Here are the books that I’m especially looking forward to in the mystery/suspense/fiction category for January (click on the covers to pre-order)! These are in no particular order.
Synopsis-The Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard meets the cult-classic film Fargo in this gripping and darkly humorous murder mystery by debut author Kathleen Hale.
A quiet town like Friendship, Wisconsin, keeps most of its secrets buried . . . but when local teen Ruth Fried is found murdered in a cornfield, her best friend, Kippy Bushman, decides to uncover the truth and catch the killer. Since the police aren’t much help, Kippy looks to her idol, journalist Diane Sawyer, for tips on how to conduct her investigation. But Kippy soon discovers, if you want to dig up the truth, your hands have to get a little dirty, don’tcha know.
In this riveting young adult novel, Kathleen Hale creates an intricately plotted murder mystery that will keep readers guessing, laughing, and cringing until the surprising final pages.
The Ascendant by Drew Chapman (Simon & Schuster-Jan. 7th)
Synopsis-Hidden deep within the figures tracking the ups and downs of the stock market lies a terrifying truth: America is under attack. Our government . . . our economy . . . our very way of life are in the crosshairs of a ruthless enemy . . . and no one knows. Except Garrett Reilly. He has a knack for numbers. He sees patterns no one else can. His gift has made him a rising star on Wall Street. But when he notices that two hundred billion dollars’ worth of U.S. Treasury bonds are being sold off at a terrifying rate, his gift makes him the most wanted man alive.
The U.S. military wants him for his extraordinary abilities. They need someone to lead a crack squad of rogue soldiers to act as the last line of defense in a war that could mean the end of everything America holds dear. And everyone else? They just want him dead.
In this explosive debut novel, ranging from the offices of Wall Street to the casinos of Vegas to the back roads of the Chinese countryside, Drew Chapman introduces readers to a new kind of action hero: one uniquely skilled to fight a new kind of war.
The Kept by James Scott (Harper-Jan. 7th)
Synopsis-Set in rural New York state at the turn of the twentieth century, superb new talent James Scott makes his literary debut with The Kept—a propulsive novel reminiscent of the works of Michael Ondaatje, Cormac McCarthy, and Bonnie Jo Campbell, in which a mother and her young son embark on a quest to avenge a terrible and violent tragedy that has shattered their secluded family.
In the winter of 1897, a trio of killers descends upon an isolated farm in upstate New York. Midwife Elspeth Howell returns home to the carnage: her husband, and four of her children, murdered. Before she can discover her remaining son Caleb, alive and hiding in the kitchen pantry, another shot rings out over the snow-covered valley. Twelve-year-old Caleb must tend to his mother until she recovers enough for them to take to the frozen wilderness in search of the men responsible.
A scorching portrait of a merciless world—of guilt and lost innocence, atonement and retribution, resilience and sacrifice, pregnant obsession and primal adolescence—The Kept introduces an old-beyond-his-years protagonist as indelible and heartbreaking as Mattie Ross of True Grit or Jimmy Blevins of All the Pretty Horses, as well as a shape-shifting mother as enigmatic and mysterious as a character drawn by Russell Banks or Marilynne Robinson.
In the grand tradition of Moll Flanders and Vanity Fair, this is the story of a good girl who became a bad woman. At the old homestead her name is never spoken and her picture is turned to the wall, but in the vast world beyond everyone remembers her as the celebrated madam of the finest parlor house in San Francisco. Now, at the end of her life, after half a century of successfully hiding the details of her scarlet past, Belle has decided to reveal all her secrets.
In 1838, Arabella Godwin and her beloved younger brother, Lewis, are orphaned and shipped away from their home in New York City to live on their aunt’s desolate farm upstate. The comforts she has always known are replaced with grueling work and a pair of cunning enemies in her cousins Agnes and Matthew. Amid this bleak existence, there emerges light in the form of a local boy, Jeptha Talbot. He is everything good that Arabella craves. His love saves her and becomes an obsession that will last her whole life.
Time and again she will be broken and remade. She will bear a gambler’s child, build a fortune, commit murder, leave a trail of aliases in her wake and sacrifice almost everything—though perhaps not enough—for the man whose love she cannot bear to lose. At last her destiny will take her to Gold Rush California, to riches and power.
Until the day she mysteriously disappears.
Told with unflagging wit and verve, Belle Cora brings to life a turbulent era and an untamed America on the cusp of greatness. Its heroine is a woman in conflict with her time, who nevertheless epitomizes it with her fighting spirit, her gift for self-invention, and her determination to chart her own fate.
The Secret History of Las Vegas by Chris Abani (Penguin-Jan. 7th)
Synopsis-Before he can retire, Las Vegas detective Salazar is determined to solve a recent spate of murders. When he encounters a pair of conjoined twins with a container of blood near their car, he’s sure he has apprehended the killers, and enlists the help of Dr. Sunil Singh, a South African transplant who specializes in the study of psychopaths. As Sunil tries to crack the twins, the implications of his research grow darker. Haunted by his betrayal of loved ones back home during apartheid, he seeks solace in the love of Asia, a prostitute with hopes of escaping that life. But Sunil’s own troubled past is fast on his heels in the form of a would-be assassin.
Suspenseful through the last page, The Secret History of Las Vegas is Chris Abani’s most accomplished work to date, with his trademark visionary prose and a striking compassion for the inner lives of outsiders.
Work Done for Hire by Joe Haldeman (Ace-Jan 7th)
Synopsis-Wounded in combat and honorably discharged nine years ago, Jack Daley still suffers nightmares from when he served his country as a sniper, racking up sixteen confirmed kills. Now a struggling author, Jack accepts an offer to write a near-future novel about a serial killer, based on a Hollywood script outline. It’s an opportunity to build his writing career, and a future with his girlfriend, Kit Majors.
But Jack’s other talent is also in demand. A package arrives on his doorstep containing a sniper rifle, complete with silencer and ammunition—and the first installment of a $100,000 payment to kill a “bad man.” The twisted offer is genuine. The people behind it are dangerous. They prove that they have Jack under surveillance. He can’t run. He can’t hide. And if he doesn’t take the job, Kit will be in the crosshairs instead.
The Poisoned Island by Lloyd Shepherd (Washington Square Press-Jan 14th)
Synopsis-Tahiti 1769. English sailors arrive on the shores of the Polynesian paradise— a place of staggering beauty where magic and ancient myths still hold sway. But they soon devastate the island with disease, war, and death, planting deadly seeds that will be carried back to England forty years later.
London 1812. On a gray June morning, the Solander docks, her hold containing hundreds of exotic plants from Tahiti for the King’s Gardens at Kew. The apparently successful expedition soon takes a horrifying— and inexplicable—turn: The crew of the Solander starts dying one by one. Thames River Police Chief Charles Horton can find no signs of murder or suicide to explain the deaths, and the ship’s surviving crew seems intent on hampering his investigation. When one of the plants begins to show frightening changes, it is up to Charles Horton to determine how it might be stopped.
Mayhem by Sarah Pinborough (Quercus-Jan 14th)
Synopsis-Already frustrated in their attempts to capture serial murderer Jack the Ripper, the detectives of Scotland Yard are suddenly confronted with a new monster, dubbed the Torso Killer for his habit of leaving behind neatly wrapped parcels of his victims’ body parts, minus the heads. With the terrible increase in mutilated corpses to examine, the highly regarded police surgeon Dr. Thomas Bond has lost the ability to sleep. True, a growing dependency on opium affords him some solace in his loneliest and most desperate hours, but he also fears the grip of the drug.
During Dr. Bond’s nightly tours of London’s underbelly in search of pharmaceutical respite from the horrors that plague him by day, he encounters a mysterious Jesuit priest scouring the opium dens himself, clearly in search of someone—or something. The doctor at first rejects the strange priest’s unnatural theories about the Torso Killer as an affront to scientific thought. But over time Dr. Bond’s opium-addled mind begins to crumble under the growing impression that there might be some awful truth to the Jesuit’s ideas.
As the police struggle to capture two serial killers, the troubled forensics expert begins to suspect that he may actually know the Torso Killer personally. If he is right, Dr. Bond will need all the strength he can muster to save his small circle of loved ones from falling victim to the bloody depravities of this twisted creature.
Ripper by Isabel Allende (Harper-Jan 28th)
Synopsis-The Jackson women, Indiana and Amanda, have always had each other. Though their bond is strong, mother and daughter are as different as night and day. Indiana, a beautiful holistic healer, is a free-spirited bohemian. Long divorced from Amanda’s father, she’s reluctant to settle down with either of the men who want her—Alan, the wealthy scion of one of San Francisco’s elite families, and Ryan, an enigmatic, scarred former Navy SEAL.
While her mom looks for the good in people, Amanda is fascinated by the dark side of human nature—as is her father, the SF PD’s deputy chief of homicide. Brilliant and introverted, the MIT-bound high school senior Amanda is a natural-born sleuth addicted to crime novels and to Ripper, the online mystery game she plays with her beloved grandfather and friends around the world.
When a string of strange murders occurs across the city, Amanda plunges into her own investigation, probing hints and deductions that elude the police department. But the case becomes all too personal when Indiana suddenly vanishes. Could her mother’s disappearance have something to do with the series of deaths? Now, with her mother’s life on the line, Amanda must solve the most complex mystery she’s ever faced before it’s too late.
What We’ve Lost is Nothing by Rachel Louise Snyder (Scribner-Jan 21st)
Synopsis-In her striking debut novel, Rachel Louise Snyder chronicles the twenty-four hours following a mass burglary in a Chicago suburb and the suspicions, secrets, and prejudices that surface in its wake.
Nestled on the edge of Chicago’s gritty west side, Oak Park is a suburb in flux. To the west, theaters and shops frame posh houses designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To the east lies a neighborhood still recovering from urban decline. In the center of the community sits Ilios Lane, a pristine cul-de-sac dotted with quiet homes that bridge the surrounding extremes of wealth and poverty.
On the first warm day in April, Mary Elizabeth McPherson, a lifelong resident of Ilios Lane, skips school with her friend Sofia. As the two experiment with a heavy dose of ecstasy in Mary Elizabeth’s dining room, a series of home invasions rocks their neighborhood. At first the community is determined to band together, but rising suspicions soon threaten to destroy the world they were attempting to create. Filtered through a vibrant pinwheel of characters, Snyder’s tour de force evokes the heightened tension of a community on edge as it builds toward one of the most explosive conclusions in recent fiction. Incisive and panoramic, What We’ve Lost is Nothing illuminates the evolving relationship between American cities and their suburbs, the hidden prejudices that can threaten a way of life, and the redemptive power of tolerance in a community torn asunder.
Silence Once Begun by Jesse Ball (Pantheon-Jan 28th)
Synopsis-Over the course of several months, eight people vanish from their homes in the same Japanese town, a single playing card found on each door. Known as the “Narito Disappearances,” the crime has authorities baffled—until a confession appears on the police’s doorstep, signed by Oda Sotatsu, a thread salesman. Sotatsu is arrested, jailed, and interrogated—but he refuses to speak. Even as his parents, brother, and sister come to visit him, even as his execution looms, and even as a young woman named Jito Joo enters his cell, he maintains his vow of silence. Our narrator, a journalist named Jesse Ball, is grappling with mysteries of his own when he becomes fascinated by the case. Why did Sotatsu confess? Why won’t he speak? Who is Jito Joo? As Ball interviews Sotatsu’s family, friends, and jailers, he uncovers a complex story of heartbreak, deceit, honor, and chance.
Wildly inventive and emotionally powerful, Silence Once Begun is a devastating portrayal of a justice system compromised, and evidence that Jesse Ball is a voraciously gifted novelist working at the height of his powers.
This Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (William Morrow-Jan 28th)
Synopsis-When their mother dies unexpectedly, twelve-year-old Easter Quillby and her six-year-old sister, Ruby, are shuffled into the foster care system in Gastonia, North Carolina, a little town not far from the Appalachian Mountains. But just as they settle into their new life, their errant father, Wade, an ex–minor league baseball player whom they haven’t seen in years, suddenly reappears and steals them away in the middle of the night.
Brady Weller, the girls’ court-appointed guardian, begins looking for Wade, and quickly turns up unsettling information linking him to a multimillion-dollar robbery. But Brady isn’t the only one hunting him. Also on the trail is Robert Pruitt, a mercurial man nursing a years-old vendetta, a man determined to find Wade and claim what he believes he is owed.
The combination of Cash’s evocative and intimate Southern voice and those of the alternating narrators, Easter, Brady, and Pruitt, brings this soulful story vividly to life. At once captivating and heartbreaking, This Dark Road to Mercy is a testament to the unbreakable bonds of family and the primal desire to outrun a past that refuses to let go.