New and Recommended Fiction for February
The exiles return / Elisabeth de Waal ; with a foreword by Edmund de Waal (FICTION) -- A stunningly vivid postwar story of Austria's fallen aristocrats, unrepentant Nazis, and a culture degraded by violence. The novel follows a number of exiles, each returning under very different circumstances, who must come to terms with a city in painful recovery. There is Kuno Adler, a Jewish research scientist, who is tired of his unfulfilling existence in America; Theophil Kanakis, a wealthy Greek businessman, seeking to plunder some of the spoils of war; Marie-Theres, a brooding teenager, sent by her parents in hopes that the change of scene will shake her out of her funk; and Prince "Bimbo" Grein, a handsome young man with a title divested of all its social currency. With immaculate precision and sensitivity, de Waal, an exile herself, captures a city rebuilding and relearning its identity, and the people who have to do the same.
Belle Cora / Phillip Margulies (FICTION) -- In the grand tradition of Moll Flanders and Vanity Fair, this is the story of a good girl who became a bad woman. At the old homestead her name is never spoken and her picture is turned to the wall, but in the vast world beyond everyone remembers her as the celebrated madam of the finest parlor house in San Francisco. Now, at the end of her life, after half a century of successfully hiding the details of her scarlet past, Belle has decided to reveal all her secrets.
The emperor's blades / Brian Staveley (FANTASY FICTION) -- The emperor of Annur is dead, slain by enemies unknown. His daughter and two sons, scattered across the world, do what they must to stay alive and unmask the assassins. But each of them also has a life-path on which their father set them, destinies entangled with both ancient enemies and inscrutable gods. Kaden, the heir to the Unhewn Throne, has spent eight years sequestered in a remote mountain monastery, learning the enigmatic discipline of monks devoted to the Blank God. Their rituals hold the key to an ancient power he must master before it's too late. An ocean away, Valyn endures the brutal training of the Kettral, elite soldiers who fly into battle on gigantic black hawks. But before he can set out to save Kaden, Valyn must survive one horrific final test. At the heart of the empire, Minister Adare, elevated to her station by one of the emperor's final acts, is determined to prove herself to her people. But Adare also believes she knows who murdered her father, and she will stop at nothing--and risk everything--to see that justice is meted out.
A basket of trouble : a Claire Hanover mystery / Beth Groundwater (MYSTERY FICTION) -- When gift basket designer Claire Hanover saddles up for the opening event at her brother Charley’s new riding stable, the last thing she expects is for Kyle Mendoza, one of the stable hands, to be found dead. Everyone assumes a horse trampled him, until it’s discovered that someone murdered Kyle before dragging him into a stall. Charley’s troubles worsen when a rival stable owner steals his clients and Kyle’s family decides to sue him for negligence. Claire is determined to corral the killer and save her brother’s business. However, solving the mystery could be more difficult than finding a needle in a haystack . . . and maybe even deadly.
The Séance Society / Michael Nethercott (MYSTERY FICTION) -- It's 1956, and Lee Plunkett has taken over the family business as a private investigator despite his reluctance to follow in his father's footsteps. When murder intrudes on a group of ghost seekers, Lee is asked to solve the case by a cop on the verge of retirement. At the urging of his perpetual fiancée Audrey, Lee enlists the help of Mr. O'Nelligan, a scholarly Irishman with a keen eye for solving mysteries. The duo is drawn into a murder investigation involving the "Spectricator", a machine designed to communicate with the dead. Soon, Plunkett and O'Nelligan are knee-deep in a suspect pool that includes a surly medium, a former speakeasy queen, a mysterious Spanish widow, and a whole slew of eccentric servants.
Andromeda's choice : a novel of the Legion of the Damned / William C. Dietz (SCIENCE FICTION) -- Andromeda McKee rebuilt her life in the violent embrace of the Legion of the Damned in the days when cyborgs were first being introduced. Now she must choose between her conscience and her desire for vengeance... In a different world, Lady Catherine "Cat" Carletto would never have left her pampered life behind. But when Princess Ophelia became Empress Ophelia in a coup that claimed the lives of the princess's brother and all who supported him, including the Carletto family, Cat had to hide-or die. She became Legionnaire Andromeda McKee, and now she's a battle-scarred veteran who knows how to kill. Summoned to Earth to receive the Imperial Order of Merit from the empress herself, Andromeda learns that she isn't the sole surviving Carletto-her uncle Rex is not only still alive but also the leader of a resistance group determined to overthrow Ophelia. Caught up in a web of intrigue, Andromeda realizes that the moment is coming when her revenge will be at hand. But will she be able to act, or will she be betrayed by those she has come to trust?