Friday Fiction Feature

Welcome once again to the Friday Fiction Feature, the weekly post that honors great writing as well as notable new releases! One of the more interactive posts, the Fiction Feature includes recommendations from readers collected the previous week. Do you have an author you would like featured here? Send me an email (bschillace) or post a comment!

Today, I will be looking at some up and coming YA releases, as well as some favored new releases of authors–one of whom is on tour! (PS: Scroll down for THIEFTAKER and MEMORY OF BLOOD…plus an anecdote about reading backwards.)

Jonathon Friesen’s THE LAST MARTIN is a new release by Zonderkidz (author represented by the Knight Agency). A fun new adventure of the Gothic variety, this text reminds me a bit of the John Bellairs series (circa 1950s). There’s always a Martin. One Martin. Martin Boyle already has plenty to worry about. His germaphobic mother keeps him home from school if she hears so much as a sneeze, and his father is always off somewhere reenacting old war battles. Julia, the most beautiful girl in school, won’t even speak to Martin, and the gym teacher is officially out to get him. Which is why Martin really doesn’t need this curse hanging over his head. On a trip to the family cemetery, Martin wanders among the tombstones of his ancestors and discovers a disturbing pattern: when one Martin is born, the previous Martin dies. And—just his luck—Martin’s aunt is about to give birth to a baby boy, who will, according to tradition, be named Martin. Martin must find a way to break the curse, but every clue seems to lead to a dead end. And time is running out!

One of Delacourt’s books for young readers, Kendare Blake’s ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD was a Kirkus Best Teen Books of the Year title and one of NPR’s Top 5 Young Adult Novels of 2011. It introduces us to Cas Lowood, who has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead. So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father’s mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. Together they follow legends and local lore, trying to keep up with the murderous dead—keeping pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

When they arrive in a new town in search of a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas doesn’t expect anything outside of the ordinary: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he’s never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home. But she, for whatever reason, spares Cas’s life.

Released in 2011, Jason Lethcoe’s NO PLACE LIKE HOLMES is a bit of mystery fun for the youngest of Sherlock lovers. When Griffin is sent to stay with his detective uncle at 221A Baker Street for the summer, he is certain that his uncle must be the great Sherlock Holmes! But Griffin is disappointed to discover that Holmes lives at 221B Baker Street and his uncle lives unit 221A. His uncle is a detective, just not a very good one. But when Griffin meets a woman with a case that Holmes has turned away for being too ridiculous, he and his uncle team up to help her. Along the way, Griffin shows his uncle just what it means to have true faith in God, even when the case challenges that.  The woman claims that her husband was eaten by the Loch Ness Monster, but monsters aren’t real—or are they?

I thought, given our focus on mystery, these three YA/young reader novels were a sound addition to the Friday Feature!

NEW RELEASES (for the not-so-young-adult)

Now on a short author tour, D.B. Jackson brings us history, mystery and–fantasy! What more do you need? Introducing THIEFTAKER. A warm evening in colonial North America’s leading city. Smoke drifts across the city, and with it the sound of voices raised in anger, of shattering glass and splintering wood. A mob is rioting in the streets, enraged by the newest outrage from Parliament: a Stamp Tax . Houses are destroyed, royal officials are burned in effigy. And on a deserted lane, a young girl is murdered. Ethan Kaille, a thieftaker of some notoriety, and a conjurer of some skill, is hired by the girl’s father to find her killer. Soon he is swept up in a storm of intrigue and magic, politics and treachery. The murder has drawn the notice of the lovely and deadly Sephira Pryce, a rival thieftaker in Boston; of powerful men in the royal government; of leaders of the American rebels, including Samuel Adams; and of a mysterious sorcerer who wields magic the likes of which Ethan has never encountered before. NOTE: Jackson will join us here for an interview in the future!

This next one is quite dear to me, as I am a big fan of Bryant and May. Christopher Fowler’s latest release just hit American shelves in March 2012 (we were behind schedule for some reason–UK got it sooner). I will give the synopsis below, but first, a little about my introduction to the crime-solving duo.

I am an avid reader, but I don’t read in a straight line. I sometimes read books backwards, last chapter, second to last, and so on. (Incidentally, that does interesting things to Uncle Tom’s Cabin). I also often read a series backwards, beginning at the end. Naturally, when I purchased my first two of the Fowler series, I bought the latest and the first, intending to read them in reverse order. Surprise! The first of the series is actually the last, told from the latter year perspective of Detective May–a reflection on their first case. I was nonplussed. I had just been beaten at my own game–as if the crusty, history-loving Bryant had me in the cross-hairs of his somewhat dismissive sights. In love from day one–I present the latest from Bryant and May: MEMORY OF BLOOD.

For the crew of the New Strand Theatre, the play The Two Murderers seems less performance than prophecy when a cast party ends in the shocking death of the theater owner’s son. The crime scene is most unusual, even for Bryant and May. In a locked bedroom without any trace of fingerprints or blood, the only sign of disturbance is a gruesome life-size puppet of Mr. Punch laying on the floor. Everyone at the party is a suspect, including the corrupt producer, the rakish male lead, the dour set designer, and the assistant stage manager, who is the wild daughter of a prominent government official. It’s this last fact that threatens the Peculiar Crimes Unit’s investigation, as the government’s Home Office, wary of the team’s eccentric methods, seeks to throw them off the case. But the nimble minds of Bryant and May are not so easily deterred. Delving into the history of the London theater and the disturbing origins of Punch and Judy, the detectives race to find the maniacal killer before he reaches his even deadlier final act.

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