Cleopatra, Nefertiti: These are the names that come to mind when thinking of the legendary female rulers of ancient Egypt. In her highly engrossing The Woman Who Would Be King, Egyptian scholar Kara Cooney shines a spotlight on Hatshepsut, Egypt’s largely overlooked, longest-ruling female pharaoh, who led her country through a period marked by peace, prosperity and architectural achievement.
Suki Kim, author of the highly regarded novel The Interpreter, went to North Korea to teach English under doubly false pretenses. Her fellow instructors at Pyongyang University of Science and Technology (PUST) were evangelical Christians pretending to be nonreligious teachers. (“North Korea was the evangelical Christian Holy Grail, the hardest place to crack in the whole world,” she writes.) To be accepted into the program, Kim pretended to be an evangelical pretending to be a nonreligious teacher. She feared exposure on all sides.
It’s 7 a.m. on December 23, and Madeleine Altimari is shimmying. In 30-second intervals, the girl attempts to perfect her moves, pausing in between for a quick drag from a cigarette. After each interval, she rates her work on a school-letter scale. She has yet to check off the day’s other rehearsal tasks: singing, scales, guitar.
Real life spy Kim Philby had a level of charm that fictional spy James Bond could only aspire to. To meet Philby, it seemed, was to fall under his convivial sway. Thus, when it was disclosed in 1963 that this very proper, well-placed and Cambridge-educated Englishman had been spying for the Soviet Union since 1934, two people were particularly shaken by the revelation: Nicholas Elliott, his longtime drinking buddy and colleague at MI6, the British Secret Intelligence Service, and James Angleton, the zealous spymaster at America’s Central Intelligence Agency. Both men had regarded Philby as the supreme exemplar of their shadowy trade. Of course, he was.
Antonio Hill follows up his Spanish sun-soaked crime debut The Summer of Dead Toys with his second Inspector Salgado mystery, The Good Suicides. A cryptic and unnerving message is sent to a select group of managers at a cosmetics company: a horrifying photo of dogs hanging from a tree accompanied by the line, "Never forget." Soon, those on the receiving end of the email begin committing suicide in grotesquely creative ways, and the rattled Salgado is thrust into the investigation. We caught up with Hill and chatted about Barcelona's best (and not-so-great) qualities, his work in literary translation and more in a 7 questions interview.
The best new mysteries take readers around the globe—from the Somali coast to Bankgkok, Barcelona and New York City.
On September 13, 1993, the day Yitzhak Rabin and Yasir Arafat shook hands on the White House lawn, several dozen CIA officers quietly gathered at the grave of Robert Ames in Arlington National Cemetery. While most of the world focused on the hope of Middle East peace, those at Ames’ grave paid tribute to an operative who may have made that peace possible, even though few knew what he had accomplished—not the presidents he served, not members of Congress, not even his own family.
Miranda Beverly-Whittemore’s intriguing third novel, Bittersweet, takes the reader inside the glamorous world of the super-wealthy, where everything is not as it seems, and dark, long-buried family secrets gradually make their way to the surface.
Sensitive readers should be warned that much of the subject matter of Cynthia Bond’s debut novel, Ruby, is unflinchingly raw, grim and darkly disturbing . . . but those who have the stomach to forge ahead will be richly rewarded, as Ruby is undoubtedly the early work of a master storyteller whose literary lyricism is nothing short of pitch perfect.
BookPage Nonfiction Top Pick, April 2014
Frances Mayes’ lyrical memoir of growing up Southern was a long time coming. Worried about upsetting her family, she stopped and started Under Magnolia many times over: “Anytime I felt the impulse to start my Southern opus again, I instead headed for a movie or a new Thai restaurant,” she writes. “I’d go jogging or read a novel until the impulse faded.”