The trick to a good alternate history, particularly one that’s trying to be as impish and unpredictable as Crooked, is walking a delicious but delicate line between the weird and the plausible. You don’t want the story to veer into territory so unbelievable that it becomes a farce, but neither do you want to follow the straight and narrow. Austin Grossman (You) knows how to walk this line, and as a result he’s delivered a fiendishly entertaining book.
It takes only a few pages of the suspenseful mystery After the Storm to hurl readers into the heart of a violent tornado touching down near the little town of Painters Mill in rural Ohio, bringing widespread destruction and even the death of an infant. In the twister’s aftermath, a different kind of damage works its way to the surface, as Chief of Police Kate Burkholder is called to the site of an old barn where human bones have been unearthed in the wake of the storm.
It’s sometimes amazing to realize how an obsession for sports can take over a life. In John L. Parker Jr.’s amiable new work, a prequel to his 1978 bestseller Once a Runner, Quenton Cassidy, teenage native of Citrus City, Florida, is so wrapped up in his athletic pursuits that the great upheavals of his era—the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of JFK, civil rights and the arrival of the Beatles for goodness’ sake!—stick in his mind the way anything sticks to Teflon.
Lapland, in the far north of Sweden, is a strange and mysterious place, and this epic novel by Swedish author Stefan Spjut reflects every bit of its otherworldly mystery.
Robin Kirman’s first novel, Bradstreet Gate, is set amidst the hallowed halls of Harvard, peopled mostly by elite young scholars and their erudite professors and mentors. Her story revolves around three of these students, whose lives become entwined over the course of their undergraduate years—and remain so over the next decade.
We usually celebrate our college alma maters with a sense of pride, while doing our best to forget high school altogether. But in Lori Rader-Day’s stunning second novel, a murder at a creepy roadside motel forces an unlikely heroine to revisit her painful high school years.
Noir fans will find plenty to like in The Devil’s Share, the fourth book in Wallace Stroby’s series featuring professional thief Crissa Stone. It’s a classic of the genre and a perfect example of just how badly things can go wrong for anyone, even an obsessive planner like Crissa, who picks up on any tiny deviation from her carefully organized heists.
Lois Lonsdale is an enigma to those around her. The British literature professor is a respected academic, but also something of a threat to others in the department. That’s partly due to the former spelling bee champion’s striking looks, but her publishing success and standoffish nature don’t help.
It’s hard to follow a debut that immediately became an international phenomenon, was published in 40 countries and is in the works to become a movie (hopefully with the same mind-blowing visual effects Warner Bros. brought to movies like Inception, The Lego Movie and The Matrix). The thing that made Ernest Cline’s first book, Ready Player One, so good was a nearly impossible balance between where-the-hell-did-that-come-from originality and the familiarity of Gen-X pop-culture references. There’s no such balance in his second novel, Armada. Familiarity surpasses originality—intentionally.
Janis Cooke Newman, author of Mary: Mrs. A. Lincoln, once again brings history to life with her sophomore novel, A Master Plan for Rescue. Here, Newman explores New York City as World War II percolates across the Atlantic. Her remarkable novel is filled with stories within stories that recall the superhero serials that its gifted 12-year-old, Jack Quinlan, wholeheartedly believes in.