by Christopher Moore (Morrow, $27)
King Lear’s jester “gets the full attention” he deserves in this bawdy retelling of Shakespeare’s towering tragedy, said Steven Winn in the San Francisco Chronicle. Seasoning almost every page with liberal doses of sex, slapstick, and “cheerfully curdled Elizabethan wordplay,” Moore sometimes allows the Fool’s shenanigans to “wear thin.” But he also “builds a nuanced sensibility” behind his narrator’s anarchic mischief. Our hearts go out to Lear, but “our minds keep getting snagged by his comic servant’s incisive, despairing wit.”
by Dan Simmons (Little, Brown, $27)
“Inside this artery-clogging, almost-800-page book” is “a sleek and sinewy 300-page thriller waiting to be teased out,” said Louis Bayard in The Washington Post. Inspired by Charles Dickens’ unfinished final novel, it’s narrated by a Dickens rival who suspects the great novelist has been masking a murderous streak by inventing a fictional fiend named Drood. Some of Simmons’ scenes are “almost unbearably vivid,” but he’s larded his pages with historical research, and “for long stretches, Drood is little more than warmed-over biography.”
by John Grisham (Doubleday, $28)
The king of modern legal thrillers “so often writes similar books that the same things must be said of them,” said Janet Maslin in The New York Times. So: This “retread” of 1991’s The Firm features a “two-dimensional but terrifically likable” 25-year-old hero who is blackmailed into temporarily selling his soul to the world’s largest law firm. The book “quickly becomes impossible to put down” before escalating “into plotting so crazily far-fetched that it defies resolution.” But it does make you deplore corporate law.
Eve: A Novel of the First Woman
by Elissa Elliott (Delacorte, $24)
Not all readers will be comfortable coming upon a postcoital Adam and Eve, just after the couple have “greatly exerted” themselves in “Being One,” said Laura Billings in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But Elliott’s “imaginative and convincing portrait” of Eve, like Anita Diamant’s portrait of Dinah in The Red Tent, “ought to give book clubs plenty to talk about.” Besides, she “conjures all the dysfunction” a reader would expect to find in the family that “invented fratricide.”
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