It's officially spring now, isn't it? Are the trees blooming? Are the birds singing? Are the book shelves overflowing? The answer to all of those questions is "Yes!" Let's get to it. 

Of course, James Patterson is feeling the urges of spring. He's bursting back onto the new release lists with The Red Book, his crime-scene spatter version of Jung's exploration of psychic—oh, wait. That's next week. Sorry. 

This week's James Patterson release is The Palm Beach Murders, which is, uh, a collection of three novellas that were previously published as part of his Bookshots line. This is the first print publication of two of the three, so they're almost new, right? Like the marketing copy says: "The wealthiest zip code in Florida doesn't just have billionaires, yachts, and private planes—it also has the best murder plots money can buy." 

And speaking of jetsetting and crime fighting, Stuart Woods is back this week with Double Jeopardy, which pits Stone Barrington against a pair of psychotic family members. Well, not close family. Sons of a first cousin or some such. It's not all that important, really. What matters is these dudes have moved in next door, and they're planning something nefarious. That sort of nonsense is not okay in FancyTown, Maine, where everything is gold-plated and everyone knows which fork to use with which course. Barrington, perpetually supperrich and super competent at everything, must deal with this aberration in the family tree before the other neighbors vote to suspend his country club membership. 

And speaking of more gold than is good for you, Janet Evanovich teams up with Steve Hamilton on the latest Fox and O'Hare novel, The Bounty. Kate O'Hare is still under the impression that she's actually a straight-laced special agent, while Nick Fox is still, wait for it, crafty as his namesake. This time around, they're on the trail of a shadowy organization which has its eyes on a secret cargo of Nazi gold. They're going to need a little help this time around, which means Nick has to deal with the man who taught him everything he does—his dad. It's like Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade meets To Catch a Thief

Meanwhile, Jacqueline Winspear is back with another Maisie Dobbs novel. The Consequences of Fear opens with a young man witnessing a murder in WWII London. The police don't have time to deal with this young man's claim as to the identity of the killer, and so the young man turns to someone he knows will listen t his story. That's right: good old Maisie Dobbs, who is always ready to root out evildoers. Winspear's earnest and engaging secondary characters are part of the charm here too, and The Consequences of Fear is fast-paced novel of intrigue and spycraft during the blackest days of WWII. 

And speaking of spycraft, Alma Katsu is back with an honest-to-God thriller this week. Katsu, who has done some marvelous work injecting the supernatural into the historical record around the Donner Party and the sinking of the Titanic, sticks to her day job for Red Widow, which is the story of two CIA analysts who discover that their agency is lying to them. Naturally, complications ensue, because office politics in spy agencies means no one ever finds the bodies. Katsu, who has worked for various acronym agencies over the years, lends a chilling verisimilitude to the backstabbing subterfuge. 

Meanwhile, if things aren't chilly enough for you, we have Camilla Sten's The Lost Village, which is the story about a remote Swedish village whose inhabitants all disappeared one day, back in 1959. Well, not all of them. A woman was found, bound to a post in the village green and stoned to death, along with a baby. Now, many years later, a woman with ties to some of the people in that village wants closure, and she's going to get it, with the assistance of a documentary film crew. Naturally, nothing is as it seems, and the dread creeps in almost immediately. And then gets worse. Much, much worse. 

On a lighter note, the Turbo Toilet 2000 wants vengeance on Captain Underpants. We're not entirely sure of the source of this feud between the nappy-wrapped protagonist and the Toilet With Teeth, but it all plays out in Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000. In full color, of course. 

Simultaneously, Dav Pilkey's latest Dog Man book is also hitting the shelves. Holy cow! Pilkey's pulling a Patterson (say that six times fast!). In Mothering Heights, Dog Man has a case of the sads, Petey has a hairball, and Grampa is up to no good. Man, these cats (and dogs!) need to come together, and with the power of comradely love, they save the day. 

And speaking of books with pictures, Sandra Boynton is back this week with Jungle Night, a marvelous book for tiny readers. Yes, it's a bedtime book. Yes, it's mostly in rhyme. But come on! There's a polyrhythmic version of Eric Satie's "Gymnopédie No. 1" here, which includes Yo-Yo Ma on cello. Onomatopoeia! Classical Music! Funny animal pictures! Trifecta win! 

Oh, and look, Gibbs Smith has another of their charming naturalist books. This one is John Muir's Steep Trails, a collection of essays that he wrote while wandering the American West. Muir, who pioneered the conservation moment, has a keen eye and a deep and abiding love for all things that grow and hop and make noise out of doors. Steep Trails is a charmingly packaged collection of one man's adoration of the natural world.

And speaking of which, get outside already! Smell the air! Make bird noises! Read a book under a tree! Let's stop all this sulking indoors. Carry on, dear readers. Carry on . . . 

Overheard At The Old Barn »»

COLBY: What are you two doing?

PODGE: Lingering. 

HODGE: But not in a nefarious way. 

PODGE: No. See how boneless we are? You can't be nefarious when you are this boneless. 

COLBY: You can be underfoot though. 

HODGE: Well, it's hard to sit in a chair when your bones are jelly. 

PODGE: Strawberry jelly. 

HODGE: Peach jam. 

PODGE: Look at me ooze! 

HODGE: Oh, very nice oozing!

COLBY: All right, you two. Go pretend to be scone fillings somewhere else. 

HODGE: Ooze. Ooze. 

PODGE: Undulate. 

HODGE: Oh, that's good, Podge. Very good, indeed. 

PODGE: I've studied gelatinonian motion. 

HODGE: That sounds exciting. 

PODGE: Only when it wiggles. 

COLBY: <sigh> 


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