Upcoming: THE 22 MURDERS OF MADISON MAY by Max Barry (G.P. Putnam’s Sons/Hodder)

BarryM-22MurdersOfMadisonMayUSThis summer, readers will get a new novel from Max Barry. The first of Barry’s novels that I read was Lexicon, back in 2013. I really enjoyed it, and set about reading anything else of his I could find (I’d also recommend Jennifer Government). Last year’s Providence was also pretty good. Each of his novels has been interesting and imaginative, so I’m always keen to try his latest book. His new book, The 22 Murders of Madison May sounds pretty interesting:

A mind-bending speculative psychological suspense about a serial killer pursuing his victim across time and space, and the woman who is determined to stop him, even if it upends her own reality.

“I love you. In every world.”

Young real estate agent Madison May is shocked when a client at an open house says these words to her. The man, a stranger, seems to know far too much about her, and professes his love — shortly before he murders her.

Felicity Staples hates reporting on murders. As a journalist for a midsize New York City paper, she knows she must take on the assignment to research Madison May’s shocking murder, but the crime seems random and the suspect is in the wind. That is, until Felicity spots the killer on the subway, right before he vanishes.

Soon, Felicity senses her entire universe has shifted. No one remembers Madison May, or Felicity’s encounter with the mysterious man. And her cat is missing. Felicity realizes that in her pursuit of Madison’s killer, she followed him into a different dimension—one where everything about her existence is slightly altered. At first, she is determined to return to the reality she knows, but when Madison May — in this world, a struggling actress — is murdered again, Felicity decides she must find the killer—and learns that she is not the only one hunting him.

Traveling through different realities, Felicity uncovers the opportunity — and danger — of living more than one life.

Max Barry’s The 22 Murders of Madison May is due to be published by G. P. Putnam’s Sons in North America (July 6th) and Hodder in the UK (July 8th).

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Upcoming: THE NINTH METAL by Benjamin Percy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Hodder)

PercyB-CC1-NinthMetalIn June, readers will be able to enjoy a new novel by Benjamin Percy: The Ninth Metal is the first novel in the Comet Cycle series. I’m a big fan of Percy’s fiction, non-fiction, and comics, so this was always going to be on my most-anticipated list for 2021. Here’s the synopsis:

An explosive, breakout speculative thriller in which a powerful new metal arrives on Earth in the wake of a meteor shower, triggering a massive new “gold rush” in the Midwest and turning life as we know it on its head. The first of a cycle of novels set in a shared universe.

It began with a comet. When it came into view on a close pass by Earth, people took off work, gathering on sidewalks and in parking lots to watch it burn by. One year later, Earth spun into the debris field the comet left behind. The worldwide effects of the meteor shower are yet to be known, but in the first book of the Comet Cycle, Minnesota seemed to bear the brunt of the damage: meteors annihilated barns and silos, cratered pastures and hardwood forests, tore up county highways, and evaporated one small town in an instant.

At first, it is a colossal disaster. Until the people of Minnesota notice deposits of unusual metal in the comet’s debris. Not gold, silver, copper, tin, iron or any of the noble metals, it’s a previously unknown ninth metal: omnimetal. With high-density charging capabilities and conductive properties that can change the world as an energy source, the deposit might be the best thing that ever happened to the northern section of the state, where the economy has been dying for a long time. Or it might be the worst.

It is then that the “gold rush” begins. Farmers sell their metal-rich land for millions. Comet-worshipping cults set up compounds and repeat the phrase “Metal is” as their mantra. Roughnecks flood the town, hungry for work and trouble. Prostitutes flourish. Businesses rise. Families are divided. Saudis bid against the Chinese on land grabs. Bodies lie in shallow graves. As witnessed when oil was discovered in the Bakken Formation of North Dakota, the heartland in our story goes from the middle of nowhere to the center of everything. And one family — the Frontiers — hopes to control it all.

Benjamin Percy’s The Ninth Metal is due to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in North America (June 1st) and Hodder in the UK (June 10th). The second novel in the series — The Unfamiliar Garden — is due out in January 2022.

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Very Quick Review: PROVIDENCE by Max Barry (Putnam)

BarryM-ProvidenceUSThe highly-anticipated return of Max Barry!

Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson are astronauts captaining a new and supposedly indestructible ship in humanity’s war against an alien race. Confined to the ship for years, each of them holding their own secrets, they are about to learn there are threats beyond the reach of human ingenuity–and that the true nature of reality might be the universe’s greatest mystery.

In this near future, our world is at war with another, and humanity is haunted by its one catastrophic loss–a nightmarish engagement that left a handful of survivors drifting home through space, wracked with PTSD. Public support for the war plummeted, and the military-industrial complex set its sights on a new goal: zero-casualty warfare, made possible by gleaming new ships called Providences, powered by AI.

But when the latest-launched Providence suffers a surprising attack and contact with home is severed, Gilly, Talia, Anders, and Jackson must confront the truth of the war they’re fighting, the ship that brought them there, and the cosmos beyond.

Back in 2013, I read and very much enjoyed Max Barry’s Lexicon. Then everything went quiet… This year, though, the author returns with Providence: an interesting and engaging sci-fi thriller. I quite enjoyed this. Continue reading

Audio Excerpt: SWEET SORROW by David Nicholls (W.F. Howes)

NichollsD-SweetSorrowUKAUDToday, W.F. Howes publishes the audiobook edition of Sweet Sorrow, the new novel by David Nicholls. I’ve enjoyed a few of Nicholls’s past novels, starting with Starter for Ten and The Understudy which I read during a summer at college (can’t remember exactly when, but it’s been quite a while). The excerpt is below, and here’s the synopsis…

One life-changing summer, Charlie meets Fran… David Nicholls’s highly anticipated new novel, narrated by Rory Kinnear.

In 1997, Charlie Lewis is the kind of boy you don’t remember in the school photograph. His exams have not gone well. At home he is looking after his father, when surely it should be the other way round, and if he thinks about the future at all, it is with a kind of dread.

Then Fran Fisher bursts into his life and despite himself, Charlie begins to hope.

But if Charlie wants to be with Fran, he must take on a challenge that could lose him the respect of his friends and require him to become a different person. He must join the Company. And if the Company sounds like a cult, the truth is even more appalling.

The price of hope, it seems, is Shakespeare. Poignant, funny, enchanting, devastating, Sweet Sorrow is a tragicomedy about the rocky path to adulthood and the confusion of family life, a celebration of the reviving power of friendship and that brief, searing explosion of first love that can only be looked at directly after it has burned out.

The excerpt is narrated by Olivier award-winning actor Rory Kinnear.

The print and eBook editions of the  novel are out now in the UK, published by Hodder & Stoughton; the US edition is still a while away, due to be published by Mariner Books in May 2020.

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Interview with TOM CHATFIELD

ChatfieldT-AuthorPic C Lewis KhanLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Tom Chatfield?

I’m a British geek in his late thirties who has written a number of books of non-fiction exploring digital culture, and is now embarking on a parallel career as a writer of techno-thrillers with (I hope) a satirical edge. I’m also the father of a couple of small children and a keen jazz pianist, both of which help keep me sane in different ways.

Your new novel, This is Gomorrah, is due to be published soon by Hodder (UK) and Mulholland (US – as The Gomorrah Gambit). It looks really interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

In five words: Jason Bourne meets Edward Snowden. In slightly more than five words: Azi Bello, a hacker who’s spent much of his life hiding in a shed in East Croydon, finds things getting very real very fast when dangerous knowledge about the darknet marketplace known as Gomorrah drags him into the world of terrorism, political extremism and technological manipulation. With a side order of sardonic wit and romantic incompetence. Continue reading

Upcoming: TO BE TAUGHT, IF FORTUNATE by Becky Chambers (Voyager / Hodder)

ChambersB-ToBeTaughtIfFortunate

Above you can see the North American and UK covers for To Be Taught, If Fortunate, the upcoming new novella by Becky Chambers. Chambers is the critically-acclaimed author of the Wayfarer sci-fi series. This novella is a stand-alone, and one that sounds really interesting:

At the turn of the twenty-second century, scientists make a breakthrough in human spaceflight. Through a revolutionary method known as somaforming, astronauts can survive in hostile environments off Earth using synthetic biological supplementations. They can produce antifreeze in subzero temperatures, absorb radiation and convert it for food, and conveniently adjust to the pull of different gravitational forces. With the fragility of the body no longer a limiting factor, human beings are at last able to journey to neighboring exoplanets long known to harbor life.

A team of these explorers, Ariadne O’Neill and her three crewmates, are hard at work in a planetary system fifteen light-years from Sol, on a mission to ecologically survey four habitable worlds. But as Ariadne shifts through both form and time, the culture back on Earth has also been transformed. Faced with the possibility of returning to a planet that has forgotten those who have left, Ariadne begins to chronicle the story of the wonders and dangers of her mission, in the hope that someone back home might still be listening.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate is due to be published in North America by Voyager (September 3rd), and in the UK by Hodder (August 8th). I’m really looking forward to reading this one.

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Out Now: THE SKEPTICS’ GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE by Steven Novella et al (Grand Central/Hodder)

NovellaS-SkepticsGuideToUniverse

Spotted this while browsing the latest Hachette catalogue on Edelweiss, and thought it sounded interesting. The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe was published this week in North America by Grand Central Publishing, and Hodder in the UK (not sure how I missed it before now). Here’s the synopsis:

An all-encompassing guide to skeptical thinking from podcast host and academic neurologist at Yale University School of Medicine Steven Novella and his SGU co-hosts, which Richard Wiseman calls “the perfect primer for anyone who wants to separate fact from fiction.”

It is intimidating to realize that we live in a world overflowing with misinformation, bias, myths, deception, and flawed knowledge. There really are no ultimate authority figures-no one has the secret, and there is no place to look up the definitive answers to our questions (not even Google).

Luckily, THE SKEPTICS’ GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE is your map through this maze of modern life. Here Dr. Steven Novella-along with Bob Novella, Cara Santa Maria, Jay Novella, and Evan Bernstein-will explain the tenets of skeptical thinking and debunk some of the biggest scientific myths, fallacies, and conspiracy theories-from anti-vaccines to homeopathy, UFO sightings to N- rays. You’ll learn the difference between science and pseudoscience, essential critical thinking skills, ways to discuss conspiracy theories with that crazy co- worker of yours, and how to combat sloppy reasoning, bad arguments, and superstitious thinking.

So are you ready to join them on an epic scientific quest, one that has taken us from huddling in dark caves to setting foot on the moon? (Yes, we really did that.) DON’T PANIC! With THE SKEPTICS’ GUIDE TO THE UNIVERSE, we can do this together.

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Upcoming: MISSING PERSON by Sarah Lotz (Mulholland/Hodder)

LotsS-MissingPersonUSA new novel by Sarah Lotz! Unfortunately, it’s still pretty far away: Missing Person is due out in April 2019… Nevertheless, I spotted it in the Mulholland Books catalogue, and decided to feature it on the site. It is also due out in the UK, to be published by Hodder in March 2019.

Reclusive Irish bookseller Shaun Ryan has always believed that his older brother, Teddy, died in a car accident. It’s only on his mother’s deathbed that he learns the truth: Teddy, who was gay, fled the Catholic, deeply conservative County Wicklow for New York decades earlier. Shaun finds no sign of him in New York or anywhere else–until he comes across the unsolved murder of a John Doe whose description matches Teddy’s.

Desperate for information, Shaun tracks down Chris Guzman, a woman who runs a website dedicated to matching missing persons cases with unidentified bodies. Through Chris’s site, a group of online cold case fanatics connect Teddy with the notorious “Boy in the Dress” murder, believed to be one of many committed by a serial killer targeting gay men.

But who are these cold case fanatics, and how do they know so much about a case that left the police and the FBI stumped? With investigators, amateurs, and one sadistic killer on a collision course, Missing Person is Sarah Lotz at her most thrilling and terrifying.

Sarah Lotz is the author of a number of superb novels, including The Three (on sale in the UK at the time of writing), Day Four and The White Road. Lotz’s novels are published in the UK by Hodder.

Also on CR: Interview with Sarah Lotz (2014); Reviews of The Three and Day Four

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Quick Review: THE ROOSTER BAR by John Grisham (Doubleday/Hodder)

GrishamJ-RoosterBarUSGrisham had an issue or two he wanted to talk about

Mark, Todd, and Zola came to law school to change the world, to make it a better place. But now, as third-year students, these close friends realize they have been duped. They all borrowed heavily to attend a third-tier, for-profit law school so mediocre that its graduates rarely pass the bar exam, let alone get good jobs. And when they learn that their school is one of a chain owned by a shady New York hedge-fund operator who also happens to own a bank specializing in student loans, the three know they have been caught up in The Great Law School Scam.

But maybe there’s a way out. Maybe there’s a way to escape their crushing debt, expose the bank and the scam, and make a few bucks in the process. But to do so, they would first have to quit school. And leaving law school a few short months before graduation would be completely crazy, right?

As long-time readers of Civilian Reader will know, Grisham is one of my favourite authors — even though I think he’s quite inconsistent. Some of his novels have been excellent, while others feel either rushed or bloodless. I enjoyed Camino Island, a fun and quickly-paced caper-type novel. In The Rooster Bar he returns to the genre that has made him a global bestseller: a legal thriller. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this as much as I’d hoped. Continue reading

Excerpt: BLACK DAHLIA, RED ROSE by Piu Eatwell (Coronet)

EatwellP-BlackDahliaRedRoseUKPiu Eatwell’s latest book is a narrative history of the notorious Black Dahlia murder in Los Angeles. The inspiration for a number of novels and movies, it’s an interesting new account of the murder that gripped the headlines. Here’s the synopsis:

On 15th January 1947, the naked, dismembered body of a black-haired beauty, Elizabeth Short, was discovered lying next to a pavement in a Hollywood suburb. She was quickly nicknamed The Black Dahlia.

The homicide inquiry that followed consumed Los Angeles for years and the authorities blew millions of dollars of resources on an investigation that threw up dozens of suspects. But it never was solved.

Until now.

In this ground-breaking book, Piu Eatwell reveals compelling forensic and eye witness evidence for the first time, which finally points to the identity of the murderer. The case was immortalised in James Ellroy’s famous novel based on the case, in Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon and Brian de Palma’s movie The Black Dahlia.

This is a dark tale of sex, manipulation, obsession, psychopathy and one of the biggest police cover ups in history.

Now, read on for an excerpt from the first chapter…

Continue reading