Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Mysterious Bookshop Staff Favorites for February 2012

Otto’s favorites:

Hunter, Stephen, Soft Target, Simon & Schuster. The protagonist who first helped Hunter find a place on the best-seller list was the former Marine sniper Bob Lee Swagger (Bob “the Nailer”), then readers were introduced to Bob’s previously unknown son, Ray Cruz, in Dead Zero and he’s back in Soft Target. When John Wayne walked into a bad situation, one sensed that all was going to be all right, as it is when one of Hunter’s tough guys enters the narrative. And rarely has any hero encountered a more difficult—virtually hopeless—situation than that confronted by Cruz. It begins on the day after Thanksgiving, traditionally the busiest shopping day of the year, and takes place in the completely enclosed “America—the Mall,” the biggest shopping center in the world, filled with 10,000 people preparing for Christmas. Santa Claus is shot in front of hundreds of young children and their parents, and a cacophony of gunshots follows, killing and wounding scores of innocent citizens. A gang of heavily armed terrorists has gone on a killing spree and forced a thousand people into a large central area, where they become hostages. In this ultra-modern building, everything—temperature, music, lighting, even the doors—is controlled by computers, and the evil genius who has hatched this heinous plot has locked everyone in—and everyone else out. The police are called, along with snipers and SWAT teams, but they are helpless against the locked mall, knowing that any assault will result in the terrorists opening fire on the huddled crowd, causing untold hundreds of deaths. Fortunately, Cruz had been commandeered into going Christmas shopping by his girlfriend, Molly Chan, and, and when the shooting started, paralyzing with fear everyone else, it just made Cruz angry. The odds were about twelve against one (though Cruz gets help from a surprising source), which isn’t nearly as one-sided as one might think. The suspense never softens as Cruz tries to save the terrified hostages. Signed copies available. $26.99

Also recommended:

Morrow, Bradford, The Uninnocent, Pegasus. Never has a book deserved its title more than this brilliant and disturbing short story collection. Alienation appears to be the principal theme that binds these noir stories, often causing unexpected violence and death. The title story features a brother and sister, plus their unborn “Christmas brother,” and describes their youthful devotion to each other, but to no one else—not even to their dog or their best friend. In “The Hoarder,” a teenager becomes obsessed with his older brother’s girlfriend and secretly follows (and photographs) her every move. The unstated, casual undertone of impending tragedy in these stories will remind you of Roald Dahl or Shirley Jackson at their most chilling. $25.00

Dan, Ian and Sally's favorites after the jump!

Dan’s Favorites:

Robertson, Imogen, Instruments of Darkness. Penguin. Georgian England proves a refreshing setting for this delightful historical featuring an unlikely forensic sleuthing team: independent Harriet Westerman, mistress of Caveley Park, and a local reclusive anatomist- Gabriel Crowther. The gothic setting here is wonderfully realized and the writing is top notch. Historicals can get bogged down in detail or, worse, they can be hopelessly anarchonistic and silly. Thankfully this is neither. The characters are vivid and alive and the action keeps moving. I was reminded of the early C. J. Sansom novels. High praise indeed. The second in the series, Anatomy of Murder, is available in hardcover this March. $15.00

Also Recommended:

Pintoff, Stephanie, Secret of the White Rose. Minotaur. Another great historical this month- this is the third in the Turn of the Century New York series featuring Detective Simon Ziele. This one centers on a series of brutal political murders targeting Manhattan's millionaires and explores the radical subculture of Anarchists in New York City of that time. Pintoff excels at discovering unusual and interesting subcultures from the past and this is no exception. Like many good historical thrillers we see today's issues reflected in the past. $14.99

deWitt, Patrick, The Sisters Brothers. Ecco. In the old West, two hired guns who happen to be brothers are hired to kill a prospector but their picaresque and violent journey proves daunting and one of the brothers starts questioning not only what he's doing for a living but life itself. This is a genre hopping novel- part crime, part Western and part literary. Imagine Sam Peckinpaw directing a Western with Robert Altman. $14.99

Potzch , Oliver, The Dark Monk, Mariner. Rounding out this month of historical reccomendations comes the smashing follow-up to last year's big surprise best seller The Hangman's Daughter. A priest’s death leads kindhearted 17th century German hangman Jakob Kuisl and daughter Magdelena on a wild chase for Templar treasure even as a dread Dark Monk follows their every move. Filled with atmosphere, arcane occultism and wild conspiracy theories, this is a smart and stylish entertaining read. $18.00

Ian’s Favorite:

Johnson, Adam, The Orphan Master's Son, Random House. I don't often trust author blurbs for new novels. More often than not authors will blurb anything that moves and after a while it just becomes a sort of white noise of hyperbolic praise. However, when I received the galley of Johnson's The Orphan Master's Son, and saw the quote from David Mitchell (“An addictive novel of daring ingenuity...A brave and impressive book."), who happens to be one of my all-time favorite authors, I decided to take him at his word. And, man, I'm glad I did. The North Korea that Johnson conjures, though rooted in fact from his travels there, reads like a paranoid wonderland of doublespeak and speculative adventure. You, the reader, are one half horrified by the engines of fascism and one half totally absorbed in the absurdity of it all. The book itself is delivered to us in two sections. The first is fairly straightforward, though rich in its own weird history. Jun Do is not an orphan, though he may as well be one. Having grown up with a father in charge of a work camp for orphans, Jun Do automatically becomes one himself. And as he grows older this influences his employment. First as a zero-light tunnel fighter, then as akidnapper of Japanese nationals, and finally as an undercover cryptographer aboard a fishing vessel. The second half is much more serious and its mystery is one I don't want to give away. I went back and read Johnson's previous novel and collection of stories, both of which are also excellent. But there's something about The Orphan Master's Son that puts him in a whole other class. Like Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay or, naturally, Mitchell's Cloud Atlas. I expect great things from this author and have a feeling I won't be disappointed. Signed. $26.00

Also recommended:

Smith, Tom Rob, Agent 6, Grand Central. The conclusion to Smith's amazing Demidov trilogy is not what you'd expect. After two novels filled with non-stop action and near-escapes, Agent 6 is almost tame with regards to physical confrontation. Instead it turns more toward the cerebral espionage of the best Cold War novels. After a trip to the US ends in tragedy, Demidov's family is split apart and he ends up in Afghanistan, addicted to opium, lost in visions of revenge. When he meets a young Afghani woman who has joined the Russian secret police, he finds himself in the midst of a journey that could lead him to the vengeance he desires. I loved the patient and measured approach to this novel, the political intrigue, and the layers of deception. Agent 6 can certainly stand on its own, but combined with Child 44 and The Secret Speech it only adds to one of the best trilogies of the 21st century. Signed. $25.99

Sally’s Favorites:

Carrisi, Donato, The Whisperer. This first novel is a tense, page-turning serial killer procedural. When six severed arms are discovered arranged in a circle, Mila Vasquez, a celebrated profiler, and Goran Gavila, a criminologist, join a group of investigators trying to unravel a grisly mystery which seems to be orchestrated by someone with the uncanny ability to point the group in a different direction every time they seem to be getting close to an answer. I seldom pick apart books that I like as much as I like this one, but I have two gripes: the author has chosen to ignore Elmore Leonard’s advice to writers “leave out the parts that readers tend to skip;” and although the author is Italian and lives in Rome, I had no sense of place here. If those are major negatives for you, you might want to skip this, but I’m a little more forgiving of first-time authors and I think the procedural parts of this story are among the best I have read in a long time. $25.99

Also recommended:

Barr, Nevada, The Rope. Barr’s prequel to her Anna Pigeon series is, I think, the best book she has written in a long time. Set in 1995 Anna has, after losing her husband, taken a seasonal job at Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. She is not, at this time, the Anna Pigeon her fans know and love. She is young, prickly (well, she remains that) and naive. It is her experiences at Glen Canyon that toughen up Anna and inspire her to join the National Park Service as a ranger. A must for Anna Pigeon fans, of course. $25.99

Stevens, Taylor, The Innocent. And speaking of tough women, Vanessa Michael Munroe ranks up there with the toughest! Munroe’s task this time is to infiltrate a cult in Buenos Aires to find an abducted child and her abductor. In order to do so, Munroe must navigate the members of this cult and struggle against her own increasingly violent nature. $24.00

1 comment:

DaraR said...

i gotta say that I think soft target is going to be one of Hunter's best. For gun enthusiast of course.. he always nails it right on the spot. He's being interviewed on Elaine Charles' radio show on the 3rd and if anyone is still wondering about reading the book... I'm sure the interview could give ou some insight. Plus if you love books.. this radio show is great anyways!