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December 22, 2010 Edition

Redemption in Indigo, by Karen Lord

This novelized retelling of a Senegalese folktale takes place in Paamaís childhood village, where she has returned after a disastrous decade of marriage to the gluttonous Ansige. The attention of the djombi (the undying ones) is drawn to her when they see that she thinks on her feet and isnít swayed by the opinion of the village, and the djombi Patience decides to gift Paama with the Chaos Stick, which will allow her to subtly manipulate the world. But it has been taken away from the djombi Chance, who believes it is rightfully his, and who is determined to win it back. Rich with both whimsy and weight, this is an enchanting first novel from a little-heard-from part of the world.

A Stranger in the Family, by Robert Barnard

As his mother lies dying, she reveals to Kit Philipson that he was adopted after being kidnapped, that his real name is Peter Novello, and that he can find his biological motherís name and address in her address book. Just like that, Kitís world is turned upside down. When he takes the trip from Glasgow to Leeds to visit his biological family, everyone is very kind and welcoming, but he feels that something is wrong. His biological father claims he isnít Kitís father, and no one in the family thinks the British police need him to announce his return. But why not? Wasnít he an open case? Was there newspaper coverage? A ransom demand? And whatís the connection between his adoptive father, a German-Jewish refugee who was whisked out of Germany at the age of three, and Kitís own situation? This quiet but suspenseful novel will keep readers guessing.

Blood Oath, by Christopher Farnsworth

Love vampires? And politics? If so, pick up this political fantasy, which puts a vampire at the Presidentís right hand. Sworn to protect and obey, Nathaniel Cadeís unique skill set makes him a highly useful member of every American presidentís team since Andrew Jackson. Cade is like an inhuman James Bond and he needs a handler, someone to advocate for the human side of things. Ambitious Zach Barrows has become Cadeís latest handler, and what heís learning about the world, starting with the existence of vampires, werewolves, and otherÖ thingsÖ is tough to swallow. But Zachís got a lot of incentive to get things right in this series opener.

Ark, by Stephen Baxter

As the sequel to Flood, this is nearly as dismal, but with a small ray of hope. In Flood, the waters of earth are rising and forcing human civilization onto higher and smaller ground. In Ark, whatís left of humanity has collected into disparate communities, each trying to hold its own and survive. One of these is has developed a means to reach a recently-discovered earth-like planet, and over the decades-span of the book, several Ark ships set off. As meticulously as the mission is planned, as carefully the crews are selected, the Arks are still plagued by mutinies, infighting, and sabotage and readers will wonder whether it might not have been better to stay on a drowning Earth. Baxterís portrayal of the post-apocalyptic landscape, the hard choices and grim situations that his characters find themselves in, and his careful research into the scientific details make for a gripping story, with or without Flood.

Holy Thief, by William Ryan

Itís 1936 in Moscow and Captain Alexei Korolevís life is looking up: heís finally been allocated a room in a shared apartment and wonít have to live with his cousin anymore. But immediately after heís moved in to his new home, heís given an unusually brutal murder to solve. A political angle becomes clear when the tortured woman proves to be an American who may have been smuggling valuables out of the Soviet Union, and politics has a way of making truth elusive. Korolev walks a fine line between being effective at getting answers and being judged an enemy of the state. Ryanís debut novel captures the atmosphere of mistrust and deprivation during Stalinís reign while delivering a first-rate mystery.

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