconi, now a renowned painter living in Venice. With characteristic humor and pathos, Russo explores the story of a town and two of its sons, who are linked across the years by an ineffable bond.

cover of Body Surfing Body Surfing
Anita Shreve
A widow at 29, Sydney tutors the daughter of an older couple on the New Hampshire coast, where she also body surfs in the rugged waters. The arrival of the girl’s older brothers, who are both attracted to Sydney, precipitates a family crisis that results in misfortune. An accomplished study of a woman’s loss, recovery, and further heartbreak.

cover of Devils in the Sugar Shop Devils in the Sugar Shop
Timothy Schaffert
“Finding” themselves has proven more difficult than might be expected for a group of sophisticated, yet unruly, women in Omaha, Nebraska. Dee Dee, Ashley, and their various erratic friends tackle relationships, personal problems, careers, and even a stalker, in this saucy, amusing, Midwestern, chick lit.

cover of In Secret Service In Secret Service
Mitch Silver
In 1964, ex-spy Ian Fleming pens a manuscript containing the most dangerous secret of World War II. Forty years later, a Yale professor retrieves Fleming’s document from her grandfather’s safe deposit box and is immediately set upon by killers. Silver’s over-the-top conspiracy story of betrayal by the British royal family offers breezy entertainment.

cover of The Terror The Terror
Dan Simmons
Simmons vividly recreates the ill-fated Arctic expedition of Sir John Franklin in 1845, giving the tale a supernatural spin. Poorly provisioned and inadequately equipped for survival in the bitter cold, the crewmen of two icebound ships are stalked by a terrifying supernatural beast. This is a striking and unusual amalgam of Arctic exploration fiction and horror.

cover of Ten Days in the Hills Ten Days in the Hills
Jane Smiley
In her comic and audaciously erotic novel of Hollywood, Smiley proffers ten days of storytelling in a modern-day Decameron. The guests at this L.A. house party in 2003 discuss life in Hollywood and follow lustful impulses in a score of chapters that unfold above the thrum of dissatisfaction over the recently begun war in Iraq.

cover of Stalin�s Ghost Stalin’s Ghost
Martin Cruz Smith
Twenty-six years ago, Gorky Park introduced American readers to an icy Moscow crime scene and Senior Homicide Investigator Arkady Renko. The present-day, free market Moscow is a far more dangerous city for Renko, who chases reports of a spectral Stalin whose appearances seem connected to an investigation of murder-for-hire cops.

cover of Three Bags Full Three Bags Full
Leonie Swann
Shepherd George Glenn, who read books to his flock, is found murdered in the pasture. His distraught sheep, led by Miss Maple, the keenest wooly in the village, are intent upon justice. After a subtle investigation, the flock reveals the killer through a reenactment of the crime in this winsome sheep detective story translated from the German.

cover of Flower Children Flower Children
Maxine Swann
In rural Pennsylvania of the 1970s, the four children of Harvard-educated hippies grow up in an atmosphere of unrestrained freedom and indulgence in this humorous and poignant autobiographical novel. This lively and entertaining debut was expanded from SwannVs story, which was selected for The Best American Short Stories: 1998.

cover of Tomorrow Tomorrow
Graham Swift
Married 25 years, and the mother of twin teens, Paula Hook lies awake in 1995 remembering when she met her husband, Mike, at college during the sexually free 1960s. Mike is to reveal something to the family tomorrow that will alter all of their lives. Booker Prize winner Swift provides a penetrating study of the interior life of a woman, wife, and mother.

cover of Red River Red River
Lalita Tademy
An Oprah Book Club selection, Red River opens with the infamous Colfax Riot (actually, a massacre) of 1873, when the black majority of a Louisiana town took up arms in defense of the voting franchise. This invovling multigenerational African American family saga is based upon Tademy’s family history.

cover of The Elephanta Suite The Elephanta Suite
Paul Theroux
American travelers ascertain the subtle complexities and ironies of a modern India in three superbly written stories from travel writer and novelist Theroux. In “Monkey Hill,” a wealthy married couple relaxes at a posh and exclusive spa, until one of them is drawn by lust to a situation that exposes the raw and unvarnished India.

cover of How to Talk to a Widower How to Talk to a Widower
Jonathan Tropper
At 25, Doug was a typical slacker about town; at 26, he married gorgeous Hailey, a dozen years older than himself, and found himself living in the affluent suburbs—with a teenaged stepson, yet. At 29, he’s a widower. That’s the background for this sweet, poignant story of a young man trying to find himself. Fans of Nick Hornby will find it immensely appealing.

cover of Sheer Abandon Sheer Abandon
Penny Vincenzi
Three girls meet on a backpacking trip in Thailand in 1985. Returning to England, one abandons a newborn at Heathrow. Sixteen years later, the three women arrange a reunion, where the surprise guest is a teenage girl who was born at the airport. This frothy tale about the lives of British career women has a powerful emotional mystery as its centerpiece.

cover of To My Dearest Friends To My Dearest Friends
Patricia Volk
Manhattanites Alice and Nanny meet when authorized by the estate of their mutual friend, Roberta, to jointly open her safety deposit box. Inside the women find an unsigned love letter written to Roberta. They determine to discover the identity of the author. This is a bright and amusing riff on life in the Big Apple and secrets best left undisturbed.

cover of Luncheon of the Boating Party Luncheon of the Boating Party
Susan Vreeland
Vreeland has written another absorbing novel of art history. Its subject is Renoir’s famous Impressionist painting, a work so familiar that it’s hard to remember how revolutionary it was. Through the eyes of Renoir himself and some of his models, she gives us a portrait of the artist and a vibrant picture of Paris in transition to a modern city.

cover of My French Whore My French Whore
Gene Wilder
Amateur actor Paul Peachy, the son of German immigrants, joins the army in 1918. Captured on the battlefield, he impersonates a German spy to avoid execution. As a prized intelligence officer, Paul is assigned Annie, a beautiful French courtesan. But Paul endangers their lives by falling in love in actor Gene Wilder’s bittersweet and gently comedic story.

cover of The Religion The Religion
Tim Willocks
In 1565, Suleiman the Magnificent sends his fleet to destroy the Knights Hospitaller of St. John the Baptist in their stronghold on Malta. The Knights have also earned the poisonous enmity of Rome and its Inquisition. Two implacable forces converge upon Mattais Tannhauser, a soldier of fortune in Malta on a secret mission, in bloody, lusty, not-to-be-missed historical.

cover of When the Grey Beetles Took Over Baghdad When the Grey Beetles Took Over Baghdad
Mona Yahia
This affecting coming-of-age story reflects the author’s experiences growing up in a Jewish family in the rabidly anti-Semitic Iraq of the 1950s and 1960s. In this timely and moving novel, Yahia recounts the escalating persecution of Jews following the Six Day war in 1967, when the secret police, driving grey VWs, patrolled the streets of Baghdad.