Italian-born author Elsa Hart lived in China for a time, absorbing knowledge of its history, customs and manners, and in her exceptional debut mystery, Jade Dragon Mountain, she evokes its essence for readers in often dreamlike, mesmerizing prose.
Ron Rash may not have invented the “Appalachian Noir” genre, but he’s certainly perfected it over the past 15 years with modern classics like Serena and The World Made Straight. His new novel, Above the Waterfall, is another contemporary take on the Southern Gothic tradition, featuring a slow-burn mystery that’s light on plot but thick with atmosphere, lyrical prose and a visceral sense of place.
Patrick deWitt’s novels don’t sneak up on you; they’re the kind you love instantly. His latest, Undermajordomo Minor (a follow-up to his Booker-shortlisted The Sisters Brothers), is no exception. From the moment you tumble into its strange world, there is no other world. In that sense, and in its slightly mannered language, it’s like a fairy tale, although one with plenty of room inside for thoroughly modern, adult complications.
Memoirist and literary agent Bill Clegg (Portrait of an Addict as a Young Man) has now conquered the world of literary fiction with his searing debut, Did You Ever Have a Family. As a boy “wakes to the sound of sirens,” we learn that an explosion has taken the life of a bride and groom just before their wedding day. Clegg then slowly, intricately reveals the wider ramifications of this unthinkable tragedy through the eyes of more than a dozen characters.
Board the Alaska-bound Zuiderdam, a luxury cruise ship, alongside Harriet Chance. The 78-year-old widow has set sail using a pair of tickets purchased by her late husband, Bernard. Although he never mentioned the trip, Harriet is touched by his thoughtfulness and determined to take advantage of his last romantic gesture. Despite her children’s worry that Harriet is infirm, she sets sail alone, accompanied only by a letter from her best friend, Mildred.
Virginia Speedwell, the Victorian sleuth in A Curious Beginning, is observant, outspoken and a bit risqué. Fans of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia series will be delighted with this intrepid new heroine in what promises to be a vastly entertaining series.
“The sleep of reason produces monsters.” These words can be found in an etching by Francisco Goya, reproduced at the beginning of Two Years Eight Months and Twenty-Eight Nights (or 1,001 nights, that magical number). It’s a nightmarish image of a young man asleep, slumped over a table as a horde of wide-eyed and shadowy creatures bear down upon him.
Constance Kopp has never quite fit in: She is tall and broad-shouldered, and she doesn’t care much for keeping house—a rarity for women in 1914. She sticks close to her sisters, Norma and Fleurette, and together they form an odd but functional trio. Norma is stoic and reserved; Constance is bold and proud; and Fleurette, the youngest, is wide-eyed and excitable. Since the death of their mother, the sisters have become closer than ever, living in the countryside after the need to keep secrets forced their move from the city more than 15 years prior.
Lauren Groff explored the strengths of community in her first two novels, The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia. In Fates and Furies, she narrows her focus to the ultimate microcosm: a marriage. Told in two parts, first by a husband and then a wife, this unsettling novel looks at the myriad ways even the most devoted of couples keep secrets, betray one another and risk deceiving themselves.
Tom Piazza’s new novel is a crisply told tale of race relations in Philadelphia a few years before the Civil War, one that brings into sharp relief the tensions that beset Northern society even as it was about to go to war to rid the nation of slavery.