New Books (December-January)

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Featuring: Brian Cox, Zabé Ellor, Hugo Hamilton, Rachel Howzell Hall, Clay Harmon, Chris Herring, Justin D Hill, Gabino Iglesias, Maxim Jakubowski, Vaseem Khan, T. Kingfisher, Nick Kyme, Alex Livingston, Jillian Medoff, Jon Raymond, Matthew Reilly, Michael Schur, David Tallerman, Tade Thompson, Zac Topping, Jess Walter, Josh Weiss

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Upcoming: GROUPIES by Sarah Priscus (William Morrow)

PriscusS-GroupiesUSHCThere has been a string of novels over the past few years that take place in and adjacent to the 1970s music scene — most notably, Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones & the Six, Emma Brodie’s Songs in Ursa Major, Jessica Anya Blau’s Mary Jane, and Glenn Dixon’s Bootleg Stardust, to name but four. As it happens, I’m a big fan of this (sub-)genre, so I’m very much looking forward to Sarah Priscus‘s debut novel, Groupies, which “shines a bright light on the grungy yet glittery world of 1970s rock ‘n’ roll and the women – the groupies – who unapologetically love too much in a world that doesn’t love them back.” Here’s the synopsis:

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.

Sarah Priscus’s Groupies is due to be published in North America by William Morrow, on July 12th.

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Upcoming: THE FIELDS by Erin Young (Flatiron/Hodder)

YoungE-FieldsUSHCThe American crime and mystery genres are oversubscribed with novels and series set in the big cities — especially New York and Los Angeles (with a surprisingly large number set in Minnesota, too). There is a growing number of author setting their novels elsewhere.* A notable upcoming example is Eli Cranor’s Don’t Know Tough (Arkansas). Now, we can also add Erin Young‘s The Fields, which is the first crime novel I’ve seen set in Iowa. Here’s the synopsis:

Some things don’t stay buried.

It starts with a body — a young woman found dead in an Iowa cornfield, on one of the few family farms still managing to compete with the giants of Big Agriculture.

When Sergeant Riley Fisher, newly promoted to head of investigations for the Black Hawk County Sheriff’s Office, arrives on the scene, an already horrific crime becomes personal when she discovers the victim was a childhood friend, connected to a dark past she thought she’d left behind.

The investigation grows complicated as more victims are found. Drawn deeper in, Riley soon discovers implications far beyond her Midwest town.

“Erin Young” is a pseudonym of bestselling historical fiction author Robyn Young. Erin Young’s The Fields is due to be published in North America by Flatiron Books (January 25th), and in the UK by Hodder (April 28th).

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* Feel free to share recommendations in the comments of other crime/thriller novels set in cities and regions that are under-represented in the genre.

Upcoming: JANUARY FIFTEENTH by Rachel Swirsky (Tor.com)

SwirskyR-JanuaryFifteenthThe cover for Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky‘s upcoming new novella, January Fifteenth was unveiled a little while ago, and it caught my attention. After reading the synopsis, my interest was further piqued:

January Fifteenth — the day all Americans receive their annual Universal Basic Income payment.

For Hannah, a middle-aged mother, today is the anniversary of the day she took her two children and fled her abusive ex-wife.

For Janelle, a young, broke journalist, today is another mind-numbing day interviewing passersby about the very policy she once opposed.

For Olivia, a wealthy college freshman, today is “Waste Day”, when rich kids across the country compete to see who can most obscenely squander the government’s money.

For Sarah, a pregnant teen, today is the day she’ll journey alongside her sister-wives to pick up the payment­­s that undergird their community — and perhaps embark on a new journey altogether.

In this near-future science fiction novella by Nebula Award-winning author Rachel Swirsky, the fifteenth of January is another day of the status quo, and another chance at making lasting change.

Rachel Swirsky’s January Fifteenth is due to be published by Tor.com in North America and in the UK, on June 14th.

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Upcoming: DO NO HARM by Robert Pobi (Minotaur)

PobiR-LP3-DoNoHarmUSHCBack in 2019, I was lucky to get a DRC of Robert Pobi‘s first Lucas Page novel, City of Windows. It offered everything a great mystery/crime/thriller novel should have — a gripping, fast-paced plot, an interesting and engaging protagonist, and some cool twists on genre conventions. The follow up, Under Pressure added to readers’ understanding of the main character as well as another clever and gripping mystery. In August, Minotaur Books is due to publish the third novel in the series, Do No Harm, and I am very much looking forward to reading it. Here’s the synopsis:

A series of suicides and accidental deaths in the medical community are actually well-disguised murders and only Lucas Page can see the pattern and discern the truth that no one else believes.

Lucas Page is a polymath, astrophysicist, professor, husband, father of five adopted children, bestselling author, and ex-FBI agent — emphasis on “ex.” Severely wounded after being caught in an explosion, Page left the FBI behind and put his focus on the rebuilding the rest of his life. But Page is uniquely gifted in being able to recognize patterns that elude others, a skill that brings the F.B.I. knocking at his door again and again.

Lucas Page’s wife Erin loses a friend, a gifted plastic surgeon, to suicide and Lucas begins to realize how many people Erin knew that have died in the past year, in freak accidents and now suicide. Intrigued despite himself, Page begins digging through obituaries and realizes that there’s a pattern — a bad one. These deaths don’t make sense unless the doctors are being murdered, the target of a particularly clever killer. This time, the FBI wants as little to do with Lucas as he does with them so he’s left with only one option — ignore it and go back to his normal life. But then, the pattern reveals that the next victim is likely to be… Erin herself.

Robert Pobi’s Do No Harm is due to be published by Minotaur Books in North America, on August 9th. The first two novels in the series are published in the UK by Hodder, so maybe the third one will be as well.

Also on CR: Reviews of City of Windows and Under Pressure

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads

Interview with R. S. FORD

FordRS-AoU1-EnginesOfEmpireWelcome back to CR! For newcomers, let’s start with an introduction: Who is R.S. Ford?

Nice to be back. R. S. Ford has been writing fantasy for around 10 years now. I started with a little novel called Kultus back in 2011, and since then I’ve written two fantasy trilogies – Steelhaven and War of the Archons. During that time I’ve also worked as a TTRPG editor for various publishers, and as a computer game writer for Frontier Developments. As well as starting a new trilogy that opens with Engines of Empire, I’ve recently branched into historical fiction too, with the novel Oath Bound.

Engines of Empire, the first novel in your third fantasy series, is due to be published by Orbit in January. It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

It’s the first book in a brand new epic fantasy trilogy, The Age of Uprising – a sprawling tale of family, intrigue and betrayal, set in a continent teetering on the edge of war. That’s certainly the elevator pitch anyway. Continue reading

Upcoming: TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, AND TOMORROW, by Gabrielle Zevin (Knopf)

ZevinG-TomorrowAndTomorrowAndTomorrowUSHCTomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow by Gabrielle Zevin has been the subject of quite a bit of pre-publication buzz — it’s appeared on a number of Most Anticipated Books of 2022 lists (which is how I learned of it). Aside from the eye-catching cover, the premise also promises an interesting and intriguing read:

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.

As is the norm for me, after learning about this novel I went out and picked up a couple of Zevin’s other novels: Young Jane Young and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. Looking forward to reading them.

Gabrielle Zevin’s 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

Upcoming: YOU HAVE A FRIEND IN 10A by Maggie Shipstead (Knopf)

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUSHCI’m a newcomer to Maggie Shipstead‘s work. My first, in fact, was last year’s superb, gripping Great Circle. Since then, I’ve picked up the author’s other two novels — Astonish Me and Seating Arrangements — both of which I hope to read very soon. While browsing publisher catalogues, I also stumbled across the author’s next book: her first short story collection, You Have a Friend in 10A.

In this collection of dazzling stories, Maggie Shipstead’s prowess in short fiction is on full display for the first time. Diving into eclectic and vivid settings, from an Olympic village to a deathbed in Paris to a Pacific atoll, and illuminating a cast of indelible characters, Shipstead traverses ordinary and unusual realities with cunning, compassion, and wit.

ShipsteadM-YouHaveAFriendIn10AUKHCIn “Acknowledgments,” a male novelist reminisces bitterly on the woman who inspired his first novel, attempting to make peace with his humiliations before the book goes to print.

In “The Cowboy Tango,” spanning decades in the open country of Montana, a triangle of love and self-preservation plays out among an aging rancher called the Otter, his nephew, and a young woman named Sammy who works the horses.

In “La Moretta,” a couple’s honeymoon in the hills of Romania builds ominously into a moment of shattering tragedy. In the title story, a former child actress breaks with her life in a religious cult, narrating with mesmerizing candor a story of vulnerability, loss, and the surrealism of fame.

You Have a Friend in 10A is sophisticated, gripping, and hilarious, comprised of knockout after knockout: a collection to seal Shipstead’s reputation as a versatile master of fiction.

Maggie Shipstead’s 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).

Also on CR: Review of Great Circle

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Upcoming: SON OF ELSEWHERE by Elamin Abdelmahmoud (McClellan & Stewart/Ballantine)

AbdelmahmoudE-SonOfElsewhereCAHCI first heard of Elamin Abdelmahmoud‘s upcoming memoir, Son of Elsewhere via Twitter — as is so often the case, I’ve forgotten who it was who Tweeted about it, or re-tweeted a mention. Regardless, my attention was grabbed by the Canadian cover and interest further piqued by the synopsis. As a relatively new Canadian myself, I’m also interested in reading about other people’s immigrant experiences here. Really looking forward to reading this. Check out the synopsis:

From one of the most beloved media personalities of his generation comes a one-of-a-kind reflection on Blackness, faith, language, pop culture, and the challenges and rewards of finding your way in the world.

Professional wrestling super fandom, Ontario’s endlessly unfurling 401 highway, late nights at the convenience store listening to heavy metal — for writer and podcast host Elamin Abdelmahmoud, these are the building blocks of a life. Son of Elsewhere charts that life in wise, funny, and moving reflections on the many threads that weave together into an identity.

AbdelmahmoudE-SonOfElsewhereUSHCArriving in Canada at age 12 from Sudan, Elamin’s teenage years were spent trying on new ways of being in the world, new ways of relating to his almost universally white peers. His isa story of yearning to belong in a time and place where expectation and assumptions around race, faith, language, and origin make such belonging extremely difficult, but it’s also a story of the surprising and unexpected ways in which connection and acceptance can be found.

In this extraordinary debut collection, the process of growing — of trying, failing, and trying again to fit in — is cast against the backdrop of the memory of life in a different time, and different place — a Khartoum being bombed by the United States, a nation seeking to define and understand itself against global powers of infinite reach.

Taken together, these essays explore how we pick and choose from our experience and environment to help us in the ongoing project of defining who we are — how, for instance, the example of Mo Salah, the profound grief practices of Islam, the nerdy charm of The O.C.’s Seth Cohen, and the long shadow of colonialism can cohere into a new and powerful whole.

With the perfect balance of relatable humor and intellectual ferocity, Son of Elsewhere confronts what we know about ourselves, and most important, what we’re still learning.

Elamin Abdelmahmoud’s Son of Elsewhere is due to be published on May 17th by McClellan & Stewart in Canada, and Ballantine Books in the US. (At the time of writing, I couldn’t find any information about a UK edition.)

Follow the Author: Goodreads, Twitter

Upcoming: A SECRET ABOUT A SECRET by Peter Spiegelman (Knopf)

SpiegelmanP-ASecretAboutASecretUSHCBack in 2016, I read an excellent crime/thriller novel: Dr. Knox by Peter Spiegelman. It was one of my favourite novels from that year, and it led me to hunt down his other novels, not all of which are readily available — I was able to find Thick As Thieves. Anyway, I’ve often found myself wondering what he’s been up to recently, and it turns out he’s been writing A Secret About A Secret (among other things, I’m sure).

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.

Peter Spiegelman’s A Secret About A Secret is due to be published by Knopf in North America, on June 7th.

Also on CR: Review of Dr. Knox

Follow the Author: Website, Goodreads, Twitter