18 Booklist May 15, 2017 www.booklistreader.com
With a pitch-perfect narrative voice and plenty
of humor, Eisenstadt captures the lives of her
Mets-loving and Yankee-hating characters in
vivid detail. —Mark Levine
Things That Happened before the
By Chiara Barzini.
June 2017. 320p. Doubleday, $26.95 (9780385542272).
Eugenia is a teenager looking for her place
in the world. This has been complicated by the
fact that her hippie parents have decided to relocate from Rome to Los Angeles, chasing her
father’s dream of being a famous filmmaker. It
is 1992, just after the Rodney King riots, and
the family lands in Van Nuys, which is replete
with gangs, drugs, and crime. Eugenia declares
it “the wrong place at the wrong time” and sets
out to make her way in a new school while
vowing to return to Rome. She finds an escape
through sex until she meets Deva, a mysterious and charming classmate. The novel has a
strange juxtaposition of drama and leisure, reflecting Eugenia’s inner and outer worlds. There
are sex and drugs aplenty but also sweet, tender
moments of first love and self-acceptance. Los
Angeles is dirtily yet lovingly depicted. Though
a stronger sense of time besides the bookends
of the riots and an earthquake would enhance
the novel, Barzini’s is an impressive debut with
a distinct point of view. —Kathy Sexton
By Douglas Brunt.
June 2017. 288p. St. Martin’s, $25.99 (9781250114808);
e-book, $12.99 (9781250114815).
Brunt’s (The Means, 2015) third novel follows
the creation and sculpting of a tennis prodigy,
Anton Stratis, from his leaving school in eighth
grade to train full-time to his retirement from
the sport. Anton is a good kid. He honors his
parents and adores his older brother, Panos,
who has resigned himself to being the disappointment in the family. But cracks in Anton’s
perfection spread and widen when he realizes
his life is no longer his own. “I’d always thought
of myself as carrying out instructions as though
I were an appendage to someone else’s body,”
he says. That someone else is his father, a 1984
Olympian who scrutinizes every stroke of the
ball and agonizes over every unforced error.
Toxic interactions with his father affect every
relationship Anton develops with others, on
and off the tennis court. Brunt’s reputation
for conducting tireless research to create page-turning fiction is fully upheld here, along with
narrative inventiveness, as he offers a nuanced
perspective on professional tennis and just how
far a father can push his son. —Frank Tempone
YA: YAs will enjoy the unpredictability
of Anton’s rise to the top of the tennis
world and his struggle to stay there, along
with Brunt’s use of text messaging instead
of dialogue. FT.
The Whole Way Home.
By Sarah Creech.
June 2017. 368p. Morrow, $26.99 (9780062409294).
Jo Lover and JD Gunn grew up playing music
in the Blue Ridge Mountains, and now they’ve
both made it big in Nashville—JD playing are-
nas with his pickup-trucks-and-beer songs, and
Jo with a more classic sound and a pair of red
cowboy boots. Jo thought she was done with
JD when he left her and their bandmates for
L.A., but despite her impending marriage to a
kind and brilliant producer, when JD turns up
with a recording contract that includes a duet
with her, the past just won’t stay the past. Any-
one who’s ever bemoaned the state of today’s
radio country will appreciate the interjections
of DJ Floyd Masters, who taught Willie and
Merle how to be outlaws and thinks Jo is the
second coming of Patsy Cline. Creech makes
the Nashville music scene come alive, from the
dive bars to the Ryman, and is just as good at
evoking rural Virginia’s, as Dolly Parton sang,
“good old days when times were bad.” A little
grittier than readers of southern women’s fic-
tion might expect, but a great summer read.
The Wildling Sisters.
By Eve Chase.
June 2017. 336p. Putnam, $27 (9780399174131).
The summer of 1959 is different from past
summers the four Wilde sisters have spent at
Applecote Manor in the Cotswolds. This is
their first visit since Audrey, their 12-year-old
cousin, disappeared without a trace five years
earlier. Added to that, the older Wilde girls find
themselves competing for the attention of two
boys from a neighboring estate. As the sisters
try to work their way through this new wrinkle
in their close relationship, Aunt Sybil seems
to find comfort in treating 15-year-old Mar-got Wilde like her missing child. Many years
later, Applecote Manor is purchased by Jessie
and Will Tucker. Jessie hopes that by leaving
London and moving to the country she can
escape from the shadow of Will’s deceased first
wife. But Will’s job keeps him away most of
the week, and Bella, Jessie’s sullen 16-year-old
stepdaughter, seems determined to sabotage
the move. Margot’s narrative alternates with
chapters relating Jessie’s growing fears that
Applecote Manor might not be the haven she
was hoping for. Chase’s novel, following Black
Rabbit Hall (2016), is a solid addition to the
suspense subgenre of old-English-country-house-with-secrets tales. —Mary Ellen Quinn
YA: The Wilde sisters in the past and
moody Bella in the present will give
teens who like suspense plenty to latch
on to. MEQ.
By Mick Finlay.
July 2017. 352p. MIRA, paper, $15.99 (9780778330943);
e-book, $9.99 (9781488025136).
South London’s Bermondsey and its fiercely
edgy detective, William Arrowood, possess
little to recommend themselves in comparison
to the more famous deductive expert, Sherlock
Holmes, and his more sophisticated Westmin-
ster. Still, Arrowood, “an emotional agent”
who sees into souls, is the best Bermondsey
can offer. He and his assistant, Barnett, accept
a missing-persons case, although they know the
(lovely) client is lying (of course) and that in-
evitably they will seek clues from a crime boss
they wish they didn’t know personally. Layers
upon layers later, when all is very nearly lost,
only Arrowood’s pugnacious tenacity can fer-
ret out the truth. Finlay captures the filth,
frustration, and dark humor of the Victorian-
era slum, plopping the reader into the story
among the odoriferous, life-encrusted charac-
ters with a realism decidedly un-Sherlockian.
Still, the tropes are similar, and Doyle’s fans
will be entertained. While waiting for the next
installment, why not hang out with cranky,
intimidating Cyrus Barker in Will Thomas’
mysteries (Some Danger Involved, 2004) and
the psychically astute Nine-Nails McGray in
Oscar de Muriel’s Frey and McGray series (The
Strings of Murder, 2016)? —Jen Baker
By Meg Macy.
June 2017. 288p. Kensington, paper, $15
(9781496709639); e-book, $9.99 (9781496709646).
At a staff meeting, Will Taylor, the salesman
and PR expert for the Silver Bear Shop and
Factory, tells the staff that the company is going to move production overseas, eliminating
multiple jobs. Sasha Silverman, daughter of
the owners, immediately says her father would
never agree to such a plan, but the damage is
done. Two people are heard threatening Taylor’s life, one of them Sasha’s Uncle Ross, who
runs the production line at the plant; he becomes the chief suspect when Taylor is found
dead under the stuffing machine at the factory.
Sasha investigates to clear her uncle, but matters become more complicated when a staff
member is arrested on drug charges, two others quit due to the murder, and her parents are
not responding to her calls and texts. Information on retail businesses and, in particular,
on the manufacturing of teddy bears is woven
throughout this satisfying cozy, —Sue O’Brien
By Sam Eastland.
June 2017. 380p. Opus, $28.95 (9781623160906).
The Inspector Pekkala series has shone a
light on the dark intricacies of twentieth-century Russia, from the overthrow of the czars
through, in this seventh and final installment,
Stalin’s schemes to thwart Hitler in the final
days of WWII. Pekkala is the light-bringer
here. He was once a secret agent of the Romanovs, sentenced to brutal exile in a Siberian
labor camp after their overthrow. (One of the
most wrenching parts of this book is Eastland’s
re-creation of the cold and isolation that nearly
shattered Pekkala during his nine years in the
gulag.) As series readers know, Stalin rescued
Pekkala on the condition that he serve as Stalin’s
Special Investigator. This last catch-your-breath
spy thriller, set in 1945, centers on the Germans’ attempt to perfect a system for guiding
their V- 2 rockets to chosen targets. British ra-