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     Volume 6 Issue 3 | January 26, 2007 |

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Year Opening Releases

Web of Evil
J. A. Jance

Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing Group; January 2007

With this novel, J. A. Jance introduces a new, attention-grabbing female protagonist. Ali Reynolds is a Los Angeles network anchorwoman who retreats to her hometown of Sedona, Arizona, after she's been fired (for being over 40) and almost simultaneously discovers that her husband has been conducting a seamy extramarital affair. Like Jance's Joanna Brady, Reynolds is sympathetic and possesses a sometimes cutting wit, but Ali is much savvier and worldly wise than the Bisbee sheriff. A spine-tingling series starter.


The Hunters
W.E.B. Griffin

Penguin Group (USA); January 2007

Bestseller Griffin's ponderous third Presidential Agent novel picks up where the previous entry, The Hostage, left off, following U.S. Army Maj. Carlos "Charley" Castillo, a troubleshooter who takes orders directly from the president, as he fumbles about in South America and Europe. Castillo and his crew of specialists are trying to figure out who ordered the murder of American diplomat Jean-Paul Lorimer, who was shot to death in Uruguay while under suspicion of various international misdeeds, including a shady food-for-oil conspiracy in Iraq. Long stretches of dialogue and description come across more as showcases for Griffin's knowledge than as solid narrative, while Castillo and his cohorts never rise beyond their assigned roles. Fans will miss the more captivating heroes of Griffin's Brotherhood of War or the Corps series.

House of Meetings
Martin Amis

Knopf Publishing Group; January 2007

An unnamed former gulag inmate in Amis's disappointing latest is now a rich, 84-year-old expatriate Russian taking a tour of the former gulags in 2004. The narrator chronicles his current and past experiences in a book-length letter to his American "stepdaughter," Venus. Wry remarks on contemporary Russia and the U.S. run up against gulag reminiscences, which tell of the years 1948 through 1956, when the narrator and his brother Lev suffered in the Norlag concentration camp. The letter contains another letter, from the dying Lev, dated 1982, which was the year Lev's son Artem died in Afghanistan. Lev's first wife-and the narrator's first love-was Zoya, a Jewish Russian beauty who by 1982 was an alcoholic married to a Soviet apparatchik. The narrator's own feeling of debasement, when, after Lev's death, he finally meets Zoya again in Norlag's conjugal cabin (the House of Meetings), is complicated to the point of impaction. Amis's trademark riffs are all too muffled in his obvious research. And Venus, the narrator's supposedly beloved stepdaughter, is such a negative space filled with trite clich s about affluent young Americans, and such irritating second guesses about her reactions, that it lends a distinctly bullying tone to the book.


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