Subscriber-Only Content; You must be a PW subscriber to access the backissue database. PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital edition via our app or online. For more information on PW's new integrated subscription plan, click here. If you are currently a PW subscriber, click "Login" for full access to the site (if you have not done so already, you will need to set up your account for the new system by going here), or click the "Subscribe" button to become a PW subscriber. Email service@publishersweekly.com with questions.

Login or Subscribe
A Balm in Gilead

Marie Green McKeon. White Bird, $4.95 e-book (254p) ISBN 978-0-9904338-1-1

Vulnerability of heart, mind, and flesh resonates throughout this scathing, affecting thriller about a rape victim's struggle to salvage her identity as she endures social persecution and works to heal the emotional and physical scars of violation. McKeon doesn't blink at queasy themes of sexual victimization, degradation, and political corruption. After Quin Carlisle is raped on a Pennsylvania college campus by student Dennis Price, she faces unsympathetic police and college officials, a smothering family, and dangerously mounting self-disgust. Ten years later, Quin's hope for normalcy after meeting gentle Joe Armstrong in Chestertown, Md., is shattered by a murder reminiscent of her own attack. Local police ignore Quin's attempts to help, and, in her struggle, she crosses paths with Billy O'Brien, a man seeking justice for his murdered brother. Infusing outrage with sensitivity, McKeon injects moral ambiguity into a heartfelt (if structurally convoluted) plot, whose erratic interweaving of past and present occasionally dilutes suspense. Frailties of both victims and human monsters are laid bare, inviting immediate gut reactions ranging from sympathy to disgust. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher

Hilary Mantel. Holt, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-1-62779-210-3

The stories in Mantel's new collection reflect her interest in human frailty and assaults of all kinds, from the most intimate to those by or against the state. In fact, one title, "Offenses Against the Person," would work for many of the stories in the collection. And the selection here offers Mantel's deft blend of clinically precise observation and leavening humor—most notably in "The Heart Fails Without Warning," about anorexia's impact on a family, and "Sorry to Disturb," about an expat wife in Saudi Arabia stuck with an uncomfortable new friendship. But one of the things that makes Mantel's work so distinctively satisfying is the way she builds up detail—convincing readers that if Thomas Cromwell, the star of her two Man Booker Prize-winning novels, Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, were suddenly transported from the 16th century to their office, they'd recognize him instantly. In contrast, the pieces here often feature characters about whom the reader knows little, particularly "Terminus," more musing than story, and "Winter Break," which relies on a shock ending, and they end up feeling slight. Even "The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher," the only previously unpublished story in the collection, despite a title that promises action, offers something closer to an interesting conversation than a compelling narrative. There are pleasures here, but Mantel lovers toughing out the wait for the final book in the Cromwell series might do better visiting or revisiting her earlier work like A Place of Greater Safety, Beyond Black, or Fludd. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 10/03/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Lives of Others

Neel Mukherjee. Norton, $26.95 (416p) ISBN 978-0-393-24790-9

Money corrupts and wealth corrupts absolutely in Mukherjee's (A Life Apart) second novel, shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize—a devastatingly detailed account of a family's downfall amid the political turmoil and social unrest of India in the late 1960s and early '70s. In 1967, five generations of the Ghosh family occupy the four floors of their Calcutta home, from the top floor—where Prafullanath, the patriarch, suffers the indignities of old age; his wife tyrannizes her daughter-in-law; and his eldest son Adinath, responsible for running the overextended family paper business, resides with wife and children—down to street level, where the widow and two children of Prafullanath's youngest son share one small room. Adinath's two brothers and their families, along with their unmarriageable sister, complete the household, while servant Madan supplies unrequited compassion. Supratnik (Adinath's son) escapes to the countryside to sow Maoist rebellion as labor strife, jealousy, vice, and betrayal poisons relationships at home. Mukherjee reveals the unraveling social fabric through interwoven points of view. Powerful evocations of poverty and oppression begin in the prologue, recounting a debt-driven murder-suicide, and do not stop until the last excruciating scenes of police torture. This challenging epic has the scope of a political novel and the humanity of a family saga without sentimentality. Descriptions of a rooftop garden, the wonders of mathematics, and the charm of a secret flirtation offer brief respites from the economic and social injustices of post-independence India. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 10/03/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Heart Fire

Robin D. Owens. Berkley Sensation, $15 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-425-26395-2

The telepathic cats come off best in Owens's mediocre 13th far-future fantasy romance (after Heart Fortune). On the planet Celta, lowborn architect Antenn has just been commissioned to build a cathedral for a minority religious sect, and First Level Priestess of the quasi-Celtic majority cult Tiana Mugwort is trying to mix spirituality and ambition. She assumes that her unknown HeartMate has refused to seek her out because he personally dislikes her, but Antenn simply sees a HeartMate as a distraction from his professional objective. After they unwillingly collaborate on the cathedral project, however, the sexual tension starts to throb, and the HeartMates overcome wicked Traditionalist plots as well as their deep-seated psychological misgivings about commitment. Celta's talking houses, sentient interstellar ships, and mind-reading FamCats provide playful interludes between the requisite bodice-busting and trouser-straining passages. Tiana's scruffy FamCat, RatKiller, single-handedly almost makes up for the hackneyed motivations and fragile characterizations that Owens ladles onto this conventional chase to the bedroom. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Poet & the Private Eye

Rob Gittins. Y Lolfa (Dufour, dist.), $19 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-1-84771-899-0

At the start of this inventive tale set in the fall of 1953 from British author Gittins (Gimme Shelter), New York City lawyer Con, who represents an American scandal magazine, hires private eye Jimmy for a "simple tail job." Dylan Thomas is suing the magazine for defamation, and Con wants Jimmy to follow "Subject Thomas," as he's called throughout, who's due to fly into Idlewild airport the next day. This assignment turns into a life-changer for Jimmy, who tries to square the adulation showered on Thomas with the writer's boorish behavior. The detective even tries to understand Thomas's poetry, with little success. As Thomas spirals into self-destruction, Jimmy becomes obsessed with figuring out why the poet acts so outrageously. For background information, Jimmy travels to Laugharne, Wales, the poet's home since 1949. There Jimmy finds more adulation but also evidence of the bizarre behavior of "Subject Thomas, female." Gittins paints a moving portrait of a talented man feted by the same public complicit in his death. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Barefoot Queen

Ildefonso Falcones, trans. from the Spanish by Mara Faye Lethem. Crown, $28 (640p) ISBN 978-0-8041-3948-9

Falcones follows The Cathedral of the Sea with a ponderous novel about two female friends, both strong and yet disenfranchised in 1748 Spain. Former slave Caridad lands penniless in Seville after her owner dies on the voyage from Cuba. Milagros Carmona is the beloved granddaughter of Melchor Vega, the gypsy who gives Caridad a temporary home that soon becomes permanent. Fearful Caridad bonds with Milagros and accustoms herself to gypsy life, finding work with the smuggled tobacco they sell, while Milagros struggles to accept the marriage her parents arrange. Milagros's fiancé is killed after she urges him to take revenge on a payo, or nongypsy, who has victimized Caridad, and the clan punishes Milagros for causing his death. Then Spain's king outlaws gypsy culture, scattering the family and the community. After the decree is gradually lifted, Milagros's singing and dancing talents make her famous, but the man she loves proves to be a cruelly abusive husband. When Melchor vows vengeance against Milagros's abuser, both Melchor's life and Caridad's the deep love for him are put at risk. This story lacks the focus and momentum that made Falcones's last novel so successful. She powerfully evokes the time and place, but the narrative is overly broad and slow-moving. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Betrayal

J. Robert Janes. Open Road/Mysterious-Press.com, $14.99 trade paper (351p) ISBN 978-1-4976-4159-4

An overly melodramatic setup mars this tepid WWII thriller from Janes, who has done excellent work in his St. Cyr/Kohler series (Carnival, etc.). In September 1941, Mary Ellen Fraser is caught between the "British, the Reich and the IRA" in Northern Ireland. Mary has become intimately involved with Erich Kramer, a captured German U-boat captain held at a POW camp where her husband works as a doctor. When she agrees to deliver a letter from Erich to a cousin of his in Dublin, she becomes an unwitting tool of the enemy. Meanwhile, IRA terrorist bombings continue, and Winston Churchill worries that the Nazis and the Irish revolutionaries are plotting to do "something" in Northern Ireland. The plot twists lead up to an ending that stretches plausibility. If Janes wants readers to become truly engaged with Mary, he needs to give his lead more psychological depth. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
The Escape

David Baldacci. Grand Central, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-1-4555-2119-7

In bestseller Baldacci's clever third John Puller thriller (after 2012's The Forgotten), the chief warrant officer faces his most difficult and most personal assignment yet. Puller's older brother, Robert, a former major in the USAF, is a convicted traitor serving a life sentence in Leavenworth. A seemingly impossible chain of events ends with Robert escaping and a corpse left in his cell. A trio of high-placed officials, Army, Air Force, and National Security, go against normal protocol, and charge Puller with finding and arresting Robert. Puller has to figure out the identity of the dead man found in his brother's cell, as well as who enabled Robert to escape. To add to his problems, he's not sure he can trust the Army Intelligence agent assigned to work with him, Veronica Knox. The Puller brothers are in deep trouble, and it will take all their ingenuity and skills just to survive. Baldacci handles the complex plot with consummate ease as the Pullers navigate nearly endless surprises. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Burnt Tongues: An Anthology of Transgressive Stories

Edited by Chuck Palahniuk, Richard Thomas, and Dennis Widmyer . Medallion, $14.95 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-1-60542-734-8

Twenty fictional vivisections shock, disgust, and unsettle in this hallucinatory anthology. The devastation of malicious gossip inspires attempted suicides and helplessness in Neil Krolicki's "Live This Down," featuring a miscarriage at a pool party. After a shower, readers will be thrown off balance by the paradoxical culpability and hope of an animal abuser's redemption in Chris Lewis Carter's "Charlie." Matt Egan's "A Vodka Kind of Girl" and Tony Liebhard's "Mating Calls" face the pain of relationships, while Jason M. Fylan's "Engines, O-Rings, and Astronauts" blurring lines between victim and victimizer amid the terror of school shootings. And flickering pumpkins leer at human frailty and (again) suicidal tendencies on Halloween in Terence James Eeles's "Lemming". Attacking morality, formula, and "political correctness," these acts of literary terrorism provoke, belittle, challenge, and confound, satisfying Palahniuk's demand for "[discovering] a way of saying something, but saying it wrong." Irritating and uncompromising, they force readers to "read close, maybe read twice," as they slaughter sacred cows left and right. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
Upgraded

Edited by Neil Clarke. Wyrm, $16.95 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-890464-30-1

Longtime magazine editor Clarke (Clarkesworld), inspired by the experience of becoming a "cyborg" after getting an implanted defibrillator, decided to explore new takes on cyborgs, and this anthology largely succeeds in presenting interesting twists on the concept. The best is Helena Bell's haunting "Married," in which an experimental technology called "Sentin" gradually replaces an entire body, causing a woman to question her husband's humanity. Yoon Ha Lee's "Always the Harvest" overcomes a simple plot with magnificent world-building and turns of phrases like "A braidweave splendor of limbs." The anthology ends with a typically brutal Peter Watts story ("Collateral") followed by an unexpectedly gorgeous and humanistic one by Greg Egan ("Seventh Sight," about the implication of enhanced vision on aesthetics), ensuring that even the pickiest readers are satisfied. There are plenty of other highlights—including excellent stories by A.C. Wise and Chen Qiufan, the latter translated by Ken Liu, who also contributes an excellent tale of his own—and few missteps worth noting beyond an underwhelming contribution from headliner Elizabeth Bear. Clarke's first themed anthology will leave readers hoping for more. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

show more
X
Stay ahead with
Tip Sheet!
Free newsletter: the hottest new books, features and more
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Only $18.95/month for Digital Access
or $20.95 for Print+Digital Access!
X
Email Address

Password

Log In Lost Password

PW has integrated its print and digital subscriptions, offering exciting new benefits to subscribers, who are now entitled to both the print edition and the digital editions of PW (online or via our app). For instructions on how to set up your accout for digital access, click here. For more information, click here.

The part of the site you are trying to access is now available to subscribers only. Subscribers: to set up your digital subscription with the new system (if you have not done so already), click here. To subscribe, click here.

Email pw@pubservice.com with questions.

Not Registered? Click here.