Terms & Conditions, the first novel from promising author Robert Glancy, is a mystery tale unraveled through the frequent use of footnotes. While this may not seem like the pitch for an engrossing storyline, Glancy’s witty tone and keen insight into human nature help make this book not just readable but highly enjoyable.
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, May 2014
Paris may be known as the City of Light, but in Lovers at the Chameleon Club, Paris 1932, it serves as the backdrop for some of the darkest events of human history—and for an exhilarating new novel from writer Francine Prose.
Chestnut Street in Dublin, Ireland, is shaped like a horseshoe, with a “big bit of grass in the middle beside some chestnut trees,” and “thirty small houses in a semicircle.” These houses are inhabited by scores of fascinating human beings, however ordinary, who figure in these stories by Maeve Binchy, written between novels. Now, after her death in 2012 at 72, they are finally being published.
Sicilian wax sculptor Gaetano Zumbo left his hometown of Siracusa, Italy, at age 19, amid rumors of betrayal and patricide. On the run from his past, he made his way across Italy and changed his name to Zummo, all the while earning acclaim for his wax sculptures of human bodies. He eventually stopped in Florence to join the Medici court at the request of the Grand Duke himself, Cosimo III, whose unreciprocated love for his wife has left him tortured—and leads him to make a strange request of the celebrated sculptor.
Simon Wroe is a former chef, so it’s no surprise that he set his debut novel in a kitchen. What is surprising about Chop Chop, though, is how little Wroe lets this fiendish little book get bogged down in the details of its setting. It’s very much about the chaotic life of a kitchen, but this darkly comic narrative covers so much more, and the result is addictively entertaining.
Justin Go’s ambitious, sprawling and compelling debut novel, The Steady Running of the Hour, lurches from America to England, France, Sweden Germany and Iceland—even stretching to the Himalayas—switching back and forth in time from pre-WWI England to the present.
Mona Simpson’s sixth novel, Casebook, visits the country of divorce through the eyes of California teenager and Sherlock Holmes wannabe, Miles Adler-Hart. Aided by his sidekick Hector (living through the aftermath of his own parents’ breakup), Miles recounts their earnest, if often fumbling, effort to make sense of the emotional disturbance that inevitably surrounds even the most amicable end of a marriage and the survivors’ halting attempts to rebuild their lives. Simpson brings this all off with style, blending pathos with humor to create an appealing story.
Colin Cotterill lives in Southern Thailand, where he's set the inventive Jimm Juree mystery series in a rural outpost village called Maprao—a funky, lackadaisical, behind-the-times setting painted in cartoon colors with a comic wash. The Axe Factor is the third in this series of imaginatively plotted, very funny crime novels starring Jimm, a 30-something freelance reporter and “English language doctor” who still misses the bright lights and big-city atmosphere of her former home in Chiang Mai.
In The Collector—the latest from powerhouse author Nora Roberts—YA writer and professional house-sitter Lila Emerson enjoys the rootless quality of her life since it allows her to explore different places and observe different people. As a matter of fact, people-watching is her hobby of sorts. One night, as Lila settles in à la Jimmy Stewart in Hitchcock's Rear Window to watch the activity in a nearby New York City high-rise, she witnesses an assault that ends with a woman falling from her apartment to her death. Lila’s emergency call brings the police, but there are no clear-cut leads, since she didn't see the perpetrator.
Author Heather Brittain Bergstrom has won awards for her short fiction from the Chicago Tribune and Atlantic Monthly, among others. Her outstanding debut novel, Steal the North, is almost guaranteed to add to Bergstrom’s award collection. Narrated from multiple perspectives, the novel is a heartbreaking tale of family secrets, unrequited love and the unbreakable bond of family.