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In the Stacks: New fiction

Posted: February 27, 2014 - 1:03am

New fiction for adult readers includes “This is How You Fall,” by Keith Dixon, about the son of a man serving time in prison who is eager, but unable, to escape his father’s legacy, and “Impossible Futures,” edited by Judith K. Dial and Thomas Easton, a collection of short speculative fiction stories.

“Apology,” by Jon Pineda.

Each chapter of this lean, poetical novel is like a photograph spread out on a table, giving readers a glimpse into the lives of two families through several decades of tragedy and redemption. When 9-year-old Tommy’s twin sister Teagan calls him in for dinner, he calls back, childishly, for her to get out of his life. Not far away, Teagan meets up with one of Tommy’s friends and a game of tag begins. The next morning, a man called Shoe, hoping to earn respect at his new job, heads to his construction site early, where he finds an injured little girl and his nephew’s football. Fast-forward through time to Tommy’s graduation, to Shoe’s parole hearing, to Mario’s career. Even as Teagan’s life is forever blunted, Mario’s is saved in this thought-provoking, fast-reading novel, winner of the Milkweed National Fiction Prize in 2013 that asks a philosophical question: what are the consequences of valuing one person’s life over another?

“Sleepless Knights,” by Mark H. Williams.

Arthurian legend meets Jeeves and Wooster in this clever mash-up. Imagine if King Arthur and six of his knights still lived — how would they manage modern day life? Only with the help of Sir Lucas, their butler, who has remained unsleeping through the centuries, and who is the only one among them who understands that bodies are harder to hide these days. Calm and unruffled, Lucas is an expert at everything from confronting witches to stewing a proper tea, and now that Arthur and the knights have been “outed” as alive and Merlin has returned, his skills are more in demand than ever. But will they be enough to avert an apocalypse? The solemn ending may take some readers by surprise, but the ride is fun.

“Winter at Death’s Hotel,” by Kenneth Cameron.

Someone is murdering wealthy women in New York City, and when the police decline to investigate, the wife of world-renowned author Arthur Conan Doyle thinks she might be able to figure out who. Doyle, in America for a book tour, has brought his wife Louisa along; unfortunately, early in the tour, Louisa sprained her ankle and now remains alone in New York City’s posh Britannic Hotel, recuperating and bored. But when a woman is brutally murdered in a nearby street, Louisa’s boredom evaporates — she recognizes the victim! And, in imitation of her husband’s novels (and against his explicit directions), she begins to investigate. With the help of Minnie Fitch, the only female journalist at the New York Times, they manage to puzzle out the gory murder despite frequent clashes of British and American vernacular. This smart and witty mystery set in the 1890s will keep readers guessing.

“In Falling Snow,” by Mary-Rose MacColl.

When World War I starts up, 15-year-old Tom enlists without their father’s permission, and their father sends his sister to France to bring him back. Iris is 21, a trained nurse who gets swept up in the creation of a hospital at an old abbey when she arrives in Paris, and though she continues to search for her brother, she makes herself indispensible at the Royaumont hospital as both a nurse and an interpreter. By the time she discovers her brother’s fate, she has made a life for herself in the hospital, and when she does return home to Australia, Iris finds that she has left behind part of herself. Interwoven with Iris’s story is that of Grace, her adult granddaughter, whose own life in medicine serves as a foil for that of Iris’s. Beautifully told, and based on a real field hospital created and staffed by women, this story will stay with readers.

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