Next week, look out for Lou Beach‘s quirky debut story collection based on Facebook posts, along with a new novel from Anita Desai and the relaunch of an old one by Paul Theroux. Veteran P.D. James delivers a murder mystery in the form of a sequel to Pride and Prejudice that is already getting attention. In nonfiction, there’s an original title from the Dalai Lama, along with Richard Bonin‘s look at Ahmed Chalabi’s role in shaping contemporary Iraq.
420 Characters by Lou Beach (Houghton Mifflin) is a collection of very short stories that originally appeared as Facebook status updates. Library Journal says, “there are some books you like, others that you don’t, and that rare book that you like in spite of yourself. This book fits into the latter category… Like a tasting menu, these stories add up to something wonderful.”
Death Comes to Pemberley by P.D. James (RH/Knopf; Random House Large Print; Random House Audio) subjects the characters in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice to a murder mystery. It’s set in 1803, six years after Elizabeth and Darcy began their life together at Pemberley, when their idyll is shattered by Lydia, Elizabeth’s disgraced sister, who announces that her husband, the very dubious Wickham, has been murdered. NPR’s Fresh Air featured it on Tuesday, calling it “a glorious plum pudding of a whodunit,” adding James “ferrets out the alternative noir tales that lurk in the corners of Pride and Prejudice, commonly thought of as Austen’s sunniest novel. Ruinous matches, The Napoleonic Wars, early deaths, socially enforced female vulnerability: Austen keeps these shadows at bay, while James noses deep into them.” We’ve put this on our “Watch List” because it may bring James a whole new audience.
Returning Literary Lions
The Artist of Disappearance by Anita Desai (Houghton Mifflin) includes three novellas about characters struggling with modernization and Indian culture, by the author thrice shortlisted for the Booker Prize. Kirkus says, “reading Desai’s poignant and wry new effort offers a modest pleasure that suits its fragile characters. A deft exploration of the limits people place on themselves by trying to cling to the past.”
Murder in Mount Holly by Paul Theroux (Grove/Atlantic/Mysterious Press) is a caper novel set in the 1960s and first published in the U.K. in 1969, which follows a draftee, his mother and her amateur criminal lover in the small American town of Mount Holly. Booklist says “its a slim twig of a book, but it’s howlingly funny and will stay with readers for a long time,” but PW finds it “subpar” for the writer best known for his travel books.
Red Mist by Patricia Cornwell (Penguin/Putnam; Thorndike Press; Penguin Audio) finds Kay Scarpetta’s former deputy chief, Jack Fielding, has been murdered, and she wants to know why. It began rising on Amazon 10/25/11, and is at #78 as of 12/1/11. Publishers Weekly says, “As in other recent work, Cornwell overloads the plot, but Scarpettas tangled emotional state and her top-notch forensic knowledge more than compensate.”
Children’s & Young Adult
Witch & Wizard: The Fire by James Patterson and Jill Dembowski (Little, Brown; Hachette Audio) is the climax of the Witch & Wizard fantasy series, in which sister and brother battle a merciless totalitarian regime.
Ruthless by Sara Shepard (HarperTeen) is book ten of the Pretty Little Liars series. High school seniors Aria, Emily, Hanna, and Spencer are back – and this time must face a ruthless stalker who wants to make them pay for their darkest secret. The new season of the ABC TV Family series based on the books begins on January 2.
Big Miracle (originally, Everybody Loves Whales) by Tom Rose (Macmillan/St. Martin’s/Griffin; Dreamscape Audio) is the story of a reporter and a Greenpeace activist who enlisted the Cold War superpowers to help save a whale trapped under Arctic ice in 1988, written by a conservative talk show host. This edition ties in to the movie adaptation opening February 3, starring John Krasinski and Drew Barrymore. PW says, “the book is most compelling when it focuses on the simple drama of the whales plight and the extraordinary lives the people of Barrow eke from the harsh elements; its less interesting when it strays into antibig government polemics and caricatures of limousine liberal environmentalists.”
Beyond Religion: Ethics for a Whole World by His Holiness the Dalai Lama with Alexander Norman (Houghton Mifflin; Brilliance Audio) continues the Dalai Lama’s case for a universal ethics rooted in compassion. PW says, “This wise, humane book, an original work rather than a collection of talks, is an incisive statement of His Holinesss’s thinking on ways to bring peace to a suffering world.”
Arrows of the Night: Ahmad Chalabi’s Long Journey to Triumph in Iraq by Richard Bonin (RH/Doubleday; Random House Audio) examines an Iraqi exile’s ultimately successful attempts to have Saddam overthrown. Kirkus says that ”the book occasionally suffers from myopia as all of the events are seen through the lens of Chalabi,” and predicts that ”this crisp, clean book won’t be the last word on the perplexing events in Iraq, but for now it’s one of the better ones.”
Inside SEAL Team Six: My Life and Missions with America’s Elite Warriors by Don Mann and Ralph Pezzullo (Hachette/Little, Brown; Hachette Audio) chronicles the service of a SEAL team member and instructor.