Sunday, April 18, 2004

Turn over a new leaf with debut authors

Special to the Herald

Once upon a time, you may have read books by new authors such as Dan Brown, John MacDonald, Sue Grafton, Nora Roberts and John Grisham when they were unknown.

Each year more debut authors are published and some may achieve similar success. In addition to acquiring books by popular authors, the Manatee County Library System searches out new authors and selects the best for our collection. Readers like you will decide if these debut authors become popular.

In "Shadows at the Fair," author Lea Wait (herself a fourth-generation antiques dealer) smoothly combines homicide and antiques. Widow Maggie Summer, an antique print dealer, gets involved in solving the death of a fellow dealer when a friend's nephew is wrongly suspected. A realistic background and fascinating information about antiques and antiques fairs makes this a solid debut for fans of the "cozy" genre of mysteries.

Indian author, Jhumpa Lahiri's first novel focuses on Gogol, the American-born son of an Indian couple. Gogol's unusual name, together with conflicts between his Indian heritage and American lifestyles, are the basis of "The Namesake."

Already well-known as an actor, Harley Jane Kozak has written her first novel, the whimsically titled "Dating Dead Men." This lighthearted mystery concerns Wollie Shelley, her struggling card store, her attempts to date (living) men for a research study, and what goes wrong when she stumbles across a body.

Deanna Kizis, West Coast editor of "Elle" magazine, puts a new spin on the "chick lit" novel, in "How to Meet Cute Boys." Benjamina Franklin is a star L.A. journalist whose dating disasters serve as a regular feature in "Filly" magazine. When she meets the man of her dreams, he turns out to be a lot younger and exhibiting signs of Benjamina's worst nightmare: male commitment phobia. The dating world's highs and lows provide plenty of laughs and tears.

In the intriguingly titled, "Shoveling Smoke," Austin Davis has written a hilarious crime novel set in the tiny East Texas town of Jenks. Houston lawyer, Clay Parker attempts to leave the rat race behind when he moves to Jenks. From the start, he finds it a bumpy road as he tries to prepare for his first case while a cast of quirky characters (corrupt officials, crazed survivalists, incompetent hit man, an emu and a naked county clerk) hinder him from every side and Clay discovers that nothing is what it seems to be.

In Ken Bruen's "The Guards," ousted Irish policeman, Jack Taylor, surprises himself by getting hired by a dazzling woman who has heard Jack is good at finding things. Stark, violent, sharp and funny, "The Guards" gives the reader a close look at the gritty Galway streets, and is a promising new addition to contemporary crime fiction.

Jilliane Hoffman's first novel, "Retribution," relates the events unleashed by the brutal rape of recent law school graduate, Chloe, in 1968. Twelve years later, the case against a vicious serial murderer is being built by a compassionate police (male) officer and an aggressive (female) prosecutor, but the officer is concerned about the urgency of the prosecutor's actions. Plot twists and turns and a breathtaking ending make this a debut novel to remember.

Judy Mullen is a reference librarian at the Central Library.

Bradenton Herald | 04/18/2004 | Turn over a new leaf with debut authors

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