Featuring: Dan Abnett, Ava Barry, Lily Brooks-Dalton, James Chapman, Joël Dicker, Nick Duerden, Adam Hamdy, Alex Jennings, Lesley-Ann Jones, Benjamin Markovits, Mary McMyne, Craig McNamara, Tripp Mickle, J. M. Miro, Steven Novella, Leslye Penelope, Sarah Priscus, Matthew Quirk, Alastair Reynolds, Anthony Ryan, Victoria Shepherd, Jane Smiley, Tasha Suri, Lavie Tidhar, Steve Toltz, Harry Turtledove, Sudhir Venkatesh, Louise Willder
Dan Abnett, THE VINCULA INSURGENCY (Black Library)
In a brief respite between wars, Gaunt’s Ghosts find themselves facing a hidden killer on a newly liberated world.
In the ruined border town of Vincula, the newly formed Tanith First and Only and their commander, Colonel-Commissar Ibram Gaunt, are assigned to enforce a permanent peace. However, this thankless police action will prove as dangerous as any frontline – something is stalking the Ghosts through the streets, and soon the Tanith First will learn dark secrets about themselves that will echo through their history.
The latest novel in the Gaunt’s Ghosts series takes the story back quite a bit — to the early years of the regiment’s existence. I’ve been a fan of the Ghosts since they first appeared in Inferno! magazine, and have read all of the novels and stories that have been published to date. Of course I was going to want to read this one. The Vincula Insurgency is out now, published by Black Library in North America and in the UK.
Ava Barry, DOUBLE EXPOSURE (Pegasus)
A young P.I. must unravel the secrets behind a murders of a Los Angeles heiress’s parents.
Four years ago, a beautiful young heiress survived an attack that claimed the lives of both of her parents. The crime made headlines all over Los Angeles, both for the vicious nature of the killings and the seemingly random nature of the attack: nothing was stolen, and the van Aust family had no obvious enemies. Melia van Aust fled the city soon after the murders — which were never solved — but her brother Jasper has not been seen since.
After a childhood spent in the shadow of her famous parents, Rainey Hall understands the dynamics of a dysfunctional family. She still hasn’t recovered from a tragedy that tore her own family apart six years before. It’s part of the reason why she started her own private investigation agency — to aid victims of crimes that might otherwise go unsolved.
When Melia returns to Los Angeles and moves back into her family home, someone begins sending her increasingly violent messages that allude to the killing of her parents. She hires Rainey to track down the culprit and find her missing brother. Touched by the similarities between their lives, Rainey feels compelled to protect Melia, even when it becomes clear that their relationship has become more than professional.
Soon, Rainey finds herself falling down the rabbit hole of Melia’s life. Her quest to find Melia’s stalker will bring her in contact with disgraced royals, seedy neighbors, violent ex-boyfriends and former staff, each one with their own set of secrets. As the threats against Melia escalate and the two women are drawn together, it’s only a matter of time before another victim turns up.
I really enjoyed Barry’s debut novel, Windhall, and when I spotted that the author had a new book on the way, I knew I wanted to read it. Sounds great, too, so hopefully I’ll get to it quite soon. Double Exposure is due to be published by Pegasus Crime in North America and in the UK, on October 4th.
Also on CR: Review of Windhall
Lily Brooks-Dalton, THE LIGHT PIRATE (Grand Central)
A hopeful, sweeping story of survival and resilience spanning one extraordinary woman’s lifetime as she navigates the uncertainty, brutality, and arresting beauty of a rapidly changing world.
Florida is slipping away. As devastating weather patterns and rising sea levels wreak gradual havoc on the state’s infrastructure, a powerful hurricane approaches a small town on the southeastern coast. Kirby Lowe, an electrical line worker, his pregnant wife, Frida, and their two sons, Flip and Lucas, prepare for the worst. When the boys go missing just before the hurricane hits, Kirby heads out into the high winds in search of his children. Left alone, Frida goes into premature labor and gives birth to an unusual child, Wanda, whom she names after the catastrophic storm that ushers her into a society closer to collapse than ever before.
As Florida continues to unravel, Wanda grows. Moving from childhood to adulthood, adapting not only to the changing landscape, but also to the people who stayed behind in a place abandoned by civilization, Wanda loses family, gains community, and ultimately, seeks adventure, love, and purpose in a place remade by nature.
Told in four parts — power, water, light, and time — The Light Pirate mirrors the rhythms of the elements and the sometimes quick, sometimes slow dissolution of the world as we know it. It is a meditation on the changes we would rather not see, the future we would rather not greet, and a call back to the beauty and violence of an untamable wilderness.
The new novel from the author of Good Morning, Midnight, which I rather enjoyed (and which was adapted into a pretty good movie by George Clooney). The Light Pirate is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing in North America, on December 6th. (I couldn’t find any information about a UK publisher at the time of writing, but I assume there will be one.)
Also on CR: Review of Good Morning, Midnight
James Chapman, DR. NO (WallFlower Press)
When Dr. No premiered at the London Pavilion on October 5, 1962, no one predicted that it would launch the longest-running series in cinema history. It introduced the James Bond formula that has been a box-office fixture ever since: sensational plots, colorful locations, beautiful women, diabolical villains, thrilling action set pieces, and a tongue-in-cheek tone. An explosive cocktail of action, spectacle, and sex, Dr. No transformed popular cinema.
James Chapman provides a lively and comprehensive study of Dr. No, marshaling a wealth of archival research to place the film in its historical moment. He demonstrates that, contrary to many fan myths, the film was the product of a carefully considered transnational production process. Chapman explores the British super-spy’s origins in Ian Fleming’s snobbery-with-violence thrillers, examining the process of adaptation from page to screen. He considers Dr. No in the contexts of the UK and Hollywood film industries as well as the film’s place in relation to the changing social and cultural landscape of the 1960s, particularly Cold War anxieties and the decline of the British Empire. The book also analyzes the film’s problematic politics of gender and race and considers its cultural legacy.
This thorough and insightful account of Dr. No will appeal to film historians and Bond fans alike.
When I was younger, I saw Dr. No countless times. Whether it was shown at school, or it was on the TV, I can’t remember how many times I’ve seen it. The same goes for many of the other James Bond movies. I’ve never read anything about the movies, though. So, when I saw this was available for review, I thought I’d give it a try. Looking forward to reading it soon. Dr. No is due to be published by WallFlower Press in North America and in the UK, on November 8th
Review copy received via NetGalley
Joël Dicker, THE ENIGMA OF ROOM 622 (Harper Via)
A burnt-out thriller writer desperate to regain his creative spark becomes intrigued by a decade-old unsolved murder at a glamorous Alpine hotel in this meticulously crafted novel…
One December night, a corpse is found in Room 622 of the Hotel Verbier, a luxury resort in the Swiss Alps. An intense police investigation begins, yet few leads are found. Time passes, and without any breaks in the case, public interest wanes.
Years later, Joël Dicker, Switzerland’s novelist extraordinaire, arrives at the Verbier to recover from a bad breakup, mourn the death of his longtime publisher, and hopefully begin a new novel. While trying to solve the puzzle of his next book, Joël’s expertise in the art of the thriller put to the test when he decides to play Sherlock Holmes and look into the hotel’s long-unsolved murder case. He finds his Watson in Scarlett, a beautiful aspiring novelist staying in the next room, who joins Dicker in the investigation.
Meanwhile, in the wake of his father’s passing, Macaire Ebezner is poised to take over as president of the largest private bank in Switzerland. The succession captivates the news media, and the future looks bright — until it doesn’t. The bank’s board, including Lev Levovitch — Geneva’s very own Jay Gatsby — has other plans, and Macaire’s triumphant rise to the top soon becomes a race against time.
The Enigma of Room 622 is a diabolically addictive thriller in which a love triangle, a power struggle, shocking betrayals, and deadly envy play out against the backdrop of a not so placid Switzerland, as the truth twists and turns into something most… unexpected.
The latest novel from the author of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair (which I very much enjoyed). Translated from the French by Robert Bononno. Looking forward to reading this soon. The Enigma of Room 622 is due to be published by Harper Via in North America (September 13th) and MacLehose Press in the UK (September 15th).
Also on CR: Review of The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair
Nick Duerden, EXIT STAGE LEFT (Headline)
The desire for adulation is a light that never goes out. We live in a culture obsessed by the notion of fame – the heedless pursuit of it; the almost obligatory subsequent fallout. But what’s it like to actually achieve it, and what happens when fame abruptly passes, and shifts, as it does, onto someone else?
This is the point at which pop stars are at their most heroic, because they don’t give up. They keep on striving, keep making music, and refuse simply to ebb away. Some sustain themselves on the nostalgia circuit, others continue to beaver away in the studio, no longer Abbey Road, perhaps, so much as the garden shed. But all of them, in their own individual ways, still dare to dream.
Exit Stage Left features tales of drug addiction, bankruptcy, depression and divorce, but also of optimism, a genuine love of the craft, humility and hope. This is a candid, laugh-out-loud and occasionally shocking look at what happens when the brightest stars fall back down to earth.
Featuring brand new interviews with the likes of: Bob Geldof, Shaun Ryder, Robbie Williams, Roisin Murphy, Stewart Copeland, Billy Bragg, Wendy James, Alex Kapranos, Joan Armatrading, Leo Sayer, Gary Lightbody, Lisa Maffia, Tim Booth, Bill Drummond, Rufus Wainwright, David Gray, and Justin Hawkins.
I picked this up on my recently-ended trip to the UK. Alyssa spotted an article or review about it, and thought I’d enjoy it (I love behind-the-scenes stuff for the entertainment industry, so I think she’s absolutely right that I should like this). Really looking forward to reading it. Exit Stage Left is out now, published by Headline in the UK.
Adam Hamdy, THE OTHER SIDE OF NIGHT (Atria Books)
The Other Side of Night begins with a man named David Asha writing about his biggest regret: his sudden separation from his son, Elliot. In his grief, David tells a story.
Next, we step into the life of Harriet Kealty, a police officer trying to clear her name after a lapse of judgment. She discovers a curious inscription in a secondhand book — a plea: Help me, he’s trying to kill me. Who wrote this note? Who is “he”?
This note leads Harri to David Asha, who was last seen stepping off a cliff. Police suspect he couldn’t cope after his wife’s sudden death. Still, why would this man jump and leave behind his young son? Quickly, Harri’s attention zeroes in on a person she knows all too well.
Ben Elmys: once the love of her life. A surrogate father to Elliot Asha and trusted friend to the Ashas.
Ben may also be a murderer.
The Other Side of Night is a thought-provoking, moving “head-spinner of a novel” (John Connolly) with intriguing narratives and plot swerves that will leave you reeling. By the end, you’ll be shaken as each piece slots satisfyingly into place.
I’m intrigued by the limited information about the novel, so I’m looking forward to reading it soon. The Other Side of Night is due to be published by Atria Books in North America (September 27th) and Macmillan in the UK (September 15th).
Lesley-Ann Jones, THE STONE AGE (Pegasus)
An acclaimed rock and roll journalist evokes the legacy of The Rolling Stones — iconic, granitic, commercially unstoppable as a collective; and fascinating, contradictory, and occasionally disturbing as individuals.
As Lesley-Ann Jones writes, the Rolling Stones are “still roaming the globe like rusty tanks without a war to go to. Jumping, jacking, flashing, posturing, these septuagenarian caricatures with faces that might have been microwaved but coming on like eternal thirty-year-olds.”
On 12th July 1962, the Rollin’ Stones performed their first-ever gig at London’s Marquee jazz club. Down the line, a ‘g’ was added, a spark was lit and their destiny was sealed. No going back.
These five white British kids set out to play the music of black America. They honed a style that bled bluesy undertones into dark insinuations of women, sex, and drugs. Denounced as ‘corruptors of youth’ and ‘messengers of the devil,’ they created some of the most thrilling music ever recorded.
Now their sound and attitude seem louder and more influential than ever. Elvis is dead and the Beatles are over, but Jagger and Richards bestride the world. The Stones may be gathering moss, but on they roll.
Yet how did the ultimate anti-establishment misfits become the global brand we know today? Who were the casualties, and what are the forgotten legacies? Can the artist ever be truly divisible from the art?
Lesley-Ann Jones’s new history tracks this contradictory, disturbing, granitic and unstoppable band through hope, glory and exile, into the juggernaut years and beyond into rock’s ongoing reckoning… where the Stones seem more at odds than ever with the values and heritage against which they have always rebelled. Good, bad, and often ugly, here are the Rolling Stones as never seen before.
The Rolling Stones were the first band I ever saw live (in Basil, Switzerland). Changed my life. Really looking forward to reading this book. The Stone Age is due to be published by Pegasus Books in North America (August 2nd), and is published in the UK by John Blake (out now).
Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter
Review copy received via Edelweiss
Benjamin Markovits, THE SIDEKICK (Faber & Faber)
At his high school basketball try-outs, nerdy sports-obsessed Brian Blum meets new kid Marcus Hayes. What neither of them knows when they line up at the end of practice to shoot free throws is that Marcus will soon be living with the Blums, following his parents’ messy break-up, and that he will go on to become an NBA star, the next Michael Jordan.
As sportswriter Brian spends the following twenty years tracking his friends’ career, he remains Marcus’ only link to his pre-fame life. And, as Marcus mounts his comeback after a couple of years out of the game, both men must face the tensions and disappointments of getting older.
The Sidekick is the story of a friendship, of two lives bound together but fundamentally different, and of what it’s like to live your life in the shadow of greatness.
Markovits is the author of You Don’t Have to Live Like This, which caught my attention back in 2015 — it’s yet another novel that I bought by haven’t got around to reading yet. (I don’t think I’ll ever make it through my whole TBR mountain…) It also piqued my interest because of the basketball connection (in case you’ve somehow missed it on here and my Twitter feed, I’m rather obsessed with the sport…). The Sidekick is out now in the UK, published by Faber & Faber (strangely, I couldn’t find any information about a North American publisher).
Follow the Author: Goodreads
Mary McMyne, THE BOOK OF GOTHEL (Orbit)
This dark, lush, and beautiful reimagining of the story of Rapunzel presents the witch’s perspective in this tale of motherhood, magic, and the stories we pass down to our children.
Everyone knows the tale of Rapunzel in her tower, but do you know the story of the witch who put her there?
Haelewise has always lived under the shadow of her mother, Hedda — a woman who will do anything to keep her daughter protected. For with her strange black eyes and even stranger fainting spells, Haelewise is shunned by her village, and her only solace lies in the stories her mother tells of child-stealing witches, of princes in wolf-skins, of an ancient tower cloaked in mist, where women will find shelter if they are brave enough to seek it.
Then, Hedda dies, and Haelewise is left unmoored. With nothing left for her in her village, she sets out to find the legendary tower her mother used to speak of — a place called Gothel, where Haelewise meets a wise woman willing to take her under her wing.
But Haelewise is not the only woman to seek refuge at Gothel. It’s also a haven for a girl named Rika, who carries with her a secret the Church strives to keep hidden. A secret that reveals a dark world of ancient spells and murderous nobles behind the world Haelewise has always known…
Told from her own perspective, The Book of Gothel is a lush, historical retelling filled with dark magic, crumbling towers, mysterious woods, and evil princes. This is the truth they never wanted you to know, as only a witch might tell it.
I’ve seen this book mentioned quite a few times, so I’m somewhat intrigued to give it a try. Hopefully get to it soon-ish. The Book of Gothel is published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on July 26th.
Craig McNamara, BECAUSE OUR FATHERS LIED (Little, Brown)
This unforgettable father and son story confronts the legacy of the Vietnam War across two generations…
Craig McNamara came of age in the political tumult and upheaval of the late 60s. While Craig McNamara would grow up to take part in anti-war demonstrations, his father, Robert McNamara, served as John F. Kennedy’s Secretary of Defense and the architect of the Vietnam War. This searching and revealing memoir offers an intimate picture of one father and son at pivotal periods in American history. Because Our Fathers Lied is more than a family story — it is a story about America.
Before Robert McNamara joined Kennedy’s cabinet, he was an executive who helped turn around Ford Motor Company. Known for his tremendous competence and professionalism, McNamara came to symbolize “the best and the brightest.” Craig, his youngest child and only son, struggled in his father’s shadow. When he ultimately fails his draft board physical, Craig decides to travel by motorcycle across Central and South America, learning more about the art of agriculture and making what he defines as an honest living. By the book’s conclusion, Craig McNamara is farming walnuts in Northern California and coming to terms with his father’s legacy.
Because Our Fathers Lied tells the story of the war from the perspective of a single, unforgettable American family.
I’ve been looking forward to this ever since it was announced — I help out with a Cold War course at a local university, and I’m hoping this provides some interesting additional material to incorporate into the classes. Because Our Fathers Lied is out now, published by Little, Brown in North America and in the UK.
Tripp Mickle, AFTER STEVE (Harper Collins)
The dramatic, untold story inside Apple after the passing of Steve Jobs by following his top lieutenants ― Jony Ive, the Chief Design Officer, and Tim Cook, the COO-turned-CEO ― and how the fading of the former and the rise of the latter led to Apple losing its soul.
Steve Jobs called Jony Ive his “spiritual partner at Apple.” The London-born genius was the second-most powerful person at Apple and the creative force who most embodies Jobs’s spirit, the man who designed the products adopted by hundreds of millions the world over: the iPod, iPad, MacBook Air, the iMac G3, and the iPhone. In the wake of his close collaborator’s death, the chief designer wrestled with grief and initially threw himself into his work designing the new Apple headquarters and the Watch before losing his motivation in a company increasingly devoted more to margins than to inspiration.
In many ways, Cook was Ive’s opposite. The product of a small Alabama town, he had risen through the ranks from the supply side of the company. His gift was not the creation of new products. Instead, he had invented countless ways to maximize a margin, squeezing some suppliers, persuading others to build factories the size of cities to churn out more units. He considered inventory evil. He knew how to make subordinates sweat with withering questions.
Jobs selected Cook as his successor, and Cook oversaw a period of tremendous revenue growth that has lifted Apple’s valuation to $2 trillion. He built a commanding business in China and rapidly distinguished himself as a master politician who could forge global alliances and send the world’s stock market into freefall with a single sentence.
Author Tripp Mickle spoke with more than 200 current and former Apple executives, as well as figures key to this period of Apple’s history, including Trump administration officials and fashion luminaries such as Anna Wintour while writing After Steve. His research shows the company’s success came at a cost. Apple lost its innovative spirit and has not designed a new category of device in years. Ive’s departure in 2019 marked a culmination in Apple’s shift from a company of innovation to one of operational excellence, and the price is a company that has lost its soul.
I am a relatively recent convert to Apple’s products (around 2014, I guess). I’ve enjoyed books about Steven Jobs in the past (as well as Aaron Sorkin’s movie about the man), so this caught my attention — a kind of, “What Happened Next” type book. Looking forward to reading it soon. After Steve is due to be published in the UK by Harper Collins, and William Morrow in North America.
Claire North, ITHACA (Redhook)
This is the story of Penelope of Ithaca, famed wife of Odysseus, as it has never been told before. Beyond Ithaca’s shores, the whims of gods dictate the wars of men. But on the isle, it is the choices of the abandoned women — and their goddesses — that will change the course of the world.
Seventeen years ago, King Odysseus sailed to war with Troy, taking with him every man of fighting age from the island of Ithaca. None of them has returned, and the women of Ithaca have been left behind to run the kingdom.
Penelope was barely into womanhood when she wed Odysseus. While he lived, her position was secure. But now, years on, speculation is mounting that her husband is dead, and suitors are beginning to knock at her door.
No one man is strong enough to claim Odysseus’ empty throne — not yet. But everyone waits for the balance of power to tip, and Penelope knows that any choice she makes could plunge Ithaca into bloody civil war. Only through cunning, wit, and her trusted circle of maids, can she maintain the tenuous peace needed for the kingdom to survive.
On Ithaca, everyone watches, including the gods. And there is no corner of the land where intrigue does not reign.
From the multi-award winning author Claire North comes a daring, powerful, and moving tale that breathes new life into ancient myth, and tells of the women who stand defiant in a world ruled by ruthless men. It’s time for the women of Ithaca to tell their story…
The first in a proposed series about Penelope, I’m really looking forward to reading this. I’ve fallen a bit behind on North’s novels, but I’ve enjoyed each one that I have managed to read. Definitely a recommended author. Ithaca is due to be published by Redhook in North America and in the UK, on September 6th.
Steven Novella, THE SKEPTICS’ GUIDE TO THE FUTURE (Grand Central)
From the bestselling authors and hosts of “The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe,” a high-tech roadmap of the future in their beloved voice, cracking open the follies of futurists past and how technology will profoundly change our world, redefining what it means to be human.
Our predictions of the future are a wild fantasy, inextricably linked to our present hopes and fears, biases and ignorance. Whether they be the outlandish leaps predicted in the 1920s, like multi-purpose utility belts with climate control capabilities and planes the size of luxury cruise ships, or the forecasts of the ‘60s, which didn’t anticipate the sexual revolution or women’s liberation, the path to the present is littered with failed predictions and incorrect estimations. The best we can do is try to absorb the lessons from futurism’s checkered past, perhaps learning to do a little better.
In THE SKEPTICS’ GUIDE TO THE FUTURE, Steven Novella and his co-authors build upon the work of futurists of the past by examining what they got right, what they got wrong, and how they came to those conclusions. By exploring the pitfalls of each era, they give their own speculations about the distant future, transformed by unbelievable technology ranging from genetic manipulation to artificial intelligence and quantum computing. Applying their trademark skepticism, they carefully extrapolate upon each scientific development, leaving no stone unturned as they lay out a vision for the future.
Pop-science books can often be a bit iffy, but this sounds really interesting. The Skeptic’s Guide to the Future is due to be published by Grand Central Publishing (North America) and Hodder & Stoughton (UK), on September 27th.
Leslye Penelope, THE MONSTERS WE DEFY (Orbit)
A woman able to communicate with spirits must assemble a ragtag crew to pull off a daring heist to save her community in this timely and dazzling historical fantasy that weaves together African American folk magic, history, and romance.
Meet Clara Johnson. Typist. Clairvoyant. Thief?
Washington D. C., 1925: Clara Johnson can talk to spirits — a gift that saved her during her darkest moments, now a curse that’s left her indebted to the cunning spirit world. So when a powerful spirit offers her an opportunity to gain her freedom, Clara seizes the chance, no questions asked. The task: steal a magical ring from the wealthiest woman in the District.
Clara can’t pull off this daring heist alone. She’ll need the help of an unlikely team, from a handsome jazz musician able to hypnotize with a melody to an aging actor who can change his face, to pull off the impossible. But as they race along DC’s legendary Black Broadway, conflict in the spirit world begins to leak into the human one — an insidious mystery is unfolding, one that could cost Clara her life and change the fate of an entire city.
Somehow managed to miss any early buzz for this novel. This looks like it could be interesting, though. Intriguing premise. The Monsters We Defy is published by Redhook in North America and in the UK, on August 9th.
Sarah Priscus, GROUPIES (William Morrow)
It’s 1977, and Faun Novak is in love with rock ‘n’ roll.
After her mother’s death, Faun, a naïve college dropout, grabs her Polaroid and hops a Greyhound to Los Angeles. In the City of Angels, she reconnects with her charismatic childhood friend Josie, now an up-and-coming model and muse. To make their reunion even sweeter, Josie is now dating Cal Holiday, the frontman of the superstar rock band Holiday Sun, and Faun is positively mesmerized.
Except it’s not just the band she can’t get enough of. It’s also the proud groupies who support them in myriad ways. Among the groupies are: a doting high school girl at war with her mother; a drug-dealing wife and new mom who longs to be a star herself; and a cynical mover-and-shaker with a soft spot for Holiday Sun’s bassist.
Faun obsessively photographs every aspect of this dazzling new world, struggling to balance her artistic ambitions with the band’s expectations. As her confidence grows for the first time in her life, her priorities shift. She becomes reckless with friendship, romance, her ethics, and her bank account.
But just as everything is going great and her boring, old life is falling away, Faun realizes just how blind she has been to the darkest corners of this glamorous musical dreamland as the summer heats up and everything spirals out of control…
Equal parts an evocative coming-of-age and a cutting look at fame, desire, and the media, Groupies is a novel that will have you turning the pages until the music- and drug-fueled end.
I do love novels about the music industry (and other entertainment industries), so I’ve been eagerly looking forward to this ever since I spotted it in a catalogue. Groupies is due to be published by William Morrow in North America, on July 12th.
Matthew Quirk, RED WARNING (William Morrow)
CIA officer Sam Hudson races to find a deep cover operative loose in the U.S. and a mole in the Agency before they can launch a devastating attack on Washington, D.C. …
For years CIA officer Sam Hudson has been hunting Konstantin, a Russian deep cover operative responsible for a string of assassinations in the West — and he believes a well-placed source in Geneva can finally get him close to the killer. But when their meeting is ambushed, Sam’s partner is murdered and he barely makes it out alive himself.
Back in the States, the bosses put him on leave and want him to drop his obsession with Konstantin, but Sam can’t let a man who’s taken so many lives slip away again. When he gets a mysterious call at the Lincoln Memorial just before a bomb goes off, he realizes Konstantin has followed him to the U.S. — and is targeting him and everyone close to him. Teaming up with fellow CIA officer Emily Pierce, he sets out to redeem himself and uncover a plot that has been lying in wait since the end of the Cold War, its elements hidden among the most iconic buildings in the capital.
With enemies lurking both inside and outside the Agency and the Russian threat looming ever larger, Sam must use all his training and nerve to stop Konstantin before he can trigger the plot to devastate Washington and bring the US to its knees.
I’m a big fan of Quirk’s novels — ever since I read his debut, The 500, in one sitting. Quickly paced, entertaining, and action-packed. Really looking forward to reading this ASAP. (I’d hoped to read it on my trip, but I ended up having basically no time to do any reading, which was a bit of a surprise, and a tad frustrating.) Red Warning is out now, published by William Morrow in North America, and Head of Zeus/Aries in the UK.
Alastair Reynolds, EVERSION (Orbit)
A dark, mind-bending SF adventure spread across time and space, Doctor Silas Coade has been tasked with keeping his crew safe as they adventure across the galaxy in search of a mysterious artifact, but as things keep going wrong, Silas soon realizes that something more sinister is at work, and this may not even be the first time it’s happened.
In the 1800s, a sailing ship crashes off the coast of Norway. In the 1900s, a Zepellin explores an icy canyon in Antarctica. In the far future, a spaceship sets out for an alien artifact. Each excursion goes horribly wrong. And on every journey, Dr. Silas Coade is the physician, but only Silas seems to realize that these events keep repeating themselves. And it’s up to him to figure out why and how. And how to stop it all from happening again.
Anthony Ryan, THE MARTYR (Orbit)
Deadly feuds and ancient secrets spell war in the second novel of The Covenant of Steel, a new epic series of action, intrigue, and magic from a master storyteller who has taken the fantasy world by storm.
Times have changed for Alwyn Scribe. Once an outlaw, he’s now a spymaster and sworn protector of Lady Evadine Courlain, whose visions of a demonic apocalypse have earned her the fanatical devotion of the faithful.
Yet Evadine’s growing fame has put her at odds with both Crown and Covenant. As trouble brews in the kingdom, both seek to exploit her position for their own ends.
Sent to the Duchy of Alundia to put down a rebellion, Alwyn must rely on old instincts to fight for his new cause. Deadly feuds and ancient secrets are laid bare as war erupts, a war that will decide the fate of the Kingdom of Albermaine and, perhaps, prevent the coming of the prophesied Second Scourge.
The second novel in Ryan’s Covenant of Steel series. I still haven’t had a chance to read the first book, The Pariah, but I’ve heard very good things about the novels. Martyr is published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on June 28th.
Also on CR: Guest Post on “Inspiration for Fantasy Authors”
Victoria Shepherd, A HISTORY OF DELUSIONS (Oneworld)
The Glass King, a Substitute Husband and a Walking Corpse
- The King of France – thinking he was made of glass – was terrified he might shatter… and he wasn’t alone.
- After the Emperor met his end at Waterloo, an epidemic of Napoleons piled into France’s asylums.
- Throughout the nineteenth century, dozens of middle-aged women tried to convince their physicians that they were, in fact, dead.
For centuries we’ve dismissed delusions as something for doctors to sort out behind locked doors. But delusions are more than just bizarre quirks – they hold the key to collective anxieties and traumas.
In this groundbreaking history, Victoria Shepherd uncovers stories of delusions from medieval times to the present day and implores us to identify reason in apparent madness.
Haven’t read much in this (sub-)genre of non-fiction, so also looking forward to expanding my reading a bit. I have an excerpt from the book going up on CR in the near future, and I enjoyed reading that, too. A History of Delusions is out now, published by Oneworld Publications in the UK.
Jane Smiley, A DANGEROUS BUSINESS (Knopf)
A rollicking murder mystery set in Gold Rush California, as two young prostitutes follow a trail of missing girls.
Monterey, 1851. Ever since her husband was killed in a bar fight, Eliza Ripple has been working in a brothel. It seems like a better life, at least at first. The madam, Mrs. Parks, is kind, the men are (relatively) well behaved, and Eliza has attained what few women have: financial security. But when the dead bodies of young women start appearing outside of town, a darkness descends that she can’t resist confronting. Side by side with her friend Jean, and inspired by her reading, especially by Edgar Allan Poe’s detective Dupin, Eliza pieces together an array of clues to try to catch the killer, all the while juggling clients who begin to seem more and more suspicious.
Eliza and Jean are determined not just to survive, but to find their way in a lawless town on the fringes of the Wild West — a bewitching combination of beauty and danger — as what will become the Civil War looms on the horizon. As Mrs. Parks says, “Everyone knows that this is a dangerous business, but between you and me, being a woman is a dangerous business, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise…”
I’ve not read much of Smiley’s work, but the synopsis for this one caught my attention a while ago. It was “Read Now” on NetGalley, so I thought I’d give it a try. Looking forward to reading it very soon. A Dangerous Business is due to be published by Knopf in North America, on December 6th.
Tasha Suri, THE OLEANDER SWORD (Orbit)
The prophecy of the nameless god — the words that declared Malini the rightful empress of Parijatdvipa — has proven a blessing and curse. She is determined to claim the throne that fate offered her. But even with the strength of the rage in her heart and the army of loyal men by her side, deposing her brother is going to be a brutal and bloody fight.
The power of the deathless waters flows through Priya’s blood. Thrice born priestess, Elder of Ahiranya, Priya’s dream is to see her country rid of the rot that plagues it: both Parijatdvipa’s poisonous rule, and the blooming sickness that is slowly spreading through all living things. But she doesn’t yet understand the truth of the magic she carries.
Their chosen paths once pulled them apart. But Malini and Priya’s souls remain as entwined as their destinies. And they soon realize that coming together is the only way to save their kingdom from those who would rather see it burn — even if it will cost them.
The second novel in Suri’s Burning Kingdoms series, following The Jasmine Throne. Heard great things about the series and the author’s other novels (I’m so far behind!). The Oleander Sword is published by Orbit Books in North America and in the UK, on August 16th.
Lavie Tidhar, NEOM (Tachyon)
The city known as Neom is many things to many beings, human or otherwise. Neom is a tech wonderland for the rich and beautiful; an urban sprawl along the Red Sea; and a port of call between Earth and the stars.
In the desert, young orphan Saleh has joined a caravan, hoping to earn his passage off-world from Central Station. But the desert is full of mechanical artefacts, some unexplained and some unexploded. Recently, a wry, unnamed robot has unearthed one of the region’s biggest mysteries: the vestiges of a golden man.
In Neom, childhood affection is rekindling between loyal shurta-officer Nasir and hardworking flower-seller Mariam. But Nasu, a deadly terrorartist, has come to the city with missing memories and unfinished business.
Just one robot can change a city’s destiny with a single rose — especially when that robot is in search of lost love.
A new novel set in the same universe as the multi-award winning Central Station. Tidhar is a superb author, so it really doesn’t matter to me what he writes — I’ll still happily read it. Neom is due to be published by Tachyon Publications in North America and in the UK, on November 9th.
Steve Toltz, HERE GOES NOTHING (Melville House)
A wildly inventive, savagely funny and topical novel about love, mortality and the afterlife, by the Booker-shortlisted author of A Fraction of the Whole.
Angus is a reformed ne’er-do-well looking forward to the birth of his first child when he’s murdered by a man who is in love with his pregnant wife Gracie. Having never believed in God, heaven or hell, Angus finds himself in the afterlife – a place that provides more questions than answers. As a worldwide pandemic finally reaches the shores of Australia, the afterlife starts to get very crowded and Angus finds a way to reconnect with his wife Gracie and maybe even seek revenge on his murderer…
I’ve actually got Toltz’s previous two novels — A Fraction of the Whole and Quicksand — but for some reason have never got around to reading them. (They’re eBooks, so probably because I keep forgetting that I have them…) The author’s latest sounded maybe a bit weird, but nevertheless intriguing. The preview on Kobo also caught my attention. Looking forward to reading it very soon. Here Goes Nothing is out now; published by Melville House in North America, and Sceptre in the UK.
Harry Turtledove, THREE MILES DOWN (Tor)
It’s 1974, and Jerry Stieglitz is a grad student in marine biology at UCLA with a side gig selling short stories to science fiction magazines, just weeks away from marrying his longtime fiancée. Then his life is upended by grim-faced men from three-letter agencies who want him to join a top-secret “Project Azorian” in the middle of the north Pacific Ocean — and they really don’t take “no” for an answer. Further, they’re offering enough money to solve all of his immediate problems.
Joining up and swearing to secrecy, what he first learns is that Project Azorian is secretly trying to raise a sunken Russian submarine, while pretending to be harvesting undersea manganese nodules. But the dead Russian sub, while real, turns out to be a cover story as well. What’s down on the ocean floor next to it is the thing that killed the sub: an alien spacecraft.
Jerry’s a scientist, a longhair, a storyteller, a dreamer. He stands out like a sore thumb on the Glomar Explorer, a ship full of CIA operatives, RAND Corporation eggheads, and roustabout divers. But it turns out that he’s the one person in the North Pacific who’s truly thought out all the ways that human-alien first contact might go.
And meanwhile, it’s still 1974 back on the mainland. Richard Nixon is drinking heavily and talking to the paintings on the White House walls. The USA is changing fast — and who knows what will happen when this story gets out? Three Miles Down is both a fresh and original take on First Contact, and a hugely enjoyable romp through the pop culture, political tumult, and conspiracies-within-conspiracies atmosphere that was 1974.
When I first saw this in a catalogue, the premise caught my attention (I do love alt-/secret history novels), and after reading the excerpt that the publisher allowed me to share on CR, I only wanted to read this even more. Hopefully I’ll get to it very soon. Three Miles Down is due to be published by Tor Books in North America and in the UK, on July 26th.
Also on CR: Excerpt from Three Miles Down
Sudhir Venkatesh, THE TOMORROW GAME (Simon & Schuster)
A New York Times bestselling author’s gripping account of a Chicago community coming together to save a group of teenagers from gun violence.
In the tradition of works like Random Family and Behind the Beautiful Forevers, Sudhir Venkatesh’s The Tomorrow Gameis a deeply reported chronicle of families surviving in a Southside Chicago community.
At the heart of the story are two teenagers: Marshal Mariot, an introverted video gamer and bike rider, and Frankie Paul, who leaves foster care to direct his cousin’s drug business while he’s in prison. Frankie devises a plan to attack Marshall and his friends — it is his best chance to showcase his toughness and win respect for his crew. Catching wind of the plan, Marshall and his friends decide they must preemptively go after Frankie’s crew to defend their honor. The pressure mounts as both groups of teens race to find a gun and strike first. All the while, the community at large — a cast that includes the teens’ families, black market gun dealers, local pastors, a bodega owner and a veteran beat cop — try their best to defuse the conflict and keep the kids alive.
Based on Venkatesh’s three decades of immersion in Chicago’s Southside, and as propulsive as a novel, The Tomorrow Game is a nuanced, timely look at the toll that poverty and gun violence take on families and their communities.
I’ve been a fan of Venkatesh’s writing ever since it was featured in Freakonomics. I very much enjoyed his previous book, The Floating City, too. I’m really looking forward to reading this new book. The Tomorrow Game is due to be published by Simon & Schuster in North America, on June 28th. (I couldn’t find any information about a UK publisher at the time of writing — however, both Gang Leader for a Day and The Floating City are published by Penguin in the UK.)
Louise Willder, BLURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM (Oneworld)
They’re just a few words on books. But what are blurbs really doing (other than trying to twist your arm)? This book is all about those 100-or-so words that take seconds to read but can make a world of difference – and what they tell us about literary history, the art of writing, authors from George Orwell to Zadie Smith, genres from children’s fiction to bonkbusters, cover design, the dark arts of persuasion and even who we are as readers. It’s also about quotes, titles, first lines, hooks, adverts, puns, swearing, plots, someone called Belinda and much more. It answers questions such as:
Why do some authors hate blurbs so much they burn their own books?
Should all adjectives be murdered?
Is it true that (checks jacket) you need an animal on a book’s cover to make it a bestseller?
Thought this sounded rather fun. As someone who has been reviewing for almost two decades, and worked in a few publishing positions, I think I’ll get a lot of out reading this. Looking forward to getting to it very soon. Blurb Your Enthusiasm is due to be published by Oneworld Publications on September 1st (eBook) and October 11th (print), in the UK.