Jonathan Unleashed
By Meg Rosoff. (Viking, 275 pages, $25.)

You know that feeling when you meet your dog’s eyes and it seems like he knows what you’re thinking? (Cat lovers, bear with me.) In Meg Rosoff’s new novel, “Jonathan Unleashed,” Jonathan Trefoil’s future is in the paws of his border collie and his cocker spaniel, and that’s a good thing.

Jonathan is trying hard to live the life he thinks he’s supposed to lead. Out of college, he landed a responsible job (and it’s sucking away his soul), a New York apartment (though it’s an illegal sublet and he’s afraid every day that he’ll be evicted) and a lovely, accomplished girlfriend (with whom he has nothing in common).

Dogs to the rescue.

This is not one of those cute talking dog books; these dogs are subtle. We are not privy to their thoughts, just their actions. They remain distinctly doglike even as they gently herd Jonathan toward a happier existence.

Rosoff is well known for her young adult novels; she was a National Book Award finalist for the moving and thoughtful “Picture Me Gone,” and recently was honored with the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award, the world’s largest and most prestigious prize for children’s literature. “Jonathan Unleashed” is for adults, and she explores the compromises and decisions we make trying to fit into our lives with wisdom, a light touch and a lot of humor. And dogs!

LAURIE HERTZEL, senior editor/books

 

Little Girl Gone
By Gerry Schmitt. (Berkley Books, 325 pages, $26.)

 Out of a swirling Minnesota snowstorm, a new hero trudges triumphantly off the pages of Gerry Schmitt’s new thriller — a radical departure from the bestselling “cozy” mysteries Schmitt pens under her pseudonym, Laura Childs.

Unlike Schmitt’s (or Childs’) characters in her nearly 40 lace-edged whodunit novels, the protagonist in “Little Girl Gone” doesn’t hang out in tea shops or do scrapbooking. Afton Tangler is a rock-climbing, no-nonsense detective wannabe who is hot on the trail of two kidnappers who have snatched a tiny tot from a Kenwood mansion after hog-tying the babysitter, then fleeing into the Wisconsin countryside. Tangler, a community liaison officer with the Minneapolis police, wrangles herself into the investigation and digs out unlikely clues that FBI agents and other cops have failed to catch.

The action is nonstop and absolutely slathered in Twin Cities references — a mannerism the author graciously acknowledges was inspired by John Sandford’s much grittier Minnesota detective thrillers. But this story is gritty enough, and she ends her chapters on a note of suspense that taunts you into starting the next, no matter how much you want to turn out the light and go to bed.

“Little Girl Gone” is taut and tense, a great tale to jumpstart the Afton Tangler series. A sequel, as surely as Sandford’s Lucas Davenport lives and breathes, is already in the works. Readers of this gripping debut will find themselves hoping it’s a short wait.

Gerry Schmitt will read at noon July 9 at Once Upon a Crime, 604 W. 26th St., Mpls., and at noon July 16 at Fair Trade Books, Red Wing, Minn.

GINNY GREENE, copy editor