This week, we're featuring two brand new behind-the-book essays on that you won't want to miss: Ellen Horan explains why she became fascinated with a 19th-century murder, and Anchee Min shares her connection with Pearl S. Buck. Read more about new reviews and features below—click on the book titles for more information. Happy reading!

  • Behind-the-book essay on 31 Bond Street by Ellen Horan
    Immediately, unspooling across every city paper, was coverage of the murder of Dr. Harvey Burdell. In the first half of 1857, his murder created a sensation that covered all 13 New York newspapers and spread to those of Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago, then London, Paris and beyond. It remained in the headlines for months, as the newspapers competed to cover the investigation and the murder trial. I became fascinated reading about the case firsthand.

  • Behind-the-book essay on Pearl of China by Anchee Min
    Pearl Buck and I have a long history together, and in some sense that story is at the heart of my novel, Pearl of China. I was ordered to denounce Pearl Buck in China, where I lived for 27 years. The year was 1971. I was a teenager attending middle school in Shanghai.

  • Review of Mad World by Paula Byrne
    Evelyn Waugh’s novel
    Brideshead Revisited was a bestseller in England and the U.S. in the 1940s and a huge success as a BBC and PBS series in the 1980s. In her compelling and insightful biography, Mad World: Evelyn Waugh and the Secrets of Brideshead, Paula Byrne shows how personal the book was for Waugh.

  • Review of The Tale of Halcyon Crane by Wendy Webb
    There is a genre of fiction that might well be called “tourism horror.” In such stories, the protagonist travels to a breathtakingly attractive destination, where all hell breaks loose. The masterpieces of the genre are surely Dracula (oh, Transylvania!) and The Shining (talk about a “last resort” hotel). Enter debut novelist Wendy Webb, who gives both Bram Stoker and Stephen King a run for their travel budget, inventing an island in the Great Lakes that can’t be matched for pristine natural beauty, richness of history, touristic amenities . . . and sheer supernatural terror.

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