PW Picks: Books of the Week, December 7, 2015

This week at Publisher’s Weekly: a bibulous Southern preacher’s perverse quest for sainthood, plus how human perception is changing.




Sophia by Michael Bible (Melville House) – Bible’s short, comic novel, which relates a bibulous Southern preacher’s perverse quest for sainthood, is full of small miracles. The Reverend Alvis T. Maloney is a Rabelaisian figure, the “lazy priest of [the] town’s worst church,” whose irrepressible appetites lead him into distinctly unholy alliances with his parishioners and the Holy Ghost, about whom he has recurring erotic dreams that would make John Donne blush. Whether he is a man more sinned against than sinning is an open question, but his desire to follow his own unorthodox righteous path is undisputed. The plot is almost secondary, though there is an excess of it: a cross-country chess tournament tour with Eli, a prodigy and Maloney’s “redneck Virgil”; an attack on a suburban house involving a hot air balloon; and a game of wits with a blind bounty hunter chasing Maloney and his pregnant lover from “the great Southern Bohemia” to New York City. Bible shrewdly pairs his maximalist comic style with a minimalist form. The novella is composed of short, paragraph-long scenes that are variously poetic, bawdy, and zany.

The Verdict

The Verdict

The Verdict by Nick Stone (Pegasus Crime) – This propulsive legal thriller from Thriller Award–winner Stone (Mr. Clarinet) centers on the arrest and impending trial—seemingly a certain prosecutorial slam dunk—of multimillionaire hedge funder Vernon James, a poor West Indian immigrant’s son, for the murder of the young blond whose strangled body is found in his luxury suite at the London hotel where only hours earlier he accepted an award from the Hoffmann Trust, a liberal umbrella organization, as “Ethical Person of the Year.” James’s predicament should come as catnip to Terry Flynt—at 38 hanging on by his fingernails to a job as a lowly legal clerk—who blames James, his former childhood best friend, for getting him booted out of Cambridge and starting him on the downward spiral of booze and depression that nearly destroyed his life. But, as Flynt is stunned to discover when he’s tapped to work on the defense team, his feelings are significantly more complicated, especially once the evidence he starts to uncover suggests that James might be innocent.

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