Lord and Lady Bunny - Almost Royalty by Mr. & Mrs. Bunny; translated from the rabbit by Polly Horvath, illustrated by Sophie Blackall; Schwartz & Wade Books, 304 pages, ($16.99) Ages 8 to 12.
One must always expect the unexpected when it comes to Canadian author Polly Horvath, winner of the National Book Award for “The Canning Season” and a National Book Award finalist for “The Trolls.” Here she follows up “Mr. and Mrs. Bunny – Detectives Extraordinaire!” with a hilarious, if overly long sequel featuring the human teenager, Madeleine, struggling to save money for college when her hippie parents, who run a campground on Hornby Island, get word they have inherited a sweet shop in England and set off across the pond. At the same time Mr. and Mrs. Bunny are looking for new professions, Mrs. Bunny decides she would like to be Queen and they, too, head for England. The hilarity of the hippy references may be lost on the target audience. (Madeleine has grown up deprived of sugar, and when a box of PopTarts materializes in their kitchen, her father Flo observes: “It was, like, mystical and magical, man. It was the universe pointing the way.”) Harry Potter fans may laugh at the guest appearance by J.K. Rowling referred to as “oldwhatshername,” a rival author at a book signing with the “translator of Mrs. Bunny’s book.” Horvath offers a hilarious send-up of British royalty, fox hunting, social classes, cruises, consumerism and food fads, as Flo and Mildred decide to sell vegetable candy at their store. Blackall’s droll illustrations add to the fun.
– Jean Westmoore
The Counterfeit Agent by Alex Berenson; Putnam (384 pages, $27.95)
Timely stories and labyrinth plots, meticulously researched, are a hallmark of the geopolitical thrillers from Alex Berenson, an award-winning investigative reporter who did two stints as a correspondent in Iraq for the New York Times. For his novels, the Edgar-winning Berenson conducts his own research, often in war-torn areas. The results are solid spy thrillers with believable plots that, despite their complexity, never lose sight that world events are all about the basic human experiences.
Ex-CIA agent John Wells, making his eighth appearance in “The Counterfeit Agent,” works undercover and off the books to stop a CIA station chief from being assassinated in Iran. Wells is up against a secret international agency that is trying to deceive the American government into bombing Iran. The gripping plot leaves no doubt a sequel is coming.
– Oline H. Cogdill, Sun Sentinel
Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade by Walter Kirn; Liveright ($25.95)
Walter Kirn’s new profile of the serial liar and convicted murderer known as “Clark Rockefeller” is no ordinary work of true crime and literary journalism.
“Blood Will Out: The True Story of a Murder, a Mystery, and a Masquerade” is the chronicle of Kirn’s ill-fated friendship with the con man. And it’s surely one of most honest, compelling and strangest books about the relationship between a writer and his subject ever penned by an American scribe.
Kirn is a magazine writer and author of novels such as “Up in the Air” and “Thumbsucker.” But he was an insecure and not especially successful writer when he first met “Clark” in 1998. The faux Rockefeller was a preppy bon vivant who claimed to be estranged from his famous family. A mutual friend asked Kirn to do Clark a favor – deliver a semiparalyzed dog from Montana, where Kirn was living, to Clark’s home in Manhattan.
Unbeknown to Kirn, “Clark Rockefeller” was the latest in a series of identities adopted by the German immigrant Christian Gerhartsreiter. As Clark, Gerhartsreiter hid his Bavarian roots behind a genteel, patrician accent and stories of his jet-setting lifestyle. Kirn, a son of working-class Midwesterners, was smitten. Like many an ambitious writer, he thought the charismatic and odd Clark might make a good character for a magazine article or even a novel.
The trial of Gerhartsreiter for the murder of Jonathan Sohus brings Kirn back in contact with his old friend, with Kirn now determined to write about him. In court, one witness after the other recounts Clark’s lies, and for Kirn it’s as if he were waking up from a dream. What’s more, he works independently to further unravel Clark’s schemes and stories and finds one chilling reference after another to books, films and television: classic film noir, “Star Trek,” Patricia Highsmith’s “Ripley.” Each new revelation comes subtly, and each adds to the pathetic and creepy portrait of Clark Rockefeller as a vacuous manipulator. – Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times