Bridget Jones: Mad About the Boy
By Helen Fielding. (Alfred A. Knopf, 390 pages, $26.95.)
Fans' excitement about a third Bridget Jones novel turned to horror as they learned (quasi-spoiler alert) that the beloved Mark Darcy was gone, leaving our Bridget a "singleton" once again. It seems that Helen Fielding, having split from her Hollywood TV exec boyfriend, wanted to explore what happens when a happy ending turns out to be neither.
Fielding does her best to bridge the lengthy time gap from 1999's "The Edge of Reason" with a prologue set in the present, then diary excerpts from the year before, before continuing our heroine's witty, poignant, saucy saga. Older and (thankfully) not much wiser, Bridget is raising two adorable moppets and looking for love on the Internet while trying to write a screenplay and accumulate Twitter followers. (Her dating tips are quite good, by the way.) She's still relying on her conveniently still-single buddies, except for Shazzer, who has decamped to Silicon Valley. She's also still hilarious and hopeful, even while making crazy mistakes and pointed asides and romancing a sexy younger man, the inspiration for the Dinah Washington lyric title.
If you enjoyed the first two Bridget Jones books, you're likely to enjoy this one. As Bridget might say, it's "v. v. good."
By William Kent Krueger. (Atria Books, 310 pages, $24.99.)
The past comes back to haunt Cork O'Connor when he helps the sheriff's department search for the missing wife of a cantankerous retired judge. Troubles also mount at home, where his daughter Anne has returned abruptly from the convent at which she's begun to question her calling. And then there's Stephen, his teenage son, whose feelings for a classmate are complicated by a stalker who slays her family's dog and attacks him. Krueger, as always, conveys the beauty and clarity of the North Woods, this time letting winter snows complicate the various plots, which are woven together with care. The family drama is as compelling as the murder mystery, and any parent would sympathize with Cork's struggle to keep his emotions in check when his children are in pain, physical or spiritual. In the end, his nearly grown-up offspring guide him — and leave Krueger many more roads to explore.