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Location, location, location: in these new books, where you are matters

Picturing yourself somewhere else is easy with these new titles where location is key.

On the Up, Shilo Jones, McClelland & Stewart

Bearskin, James A. McLaughlin, Ecco
Bearskin, James A. McLaughlin, Ecco  (Ecco)
On the Java Ridge, Jock Serong, Text
On the Java Ridge, Jock Serong, Text  (Text Publishing)
On the Up, Shilo Jones, McClelland & Stewart
On the Up, Shilo Jones, McClelland & Stewart  (McClelland and Stewart)
The Bleeds, Dimitri Nasrallah, Esplanade
The Bleeds, Dimitri Nasrallah, Esplanade  (Esplanade Books)
The Crossing, Jason Mott, Park Row
The Crossing, Jason Mott, Park Row  (Park Row Books)

Journalist Jasminder is working undercover at one of Canada’s largest real-estate developers, hoping to bring down the guy who killed her gang-member brother. War vet Mark Ward, suffering PTSD, is the brother of the career criminal who killed Jaz’s brother. Carl Reed, head of an ethical investment firm, is connected to Jaz and Mark through the unsavoury developer. This quintessential Vancouver story unfolds through the voices of these damaged characters. But the attraction here is the flash writing. Shilo Jones combines prose that is rich and crazy with an assured grasp of the culture. Caution: drugs, profanity and a potbelly pig.

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The Bleeds, Dimitri Nasrallah, Esplanade

Dimitri Nasrallah’s celebrated Niko followed a Lebanese boy’s odyssey from the Middle East to Canada. In The Bleeds, he takes us to the other end of the power spectrum, the oppressors. The novel is set in a fictional autocracy, Mahbad, in the former Soviet bloc, and unfolds through three voices: first, Mustafa Bleed, 82, the respected president for 29 years; Mustafa’s son, playboy Vadim Bleed, 40, who has been president for five years, though Mustafa maintains his steely grip; and, finally, the Mahbad people, through blog posts throughout the book. Nasrallah is a Lebanese-Canadian writer who lives in Montreal.

Bearskin, James A. McLaughlin, Ecco

Rice Moore is working as a gameskeeper in a remote forest in the Appalachian mountains, the perfect job for a man on the run from the Mexican cartel. After he finds the mutilated remains of a female black bear, he becomes focused on catching the poachers — a quest that pits him against hostile locals and cops, and may even draw the attention of the drug lords. Aiding him is Sara Birkeland, his predecessor on the job, a herpetologist who returns to the preserve to complete her academic work. Perfect for a hiker/camping enthusiast hankering for a first-rate thriller.

On the Java Ridge, Jock Serong, Text

Here’s an adventure on the high seas. Serong’s second novel is told from three perspectives about to collide. First, in Australia’s capital, Canberra, the government has hired a private-sector company to patrol its territorial waters, using, if necessary, “remote measures” to stop the illegal entry of people from Indonesia. Second, aboard the Takalar, 9-year-old Roya and her pregnant mother are bound for a new life. Third, a small group of tourists look forward to snorkeling, surfing and island hopping aboard an authentic phinisi, a boat developed 500 years ago. This is the Australian writer’s second novel.

The Crossing, Jason Mott, Park Row

Seventeen-year-old twins Virginia and Tommy hit the road in a near-future America blighted by The Disease and the planet’s final world war. The Disease, which began in Russia, puts old people to sleep, never to awaken, but the age at which it attacks is declining. Virginia is the narrator, and she’s no ordinary teen. She forgets nothing, ever, nothing she has seen, nothing she is told, a gift she calls The Memory Gospel. A nifty dystopian novel by an author whose first novel, The Returned, had a warm reception.

Sarah Murdoch, [email protected]