Don Winslow just keeps one-upping himself, and his new thriller, CITY ON FIRE, is the best gangster saga I've read since THE GODFATHER -- and it may even be better than that classic! Winslow re-works the plot of Homer's Iliad, transposing that epic poem's siege of Troy to 1980s Providence Rhode Island in the midst of a gang war. The balancing act is precarious, but Winslow beautifully navigates the plot twists, and his characters are robust and beautifully drawn with just a few broad strokes. The dialogue is funny, realistic, and profane (those triggered by the racist and homophobic ways bad men talked in this time period are warned), and the story barrels along like a powder keg on fire. And did I mention it is the first in a trilogy? This is fantastic storytelling and a gangster drama for the ages! Read it now!
Ken Follett eschews historical epics for a welcome return to his thriller roots, and it's still an epic! Remember EYE OF THE NEEDLE or TRIPLE? NEVER relates the story of a possible WW3 scenario, and it is far too believable. From a border dispute in Chad and Sudan, to a military coup in North Korea, and the people in China and America who scramble to diplomatically prevent a third world war, this globe-trotting book will keep you reading late into the night. And Follett does one of the things he does best -- bringing us believable characters caught up in epic events -- a young woman fleeing Chad for Europe, a Chinese intelligence agent with an actress wife, and even the new female Republican president of the U.S. With a deft hand, he enfolds the reader into this epic work that will stun readers with its timeliness and rapid pace, even at its epic length!
WIN ME SOMETHING by Kyle Lucia Wu introduces us to a wonderful character - Willa Chen, a mixed race woman in her early twenties who has felt out of place ever since her parents broke up and raised other families of their own. She is adrift, searching for meaning in her life, when she fumbles her way into a position as a nanny for a bright child in a wealthy family in Tribeca. Her place as an employee/friend/nanny/and ancillary family member blurs. Willa is a fully formed character, even if her future has yet to be decided, and I was drawn into her adventures among the super rich and privileged. Wu is adept at drawing believable characters, and she is a writer to watch.
Another great read from Elizabeth Strout! Highly enjoyable story about how nobody can completely know anyone, how our pasts and secrets can harm us, and how we reconcile with loss and grief. Lovely.
Gus Moreno presents us with nightmare fuel with his first horror novel, THIS THING BETWEEN US. After the death of his wife, a young man heads to a cabin in the mountains -- both to escape his grief and the strange things occurring around his smart speaker (think haunted Alexa times a hundred!) Soon, he is under attack from forces from another dimension and it appears his dead wife is attempting to communicate with him. But is it her or is it something else. This surreal, literary horror novel is genuinely scary with the scariest scenes I have read in ages! For people who like Ian Reid, Stephen Graham Jones, or the movies HEREDITARY or MIDSOMMER. So good! This one will haunt me.
THE SURVIVORS by Alex Schulman is a fascinating novel, a Jenga puzzle with a fractured storyline that feeds the reader its clues in perfect proportions until you finally understand all that has happened. A family spending a summer by a lake are involved in an accident that fractures all familial lines, especially affecting the middle son, Benjamin. In alternating chapters, we go backwards in time as the three brothers go to the summer house to spread their mother's ashes and end up in a brawling fight. The why and how of the events entangle until the gasp-inducing final revelation. This is a swift read, but it's one that will stay with me for a long time. Excellent translation, too!
In Amor Towles new novel, THE LINCOLN HIGHWAY, 18 year old Emmett is released from a juvenile prison to find the family farm repossessed by the bank and his father dead. His younger brother has a dream of finding their runaway mother based upon clues she left behind, but as they begin their cross-country trip, Emmett discovers two other runaways from the work farm -- the quiet and addicted Woolly and the charming but possibly psychotic Duchess. their trip takes a sudden turn to New York, and along the way Towles graces us with many finely drawn and fascinating characters, from police officers to circus workers, preachers to killers, from nuns to prostitutes -- each imbued with lovely character touches. The journey forces these four men (and later one woman) to really see each other for who they are, and as they grapple with these realities, they find themselves growing up. It's a beautiful story hauntingly told with many moments of laughter and tears. This is a tough high-wire act, but Towles balances the emotions beautifully. The ending will haunt me for years! I loved it so much that the pages just flew by.
Rachel Harrison offers up a delightfully different kind of horror novel in CACKLE, bringing a lot of humor as well as a healthy dose of feminist theory to the table. When Annie is dumped, she moves to upstate New York toi a small town and immediately falls under the (ahem) spell of Sophie, a local character who may be a lot more than she seems. She lives in a haunted castle, adores spiders, and most of the town's residents seem to be afraid of her. Could she possibly be...a witch? The book is full of sly references and has a wonderful female friendship at its core, and there are creepy moments galore and Harrison's style lands somewhere between SEX AND THE CITY and STEPHEN KING. It's unique, fun, and I may always check to see if a spider is smiling before I sweep it out of my house from now on! This will be a great rec for Halloween for people who want a spooky book but not something really violent or scary.
Jonathan Franzen returns to the literary fiction scene with his brilliantly realized new novel CROSSROADS, and it's a return to the things he does best. It is almost like the autopsy of a family, set in the early 1970s from Christmas season until Easter with a coda afterwards, and it dissects the different crossroads that the Hildebrandt family must face during this turbulent time period in US history. The father, a minister, flirts with an affair and a loss of faith after losing control of the youth group to a hipper, younger man; the mother faces a return of the mental illness that dragged her into the gutter as a young woman; one son wants to leave college and run to Vietnam in rebellion to his family; another son, the local pot dealer and a genius, wants to stop and become a good person; and the daughter finds first love and meaning in the church. Franzen is grappling with big issues here -- the death of the nuclear family, God and faith, and drugs and politics, and he does so beautifully. No balls are dropped in this fine juggling act. I cannot wait for the next book in this trilogy.
Richard Osman follows up his delightful THE THURSDAY MURDER CLUB with a new sequel, THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE, bringing back all the charming characters from the first novel and adding a few new suspects and shady villains. When ex-MI5's Elizabeth gets a note from her ex-husband, she is drawn into a web of murder, diamonds, and psychological mind games as the Thursday Murder Club becomes involved in spies, thieves, and the mafia! This was so much fun, and the characters are just as delightful as ever, but the mystery is a bit darker and twistier. . . which I love. I truly thought I knew who the killer was, but boy was I wrong. I can't wait to introduce new customers to these fun books!
I don't read a lot of graphic novels, but I was immediately drawn into the story of BALLAD FOR SOPHIE, a new book by Filipe Melo and Juan Cavia. This story of two rival pianists -- one innately gifted and one who struggles to be the greatest -- and their decades long friendship/rivalry. It mirrors Nozart/Salieri in many ways, but this one includes Nazis, diabolic bargains, and many twists and turns. The art is quite beautiful and the story was incredibly compelling.
CLOUD CUCLOO LAND is Anthony Doerr's follow-up to his beloved, Pulitzer Prize winning ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE, and everyone was wondering if this one would be as good. Great news! It's even better! With three different stories wrapped around an ancient myth, Doerr explores the disparate worlds of stories and story-telling in a way that is compulsively-readable. A young woman tries to get a book out of Constantinople as it is getting sacked in the 15th Century; a translator of the book turns it into a play for children and is taken hostage inside a library in Idaho; and a young woman discovers family ties to a book in the virtual library of her family's space ship as they escape from a future polluted earth. It sounds complicated and confusing, but it's not. Under Doerr's assured guidance, we thrill along with all the twists and turns the stories take and we laugh and cry alongside these well-drawn characters. this is more than a book; it's an event! I cannot recommend it highly enough. This may sound like hyperbole, but this is the greatest piece of fiction in years. Utterly transformative.
This is the thriller of the year! From the creator of the Scandinavian mini-series THE KILLING, THE CHESTNUT MAN is an unbelievably fast-paced and exciting page-turner. I literally had trouble putting it down to sleep! A serial killer is loose, a cold case kidnapping is brought back to life, and a politician is attacked from all sides. This is the kind of book Thomas Harris used to write and one of the best plotted mysteries in a long time. What a wonderful group of vivid characters and what a ride! Whew!
MORDEW by Alex Pheby is the beginning of a totally original trilogy of fantasy novels. This is literary fantasy, set in a world where the most powerful men attain their powers through the flesh of a dead god, which is moldering in a kind of magical muddy swamp. This one moves fast and is full of brilliantly detailed world building. I especially love the magical talking dogs! If Mervyn Peake's GORMENGHAST combined with China Mieville or Neil Gaiman, that might come close to how dark and original this one is!
APPLES NAVER FALL is a wonderful, juicy entertainment. Told from multiple points of view, including delightfully gossipy views of overheard conversations from Uber drivers, nail salon workers, etc, we get the unfolding story of a woman who disappears and her family's search for her. Did the father kill her? Did she run off with someone? Who really was that young woman she took into her home last year? It's so much fun, I often forgot the time and read well past bedtime. If you need a book that is truly just FUN, this is it! Perfect escapism.
Colson Whitehead delves into the mystery heist genre with the utterly brilliant HARLEM SHUFFLE. Ray Carney (a bit crooked, but not bent yet) is unwillingly coerced into a robbery at an upscale hotel by his shiftless cousin, Freddie, but nothing goes as planned. Through murders, blackmail, and a twisted revenge-fueled plotline, Whitehead steers us toward an ultimate battle between the almost morally gray territories of Chester Himes and Donald Westlake through the eyes of characters we truly care about. The ending is an eye-opening, show-stopping wow -- cleverly planned all along by our maestro at the helm of this terrifically entertaining crime novel.
Holy cats! NEVER SAW ME COMING by Vera Kurian is a stunning psychological suspense novel that will have you reading well into the night. That ending! Fans of Gillian Flynn and Caroline Kepnes will love this intense book.
Colm Toibin's magnificent new historical novel, THE MAGICIAN, tells the story of eight decades in the life of German writer Thomas Mann (DEATH IN VENICE, THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN (one of my favorite novels of all time)) and his fascinating life. Instead of focusing on the books and the writing, Toibin brings us the man in the raw flesh -- family man, agitator, intellectual, father of six, and repressed homosexual -- and in all his complexities. In bringing the focus away from his work, we really get to know Thomas Mann and his fascinating family as they journey through WWI, the rise of the Nazis, up until the Cold War This detailed work of fiction is always gripping and often quite moving. I truly couldn't put it down.
Silvia Moreno-Garcia will never be accused of repeating herself, and she brings us, in CERTAIN DARK THINGS, a vampire story like no other. When a young homeless man befriends a vampire who is seeking revenge against the tribe that killed her family, all of Mexico City will be put at risk. This novel feels like an old noir film (specifically THE KILLERS) as seen through the lens of a supernatural/science fiction story. Femme fatales, ruthless gangsters, innocents succumbing to influence and violence, and the world's coolest tattooed dog all invade a richly detailed Mexico, creating a noir thriller unlike any other. the pages flew as I read into the night, and I'd love to see sequels, please!
This stunning epic novel of one African-American family in America is one of the great achievements in literature this year. Honoree Fannone Jeffers tells the tale of one family, specifically three sisters, who suffer from the scars of sexual abuse and the paths they travel to escape the psychological traps set by the past. The book also tells the complex story of their family going back hundreds of years and many generations. Can the scars caused by whites against African-Americans ever be healed? This novel doesn't offer easy answers, but the comparison between the scars of racial injustice and the scars of personal abuse are finely drawn and the reader gets swept along with the story -- and this is one terrific story, by the way! Utterly engrossing and beautifully written (by a poet), THE LOVE SONGS OF W.E.B. DUBOIS is a fantastic read, one that will appeal to people who love THE GOLDFINCH or HOMEGOING. Don't be intimidated by its length, because this is a novel you don't want to miss!
A really fun neo-noir set in 1970s Mexico. Moreno-Garcia does it again,
MRS. MARCH by Virginia Feito is a whip=smart and morbidly funny look at the descent into madness of one upper class woman whose life appears perfect on the outside. When a simple comment about her husband's new novel takes her off guard, Mrs. March (who doesn't get a first name until the ending) is forced to re-examine everything she believes . . . including the fact that her husband may be a murderer. Or is she merely losing her mind? Feito keeps her cards close to her chest, revealing snippets of the truth until the shocking ending. This is a very well written novel, creepy and detailed in all the right ways (MRS. DALLOWAY was certainly an inspiration, as is 'The Yellow Wallpaper'). For those who enjoy literary thrills, this is a good one!
ONCE THERE WERE WOLVES by Charlotte McConaghy is a brilliant follow-up to her best-selling book MIGRATIONS, a mystery veiled in a world on the brink of environmental disaster. Inti has issues in her past that haunt her to the day, hardening her intoi a person she barely recognizes, when she is set to reintroduce wolves into the forests of Scotland. After a man is mauled, she sets out to protect her animals and her twin sister (also scarred by past relationships) while attempting to discover if a wolf is actually the culprit. The writing is sublime, and the mystery is shocking and intense, but this is more than a mere mystery. It's an examination of how we all attempt to reconcile the wildness within us wit the passivity of domestication. in the end, are we truly that different from a beast? And is that a bad thing? This is one terrific book!
Megan Abbott has always been expert at diving into the darkest parts of women's' souls, but THE TURNOUT, her newest novel, is on a whole new level. While preparing for the season's performances of The Nutcracker, two sisters who run a ballet school run afoul of a dangerous contractor hired to fix their studio after a small fire. One falls for the contractor's dark sexual spell while the other sister succumbs to suspicions and doubts about her own marriage. Mirroring the shadowy underbelly of the ballet The Nutcracker (as well as the dark, sensual world of fairy tales), THE TURNOUT is soon twisting and turning in unexpected ways as family secrets and lies come to light. Full of gasp-inducing plot twists and simmering with an uncomfortable sexuality, THE TURNOUT is easily Megan Abbott's best book, a work of fiction on par with the best of Patricia Highsmith or Shirley Jackson. I can't wait to recommend this one to customers!
Mona Awad's new novel, ALL'S WELL, is a darkly funny treat and an wonderful homage to the Bard! When three mysterious men cure a theater professor of her chronic pain and self-doubt, they also cure many of the obstacles in her way -- pesky students, men etc. Lots of fun and a little bit eerie!
A really fun, fast-paced horror/thriller that takes on the tropes of the slasher film (think HALLOWEEN, SCREAM, FRIDAY THE 13th) and lovingly dissects them. A group of final girls from terribly familiar situations find themselves under attack. Are their respective slashers out of jail or does somebody else have it in for them? While Stephen Graham, Jones forthcoming book, MY HEART IS A CHAINSAW, takes a more metaphysical and thoughtful look at final girls and slasher flicks, Hendrix's new story is primarily focused upon mystery and action. a speeding bullet (or arrow or machete) of a story that thunders along superbly. It's a fun romp with many nods to the genre and it will be devoured by horror fans.
THE STARTUP WIFE is an utter delight! It's not just an absorbing and funny book about the beginnings of an app, one which could change the way everyone looks at rituals in our society, but a lovely rumination on the sacrifices inherent in marriage in today's world. How far should you change to suit your lover? This is a fast and fun, but also vibrantly important, book for our times.
The best thriller of the summer! In SA Cosby's new novel, we find two fathers -- one white, one black, both ex-cons -- whose sons were married. They never acknowledged their boys after they came out, but when they are murdered, the father's experience regret, rage, and a reawakening as they seek violent revenge. Spare some time, because you won't be able to stop reading until the final showdown!
HEATWAVE by Victor Jestin was a publishing phenomena in France, and it's easy to see why. This existential story begins with 17 year old Leo witnessing another young man hanging himself -- and he does nothing to stop it, allowing the other boy to die. Then, he instinctively buries the body in the sand dunes near a resort where his family is vacationing. Over the next 24 hours, Leo will be wracked with guilt, meet the girl of his dreams, finally understand his friend Louis, and get into his first fight. In Camus-esque fashion, Jestin really gets into the mind of Leo, and the reader is the audience for his confused adolescent thoughts. This novella, barely a hundred pages in length, packs a wallop when Leo must confront his own desires and his own guilt. It's a tiny marvel!
BATH HAUS by P.J. Vernon is a white-knuckle ride of a thriller, a book where you want to scream at the characters for their bad (if understandable) choices while you just cannot stop reading. When a young recovering addict decides to cheat just once on his older lover, he goes to a bath house for anonymous sex. . . but gets far more than he bargained for, nearly dying at the hands of a killer. Now, with the murderer stalking him and his lover and the police breaking down his intricate web of lies, he stumbles into twist after twist. trust me -- I changed my mind about what was happening three times in the last 50 pages! Vernon is very good at portraying both the quiet life this young man desires with the sexy trance-induced world his addictions crave. This is a bullet of a book, intense, scary, and very sexy. Fans of Gillian Flynn and Aimee Molloy will enjoy this one!
THE MAIDENS by Alex Michaelides is another thrilling treat from the author of the terrific THE SILENT PATIENT (and there's a fun Easter egg to that book contained in this one). When a friend of the niece of Mariana, a group psychotherapist, is killed at Oxford, the newly widowed woman rushes to her niece's side to help her emotionally. What she discovers is a cult-like group of classics-oriented intellectual, privileged young women in the thrall of a suspicious professor, several more murders, and more red herrings than you can shake a copy of Euripides at! The pacing is breath-taking, the final reveal is fair and surprising, and the mystery unfurls like lightning. This is a book that, like its predecessor, is very hard to put down! The plot is dark and cerebral, and the writing is elegant. Michaelides may be our next great thriller writer! Just wonderful!
RABBITS is a surreal adventure from Terry Miles that reads like Umberto Eco and Stephen King had a baby with the Wachowskis while under the influence of some pretty great drugs! Have you ever had a memory that proved to be untrue (think the Berenstain Bears for instance)? RABBITS, a game played in the real world, tries to explain these anomalies. A game played in real life as players track down clues in patterns that unnaturally occur, RABBITS draws in the reader along with unlikely player K. (A nod to Kafka) as K. discovers clues and shortcuts even as other players around him are disappearing and dying. Is it a conspiracy or a hallucination? This paranoia sci-fi thriller ticks off every button, providing a truly fun roller coaster ride that barely lets you breathe as you read...far into the night. It's funny, twisted, surreal, and exciting, and I had a blast reading it!
THE DISAPPEARING ACT by Catherine Steadman is both a juicy look at pilot season in Hollywood, when actors fly in from everywhere to attempt to snag that great role, and a fast-paced, thoroughly engaging mystery! And it works on both levels! When an emerging actress arrives in Hollywood, she meets another woman at an audition, quickly striking up a friendship. then, the other woman disappears. Is she dead, murdered, or is this all a sick and twisted game? You'll have to read (probably long into the wee hours) to find out! I really enjoyed this mystery, and Steadman's experience as an actress lent credibility and verisimilitude to this twisting and turning tale! This is a lot of fun, a mixture of Judith Krentz and Ruth Ware and I cannot wait to sell it to customers!
ONE TWO THREE by Laurie Frankel is the kind of novel that immediately grabs your attention and never lets go. In a marvelously constructed narrative, told in the three distinctly different voices of the Mitchell triplets, the reader learns how the town of Bourne had its water poisoned 16 years ago by a chemical company, resulting in many deaths and even more birth defects. Now, that dreaded company has returned to re-open their factory, and it's up to the Mitchell triplets -- Mab (who yearns to escape and is the least affected by the chemical spill), Mirabel (the smartest one who has social issues and is located somewhere on the spectrum) and Monday (the town's purveyor of books, confined to a wheelchair) -- to find proof that the company is up to something. Using three instantly-recognizable voices, Frankel draws us into the world of Bourne, and we become so enamored with the characters and the fate of the town that it's nearly impossible to stop reading once you begin! Suspenseful, funny, heart-wrenching and ultimately hopeful . . . this is a novel book clubs will adore. For lovers of Barbara Kingsolver, Jodi Picoult, and Richard Russo, but this will be a book I try to handsell to everyone. It's that good!