Reading Recommendations · Beyond Bestsellers: Notable New Fiction Titles (October 2013)
Only a few books reach the top of the fiction bestseller charts, but there are many more terrific new titles available at the Library. Here are some recent favorites.
Mystery readers who love a European setting will be delighted to meet Inspector Pieter Van In of Bruges, Belgium. A best-selling series in Europe, this is the first episode to be translated into English. There is a break-in at a jewelry shop, but nothing is taken. Instead, the pieces are all melted in acid, clearly an act of revenge. Clues written as Latin squares lead Van In and the beautiful new District Attorney Hannelore Martens through several generations of family secrets before the perpetrator is unveiled.
This oddball novel, which takes place in Paris in the early 1950s, is a combination of Russian folklore, Cold War thriller, and romance. Eternally young and beautiful Zoya and her elder crone friend, Elga, are the last of the babayagas. As they cast their spells about Paris – Zoya’s generally involving acquiring or ridding herself of lovers and Elga’s turning people into rats and fleas – two American expats with CIA connections try to advance their causes while deciphering the entrancing allure of Parisian women, made more difficult when the woman is a witch.
The story shifts between Alice, a young woman filled with wanderlust who returns to London to be with her father as he dies, and Daniel, a homeless man who lives to find the daughter he never knew. Inevitably the two will meet, as the motifs of family, loneliness, and love are explored in this debut novel. Beautiful sparse prose takes the reader into the minds of the characters as their stories begin to slowly intertwine. While the actual plot is deceptively simple, the total effect of the novel is more complex and will no doubt linger after the book covers are closed.
“I know some of you reading this are convinced humans are a myth, but I am here to state that they do actually exist. For those of you that don’t know, a human is a real bipedal life form of midrange intelligence, living a largely deluded existence on a small waterlogged planet in a very lonely corner of the universe.” An alien, in the form of Cambridge mathematics professor Andrew Martin, has been sent from Vonnadoria to erase the professor’s history-changing discovery, but ironically finds he is becoming fond of life on Water Planet 7081.
A multi-layered thriller in so many ways, this first entry in a planned trilogy takes place in atmospheric Venice. Two murders bring together two strong women – an Italian detective working her first murder case and a US Army officer who is trying to fill a Freedom of Information enquiry. Also threaded throughout the story is another tale of Venice – a virtual one playing out on the Carnivia website where costumed avatars share secrets and lead fantasy lives. Kat and Holly don’t have time for games, but it may be necessary to become players.
Rob Carrey has been living with a secret from the past when he was part of four-man rowing team at an elite private school. As the 15 year reunion approaches and his current girlfriend breaks up with him, Rob relives his year as a scholarship student and the incredible pressure to win an important race. The tragedy that haunts him shows his emotionally weak side, but also emphasizes the bravado of young men in general and the false security which accompanies that. Irwin writes with tangible passion for his characters, making this much more than a sports novel.
Nicholas Young (of serious Chinese lineage despite the perfectly English-sounding name) is bringing his ABC (American Born Chinese) girlfriend to Singapore to spend the summer, which includes a high society wedding. Scheming aunties and virulent gossips try to safeguard the sanctity of the Asian upper crust as one of their most eligible bachelors may be about to jump ship for a girl of no pedigree. It makes the snobby Brits look quite tame as lifestyles of the rich and famous tiger mothers are hilariously portrayed and dissected in Kwan’s debut novel.
Lawton is the author of the Inspector Troy series and an elegant historical suspense writer. Beginning and ending in 1963 with a final scam scheduled to take place during Kennedy’s visit to Berlin, the majority of the novel takes place in World War II as all the characters meet. Black marketing of goods supplemented their military pay then but smuggling people, as American Frank Spoleto is now suggesting, is a different matter. A “superbly well-built Cold War cocktail - bracing, deliriously delicious, but carrying the slightly bitter aftertaste of dreams gone bad.”
Author James McBride will be appearing at Books by the Banks this month and is featured on the Meet the Author panel that weekend. His newest book is a yarn spun by a young adolescent narrator, Henry otherwise known as Henrietta or “Little Onion”. He was swept up in one of John Brown’s Kansas raids to free slaves, mistaken as a girl, and carried away with the abolitionist’s posse. As time progresses and puberty sets in, he not only fears for the cause these rabble-rousers are fighting, but it won’t be long before they discover the real Henry.
This doorstop of a novel, befitting the National Book Award author’s return to fiction after 20 years, is a saga of politics, revenge, and family loyalty. The investigation of the murder of an American journalist in Haiti leads back to the deceased’s father, who vowed retaliation for the destruction of his Croatian family during World War II. Filled with questions of moral tenacity, a fair share of intrigue, native voodoo ceremonies and CIA spooks among the diplomats, this story proves the line between good guys and bad guys is not so firmly drawn.
Need more suggestions? Contact your local branch and our staff will be happy to assist you!