Fall fiction roundup

Reviewer Yvonne Zipp skates through Nick Hornby's new novel and tackles fiction from Ivo Stourton, Jennifer Lee Carrell, and Missouri native Valerie Martin.

Interred With Their Bones, by Jennifer Lee Carrell

Attention conspiracy theorists: Take a break from Templar mysteries and try some poetry for a change. In London, someone is taking their Shakespeare a little too seriously: The Globe Theater has been set on fire and a killer is staging murders from Shakespeare's plays. And scholar-turned-director Kate Stanley has been given a clue that may lead to the only existing copy of the lost play "Cardenio," or perhaps to the identity of the Bard himself. Carrell, an English professor, doesn't expect readers to be able to tell an iamb from a dactyl, and she weaves in plenty of globe-trotting action along with the literary clues. But for such a smart lady, Kate pulls a couple of truly boneheaded moves. And the fact that her bodyguard is a green-eyed hunk with a wicked grin is actually harder to swallow than the location of the missing play. Grade: B

The Night Climbers, by Ivo Stourton

At my less-than-illustrious alma mater, when we were bored, we played hide-and-seek in the Arboretum at midnight. Cambridge being populated by high-fliers, the action is a bit more intense in Ivo Stourton's debut novel. "The Night Climbers" are a secret group of bored young things who scale college buildings after dark. They stumble on James Walker one night while escaping campus security, and the lonely student is seduced by their recklessness and glamour. When their ringleader's dad cuts off his allowance, he concocts a scheme to finance their lavish, cocaine-fueled lifestyle that will have ramifications for years to come. Fans of Donna Tartt's "The Secret History," will recognize a few plot points (with acrobatics subbing for ancient Greek), but Stourton's novel is less accomplished on every level. Grade: C

Slam, by Nick Hornby

The plot is pure ABC after-school special: Likable teen skater gets first serious girlfriend pregnant and goes from dreaming about McTwists to having nightmares about changing diapers. What saves "Slam" from seeming like every other "issue" novel for young adults is its author. Nick Hornby ("About a Boy") excels at depicting angry young men, whether they're 12 or 30, and he gives Sam Jones enough life, humor, and personality to survive subplots involving prophetic dreams and conversations with a poster of skating legend Tony Hawk. Despite the elements of fantasy, Hornby grounds his first book for teens with enough uncomfortable, embarrassing reality that readers wince in sympathy when, as Sam puts it, "the wheels had come off the trucks, the trucks had come off the deck, and I'd shot twenty feet into the air and gone straight into a brick wall." Grade: B

Trespass, by Valerie Martin

Martin's new novel opens deceptively as a domestic drama, when Chloe Dale meets her beloved son's new girlfriend, Salome Drago, and loathes her on sight. The illustrator's worst fears are realized when Salome, a Croatian refugee, gets pregnant and marries Tony. Martin is a deeply intelligent writer who uncovers the cracks in Chloe's self-satisfied existence. But she's after more than one woman's story. The novel opens up when Salome learns that her mother, whom she believed died in the war, might still be alive. She heads for Europe with Tony on her heels. Chloe sends her husband, Brendan, after them to bring her son home. Meanwhile, the narrative within the narrative – a story about an unfaithful Yugoslav woman – dovetails with the main plot in tragic ways. Aside from an overly pat ending, "Trespass" is a thoughtful novel about the nature of morality. Grade: B+

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