Best New Books: Week of 8/24/21

“The four sayings that lead to wisdom:
I was wrong
I’m sorry
I don’t know
I need help” – Louise Penny



The Guide by  Peter Heller ★

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

guideKingfisher Lodge, nestled in a canyon on a mile and a half of the most pristine river water on the planet, is known by locals as Billionaire’s Mile and is locked behind a heavy gate. Sandwiched between barbed wire and a meadow with a sign that reads Don’t Get Shot! the resort boasts boutique fishing at its finest. Safe from viruses that have plagued America for years, Kingfisher offers a respite for wealthy clients. Now it also promises a second chance for Jack, a return to normalcy after a young life filled with loss. When he is assigned to guide a well-known singer, his only job is to rig her line, carry her gear, and steer her to the best trout he can find.

But then a human scream pierces the night, and Jack soon realizes that this idyllic fishing lodge may be merely a cover for a far more sinister operation. A novel as gripping as it is lyrical, as frightening as it is moving, The Guide is another masterpiece from Peter Heller.

“Heller is building a reputation as a modern master of the wilderness thriller… Heller manages to perfectly balance meditations on nature, memory, and loss while also unspooling a gripping thriller.” – CrimeReads

“Peter Heller’s riveting thriller is set in the American wilderness, but the threats gathering around Jack, the young fishing guide of the title, come from man, not nature… Unnerving… A chilling reminder of the dangers that might lie in wait for us all.” – Star Tribune

“Heller presents another brilliantly paced, unnerving wilderness thriller paired with an absorbing depiction of a remote natural paradise… Masterful evocations of nature are not surprising, given Heller’s award-winning nonfiction about his own outdoor experiences, while his ability to inject shocking menace into a novel that might otherwise serve as a lyrical paean to nature is remarkable.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Heller’s lush descriptions of fishing and river country are matched with a riveting, surprising mystery that captures the difference between the filthy rich and everyone else. The novel’s speculative approach to the lingering effects of Covid-19 is frightening in its subtlety and one of the book’s special charms. Readers looking for a credible couple and a story of redemption will love this.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook


Lightning Strike by  William Kent Krueger

Fiction / Mystery / Historical Fiction / Suspense.

lightning strikeAurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to 12-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.

Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff, and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.

In this masterful story of a young man and a town on the cusp of change, beloved novelist William Kent Krueger shows that some mysteries can be solved even as others surpass our understanding.

“This sensitive, moving prequel introduces and draws readers into the series. Krueger has written another perceptive coming-of-age novel, the poignant story of a father and son trying to understand each other.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“…poignant, powerful, and mesmerizing… Krueger skillfully blends big, suspenseful moments with quiet, keenly observed insights into human nature. This novel is rich with wisdom about right and wrong, choice and change, fathers and sons, and the ways in which loss can shape us as profoundly as love.” – Amazon Book Review

“…suspenseful… Krueger makes the youthful version of his lead plausible, as well as his detective abilities. Longtime fans will relish Cork’s rich backstory.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook


The Love Songs of W.E.B. Du Bois by  Honorée Fanonne Jeffers ★

Fiction / Historical Fiction.

love songs of w.e.b. duboisThe great scholar, W.E.B. Du Bois, once wrote about the Problem of race in America, and what he called “Double Consciousness,” a sensitivity that every African American possesses in order to survive. Since childhood, Ailey Pearl Garfield has understood Du Bois’s words all too well. Bearing the names of two formidable Black Americans—the revered choreographer Alvin Ailey and her great grandmother Pearl, the descendant of enslaved Georgians and tenant farmers—Ailey carries Du Bois’s Problem on her shoulders.

Ailey is reared in the north in the City but spends summers in the small Georgia town of Chicasetta, where her mother’s family has lived since their ancestors arrived from Africa in bondage. From an early age, Ailey fights a battle for belonging that’s made all the more difficult by a hovering trauma, as well as the whispers of women—her mother, Belle, her sister, Lydia, and a maternal line reaching back two centuries—that urge Ailey to succeed in their stead.

To come to terms with her own identity, Ailey embarks on a journey through her family’s past, uncovering the shocking tales of generations of ancestors—Indigenous, Black, and white—in the deep South. In doing so Ailey must learn to embrace her full heritage, a legacy of oppression and resistance, bondage and independence, cruelty and resilience that is the story—and the song—of America itself.

“Stunning.” – People

“[A] generational magnum opus.” – O, the Oprah Magazine

“A staggering and ambitious saga… Themes of family, class, higher education, feminism, and colorism yield many rich layers. Readers will be floored.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Prepare to be wholly engrossed… This profound reading experience brought me a deep awareness of intergenerational trauma and triumph. [A] phenomenal saga… Jeffers’s Ailey Pearl Garfield is one of the most fully realized central protagonists and interlocutors that I’ve encountered in fiction. Jeffers celebrates Black women not as saints or saviors, but brilliant survivors who embody joy and genius along with their history.” – Observer

Available Formats:

Print Book | Playaway | eBook


The Madness of Crowds by  Louise Penny

Fiction / Mystery.

madness of crowdsYou’re a coward.

Time and again, as the New Year approaches, that charge is leveled against Armand Gamache.

It starts innocently enough.

While the residents of the Québec village of Three Pines take advantage of the deep snow to ski and toboggan, to drink hot chocolate in the bistro and share meals together, the Chief Inspector finds his holiday with his family interrupted by a simple request.

He’s asked to provide security for what promises to be a non-event. A visiting Professor of Statistics will be giving a lecture at the nearby university.

While he is perplexed as to why the head of homicide for the Sûreté du Québec would be assigned this task, it sounds easy enough. That is until Gamache starts looking into Professor Abigail Robinson and discovers an agenda so repulsive he begs the university to cancel the lecture.

They refuse, citing academic freedom, and accuse Gamache of censorship and intellectual cowardice. Before long, Professor Robinson’s views start seeping into conversations. Spreading and infecting. So that truth and fact, reality and delusion are so confused it’s near impossible to tell them apart.

Discussions become debates, debates become arguments, which turn into fights. As sides are declared, a madness takes hold.

Abigail Robinson promises that, if they follow her, ça va bien aller. All will be well. But not, Gamache and his team know, for everyone.

When a murder is committed it falls to Armand Gamache, his second-in-command Jean-Guy Beauvoir, and their team to investigate the crime as well as this extraordinary popular delusion.

And the madness of crowds.

“[A] timely and provocative exploration of the thin line between kindness and cruelty.” – AudioFile

“Penny excels at placing her characters in challenging ethical quandaries. This author just goes from strength to strength.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“… a perplexing murder mystery… a nuanced look at conviction, delusion, and the tipping point between the two… Urgent yet thoughtful, philosophical and suspenseful, The Madness of Crowds proves Penny just gets better with each novel.” – Amazon Book Review

“[A] small masterpiece… timely and complex… Three Pines has never faced such existential challenges as it will encounter in The Madness of Crowds.” – CrimeReads

Available Formats:

Print Book | Large Print Book | Audiobook | Playaway | eBook | eAudiobook


My Brother the Killer: A Family Story by  Alix Sharkey

Nonfiction / True Crime / Memoir.

my brother the killerIn the gritty docklands of south-east England, Alix Sharkey and his younger siblings grew up in awe of their charismatic yet violent father, a vicious alcoholic. Yet it was Alix’s kid brother Stuart—button-cute and fearless—who defended his siblings at home, at school and on the streets. Their fraternal bond was deep and powerful until Alix moved away from their rough hometown. Stuart remained—and slid into a furtive life of sexual violence against teenage girls, punctuated by prison time.

Having started out inseparable, their paths diverged radically. Alix became a journalist, cosmopolitan and bilingual, working for upmarket media in London, Paris, New York, and Los Angeles. Today, Stuart remains incarcerated in Britain’s most notorious high security prison, awaiting imminent parole. Twenty years ago, he was convicted of the kidnap and murder of his 15-year old niece Danielle, daughter of his wife’s brother. Despite his conviction, a lost appeal, and repeated pleas by her parents, Stuart has steadfastly refused to reveal the location of his victim’s remains, condemning the girl’s parents to two decades of unresolved grief.

How do two brothers choose such different paths? Could anything have prevented Stuart from becoming a killer? What factors contributed to his fall? What does Alix owe to Stuart—the fiercely protective kid brother—and what does he owe to the truth? With the clock ticking, can he convince Stuart to do the right thing and give the victim’s family the closure and peace they’ve sought for so long? Or will Stuart walk free, unrepentant and defiant?

In this piercing and unforgettable memoir, laced with bleak irony and heartrending honesty, Alix tackles these questions and confronts a harsh reality: that the younger brother he once adored not only deceived their own family for decades, but destroyed another with his truly heinous crime.

“Sharkey offers an intimate, thought-provoking meditation on how his brother’s childhood and adolescence affected his later actions. For readers interested in books that blend memoir and crime, such as Liza Rodman’s The Babysitter.” – Library Journal

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook


Presumed Guilty: How the Supreme Court Empowered the Police and Subverted Civil Rights by  Erwin Chemerinsky

Nonfiction / History / Law.

Presumed Guilty, like the best-selling The Color of Law, is a “smoking gun” of civil rights research, a troubling history that reveals how the Supreme Court enabled racist policing and sanctioned law enforcement excesses. The fact that police are nine times more likely to kill Black men than other Americans is no accident; it is the result of an elaborate body of doctrines that allow the police and courts to presume that suspects are guilty before being charged.

Demonstrating how the pro-defendant Warren Court was a brief historical aberration, Erwin Chemerinsky shows how this more liberal era ended with Nixon’s presidency and the ascendance of conservative justices, whose rulings―like Terry v. Ohio and Los Angeles v. Lyons―have permitted stops and frisks, limited suits to reform police departments, and even abetted the use of choke holds. Presumed Guilty concludes that an approach to policing that continues to exalt “Dirty Harry” can be transformed only by a robust court system committed to civil rights.

“One of the foremost U.S. Constitutional scholars and Supreme Court analysts, Chemerinsky (dean, Univ. of California, Berkeley, Sch. of Law; The Conservative Assault on the Constitution) cogently demonstrates in this book that the court bears much of the blame for police violence and racism in U.S. law enforcement… An insightful primer for understanding the judicial decisions that support the United States’ prevailing authoritarian, paramilitary, racist approach to policing… A thoughtful, provocative, and instructive must-read for anyone concerned with justice and domestic tranquility.” – Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“The veteran legal affairs expert offers a powerful attack on a judiciary committed to advancing the police state… [Chemerinsky] suggests that because the Supreme Court will not restrain the police, state courts can and should invoke state constitutions in order to do so. Necessary reading for civil libertarians, public defenders, and activists.” – Kirkus Reviews

“…sharp and timely… Lucid explanations of constitutional law and Chemerinsky’s deep knowledge of the Supreme Court’s inner workings make this an essential contribution to the debate over police reform.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Hoopla eAudiobook


Seeing Ghosts: A Memoir by  Kat Chow ★

Nonfiction / Memoir.

seeing ghostsBorn two years after her parents’ only son died just hours after his birth, Kat Chow became unusually fixated with death. She worried constantly about her parents dying — especially her mother. One morning, when Kat was nine, her mother, a vivacious and mischievous woman, casually made a morbid joke: When she eventually dies, she said laughing, she’d like to be stuffed and displayed in Kat’s future apartment in order to always watch over her.

Four years later when her mother dies unexpectedly from cancer, Kat, her two older sisters, and their father are plunged into a debilitating, lonely grief. With a distinct voice that is wry and heartfelt, Kat weaves together what is part ghost story and part excavation of her family’s history of loss spanning three generations and their immigration from China and Hong Kong to America and Cuba. This redemptive coming-of-age story uncovers the uncanny parallels in Kat’s lineage, including the strength of sisterhood and the complicated duty of looking after parents, even after death.

Seeing Ghosts asks what it means to claim and tell your family’s story: Is writing an exorcism or is it its own form of preservation? What do we owe to our families in our grief, and how does it shape us? In order to answer these questions and to understand her family’s ghosts, Kat unearths their sorrow and challenges the power structures of race, class, and gender. The result is an extraordinary new contribution to the literature of grief and the American family, and a provocative and transformative meditation on who we become under the specter of loss.

Seeing Ghosts spins memories and individuals into entire worlds. Its strength lies in how it traverses landscapes, physical and emotional, that plot different moments of Chow’s life and maps them for the reader. Chow spins her memories from herself, and they become something else entirely — haunting and beautiful reminders of the silences we keep stored in ourselves, and the ghosts they form when we begin to see.” – Asia Pacific Arts

“Kat Chow dares to explore the lingering dynamics of her family’s shared grief in her breathtaking debut memoir… It’s a bittersweet meditation on how losing the ones we love indelibly shapes the futures of the living, and how we ultimately find healing in the strength of family.” – Time

“Readers familiar with Chow’s reporting on NPR will not be surprised at her storytelling skills, which shine even more brightly here. This haunting, deeply moving, and beautifully written chronicle of the immense grief that once tore Chow’s family apart and now binds them will resonate with every reader.” – Booklist, STARRED REVIEW

“Journalist Chow writes longingly about her mother, who died from cancer, in this intimate debut about a life shaped by loss… While deep emotion drives her writing, Chow generally avoids oversentimentality and buoys what could otherwise be an overwhelmingly despondent narrative with bursts of joy and irreverence… The result is a moving depiction of grief at its most mundane and spectacular.” – Publishers Weekly

Available Formats:

Print Book


When the Summer Was Ours by  Roxanne Veletzos

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Romance.

when the summer was oursHungary, 1943: As war encroaches on the country’s borders, willful young Eva César arrives in the idyllic town of Sopron to spend her last summer as a single woman on her aristocratic family’s estate. Longing for freedom from her domineering father, she counts the days to her upcoming nuptials to a kind and dedicated Red Cross doctor whom she greatly admires.

But Eva’s life changes when she meets Aleandro, a charming and passionate Romani fiddler and artist. With time and profound class differences against them, Eva and Aleandro still fall deeply in love—only to be separated by a brutal act of hatred.

As each are swept into the tides of war, they try to forget their romance. Yet, the haunting memory of that summer will reshape their destinies and lead to decisions which are felt through generations.

From the horrors of the Second World War to the tensions of the 1956 Hungarian uprising and beyond, When the Summer Was Ours is a sweeping story about the toll of secrets, the blurred lines between sacrifice and obsession, and the endurance of the human spirit.

“With exquisitely realized characters, Veletzos deftly frames this unforgettable romance against the backdrop of history.” – Booklist

“…beautifully captures both the trauma of war and the resilience of love…” – Off the Shelf

Available Formats:

Print Book | Audiobook | eBook | eAudiobook


Where I Left Her by  Amber Garza

Fiction / Suspense / Mystery.

where i left herWhitney had some misgivings when she dropped her increasingly moody teenage daughter, Amelia, off at Lauren’s house. She’d never met the parents, and usually she’d go in, but Amelia clearly wasn’t going to let something so humiliating happen, so instead Whitney waved to her daughter before pulling away from the little house with the roses in front.

But when she goes back the next day, an elderly couple answers the door—Amelia and Lauren aren’t there, and this couple swears they never were, that she’s at the wrong house. As Whitney searches for Amelia, she uncovers a trail of lies her daughter has told her—from the Finsta account to rumors of a secret relationship. Does she really even know this girl she’s raised? And Amelia’s not the only one with secrets. Could Whitney’s own demons have something to do with her daughter’s disappearance, and can Whitney find her before it’s too late?

“[A] stellar psychological thriller… The tension builds as the perfectly orchestrated storylines converge in a truly surprising ending. This is impossible to put down.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Filled with many twists and turns that keep you engaged right up to the shocking twist. A great end of summer novel.” – Red Carpet Crash

“I can’t get enough of Amber’s page-turning, easy-to-devour writing style…” – Crime by the Book

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook | eAudiobook | Hoopla eAudiobook


The Women of Troy by  Pat Barker

Fiction / Historical Fiction / Mythology.

women of troyTroy has fallen. The Greeks have won their bitter war. They can return home victors, loaded with their spoils: their stolen gold, stolen weapons, stolen women. All they need is a good wind to lift their sails.

But the wind does not come. The gods have been offended – the body of Priam lies desecrated, unburied – and so the victors remain in limbo, camped in the shadow of the city they destroyed, pacing at the edge of an unobliging sea. And, in these empty, restless days, the hierarchies that held them together begin to fray, old feuds resurface and new suspicions fester.

Largely unnoticed by her squabbling captors, Briseis remains in the Greek encampment. She forges alliances where she can – with young, dangerously naïve Amina, with defiant, aged Hecuba, with Calchus, the disgraced priest – and begins to see the path to a kind of revenge. Briseis has survived the Trojan War, but peacetime may turn out to be even more dangerous…

“[T]his continuation of the Trojan woman’s story feels like another victory for every person who was silenced by history, their story stolen from them.” – Refinery29

“[A] masterly continuation of her fiercely feminist take on Homer’s Iliad… In a novel filled with names from legend, Briseis stands tall as a heroine: brave, smart and loyal… Barker’s latest is a wonder.” – Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Barker’s blunt, earthy prose strips the romance from Greek mythology, revealing its foundations in murder and oppression, yet she also understands—and conveys—the stark appeal of these ancient stories as she asks us to reconsider them through the eyes of their victims. As with her masterful Regeneration trilogy, the inconclusive close of this volume leaves readers hungry to know what happens next to a host of complex and engaging characters. Vintage Barker: challenging, stimulating, and profoundly satisfying.” – Kirkus Reviews, STARRED REVIEW

Available Formats:

Print Book | eBook



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