Here are the books that I’m especially looking forward to in Mystery, Suspense, and Fiction for September (it’s a helluva month)! Note I took out the Top 10, because I never (ever) can keep it to just 10.
Synopsis (all synopsis are from Amazon or B&N)-Some say he’s a serial killer. Others, a vigilante doing what police can’t or won’t do. What’s certain is that Dean Drayhart, a paraplegic, will soon sit on death row for killing hit-and-run drivers in Los Angeles. But not if the Mexican Mafia gets hold of him first. Somewhere, Dean’s trained companion monkey Sid and girlfriend Cinda are outrunning the law in a fast ’98 Trans Am. The Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department wants Sid, dead or alive. Dean may be broken in body but his fierce spirit is determined to protect Sid and Cinda in the most creative ways imaginable. Hardboiled, funny, relentless, and unexpectedly tender-hearted, Bite Harder delivers riotous action all the way to a bombshell climax that could only have been written by Anonymous-9, the self-declared mad scientist of crime fiction.
But as the two of them embark on an intense affair, Andrew wonders if his grasp on reality is slipping. Items go missing in his apartment. Somebody appears to be following him. And as misfortune and tragedy strike his friends and loved ones, Andrew is forced to confront the frightening truth.…
Is Charlie really the girl of his dreams—or the woman of his nightmares?
The White Van by Patrick Hoffman (Grove/Atlantic-Sept. 2nd)
Synopsis-At a dive bar in San Francisco’s edgy Tenderloin district, drug-hustling Emily Rosario is drinking whiskey and looking for an escape from her desperate lifestyle. When she is approached by a Russian businessman, she thinks she might have found her exit. A week later—drugged, disoriented and wanted for robbery—Emily finds herself on the run for her life.
When cop Leo Elias—broke, alcoholic and desperate—hears about an unsolved bank robbery, the stolen money proves too strong a temptation. Elias takes the case into his own hands, hoping to find Emily and the money before anyone else does.
A sharply drawn cast of characters—dirty cops, Russian drug dealers, Chinese black-market traders, street smart Cambodians, and shady entrepreneurs—all take part in this terrifying tour through San Francisco’s underbelly. Confronted with the intimate details of characters that blur the line between good and evil, and twists that surprise until the end, readers of THE WHITE VAN will find their own moral code challenged by the desperate decisions the characters are forced to make.
100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith (S&S Young Readers-Sept. 2nd)
Synopsis-Destiny takes a detour in this heartbreakingly hilarious novel from the acclaimed author of Winger, which Kirkus Reviews called “smart” and “wickedly funny.”
Finn Easton sees the world through miles instead of minutes. It’s how he makes sense of the world, and how he tries to convince himself that he’s a real boy and not just a character in his father’s bestselling cult-classic book. Finn has two things going for him: his best friend, the possibly-insane-but-definitely-excellent Cade Hernandez, and Julia Bishop, the first girl he’s ever loved.
Then Julia moves away, and Finn is heartbroken. Feeling restless and trapped in the book, Finn embarks on a road trip with Cade to visit their college of choice in Oklahoma. When an unexpected accident happens and the boys become unlikely heroes, they take an eye-opening detour away from everything they thought they had planned—and learn how to write their own destiny.
The Secret Place by Tana French (Viking-September 2nd)
Synopsis-The photo on the card shows a boy who was found murdered, a year ago, on the grounds of a girls’ boarding school in the leafy suburbs of Dublin. The caption says I KNOW WHO KILLED HIM.
Detective Stephen Moran has been waiting for his chance to get a foot in the door of Dublin’s Murder Squad—and one morning, sixteen-year-old Holly Mackey brings him this photo. “The Secret Place,” a board where the girls at St. Kilda’s School can pin up their secrets anonymously, is normally a mishmash of gossip and covert cruelty, but today someone has used it to reignite the stalled investigation into the murder of handsome, popular Chris Harper. Stephen joins forces with the abrasive Detective Antoinette Conway to find out who and why.
But everything they discover leads them back to Holly’s close-knit group of friends and their fierce enemies, a rival clique—and to the tangled web of relationships that bound all the girls to Chris Harper. Every step in their direction turns up the pressure. Antoinette Conway is already suspicious of Stephen’s links to the Mackey family. St. Kilda’s will go a long way to keep murder outside their walls. Holly’s father, Detective Frank Mackey, is circling, ready to pounce if any of the new evidence points toward his daughter. And the private underworld of teenage girls can be more mysterious and more dangerous than either of the detectives imagined.
The Children Act by Ian McEwan (Nan A. Talese-September 9th)
Synopsis-Fiona Maye is a leading High Court judge who presides over cases in the family court. She is renowned for her fierce intelligence, exactitude, and sensitivity. But her professional success belies private sorrow and domestic strife. There is the lingering regret of her childlessness, and now her marriage of thirty years is in crisis.
At the same time, she is called on to try an urgent case: Adam, a beautiful seventeen-year-old boy, is refusing for religious reasons the medical treatment that could save his life, and his devout parents echo his wishes. Time is running out. Should the secular court overrule sincerely expressed faith? In the course of reaching a decision, Fiona visits Adam in the hospital—and encounter that stirs long-buried feelings in her and powerful new emotions in the boy. Her judgment has momentous consequences for them both.
Synopsis-It is December 6, 1941. America stands at the brink of World War II. Last hopes for peace are shattered when Japanese squadrons bomb Pearl Harbor. Los Angeles has been a haven for loyal Japanese-Americans—but now, war fever and race hate grip the city and the Japanese internment begins.
The hellish murder of a Japanese family summons three men and one woman. William H. Parker is a captain on the Los Angeles Police Department. He’s superbly gifted, corrosively ambitious, liquored-up, and consumed by dubious ideology. He is bitterly at odds with Sergeant Dudley Smith—Irish émigré, ex-IRA killer, fledgling war profiteer. Hideo Ashida is a police chemist and the only Japanese on the L.A. cop payroll. Kay Lake is a twenty-one-year-old dilettante looking for adventure. The investigation throws them together and rips them apart. The crime becomes a political storm center that brilliantly illuminates these four driven souls—comrades, rivals, lovers, history’s pawns.
The Distance by Helen Giltrow (Doubleday-September 9th)
Synopsis-Charlotte Alton is an elegant socialite. But behind the locked doors of her sleek, high-security apartment in London’s Docklands, she becomes Karla. Karla’s business is information. Specifically, making it disappear. She’s the unseen figure who, for a commanding price, will cover a criminal’s tracks. A perfectionist, she’s only made one slip in her career—several years ago she revealed her face to a man named Simon Johanssen, an ex-special forces sniper turned killer-for-hire. After a mob hit went horrifically wrong, Johanssen needed to disappear, and Karla helped him. He became a regular client, and then, one day, she stepped out of the shadows for reasons unclear to even herself. Now, after a long absence, Johanssen has resurfaced with a job, and he needs Karla’s help again. The job is to take out an inmate—a woman—inside an experimental prison colony. But there’s no record the target ever existed. That’s not the only problem: the criminal boss from whom Johanssen has been hiding is incarcerated there. That doesn’t stop him. It’s Karla’s job to get him out alive, and to do that she must uncover the truth. Who is this woman? Who wants her dead? Is the job a trap for Johanssen or for her? But every door she opens is a false one, and she’s getting desperate to protect a man—a killer—to whom she’s inexplicably drawn. Written in stylish, sophisticated prose, The Distance is a tense and satisfying debut in which every character, both criminal and law-abiding, wears two faces, and everyone is playing a double game.
The Sun is God by Adrian McKinty (Seventh Street Books-September 9th)
Synopsis-Colonial New Guinea—1906: a small group of mostly German nudists live an extreme back-to-nature existence on the remote island of Kabakon. Eating only coconuts and bananas, they purport to worship the sun. One of their members—Max Lutzow—has recently died, allegedly from malaria. But an autopsy on his body in the nearby capital of Herbertshöhe raises suspicions about foul play.
Retired British military police officer Will Prior is recruited to investigate the circumstances of Lutzow’s death. At first, the eccentric group seems friendly and willing to cooperate with the investigation. They all insist that Lutzow died of malaria. Despite lack of evidence for a murder, Prior is convinced that the group is hiding something.
Things come to a head during a late-night feast supposedly given as a send-off for the visitors before they return to Herbertshöhe. Prior fears that the intent of the “celebration” is not to fete the visitors but to make them the latest murder victims.
Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel (Knopf-September 9th)
Synopsis-An audacious, darkly glittering novel set in the eerie days of civilization’s collapse, Station Eleven tells the spellbinding story of a Hollywood star, his would-be savior, and a nomadic group of actors roaming the scattered outposts of the Great Lakes region, risking everything for art and humanity.
One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur’s chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.
Gangsterland by Tod Goldberg (Counterpoint-September 9th)
Synopsis-Sal Cupertine is a legendary hit man for the Chicago Mafia, known for his ability to get in and out of a crime without a trace. Until now, that is. His first-ever mistake forces Sal to botch an assassination, killing three undercover FBI agents in the process. This puts too much heat on Sal, and he knows this botched job will be his death sentence to the Mafia. So he agrees to their radical idea to save his own skin.
A few surgeries and some intensive training later, and Sal Cupertine is gone, disappeared into the identity of Rabbi David Cohen. Leading his growing congregation in Las Vegas, overseeing the population and the temple and the new cemetery, Rabbi Cohen feels his wicked past slipping away from him, surprising even himself as he spouts quotes from the Torah or the Old Testament. Yet, as it turns out, the Mafia isn’t quite done with him yet. Soon the new cemetery is being used as both a money and body-laundering scheme for the Chicago family. And that rogue FBI agent on his trail, seeking vengeance for the murder of his three fellow agents, isn’t going to let Sal fade so easily into the desert.
Night of the Jaguar by Joe Gannon (Minotaur-September 9th)
Synopsis-Sandinista Police Captain Ajax Montoya is six days sober and losing his mind. How else to explain his nights waking in bed, his hand wrapped around that bloody-minded stiletto from the old days, or the presence outside his window, a face with no eyes watching him?
How far the heroic have fallen. Ajax was once the gallant comandante guerrillero. A hero of the Nicaraguan revolutionaries in their long uprising against the Ogre and his hated National Guard. Back then he’d been the guy who got the bloody missions — as a lowly grunt with that blade, or the commander of an entire front. Back then he knew what was what and who to trust. But as the clarity of war gave way to the hazy reality of peace, Ajax fared less well. And after he took the fall for an assassination he had no part of, he tumbled into a bottle, and maybe out of his mind.
Now he’s a homicide investigator in Managua solving murders and sweating through the nightmares from his guerilla days. When he’s called to investigate a robbery turned gruesome murder, Ajax recognizes the marks of a surprising enemy – the CIA mercenary army known as The Contra. This isn’t just a random murder; this is an execution, a call to war. Or is it? And why does no one want to know but Ajax? As the bodies pile up and a red-headed gringa who should be his enemy enchants his thoughts, Ajax questions whether he can stay sober, sane, and alive long enough to figure it all out.
The Way Inn by Will Wiles (Harper Perennial-September 16th)
Synopsis-Up in the Air meets Inception in this smart, innovative, genre-synthesizing novel from the acclaimed author of Care of Wooden Floors—hailed as “Fawlty Towers crossed with Freud,” by the Daily Telegraph—that takes the polished surfaces of modern life, the branded coffee, and the free wifi, and twists them into a surrealistic nightmare of infinite proportions.
Neil Double is a “conference surrogate,” hired by his clients to attend industry conferences so that they don’t have to. It’s a life of budget travel, cheap suits, and out-of-town exhibition centers—a kind of paradise for Neil, who has reconstructed his incognito professional life into a toxic and selfish personal philosophy. But his latest job, at a conference of conference organizers, will radically transform him and everything he believes as it unexpectedly draws him into a bizarre and speculative mystery.
In a brand new Way Inn—a global chain of identikit mid-budget motels—in an airport hinterland, he meets a woman he has seen before in strange and unsettling circumstances. She hints at an astonishing truth about this mundane world filled with fake smiles and piped muzak. But before Neil can learn more, she vanishes. Intrigued, he tries to find her—a search that will lead him down the rabbit hole, into an eerily familiar place where he will discover a dark and disturbing secret about the Way Inn. Caught on a metaphysical Mobius strip, Neil discovers that there may be no way out.
Wolf in White Van by John Darnielle (FSG-September 16th)
Synopsis-Welcome to Trace Italian, a game of strategy and survival! You may now make your first move. Isolated by a disfiguring injury since the age of seventeen, Sean Phillips crafts imaginary worlds for strangers to play in. From his small apartment in southern California, he orchestrates fantastic adventures where possibilities, both dark and bright, open in the boundaries between the real and the imagined. As the creator of Trace Italian—a text-based, role-playing game played through the mail—Sean guides players from around the world through his intricately imagined terrain, which they navigate and explore, turn by turn, seeking sanctuary in a ravaged, savage future America.
Lance and Carrie are high school students from Florida, explorers of the Trace. But when they take their play into the real world, disaster strikes, and Sean is called to account for it. In the process, he is pulled back through time, tunneling toward the moment of his own self-inflicted departure from the world in which most people live. Brilliantly constructed, Wolf in White Van unfolds in reverse until we arrive at both the beginning and the climax: the event that has shaped so much of Sean’s life. Beautifully written and unexpectedly moving, John Darnielle’s audacious and gripping debut novel is a marvel of storytelling brio and genuine literary delicacy.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters (Riverhead-September 16th)
Synopsis-It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.
With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.
Bones Never Lie by Kathy Reichs (Bantam-September 23rd)
Synopsis-Unexpectedly called in to the Charlotte PD’s Cold Case Unit, Dr. Temperance Brennan wonders why she’s been asked to meet with a homicide cop who’s a long way from his own jurisdiction. The shocking answer: Two child murders, separated by thousands of miles, have one thing in common—the killer. Years ago, Anique Pomerleau kidnapped and murdered a string of girls in Canada, then narrowly eluded capture. It was a devastating defeat for her pursuers, Brennan and police detective Andrew Ryan.
Now, as if summoned from their nightmares, Pomerleau has resurfaced in the United States, linked to victims in Vermont and North Carolina. When another child is snatched, the reign of terror promises to continue—unless Brennan can rise to the challenge and make good on her second chance to stop a psychopath.
But Brennan will have to draw her bitter ex-partner out of exile, keep the local police and feds from one another’s throats, and face more than just her own demons as she stalks the deadliest of predators into the darkest depths of madness.
The Day of Atonement by David Liss (Random House-September 23rd)
Synopsis-Sebastião Raposa is only thirteen when his parents are unjustly imprisoned, never to be seen again, and he is forced to flee Portugal lest he too fall victim to the Inquisition. But ten years in exile only serve to whet his appetite for vengeance. Returning at last to Lisbon, in the guise of English businessman Sebastian Foxx, he is no longer a frightened boy but a dangerous man tormented by violent impulses. Haunted by the specter of all he has lost—including his exquisite first love—Foxx is determined to right old wrongs by punishing an unforgivable enemy with unrelenting fury.
Well schooled by his benefactor, the notorious bounty hunter Benjamin Weaver, in the use of wits, fists, and a variety of weapons, Foxx stalks the ruthless Inquisitor priest Pedro Azinheiro. But in a city ruled by terror and treachery, where money and information can buy power and trump any law, no enemy should be underestimated and no ally can be trusted. Having risked everything, and once again under the watchful eye of the Inquisition, Foxx finds his plans unraveling as he becomes drawn into the struggles of old friends—and new enemies—none of whom, like Lisbon itself, are what they seem.
Compelled to play a game of deception and greed, Sebastian Foxx will find himself befriended, betrayed, tempted by desire, and tormented by personal turmoil. And when a twist of fate turns his carefully laid plans to chaos, he will be forced to choose between surrendering to bloodlust or serving the cause of mercy.
Skin by Sergey Kuzentsov (Titan-September 23rd)
Synopsis-When a brutal and sadistic serial killer begins stalking the streets of Moscow, Xenia, an ambitious young newspaper editor, takes it upon herself to attempt to solve the mystery of the killer’s identity. As her obsession with the killer grows, Xenia devises an elaborate website with the intention of ensnaring the murderer, only to discover something disturbing about herself: her own unhealthy fascination with the sexual savagery of the murders.
When aspiring writer Guinevere Beck strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe works, he’s instantly smitten. Beck is everything Joe has ever wanted: She’s gorgeous, tough, razor-smart, and as sexy as his wildest dreams.
Beck doesn’t know it yet, but she’s perfect for him, and soon she can’t resist her feelings for a guy who seems custom made for her. But there’s more to Joe than Beck realizes, and much more to Beck than her oh-so-perfect façade. Their mutual obsession quickly spirals into a whirlwind of deadly consequences . . .
The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel (Henry Holt-September 30th)
Synopsis-One of the most accomplished, acclaimed, and garlanded writers, Hilary Mantel delivers a brilliant collection of contemporary stories
In The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher, Hilary Mantel’s trademark gifts of penetrating characterization, unsparing eye, and rascally intelligence are once again fully on display.
Stories of dislocation and family fracture, of whimsical infidelities and sudden deaths with sinister causes, brilliantly unsettle the reader in that unmistakably Mantel way.
Cutting to the core of human experience, Mantel brutally and acutely writes about marriage, class, family, and sex. Unpredictable, diverse, and sometimes shocking, The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher displays a magnificent writer at the peak of her powers.
Consumed by David Cronenberg (Scribner-September 30th)
Synopsis-The exhilarating debut novel by iconic filmmaker David Cronenberg: the story of two journalists whose entanglement in a French philosopher’s death becomes a surreal journey into global conspiracy.
Stylish and camera-obsessed, Naomi and Nathan thrive on the yellow journalism of the social-media age. They are lovers and competitors—nomadic freelancers in pursuit of sensation and depravity, encountering each other only in airport hotels and browser windows.
Naomi finds herself drawn to the headlines surrounding Célestine and Aristide Arosteguy, Marxist philosophers and sexual libertines. Célestine has been found dead and mutilated in her Paris apartment. Aristide has disappeared. Police suspect him of killing her and consuming parts of her body. With the help of an eccentric graduate student named Hervé Blomqvist, Naomi sets off in pursuit of Aristide. As she delves deeper into Célestine and Aristide’s lives, disturbing details emerge about their sex life—which included trysts with Hervé and others. Can Naomi trust Hervé to help her?
Nathan, meanwhile, is in Budapest photographing the controversial work of an unlicensed surgeon named Zoltán Molnár, once sought by Interpol for organ trafficking. After sleeping with one of Molnár’s patients, Nathan contracts a rare STD called Roiphe’s. Nathan then travels to Toronto, determined to meet the man who discovered the syndrome. Dr. Barry Roiphe, Nathan learns, now studies his own adult daughter, whose bizarre behavior masks a devastating secret.
These parallel narratives become entwined in a gripping, dreamlike plot that involves geopolitics, 3-D printing, North Korea, the Cannes Film Festival, cancer, and, in an incredible number of varieties, sex. Consumed is an exuberant, provocative debut novel from one of the world’s leading film directors.
Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan’s The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.
At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.