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Go ahead, flirt a little with these summer book flings

In summer, we often go back to the same old places. Vacations are supposed to be easy, after all. • And it's easy to go back to the same writers for summer reading. Cracking open the latest book by your favorite author can be as satisfying as checking into your favorite hotel and knowing you're free of the workaday world for a while. • Mystery or romance, horror or chick lit, adventure or fantasy — whatever its genre, a good summer novel should engage you enough to take you someplace else, whether you're stretched out in a lounge chair beside the pool or crammed into an airline coach seat. • But there's something to be said for a summer romance of the literary kind — a thrilling little fling with someone altogether new. If it doesn't work out, no one has to know. Just leave the book behind in the hotel room, a one-novel stand. • So, instead of the usual suspects, here are half a dozen new and upcoming novels by first-time authors. Reading one just might be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

The Sister |
By Poppy Adams

After a nearly 50-year estrangement, sisters Ginny and Vivien reunite. Vivien, the younger at 67, returns to the family home, a crumbling Victorian manse in rural England packed with thousands of tiny corpses — the moths Ginny and their father, Clive, collected as lepidopterists.

Ginny, who narrates the story in a very reasonable-sounding voice, has lived there all those years, turning over in her mind just what drove her and Vivien apart. When the sisters are reunited, deliciously creepy secrets are revealed.

Reminds us of: A.S. Byatt, Kate Atkinson and Stephen King have a house party.

Alfred A. Knopf, 275 pages, $23.95, June

Edgar Sawtelle |
By David Wroblewski

This brawny, book-club-ready novel is about a family that has developed an unusual breed of dog on their Wisconsin farm. Young Edgar Sawtelle, who is deaf, has a deep emotional link with the dogs.

When his father dies suddenly, Edgar is stricken first with guilt, then with the desire for revenge. When that goes very wrong, Edgar finds himself on the run with three of his beloved dogs. This richly written literary thriller delves into human relationships as well as the canine-human bond.

Reminds us of: Hamlet, Huck Finn and Jim Harrison open a dog-training school.

Ecco/HarperCollins, 562 pages, $26.95, June

Child 44 |
By Tom Rob Smith

Set in Stalin's Soviet Union, this paranoia-fueled thriller opens with a gruesome murder in a Ukrainian village, a scene in which Smith paints the harsh landscape so vividly you'll feel your toes going numb with frostbite.

Back in Moscow, Leo, a war hero turned member of the secret police, finds his loyalty shaken when the government refuses to acknowledge a serial killer might be on the hunt. Then, in a Kafkaesque turn, Leo becomes the hunted.

Reminds us of: John Le Carre, Martin Cruz Smith and Ian McEwan have a storytelling contest.

Grand Central, 439 pages, $24.99, May

Whacked |
By Jules Asner

Asner has the bona fides for writing an insider novel about show biz: She has hosted a bunch of shows for E! Entertainment Television, and she's married to movie director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean's Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen and counting).

Whacked's Dani Hale is obsessed with famous Hollywood murders, which serves her well as a writer on a TV crime series. Her inquisitive nature also leads her to notice her perfect boyfriend might not be. His way of calling women who haven't had plastic surgery "factory" might be a clue.

Reminds us of: Sex and the City meets CSI and goes to Hollywood.

Weinstein Books, 264 pages, $23.95, June

Sacrifice |
By S.J. Bolton

English obstetrician Tora Hamilton and her husband move to his birthplace, the isolated Shetland Islands, which he left 20 years before. Digging a grave for one of her horses, Tora finds a human body in the peat. It's no mummified archaeological find, though — it's a young woman whose heart has been cut out, and recently.

What's more, she had given birth just days before her death. Trying to find out what happened to her leads Tora into the old secrets and ancient legends of the Shetlands — and into very present danger.

Reminds us of: Val McDermid meets Patricia Cornwell on the North Sea.

St. Martin's, 379 pages, $24.95, June

The Lace Reader |
By Brunonia Barry

For generations, women of the Whitney clan of Salem, Mass., have been able to read the future in the patterns of lace. Such mystical powers are nothing new in Salem, of course, and neither are family histories full of dark secrets.

Towner Whitney left Salem after a tragedy involving her twin sister, but the disappearance of her great-aunt brings her back.
To solve that mystery and others, Towner may have to let go of her tenuous hold on reality, with the bonds of family — and the lace — the only things to lead her back.

Reminds us of: Anne Rice's Mayfair witches join the Friday Night Knitting Club.

William Morrow, 392 pages, $24.95, July

Colette Bancroft can be reached at cbancroft@sptimes.com or (727) 893-8435.

Go ahead, flirt a little with these summer book flings 05/29/08 [Last modified: Thursday, May 29, 2008 11:53am]

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