From our reviewers: General fiction

Last updated 14:50 04/11/2013

The Southland Times reviewers look at general fiction novels on the shelves now.

12th of Never
By James Patterson and Maxine Paetro (Century, RRP $37)

Reviewed by Jillian Allison-Aitken

The latest book in the Women's Murder Club series is the usual fast-paced thriller you expect from James Patterson, a man who must surely be the most prolific writer on the market today.

The story kicks off with an unexpected but very welcome arrival for Detective Lindsay Boxer before moving on to the reason we buy these books: murder.

A serial killer waking from a coma and a professor who reckons he is dreaming about murders before they happen keep the story ticking along in this, the 12th in the Women's Murder Club series, and the the ninth book of the series co-authored with Maxine Paetro.

However, the other members of the club feel a little surplus to requirements: sure, they feature in the story a little but as more of an aside than an integral part of the story.

Apart from that, it's still a satisfying read with a few wee surprises to keep it interesting.

Not Patterson's best work but still readable.

Portraits of Celina
By Sue Whiting (HarperCollins, RRP $16.95)

Reviewed by Nadine Hancock

Sue Whiting's new young adult novel is the story of Celina O'Malley who went missing at the age of 15, almost 40 years ago.

She is haunting Bayley, a relative, who is also 16 years old and happens to be the splitting image of Celina.

As the haunting grows, Bayley learns more and more about Celina's disappearance and, more specifically, that Celina wants revenge.

Described as a ghost story with revenge, love and mystery, Portraits of Celina definitely delivers.

Pitched towards the young adult market, it is not for those readers who expect a literary narrative with imagery and themes splashed throughout. This is a truly plot- driven story, but a good one at that.

It's a bit of fun, but also a little bit creepy.

A Possible Life
By Sebastian Faulks (Random House, RRP $38)

Reviewed by F Mulligan

"A multi-layered narrative" exploring "love, loss and what makes us human" is the summation in the media statement for Sebastian Faulks' new novel.

It is really a set of short stories that are separate but linked, if only somewhat tenuously, by an artefact.

The range in time and setting includes Imperial France, Victorian England, World War II, the US folk- rock scene of the 70s and near-future Italy.

Of course, some of the stories are more appealing than others simply by personal preference.

This is not a feel-good read, yet there is no doubting the author's skilled writing in bringing about a belief in these characters, an empathy with their feelings and a desire for their success.

Levels of Life
By Julian Barnes (Random House, RRP $30)

Reviewed by Nadine Hancock

Author Julian Barnes was not one I was aware of until reading the 2011 Man Booker winner, The Sense of an Ending.

Though not usually my genre, I felt it was a gripping and emotional read, and one I often think about.

Barnes follows his award-winning novella with Levels of Life, a personal and honest account of his grief following the death of his wife.

Split into three sections, the first two- thirds of the book are difficult and an almost-uninteresting read, but completely necessary to get Barnes' message across. Using hot-air ballooning and photography as a metaphor for love and life, Levels of Life is uncomfortable and shocking to read, but at a mere 118 pages is bearable and well worth it.

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