New Books (January-February)

NewBooks-20220205

Featuring: Howard Blum, Becky Chambers, Marika Cobbold, David Dalglish, Will Dean, Jennifer Fawcett, Lee Goldberg, Elizabeth Hand, Tom Hindle, Chris Holm, Adam Oyebanji, Robin Peguero, Maggie Shipstead, Peter Spiegelman, Anna Stephens, Adrian Tchaikovsky, Saeed Teebi, Lavie Tidhar, P. J. Tracy, Jing Tsu, Kimberly Unger, Ally Wilkes, Gabrielle Zevin, Ying Zhu

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BlumH-SpyWhoKnewTooMuchUSHCHoward Blum, THE SPY WHO KNEW TOO MUCH (Harper)

A retired spy gets back into the game to solve a perplexing case — and reconcile with his daughter, a CIA officer who married into the very family that derailed his own CIA career — in this compulsive true-life tale of vindication and redemption, filled with drama, intrigue, and mystery…

On a sunlit morning in September 1978, a sloop drifts aimlessly across the Chesapeake Bay. The cabin reveals signs of a struggle, and “classified” documents, live 9 mm cartridges, and a top-secret “burst” satellite communications transmitter are discovered aboard. But where is the boat’s owner, former CIA officer John Paisley?

One man may hold the key to finding out. Tennent “Pete” Bagley was once a rising star in America’s spy aristocracy, and many expected he’d eventually become CIA director. But the star that burned so brightly exploded when Bagley — who suspected a mole had burrowed deep into the agency’s core — was believed himself to be the mole. After a year-long investigation, Bagley was finally exonerated, but the accusations tarnished his reputation and tainted his career. 

When Bagley’s daughter Christina, a CIA analyst, married another intelligence officer who was the son of the man who had played a key role in the investigation into Bagley, it caused a painful rift between the two. But then came Paisley’s strange death. A murder? Suicide? Or something else? Pete, now a retired spy, launches his own investigation that takes him deep into his own past and his own longtime hunt for a mole. What follows is a relentless pursuit to solve a spy story — and an inspiring tale of a man reclaiming his reputation and his family. It’s a very personal quest that leads to a shocking conclusion.

Thought this sounded like it might be interesting. The Spy Who Knew Too Much is due to be published by Harper in North America, on June 7th. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a UK edition.)

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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ChambersB-M&R2-PrayerForTheCrownShyBecky Chambers, A PRAYER FOR THE CROWN-SHY (Tor.com)

After touring the rural areas of Panga, Sibling Dex (a Tea Monk of some renown) and Mosscap (a robot sent on a quest to determine what humanity really needs) turn their attention to the villages and cities of the little moon they call home.

They hope to find the answers they seek, while making new friends, learning new concepts, and experiencing the entropic nature of the universe.

In a world where people have what they want, does having more even matter?

This is the second novella in Chambers’s Monk & Robot series, and sequel to the excellent A Psalm for the Wild-Built. I’ll be reading this very soon. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on July 12th.

Also on CR: Reviews of A Psalm for the Wild-Built and To Be Taught, If Fortunate

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley

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CobboldM-OnHampsteadHeathUSPBMarika Cobbold, ON HAMPSTEAD HEATH (Quercus)

Thorn Marsh was raised in a house of whispers, of meaningful glances and half- finished sentences. Now she’s a journalist with a passion for truth, more devoted to her work at the London Journal than she ever was to her ex-husband.

When the newspaper is bought by media giant The Goring Group, who value sales figures over fact-checking, Thorn openly questions their methods, and promptly finds herself moved from the news desk to the midweek supplement, reporting heart-warming stories for their new segment, The Bright Side, a job to which she is spectacularly unsuited.

On a final warning and with no heart-warming news in sight, a desperate Thorn fabricates a good-news story of her own. The story, centred on an angelic apparition on Hampstead Heath, goes viral. Caught between her principles and her ambitions, Thorn goes in search of the truth behind her creation, only to find the answers locked away in the unconscious mind of a stranger.

Not sure why this caught my attention. A friend of mine wrote her PhD (in part) on Hampstead Heath, so the place has always popped in my attention when I see it. It’s weird. Anyway, the premise also sounded interesting, so I thought I’d give it a try. On Hampstead Heath is out in paperback in June, published by Quercus Books in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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BladedFaith_TP-LP1.inddDavid Dalglish, THE BLADED FAITH (Orbit)

A usurped prince prepares to take up the mantel of a deadly assassin and reclaim his kingdom, his people, and his slain gods…

Cyrus was only twelve years old when his gods were slain, his country invaded, and his parents — the king and queen — beheaded in front of him. Held prisoner in the invader’s court for years, Cyrus is suddenly given a chance to escape and claim his revenge when a mysterious group of revolutionaries comes looking for a figurehead. They need a hero to strike fear into the hearts of the imperial and to inspire and unite the people. They need someone to take up the skull mask and swords and to become the legendary “Vagrant” — an unparalleled hero and assassin of otherworldly skill.

But all is not as it seems. Creating the illusion of a hero is the work of many, and Cyrus will soon discover the true price of his vengeance. 

I’ve tried quite a few of Dalglish’s novels. None of them have really landed for me. I continue to keep trying them, in the hope of finding one that I like. Maybe this will be the one? The Bladed Faith is due to be published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received from publisher

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DeanW-FirstBornUSHCWill Dean, FIRST BORN (Atria/Emily Bestler)

A psychological thriller about the dark secrets that emerge when a woman’s twin sister is murdered…

Sisters. Soulmates. Strangers.

Molly Raven lives a quiet, structured life in London, finding comfort in security and routine. Her identical twin Katie, living in New York, is the exact opposite: outgoing, spontaneous, and adventurous.

But when Molly hears that Katie has died, possibly murdered, she is thrown into unfamiliar territory. As terrifying as it is, she knows she must travel across the ocean and find out what happened. But as she tracks her twin’s final movements, cracks begin to emerge, and she slowly realizes her sister was not who she thought she was and there’s a dangerous web of deceit surrounding the two of them.

I saw the beginnings of some buzz for this just before I was invited to check it out by the publisher. I haven’t read anything else by Dean, but it sounds interesting and I’m looking forward to giving it a try. First Born is due to be published by Atria/Emily Bestler in North America (July 5th) and Hodder & Stoughton in the UK (April 14th).

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss (publisher invite)

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FawcettJ-BeneathTheStairsUSHCJennifer Fawcett, BENEATH THE STAIRS (Atria)

A woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house — the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.

Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.

Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.

An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.

Could be interesting. Beneath the Stairs is due to be published by Atria Books in North America and in the UK, on February 22nd.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss (publisher invite)

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GoldbergL-ER4-MovielandLee Goldberg, MOVIELAND (Thomas & Mercer)

Malibu Creek State Park is a beautiful locale for campers, tourists, hikers, and Hollywood. For Detective Eve Ronin, it’s a backdrop for murder…

For decades Malibu Creek State Park was the spectacular natural setting where Hollywood fantasies were made. But when a female camper is gunned down, it becomes a real-life killing ground. Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department homicide detectives Eve Ronin and Duncan Pavone are assigned the case… which Duncan fears is the latest in a series of sniper attacks that began long before Eve came to Lost Hills.

Seven victims over fourteen months…and top officials still refuse to see a connection. Eve and Duncan are stonewalled, threatened, and ordered to keep quiet. But Eve won’t back down. She’s no stranger to intimidation or corruption ― she’s had a target on her back from day one at Lost Hills station.

Despite finding no evidentiary links between the shootings, Eve and Duncan follow their instincts into the shadows of Malibu Creek, where it’s not enough to expose the secrets and break the conspiracy of silence. They also have to make it out alive.

This is the fourth novel in Goldberg’s Eve Ronin series. I’ve only read the first so far, which I really enjoyed, and hope to get caught up very soon. Movieland is due to be published by Thomas & Mercer in North America and in the UK, on June 21st.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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HandE-HokuloaRoadUSHCElizabeth Hand, HOKULOA ROAD (Mulholland)

A haunting and atmospheric new mystery about a young man drawn into a Hawaiʻian island’s darkest secrets…

On a whim, Grady Kendall applies to work as a live-in caretaker for a luxury property in Hawaiʻi, as far from his small-town Maine life as he can imagine. Within days he’s flying out to an estate on remote Hokuloa Road, where he quickly uncovers a dark side to the island’s idyllic reputation: it has long been a place where people seem to vanish without a trace.

When a young woman from his flight becomes the next to disappear, Grady is determined — and soon desperate — to figure out what’s happened to Jessie, and to all those staring out of the island’s “missing” posters. But working with Raina, Jessie’s best friend, to uncover the truth is anything but easy, and with a sinister presence stalking his every step, Grady can only hope he’ll find the answer before it’s too late… and that it might hold the key to what’s been terrorizing the island all along.

This has been pitched as perfect for fans of The Golden Lotus (which is an excellent TV series), so thought this might be interesting. Hokuloa Road is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America and in the UK, on July 19th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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HindleT-AFatalCrossingUKHCTom Hindle, A FATAL CROSSING (Century)

November 1924. The Endeavour sets sail to New York with 2,000 passengers — and a killer — on board…

When an elderly gentleman is found dead at the foot of a staircase, ship’s officer Timothy Birch is ready to declare it a tragic accident. But James Temple, a strong-minded Scotland Yard inspector, is certain there is more to this misfortune than meets the eye.

Birch agrees to investigate, and the trail quickly leads to the theft of a priceless painting. Its very existence is known only to its owner… and the dead man.

With just days remaining until they reach New York, and even Temple’s purpose on board the Endeavour proving increasingly suspicious, Birch’s search for the culprit is fraught with danger.

And all the while, the passengers continue to roam the ship with a killer in their midst…

The premise caught my attention, so looking forward to reading this soon. A Fatal Crossing is out now, published by Century in the UK.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

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HolmC-ChildZeroUSHCChris Holm, CHILD ZERO (Mulholland)

It began four years ago with a worldwide uptick of bacterial infections: meningitis in Frankfurt, cholera in Johannesburg, tuberculosis in New Delhi. Although the outbreaks spread aggressively and proved impervious to our drugs of last resort, public health officials initially dismissed them as unrelated.

They were wrong. Antibiotic resistance soon roiled across the globe. Diseases long thought beaten came surging back. The death toll skyrocketed. Then New York City was ravaged by the most heinous act of bioterror the world had ever seen, perpetrated by a new brand of extremist bent on pushing humanity to extinction.

Detective Jacob Gibson, who lost his wife in the 8/17 attack, is home caring for his sick daughter when his partner summons him to a sprawling shantytown in Central Park, the apparent site of a mass murder. Jake is startled to discover that, despite a life of abject squalor, the victims died in perfect health — and his only hope of finding answers is a twelve-year-old boy on the run from some very dangerous men.

I’ve been a fan of Holm’s novels for some time, now, so it’s always good to know a new one is on the way! Looking forward to reading this soon. Child Zero is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America, on May 10th.

Also on CR: Interview with Chris Holm (2012); Excerpt from The Wrong Goodbye; Reviews of The Approach and The Killing Kind

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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OyebanjiA-BrakingDayUSHCAdam Oyebanji, BRAKING DAY (DAW)

On a generation ship bound for a distant star, one engineer-in-training must discover the secrets at the heart of the voyage in this new sci-fi novel.

It’s been over a century since three generation ships escaped an Earth dominated by artificial intelligence in pursuit of a life on a distant planet orbiting Tau Ceti. Now, it’s nearly Braking Day, when the ships will begin their long-awaited descent to their new home.

Born on the lower decks of the Archimedes, Ravi Macleod is an engineer-in-training, set to be the first of his family to become an officer in the stratified hierarchy aboard the ship. While on a routine inspection, Ravi sees the impossible: a young woman floating, helmetless, out in space. And he’s the only one who can see her.

As his visions of the girl grow more frequent, Ravi is faced with a choice: secure his family’s place among the elite members of Archimedes’ crew or risk it all by pursuing the mystery of the floating girl.  With the help of his cousin, Boz, and her illegally constructed AI, Ravi must investigate the source of these strange visions and uncovers the truth of the Archimedes’ departure from Earth before Braking Day arrives and changes everything about life as they know it.

Thought this sounded really interesting. (I’ve also seen a few good responses to early copies sent out to others.) Braking Day is due to be published by DAW Books in North America and Jo Fletcher Books in the UK, on April 5th.

Follow the Author: Goodreads
Review copy received via NetGalley

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PegueroR-WithPrejudiceUSHCRobin Peguero, WITH PREJUDICE (Grand Central)

A debut high‑stakes legal thriller about a murder in Miami with no body, no weapon, no eyewitnesses — and the prejudice that hangs over every trial in America.

Gabriel Soto is a social recluse accused of murdering the free-spirited Melina Mora. At the center of the media spotlight is Sandy Grunwald, an ambitious young prosecutor whose political fortunes depend on her using the limited evidence to secure a conviction. But the criminal justice system is complicated, and everyone has a story — especially the jury.

With striking originality and expert storytelling, the ensemble cast comes alive on the page, and as their stories are revealed, their own experiences, biases, and beliefs — not the facts of the case — are what ultimately shape the verdict. You’ve never read a legal thriller quite like this. There’s never been a thriller writer quite like Robin Peguero. And you will not be able to predict how it all ends.

This is pitched as “For fans of John Grisham and Richard Price”, so it caught my attention. That’s an intriguing synopsis, too, so I’m looking forward to trying it. With Prejudice is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing in North America and in the UK, on May 17th.

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUSHCMaggie Shipstead, YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A (Knopf)

A piercing, irresistable first collection of short stories exquisite in their craft and audacious in their range

A love triangle plays out over decades on a Montana dude ranch. A hurdler and a gymnast spend a single night together in the Olympic village. Mistakes and mysteries weave an intangible web around an old man’s deathbed in Paris, connecting disparate destinies. On the slopes of an unfinished ski resort, a young woman searches for her vanished lover. A couple’s Romanian honeymoon goes ominously awry, and, in the mesmerizing title story, a former child actress breaks with her life in a Hollywood cult.

Rich in imagination and dazzling in its shapeshifting style, You Have a Friend in 10A excavates the complexities of love, sex, and life in ways unsparing and hilarious, sharp-eyed and tender.

Last year’s Great Circle was the first of Shipstead’s novels that I’ve read, and I loved it. So, when I learned the author had a short story collection on the way, I knew I had to read it as soon as I could — which I did, and I very much enjoyed it. You Have a Friend in 10A is due to be published by Knopf in North America (May 17th) and Doubleday in the UK (May 19th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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SpiegelmanP-ASecretAboutASecretUSHCPeter Spiegelman, A SECRET ABOUT A SECRET (Knopf)

A hypnotic mystery about a murder at a secluded research facility and the secrets that it exposes.

In a world not quite our own, a stranger arrives at a brooding manor on a remote coast.

Myles is an agent of Standard Division, the most feared element of a vast security apparatus, and he has come to Ondstrand House, the headquarters of biotech firm Ondstrand Biologic, to investigate a murder. Ondstrand Biologic is engaged in advanced genetic engineering, and Allegra Stans, one of the firm’s most gifted scientists, has been found dead on the premises — her neck broken. As his investigation proceeds, Myles quickly discovers that gifted scientist is only one thread in the complicated fabric of Allegra’s life; there are darker strands as well — of ambition, manipulation, and bitter grievance — all woven in a web of secrets and motives for murder.

And Allegra’s aren’t the only mysteries Myles finds himself unraveling. Her colleagues, lovers and former lovers — the very halls of Ondstrand House itself — have much to hide, and Myles eventually learns that even his own masters in Standard Division haven’t told him everything they know.

When another murder is discovered, Myles finds himself an increasingly unwelcome presence in an ever more hostile landscape. 

I very much enjoyed Spiegelman’s excellent previous novel, 2016’s Dr. Knox. Ever since, I’ve been keeping my eyes open for his next book (as well as collecting his backlist, of course), and I’m very glad we’re finally getting another book this year. Looking forward to reading this as soon as possible. A Secret About a Secret is due to be published by Knopf in North America, on June 7th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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StephensA-WHH-GothgulHollowAnna Stephens, GOTHGUL HOLLOW (Black Library)

Scholar. Sorceress. Killer. Priest. Four people divided by their secrets and lies, bound together by horror, must unite their strengths to unpick a diabolical mystery to which they have but one incomprehensible clue – a single word: Mhurghast.

The Hollow. A lonely Shyishan town, obscured amongst wild moorland, inhabited by folk of vigilant routine. What remains of the once illustrious Gothghul family endures season upon season of monastic isolation in their castle on the hill. Aaric Gothghul, made callous by loss, shuts himself in his study and broods over arcane texts, while his strange and formidable daughter wanders the forests alone.

But when the town is threatened by a spate of sinister manifestations, the quiet formality of their days end. Worse still, the upheaval disturbs a terrible family secret – a chilling memory that Aaric has kept buried for twenty-five years. Now, father and daughter must set aside their differences and search for answers to an ancient curse that is somehow linked to their past. Aided by a straight-talking sharpshooter and a shrewd man of faith, they seek to fathom the forces that assail the Hollow.

The start of a new series or direction for the Warhammer Horror series — apparently, “Mhurghast” is going to feature prominently in a series of novels. Looking forward to giving this a try. Gothgul Hollow is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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Tchaikovsky-WH40k-DayOfAscensionAdrian Tchaikovsky, DAYS OF ASCENSION (Black Library)

On the forge world of Morod, the machines never stop and the work never ends. The population toil in the mines and factoria to protect humanity from the monsters in the void, while the Adeptus Mechanicus enjoy lives of palatial comfort.

Genetor Gammat Triskellian seeks to end this stagnant corruption. When he learns of a twisted congregation operating within the shadows, one which believes that the tech-priests are keeping the people from their true salvation – a long-prophesied union with angels – he sees in them an opportunity to bring down Morad’s masters and reclaim the world in the name of progress.

But sometimes, the only hope for real change lies in the coming of monsters.

This is Tchaikovsky’s first full-length novel for Black Library, and I’ve been eagerly awaiting it ever since it was announced. (I don’t think I need to go into how much I enjoy Tchaikovsky’s books.) Day of Ascension is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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TeebiS-HerFirstPalestinianUSSaeed Teebi, HER FIRST PALESTINIAN (Astoria)

Elegant, surprising stories about Palestinian immigrants in Canada navigating their identities in circumstances that push them to the emotional brink.

Saeed Teebi’s intense, engrossing stories plunge into the lives of characters grappling with their experiences as Palestinian immigrants to Canada. A doctor teaches his girlfriend about his country, only for her to fall into a consuming obsession with the Middle East conflict. A math professor risks his family’s destruction by slandering the king of a despotic, oil-rich country. A university student invents an imaginary girlfriend to fit in with his callous, womanizing roommates. A lawyer takes on the impossible mission of becoming a body smuggler. A lonely widower travels to Russia in search of a movie starlet he met in his youth in historical Jaffa. A refugee who escaped violent circumstances rebels against the kindness of his sponsor.

These taut and compelling stories engage the immigrant experience and reflect the Palestinian diaspora with grace and insight.

I was invited to check this book out on Edelweiss, and I think it does sound rather interesting. Hopefully get to it soon. Her First Palestinian is due to be published by Astoria in North America and in the UK, on August 2nd.

Follow the Author: Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss (publisher invite)

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Tidhar-MarorUKHCLavie Tidhar, MAROR (Head of Zeus)

A multi-generational saga with cultural and political depth, drawing on the rich, often troubling recent history of Israel…

How do you build a nation?

It takes statesmen and soldiers, farmers and factory workers, of course. But it also takes thieves, prostitutes and policemen.

Nation-building demands sacrifice. And one man knows exactly where those bodies are buried: Cohen, a man who loves his country. A reasonable man for unreasonable times.

A car bomb in the back streets of Tel Aviv. A diamond robbery in Haifa. Civil war in Lebanon. Rebel fighters in the Colombian jungle. An assassination in Cancún.

How do they all connect? Only Cohen knows.

Maror is the story of a war for the soul of Israel – a dazzling spread of narrative gunshots across four decades and three continents.

It is a true story. All of these things happened.

Pitched as “for fans of A History of Seven Killings or The White Tiger“, it’s a bit of a departure from Tidhar’s past work. Really looking forward to reading it, and hopefully very soon. Maror is due to be published by Head of Zeus in the UK, on August 4th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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TracyPJ-MN2-DesolationCanyonUSHCP. J. Tracy, DESOLATION CANYON (Minotaur)

LAPD Detective Margaret Nolan is struggling to move forward after the death of her brother in Afghanistan and taking a life in the line of duty. Her stoic parents offer little support – they refuse to address anything difficult, and she’s afraid their relationship is eroding beyond the point of recovery.

The days off are the hardest, because they give Margaret time to think. A moment of weakness leads to cocktails with a colleague — an attraction she knows could be dangerous — at the luxurious Hotel Bel-Air bar. A stroll through the grounds leads to a grim discovery beneath the surface of Swan Lake: the body of a successful attorney who made his fortune in international trade.

It initially appears to be death by misadventure, but the case is anything but straightforward. As a series of shocking revelations emerge, Nolan finds herself confronting a sinister cabal that just might destroy her and everyone she loves.

This is the second novel in Tracy’s Detective Margaret Nolan series. I’ve heard great things about Tracy’s work in general, but in particular this series (which began with Deep Into the Dark). I’ve picked up both novels, and hope to read them soon. Desolation Canyon is out now, published by Minotaur Books in North America and in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

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TsuJ-KingdomOfCharactersUSHCJing Tsu, KINGDOM OF CHARACTERS (Penguin)

What does it take to reinvent a language?

After a meteoric rise, China today is one of the world’s most powerful nations. Just a century ago, it was a crumbling empire with literacy reserved for the elite few, as the world underwent a massive technological transformation that threatened to leave them behind. In Kingdom of Characters, Jing Tsu argues that China’s most daunting challenge was a linguistic one: the century-long fight to make the formidable Chinese language accessible to the modern world of global trade and digital technology.

Kingdom of Characters follows the bold innovators who reinvented the Chinese language, among them an exiled reformer who risked a death sentence to advocate for Mandarin as a national language, a Chinese-Muslim poet who laid the groundwork for Chairman Mao’s phonetic writing system, and a computer engineer who devised input codes for Chinese characters on the lid of a teacup from the floor of a jail cell. Without their advances, China might never have become the dominating force we know today.

With larger-than-life characters and an unexpected perspective on the major events of China’s tumultuous twentieth century, Tsu reveals how language is both a technology to be perfected and a subtle, yet potent, power to be exercised and expanded.

Last year, I read David Moser’s A Billion Voices, a short book about China’s search for a common language (it’s part of Penguin’s superb China Specials range). It got me interested in the history of the Chinese language, so when I saw Jing Tsu’s book was on the way, I knew I’d have to check it out. Kingdom of Characters is out now, published by Riverhead Books in North America and Allen Lane in the UK.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter

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UngerK-ExtractionistKimberly Unger, THE EXTRACTIONIST (Tachyon)

Eliza McKay is a disgraced underground hacker who is just trying to take back her career one dangerous job at a time. But when her latest contract throws her into the middle of a corporate power struggle, she finds herself fighting for her life in both the real and digital worlds.

Eliza McKay is an Extractionist: an expert in the virtual reality space where people’s minds are uploaded as digital personas. When rich or important people get stuck in the Swim for reasons that are sleazy, illegal, or merely unlucky — it’s McKay’s job to quietly extract them. And McKay’s job just got a lot more dangerous.

After McKay repels an attack on her Swim persona, hired thugs break into her house to try and hack her cybernetic implants directly. Meanwhile, the corporate executive she was hired to rescue from VR space is surprisingly reluctant to be extracted. Something is lurking in the Swim, and some very powerful people will stop at nothing to keep it secret.

The premise for this novel sounds really intriguing. Looking forward to giving it a try soon. The Extractionist is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, on July 12th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via NetGalley

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WilkesA-AllTheWhiteSpacesUSHCAlly Wilkes, ALL THE WHITE SPACES (Atria/Emily Bestler)

Something deadly and mysterious stalks the members of an isolated polar expedition…

In the wake of the First World War, Jonathan Morgan stows away on an Antarctic expedition, determined to find his rightful place in the world of men. Aboard the expeditionary ship of his hero, the world-famous explorer James “Australis” Randall, Jonathan may live as his true self — and true gender — and have the adventures he has always been denied. But not all is smooth sailing: the war casts its long shadow over them all, and grief, guilt, and mistrust skulk among the explorers.

When disaster strikes in Antarctica’s frozen Weddell Sea, the men must take to the land and overwinter somewhere which immediately seems both eerie and wrong; a place not marked on any of their part-drawn maps of the vast white continent. Now completely isolated, Randall’s expedition has no ability to contact the outside world. And no one is coming to rescue them.

In the freezing darkness of the Polar night, where the aurora creeps across the sky, something terrible has been waiting to lure them out into its deadly landscape…

As the harsh Antarctic winter descends, this supernatural force will prey on their deepest desires and deepest fears to pick them off one by one. It is up to Jonathan to overcome his own ghosts before he and the expedition are utterly destroyed.

There’s something so appealing about suspense/horror novels set at the poles of the Earth. Wilkes’s new novel is pitched as “perfect for fans of Dan Simmons’s The Terror and Alma Katsu’s The Hunger“, which puts it firmly in my area of interest. Looking forward to reading this soon. All the White Spaces is due to be published by Atria/Emily Bestler in North America, on March 29th; it is out now in the UK, published by Titan Books.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss (publisher invite)

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ZevinG-TomorrowAndTomorrowAndTomorrowUSHCGabrielle Zevin, TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW  (Knopf)

Let the games begin! A glorious and immersive novel about two childhood friends, once estranged, who reunite as adults to create video games, finding an intimacy in digital worlds that eludes them in their real lives.

On a bitter-cold day, in the December of his junior year at Harvard, Sam Masur exits a subway car and sees, amid the hordes of people waiting on the platform, Sadie Green. He calls her name. For a moment, she pretends she hasn’t heard him, but then, she turns, and a game begins: a legendary collaboration that will launch them to stardom. They borrow money, beg favors, and, before even graduating college, they have created their first blockbuster, Ichigo: a game where players can escape the confines of a body and the betrayals of a heart, and where death means nothing more than a chance to restart and play again. This is the story of the perfect worlds Sam and Sadie build, the imperfect world they live in, and of everything that comes after success: Money. Fame. Duplicity. Tragedy.

Spanning thirty years, from Cambridge, Massachusetts, to Venice Beach, California, and lands in between and far beyond, Gabrielle Zevin’s Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is a dazzling and intricately imagined novel that examines the multifarious nature of identity, games as artform, technology and the human experience, disability, failure, the redemptive possibilities in play, and above all, our need to connect: to be loved and to love. Yes, it is a love story, but it is not one you have read before.

This has been generating a lot of pre-publication buzz. The premise caught my attention (as did that stunning cover), and I hope to read this very soon. Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow is due to be published by Knopf in North America (July 12th) and Chatto & Windus in the UK (July 14th).

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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ZhuY-HollywoodInChinaUSHCYing Zhu, HOLLYWOOD IN CHINA (New Press)

The inside story of the U.S.-Chinese superpower conflict playing out behind the scenes of today’s movie industry, from the leading media scholar

“The Chinese market is so big that it changes the calculus for which films make money and hence, going forward, which films get made in the first place. Would Hollywood speak Chinese, literarily and figuratively?”

In the last decade, China has become the world’s largest movie market. Formerly objects of exotic fascination in the golden age of Hollywood, today the Chinese are a make-or-break audience for Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters. And movies are now an essential part of China’s global “soft power” strategy: a Chinese real estate tycoon (who until recently was the major shareholder of the AMC theater chain) is building the world’s largest film production facility. Behind the curtains, as this brilliant new book reveals, movies have become one of the biggest areas of competition between the world’s two remaining superpowers.

Will Hollywood be eclipsed by a Chinese Huallywood? No author is better positioned to untangle this question than Ying Zhu, a leading expert on Chinese film and media. Hollywood in China unravels the fascinating, century-long relationship between Hollywood and China for the first time.

Blending cultural history, business, and international relations, Hollywood in China offers an inside look at the intense business and political maneuvering that is shaping the movies and the U.S.-China relationships itself — revealing a headlines-grabbing conflict that is playing out not only on the high seas, but on the silver screen.

A new title in the growing body of work that examines the various connections between the US and China in the realm of movie-making. Looking forward to reading this. Hollywood in China is due to be published by The New Press in North America and in the UK, on June 14th.

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads
Review copy received via Edelweiss

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