New and Recommended Fiction for December
Hild / Nicola Griffith (FICTION) -- A brilliant, lush, sweeping historical novel about the rise of the most powerful woman of the Middle Ages: Hild. Hild is born into a world in transition. In seventh-century Britain, small kingdoms are merging, usually violently. A new religion is coming ashore; the old gods' priests are worrying. Edwin of Northumbria plots to become overking of the Angles, ruthlessly using every tool at his disposal: blood, bribery, belief. Hild is the king's youngest niece. She has the powerful curiosity of a bright child, a will of adamant, and a way of seeing the world--of studying nature, of matching cause with effect, of observing human nature and predicting what will happen next--that can seem uncanny, even supernatural, to those around her. She establishes herself as the king's seer. And she is indispensable--until she should ever lead the king astray. The stakes are life and death: for Hild, her family, her loved ones, and the increasing numbers who seek the protection of the strange girl who can read the world and see the future. Hild is a young woman at the heart of the violence, subtlety, and mysticism of the early medieval age--all of it brilliantly and accurately evoked by Nicola Griffith's luminous prose. Recalling such feats of historical fiction as Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall and Sigrid Undset's Kristin Lavransdatter, Hild brings a beautiful, brutal world--and one of its most fascinating, pivotal figures, the girl who would become St. Hilda of Whitby--to vivid, absorbing life.
An Old Betrayal / Charles Finch (MYSTERY FICTION) -- In the seventh book of Finch's bestselling series of Victorian mysteries, a case of mistaken identity has Charles Lenox playing for his highest stakes yet: the safety of Queen Victoria herself. On a spring morning in London, 1875, Charles Lenox agrees to take time away from his busy schedule as a Member of Parliament to meet an old protége;'s client at Charing Cross. But when their cryptic encounter seems to lead, days later, to the murder of an innocuous country squire, this fast favor draws Lenox inexorably back into his old profession. Soon he realizes that, far from concluding the murderer's business, this body is only the first step in a cruel plan, many years in the plotting. Where will he strike next? The answer, Lenox learns with slowly dawning horror, may be at the very heart of England's monarchy.Ranging from the slums of London to the city's corridors of power, the newest Charles Lenox novel bears all of this series' customary wit, charm, and trickery--a compulsive escape to a different time.
A permanent member of the family / Russell Banks (FICTION) -- Suffused with Banks's trademark lyricism and reckless humor, the twelve stories in A Permanent Member of the Family examine the myriad ways we try—and sometimes fail—to connect with one another, as we seek a home in the world. In the title story, a father looks back on the legend of the cherished family dog whose divided loyalties mirrored the fragmenting of his marriage. In "Christmas Party," a young man entertains dark thoughts as he watches his newly remarried ex-wife leading the life he once imagined they would share. "A Former Marine" asks, to chilling effect, if one can ever stop being a parent. And in the haunting, evocative "Veronica," a mysterious woman searching for her missing daughter may not be who she claims she is. Moving between the stark beauty of winter in upstate New York and the seductive heat of Florida, A Permanent Member of the Family charts with subtlety and precision the ebb and flow of both the families we make for ourselves and the ones we're born into, as it asks how we know the ones we love and, in turn, ourselves. One of our most acute and penetrating authors, Banks's virtuosic writing animates stories that are profoundly humane, deeply—and darkly—funny, and absolutely unforgettable.
Ask not : Nathan Heller Mystery / Max Allan Collins (MYSTERY FICTION) -- Chicago, September 1964. Beatlemania sweeps the nation, the Vietnam War looms, and the Warren Commission prepares to blame a "lone-nut" assassin for the killing of President John F. Kennedy. But as the post-Camelot era begins, a suspicious outbreak of suicides, accidental deaths, and outright murders decimates assassination witnesses. When Nathan Heller and his son are nearly run down on a city street, the private detective wonders if he himself might be a loose end. Soon a faked suicide linked to President Johnson's corrupt cronies takes Heller to Texas, where celebrity columnist Flo Kilgore implores him to explore that growing list of dead witnesses. With the blessing of Bobby Kennedy--former US attorney general, now running for Senator from New York--Heller and Flo investigate the increasing wave of violence that seems to emanate from the notorious Mac Wallace, rumored to be LBJ's personal hatchet man. Fifty years after JFK's tragic death, Collins's rigorous research raises new questions about the most controversial assassination of our time.
The Sundering : The adversary / Erin M. Evans (FANTASY FICTION) -- In this third book of the Sundering series kicked off by R.A. Salvatore and the dark elf Drizzt, SCRIBE award-winning author Erin M. Evans thrusts her signature character Farideh into a maelstrom of devilish politics and magical intrigue that will have far-reaching implications for the future of the Forgotten Realms. As the chaos of the Sundering rages around her, young warlock Farideh faces a more personal turmoil wrought by a deal she made with a devil years ago. Hoping to protect her twin sister, she leaves everything she holds dear to assist a wizard in a scheme that pits the devils of the Nine Hells against the gods above. But when Farideh casts the spell to enter the wizard's remote mountaintop fortress, she picks up a stowaway--a Harper agent named Dahl who isn't so inclined to follow devilish demands. Dahl attempts to escape only to run into a village of odd people, lurking behind an impenetrable wall. Forced to gaze into the villagers' souls, Farideh points out the ones who seem different, only to watch as the wizard's guard carts them off to fates unknown. Are these villagers or prisoners? Are they blessed or doomed by the gods? As the wizard's guessing game proves more and more diabolical, Farideh resolves to unravel his secrets--even if it means she'll lose her own soul to the Nine Hells.
Iron winter / Stephen Baxter (SCIENCE FICTION) -- Many generations ago, the Wall was built to hold back the sea. A simple dam, it grew into a vast linear city, home to scholars, builders, and merchants. Northland's prosperity survived wars and unrest--and brought the whole of Europe together. But now darkness is falling. Days grow shorter, temperatures colder, and in the wake of long winters come famine, destruction, and terror. As a mass exodus to warmer climes threatens to fracture Northland, one man believes he can outwit the cold, and even salvage some scraps of the great civilization--before interminable gloom settles over the land; before the fires of war lay waste to an empire; before the ice comes...
The Boleyn deceit / Laura Andersen (FICTION) -- The regency period is over and William Tudor, now King Henry IX, sits alone on the throne. But England must still contend with those who doubt his legitimacy, both in faraway lands and within his own family. To diffuse tensions and appease the Catholics, William is betrothed to a young princess from France, but still he has eyes for only his childhood friend Minuette, and court tongues are wagging. Even more scandalous—and dangerous, if discovered—is that Minuette’s heart and soul belong to Dominic, William’s best friend and trusted advisor. Minuette must walk a delicate balance between her two suitors, unable to confide in anyone, not even her friend Elizabeth, William’s sister, who must contend with her own cleaved heart. In this irresistible tale, the secrets that everyone keeps are enough to change the course of an empire.
Death of a nightingale / Lene Kaaberbol & Agnete Friis (MYSTERY FICTION) -- Natasha Doroshenko, a Ukrainian woman who has been convicted of the attempted murder of her Danish fiancé, escapes police custody on her way to an interrogation in Copenhagen's police headquarters. That night, the frozen, tortured body of Michael, the ex-fiancé, is found in a car, and the manhunt for Natasha escalates. It isn't the first time the young Ukrainian woman has lost a partner to violent ends: her first husband was also murdered, three years earlier in Kiev, and in the same manner: tortured to death in a car. Danish Red Cross nurse Nina Borg has been following Natasha's case for several years now, since Natasha first took refuge at a crisis center where Nina works. Nina, who had tried to help Natasha leave her abusive fiancé more than once, just can't see the young Ukrainian mother as a vicious killer. But in her effort to protect Natasha's daughter and discover the truth, Nina realizes there is much she didn't know about this woman and her past. The mystery has long and bloody roots, going back to a terrible famine that devastated Stalinist Ukraine in 1934, when a ten-year-old girl with the voice of a nightingale sang her family into shallow graves.
The murder code / Steve Mosby (MYSTERY FICTION) -- Detective Inspector Andrew Hicks thinks he knows all about murder. However horrific the act, the reasons behind a crime are usually easy to explain. So when a woman is found bludgeoned to death, he suspects a crime of passion and attention focuses on her possessive ex-husband. But when a second body is found, similarly beaten, Hicks is forced to think again. When more murders arrive in quick succession, Hicks realizes he is dealing with a type of killer he has never faced before, one who fits nowhere within his logic. Then the letters begin to arrive . . . As the death toll rises, Hicks must face not only a killer obsessed with randomness and chaos, but also a secret in his own past. If he is to stop the killings, he must confront the truth about himself . . .
The abominable / Dan Simmons (FICTION) -- It's 1924 and the race to summit the world's highest mountain has been brought to a terrified pause by the shocking disappearance of George Mallory and Sandy Irvine high on the shoulder of Mt. Everest. By the following year, three climbers -- a British poet and veteran of the Great War, a young French Chamonix guide, and an idealistic young American -- find a way to take their shot at the top. They arrange funding from the grieving Lady Bromley, whose son also disappeared on Mt. Everest in 1924. Young Bromley must be dead, but his mother refuses to believe it and pays the trio to bring him home. Deep in Tibet and high on Everest, the three climbers -- joined by the missing boy's female cousin -- find themselves being pursued through the night by someone ... or something. This nightmare becomes a matter of life and death at 28,000 feet-- but what is pursuing them? And what is the truth behind the 1924 disappearances on Everest? As they fight their way to the top of the world, the friends uncover a secret far more abominable than any mythical creature could ever be. A pulse-pounding story of adventure and suspense, The Abominable is Dan Simmons at his spine-chilling best.
Dead set / Richard Kadrey (FANTASY FICTION) -- After her father's funeral, Zoe moved to the big city with her mother to start over. But change always brings trials, and life in the city is not so easy. Money is tight, and Zoe's only escape, as has always been the case, is in her dreams - a world apart from her troubled real life where she can spend time with her closest companion: her lost brother, Valentine. But something or someone has entered their dreamworld uninvited. And a chance encounter at a used record store, where the vinyl holds not music but lost souls, has opened up a portal to the world of the restless dead. It's here that the shop's strange proprietor offers Zoe the chance to commune with her dead father. The price? A lock of hair. Then a tooth. Then...
The Shift omnibus / Hugh Howey (SCIENCE FICTION) -- In 2007, the Center for Automation in Nanobiotech (CAN) outlined the hardware and software platform that would one day allow robots smaller than human cells to make medical diagnoses, conduct repairs, and even self-propagate. In the same year, the CBS network re-aired a program about the effects of propranolol on sufferers of extreme trauma. A simple pill, it had been discovered, could wipe out the memory of any traumatic event. At almost the same moment in humanity's broad history, mankind had discovered the means for bringing about its utter downfall. And the ability to forget it ever happened. This is the sequel to the New York Times bestselling WOOL series.