Shipments of new books will be light next week (just one notable title, listed below), so we are skipping ahead to the week after the holiday, when the final hardcover releases of 2011 arrive, in time for customers cashing in gift certificates and exchanging what they got for what they wanted. Look for Rod Rees‘s dystopian steampunk debut, a new series from Anne Holt, Norway’s #1 bestselling crime writer, and the much-anticipated followup to Taylor Stevens‘s first Vanessa Michael Monroe thriller. Not all of the usual suspects are turning out their best work, according to the early reviews, but there are new titles from Dean Koontz, W. E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV, Stuart Woods, Robin Cook, Tamy Hoag and Karen Robards.
The Demi-Monde: Winter by Rod Rees (HarperCollins/Morrow) is a debut novel and the first of a series blending science fiction and thriller, steampunk and dystopian vision, and set in a terrifying virtual reality dominated by history’s most ruthless and bloodthirsty psychopaths. Library Journal says “Rees’s debut mirrors Tad Williams’s Otherland series in using a virtual world setting, but incorporating historical events and personages as building blocks of that world adds a freshness to this story. Strong characters, along with the clever interweaving of seemingly disparate plot threads, make this a standout selection for fans of high-tech sf and cyberfiction.”
1222: A Hanne Wilhelmsen Novel by Anne Holt (S&S/Scribner; Blackstone Audio) is the U.S. debut of a new series by Norway’s #1 bestselling crime writer – set in an isolated hotel where guests who are stranded during a monumental snowstorm begin turning up dead. Publishers Weekly says, “the plot lags in places, but the prickly Hanne is worth getting to know.”
The Innocent: A Vanessa Michael Munroe Novel by Taylor Stevens (RH/Crown; Random House Audio) is the much-anticipated followup to Stevens’ debut. This time, smart and lethal Monroe travels to Buenos Aires in search of a 14-year-old girl, Hannah, who was kidnapped and hidden among a religious cult known as the Chosen eight years earlier. Booklist says, “Stevens, a cult survivor herself, goes a bit over-the-top with Munroe, who at times seems too bitter and belligerent to be believed. But Stevens vividly depicts a dark domain of manipulation, indoctrination, and abuse.”
The Devil’s Elixir by Raymond Khoury (Dutton; Penguin Audio) is the one title notable title arriving next week. It finds the stars of Khoury’s Templar series, FBI agent Sean Reilly and girlfriend Tess Chaykin, racing against drug kingpins and the DEA to find a lost herb capable of inducing a mindripping experience that could shake the foundations of Western civilization. Library Journal says “this time, Khoury’s soapbox topics include biker gangs, Mexican drug cartels, veterans’ affairs, and the criminalization of drug use, but his key interests in this thriller are ethnobotany, proprietary rights, and the ethics of bioprospecting. For thriller fans, this exciting if sometimes dry lecture is still worth auditing.”
77 Shadow Street by Dean Koontz (RH/Bantam; Random House Large Print; Brilliance Audio) is set in a luxury apartment building that was built in the late 1800’s as a tycoon’s dream home in an old heartland city, though its grandeur has been scarred by episodes of madness, suicide, mass murder.
Covert Warriors: A Presidential Agent Novel by W. E. B. Griffin and William E. Butterworth IV (Penguin/Putnam; Thorndike Press; Penguin Audio) is the seventh presidential agent thriller starring Lt. Col. Charley Castillo, as he faces down Mexican drug cartels. PW says, “as usual, the authors exhaustively outline what’s happened in earlier books, then lay out a plan thats swiftly implemented at the very end. Even loyal series fans may be weary of this formula by now.”
D.C. Dead: A Stone Barrington Novel by Stuart Woods (Penguin/Putnam; Thorndike Press; Penguin Audio) finds Stone Barrington taking on a special operation that will reunite him with his former partner in crime and in bed, Holly Barker. Booklist calls it “an exciting entry that possibly wraps up one of the longest-running story threads in Woods’ popular series.” But PW says, “A fast pace compensates only in part for superficial characters with a penchant for spewing one-liners.”
Death Benefit by Robin Cook (Penguin/Putnam; Thorndike Large Print; Penguin Audio) is set in the Columbia University Medical Center’s lab, where medical student Pia, with the help of infatuated classmate George Wilson, launches an investigation into the unforeseen calamity in the hospital’s supposedly secure biosafety lab. PW says, “Cooks deft handling of medical science helps lift an otherwise pedestrian plot.”
Down the Darkest Road by Tami Hoag (RH/Dutton; Center Point Large Print; Random House Audio) is the third installment in the Oak Knoll series, exploring the early days of forensic police work through FBI agent Vince Leone’s science-based investigatory skills. PW says, “the major plot twist won’t surprise many readers, and neither the characters nor the cliche-hobbled story line are among Hoag’s best work.”
Sleepwalker by Karen Robards (S&s/Gallery Books; Wheeler Books Large Print; Brilliance Audio) pits a rookie cop against a professional crook when he manages to embroil her in a crime so explosive it could cost both of them their lives, as killers hunt them both, and their only common ground is mutual dislike and distrust.
The Magic Room: A Story About the Love We Wish for Our Daughters by Jeffrey Zaslow (Penguin/Gotham) is a study by a Wall St. Journal columnist of the changing nature of wedlock, based on observations of generations of devoted customers at a Michigan bridal shop. Library Journal says, “Not an examination of today’s marriage industry but a study of individual lives and dreams, this is recommended for casual readers and those with an interest in cultural and social customs concerning marriage, women’s roles, and parent-child relationships.”