—And then he said, “Well, hey, I didn’t order that water buffalo—“ Oh, hello! You’re back! Or, rather, we’re back. Landing in your inbox on a day when you didn’t expect to see us. Crafty, aren’t we? As that festive excuse to light the sky on fire happens on our normal inbox day, we’re shuffling things up a bit.
So, where were we? Oh, yes. End of the month mass market paperback palooza.
Next up is Michael Rutger’s The Anomaly, which is pitched as Indiana Jones meets The X-Files, and that’s nice and tidy for us. And then we notice that this paperback has four pages of praise at the front of the book. Holy bananas, book readers! That’s a lot of praise for a paperback. And then we notice that it came out in hardback last year, which explains some things. But still . . . That’s a lot of praise.
And then we discover that Michael Rutger is actually Michael Marshall Smith, and then suddenly everything makes sense. So, yeah. Indiana Jones meets The X-Files, written by a fellow who knows a few things about horror and pacing and atmosphere. Sign us up!
Meg Gardiner has a new UNSUB novel. Into the Black Nowhere sounds like terrible directions, but we’re sure it’s more of a reference to that dark dark dark place where serial killers hang out. Anyway, our heroine, scrappy FBI rookie Caitlin Hendrix, gets assigned to tracking down the most elusive and most terrifying serial killer to haunt this corner of Texas in, like, forever. The days are getting shorter, so don’t start this book too late in the day, or you’ll be reading it at night!
And speaking of all dials cranked past eleven, John Gilstrap hits us with Total Mayhem, and we mean that literally. If this book could jump off the shelf and smack you in the face, it would. It’s that crazy! It’s got America under fire. It’s got terrorists on every corner. It’s got former Special Forces operatives working for the other side. It’s got bombs. Lots of bombs. And code names that sound like Armageddon is on the breakfast menu. The San Francisco Chronicle says that “Gilstrap pushes every thriller button,” and that’s a lot of buttons to be pushed.
Meanwhile, Amanda Flower is patiently waiting for you in the cozy mystery section. She understands that after being knocked around by Gilstrap and Gardiner, you’ll need to catch your breath, and that’s when you’ll notice Toxic Toffee, Flower’s latest Amish Candy Shop Mystery. Oh, look. There are fluffy bunnies on the cover!
It just looks sweet and innocent, like that piece of toffee that Stephen Raber sucks down one afternoon. But toffee can be deadly, especially when it is laced with poison! Oh noes! And Easter is just around the corner. Who is going to wrangle all the rabbits for the happy little town of Harvest? And can they trust their neighbors if there is a mad poisoner loose?
And speaking of losing track of things, did we mention Matt Goldman’s Broken Ice a few weeks back when it came out? Probably not. Shame on us. Broken Ice is the second Nils Shapiro novel, and Shapiro is a Minneapolis-based PI with a complicated personal life. We really dug Gone to Dust, the first book in the series, and we’re delighted to see that Goldman is continuing the series. Goldman has done some time in the TV trenches, and so he knows how to keep a story tight and the focus on interesting characters.
This time around, Shapiro is brought in to investigate the disappearance of a missing hockey player. Hockey’s kind of a big thing in this part of the world, and naturally, foul play is suspected. The clues lead back to the small town where the hockey player is from, and we all know what lurks in small towns, don’t we? That’s right: trouble.
And speaking of trouble, let’s revel in the marketing copy of the latest new series from William W. (Still Dead) Johnstone. This one is Cutthroats, and it stars Jimmy “Slash” Braddock and Melvin “Pecos Kid” Baker. That should be enough right there, right? “Starring Slash and the Pecos Kid in CUTTHROATS.” But no, no, no. They’re just getting started. We’ve got two wanted outlaws, and one hell of a story.
Anyway, Slash and the Pecos Kid have spent a lifetime running rampant on the range, but they get old and sloppy and their gang sells them out. Now they have to bust out of jail and finance an escape plan in order to retire with their boots on. Of course, their chosen target is a train full of gold, guns, and marshals.
Naturally, they screw things up, and it looks like they aren’t going to get that retirement package after all. But wait! Who rescues them? Why it’s Marshal L. C. Bledsoe, a “wheelchair-bound bucket of mean” who gives them one last chance. All they have to do is hunt down an entirely different gang—the Snake River Marauders—and kill them all.
Look. We get that packaging books is sometimes an exercise in plotting by charts and random selections from pick lists, but seriously? This is a little overboard.
We blame Sam Peckinpah.
And while we’re on the subject of totally over-the-top Western action, how about Hawke’s Prey? The first of the Sonny Hawke novels, Hawke’s Prey starts off with a terrorist attack on a county courthouse, rolls into the worst blizzard seen in a century, and settles in for a long siege with tons of guns and hostages.
Or so the bad guys think. What they don’t know is that Sonny Hawke, seasoned Texas Ranger, is in the second floor washroom, fixing his hair. And soon, Sonny Hawke, seasoned Texas Ranger, is going to be fixing other things that are out of place. And these terrorists aren’t going to know what hit them. It’s Die Hard meets To Kill a Mockingbird! This time, Atticus Finch is going to do more than just argue the law; he’s here to lay it down.
And we're not quite sure what could possible top that. Oh, we know. We'll switch it up and go with something that will make your heart break, but from compassion and empathy rather than adrenaline.
Here's Michael Blumlein's Longer, which is the story of a couple of astronauts who are researching space goo and rejuvenation drugs. Cav and Gunjita are an old couple who have reached that point in their lives when they have the choice to rejuvenate back to their 20's. One does, and one doesn't; the ensuing discussion turns into a SF-nal meditation on the lives we've lived, the opportunities we've not taken, and the impact all those choices have on us. It's a thoughtful book.
And speaking of thoughtful books, Carl Zimmer's She Has Her Mother's Laugh is now out in paperback. Zimmer tackles the topic of hereditary science, and, well, the praise is effusive. The New York Times Book Review calls it "extraordinary," The Atlantic dials it up a bit more with "magisterial," and Wired can't fit their praise into one word, settling for "expansive, engrossing, and often enlightening." Alliterative, even. Those kids at Wired are so cute.
But what's it all about? you ask. Well, it's about us—all of us—and how nature and science and culture and evolution all have been working together (behind our backs, even!) to shape who we are and who are children are. And it's not just a lengthy tour of how we got here, but it's also a fascinating look at where we might be going.
And finally, here's a bit of rock and roll.
Grady Hendrix is becoming our new favorite surprise. We first ran into him with his awesome Paperbacks from Hell, which is a nerd's tour of the mid- to late-twentieth century horror paperback market, back when the covers were lurid and the contents swung between faux gothic to new gothic to "oh my god, what did I just read?" gothic. Now he's writing his own twenty-first century style horror, and in We Sold Our Souls, he's tackling rock and roll, conspiracy theories, and those deals we never think we're going to have to pay the vig on. We Sold Our Souls is a heavy metal horrorfest, and we mean that in the best way possible.
Also, major kudos to Andie Reid who designed that cover. That is genius.