The fun of reading Dutch author Herman Koch is his constant questioning of normal human behavior. His commentary on etiquette and the trappings of wealth is hilariously biting; it’s like standing next to the cynical party guest who keeps you laughing all night by mocking the pretentious host. And just like that funny guy at the party, Koch can go from companionable to creepy before you realize what changed.
Rafe Solmes is a Bath, England, literature professor who has just finished a book on fairy tales, but his interest in gruesome stories like “Bluebeard” and “The True Bride” is far from academic. When Clarissa, a university assistant, lets him walk her home one night, she discovers a sinister side to this seemingly harmless scholar. An obsessive master manipulator who won’t take no for an answer, Rafe is soon everywhere she is—lurking outside her apartment at all hours, sending increasingly threatening gifts and even turning her friends against her.
Are beginnings all that discernible from endings? Or do events and memories just pile up and bleed together, leaving one to question how things ended up that way?
In Jan Elizabeth Watson’s second novel, What Has Become of You, Vera Lundy faces just these questions.
There’s a stranger in Claudia Morgan-Brown’s house. The Birmingham, England, social worker has what should be an enviable life: Newly married to a wealthy naval officer, she lives in a palatial house and is step-parenting his adorable twin boys. And after a string of heartbreaking miscarriages with her ex, she’s finally expecting a baby girl of her own. But there’s a problem: the new live-in nanny, Zoe Harcomb.
In the latest novel by accomplished author Jean Hanff Korelitz (Admission, A Jury of Her Peers), which shares the title of its main character’s book, relationship challenges raise questions of how often we really know what’s best, whether living the life we’ve envisioned necessarily means we’re living it right, and how we overlook our instinctive responses to the people we meet.
“Cryptography involves one genius trying to work out what another genius has done—it results in the most appalling carnage,” observes one Decoded character. In this debut novel from Mai Jia, eccentric math prodigy Rong Jinzhen is plucked from his studies at N University and recruited to China’s top-secret Unit 701.
Let’s get one thing straight: With The Weight of Blood, it’s clear that Laura McHugh is more than a pretender to the throne of the “rural noir” genre. If her dazzling and disturbing debut novel is anything to go by, she’s got her eye on the crown and has more than the necessary talent and skills to nab it for herself. Daniel Woodrell had better watch his back.
If you’re very observant and know a little something about the wilder shores of human genetics, then you may be able to figure out the big mystery of Carol Cassella’s new novel by, oh, page 260 or so. Oh yes, the title also gives one a hint as to what’s going on with one of the book’s well-drawn characters. But we should start at the beginning.
There’s nothing more peaceful than a 3 A.M. jog on an ocean boardwalk with waves lapping in the distance and no one around—or is there? In Runner, the debut novel in Patrick Lee’s new thriller series, retired special forces op Sam Dryden finds he’s not jogging alone but running for his life, along with a young stranger—an 11-year-old girl who’s fleeing from some smart, devious pursuers . . .
In 1894, Paris was rocked by the infamous Dreyfus affair, which reverberated in France for decades after Captain Alfred Dreyfus was convicted of treason in “a monstrous miscarriage of justice.” Robert Harris’ new novel, An Officer and a Spy, builds on the riveting trial and its aftermath, perfectly demonstrating its anti-Semitic core and the sense of justice gone awry in a rigid military hierarchy.