Upcoming: LIGHTSEEKERS by Femi Kayode (Mulholland/Raven)

KayodeF-LightseekersUSI’m always on the look-out for a new thriller author to follow, and Femi Kayode‘s debut Lightseekers caught my eye. I like stories where an outsider is thrust into a situation or country/world in which they have no or little experience. I luckily already have a review copy of the novel, and hope to read it very soon. Here’s the synopsis:

A respected Nigerian psychologist travels to a remote southern border town to uncover the truth about the murder of three university students.

When Dr. Philip Taiwo is called on by a powerful Nigerian politician to investigate the public torture and murder of three university students in Port Harcourt, he has no idea that he’s about to be enveloped by a perilous case that is far from cold.

KayodeF-LightseekersUKPhilip is not a detective. He’s an investigative psychologist, an academic more interested in figuring out the why of a crime than actually solving it. But when he steps off the plane and into the dizzying frenzy of the provincial airport, he soon realizes that the mob-driven murder of the Okriki Three isn’t as straight forward as he thought. With the help of his loyal and streetwise personal driver, Chika, Philip must work against those actively conspiring against him to parse together the truth of what happened to these students.

A thrilling and atmospheric mystery, and an unforgettable portrait of the contemporary Nigerian sociopolitical landscape, Lightseekers is a wrenching novel tackling the porousness between the first and third worlds, the enduring strength of tribalism and homeland identity, and the human need for connection in the face of isolation.

Femi Kayode’s Lightseekers is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America (March 2nd) and Raven Books in the UK (February 4th).

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Upcoming: THE THOUSAND CRIMES OF MING TSU by Tom Lin (Little, Brown)

LinT-ThousandCrimesOfMingTsuUSThe Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu by Tom Lin is described as a blend of the “violent ardor of Cormac McCarthy” and the “otherworldly inventiveness of Ted Chiang”. In an early blurb, Jonathan Lethem name-checks a number of comparators, including the Coen Brothers and Ray Bradbury. An intriguing mix. The novel is “a thriller, a romance, and a story of one man’s quest for redemption in the face of a distinctly American brutality”. Quite looking forward to giving this a try. Here’s the full synopsis:

An astounding debut that reimagines the classic Western through the eyes of a Chinese American assassin on a quest to rescue his kidnapped wife and exact his revenge on her abductors

Orphaned as a boy, Ming Tsu, the son of Chinese immigrants, is raised by the notorious leader of a California crime syndicate, who trains him to be his deadly enforcer. But when Ming falls in love with Ada, the daughter of a powerful railroad magnate, and the two elope, he seizes the opportunity to escape to a different life. Soon after, in a violent raid, the tycoon’s henchmen kidnap Ada and conscript Ming into service for the Union Pacific Railroad.

Battered, heartbroken, and yet defiant, Ming partners with a clairvoyant old man known only as the Prophet. Together the two set out to rescue his wife and to exact revenge on the men who destroyed him, aided by a troupe of magic-show performers, some with supernatural powers, whom they meet on the journey. Ming fights his way across the West, settling old scores with a single-minded devotion that culminates in an explosive and unexpected finale.

Tom Lin’s The Thousand Crimes of Ming Tsu is due to be published by Little, Brown in North America and in the UK, on June 1st, 2021.

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Upcoming: THE PRINCESS SPY by Larry Loftis (Atria)

LoftisL-PrincessSpyUSI spotted this in a Washington Post article, “What to read in 2021 based on what you loved in 2020” (which has some interesting suggestions, in general). I recently picked up Ben MacIntyre’s Agent Sonya, a book about Ursula Kuczynski Burton, a Russian “spymaster, saboteur, bomb-maker and secret agent”. In the aforementioned WaPo article, Angela Haupt recommends The Princess Spy by Larry Loftis as a comparable 2021 release. After reading the synopsis, I’m intrigued:

A hidden history of an ordinary American girl who became one of the OSS’s most daring spies in World War II before marrying into European nobility…

When Aline Griffith was born in a quiet suburban New York hamlet, no one had any idea that she would go on to live “a life of glamour and danger that Ingrid Bergman only played at in Notorious” (Time). As the US enters the Second World War, the young college graduate is desperate to aid in the war effort, but no one is interested in a bright-eyed young woman whose only career experience is modeling clothes.

Aline’s life changes when, at a dinner party, she meets a man named Frank Ryan and reveals how desperately she wants to do her part for her country. Within a few weeks, he helps her join the Office of Strategic Services — forerunner of the CIA. With a code name and expert training under her belt, she is sent to Spain to be a coder, but is soon given the additional assignment of infiltrating the upper echelons of society, mingling with high-ranking officials, diplomats, and titled Europeans, any of whom could be an enemy agent. Against this glamorous backdrop of galas and dinner parties, she recruits sub-agents and engages in deep-cover espionage to counter Nazi tactics in Madrid.

Even after marrying the Count of Romanones, one of the wealthiest men in Spain, Aline secretly continues her covert activities, being given special assignments when abroad that would benefit from her impeccable pedigree and social connections.

Filled with twists, romance, and plenty of white-knuckled adventures fit for a James Bond film, The Princess Spy brings to vivid life the dazzling adventures of a remarkable American woman who risked everything to serve her country.

Larry Loftis’s The Princess Spy is due to be published by Atria Books in North America and in the UK, on February 9th, 2021.

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Upcoming: WE WERE NEVER HERE by Andrea Bartz (Ballantine)

BartzA-WeWereNeverHereUSI enjoyed Andrea Bartz‘s first two mysteries, The Lost Night and The Herd, so I was happy to learn that We Were Never Here was on the way in 2021. Another novel of deadly secrets, it sounds interesting:

An annual backpacking trip has deadly consequences…

Emily is having the time of her life — she’s in the mountains of Chile with her best friend, Kristen, on their annual reunion trip, and the women are feeling closer than ever. But on the last night of their trip, Emily enters their hotel suite to find blood and broken glass on the floor. Kristen says the cute backpacker she’d been flirting with attacked her, and she had no choice but to kill him in self-defense. Even more shocking: The scene is horrifyingly similar to last year’s trip, when another backpacker wound up dead. Emily can’t believe it’s happened again — can lightning really strike twice?

Back home in Wisconsin, Emily struggles to bury her trauma, diving head-first into a new relationship and throwing herself into work. But when Kristen shows up for a surprise visit, Emily is forced to to confront their violent past. The more Kristen tries to keep Emily close, the more Emily questions her friend’s motives. As Emily feels the walls closing in on their coverups, she must reckon with the truth about her closest friend. Can she outrun the secrets she shares with Kristen, or will they destroy her relationship, her freedom — even her life?

Andrea Bartz’s We Were Never Here is due to be published on July 21st, 2021, by Ballantine Books in North America and in the UK.

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Upcoming: A MAN NAMED DOLL by Jonathan Ames (Mulholland/Pushkin)

AmesJ-AManNamedDollUSJonathan Ames seems to have quite a varied publishing history: he’s published two humorous novels, somewhat akin to Jeeves & Wooster or Withnail & I — Wake Up, Sir! and The Extra Man — and also the brutal noir You Were Never Really Here (which was adapted into the Joaquin Phoenix-starring movie of the same name). This year, he returns with A Man Named Doll, the first in a new LA-based noir series:

An idiosyncratic private detective Happy Doll and his quest to help a dying friend who is running out of time in sun-blinded Los Angeles

Happy Doll is a charming, if occasionally inexpert, private detective living just one sheer cliff drop beneath the Hollywood sign with his beloved half-Chihuahua half-Terrier, George. A veteran of both the Navy and LAPD, Doll supplements his meager income as a P.I. by working through the night at a local Thai spa that offers its clients a number of special services. Armed with his sixteen-inch steel telescopic baton, biting dry humor, and just a bit of a hero complex, the ex-cop sets out to protect the women who work there from clients who have trouble understanding the word “no.”

AmesJ-AManNamedDollUKDoll gets by just fine following his two basic rules: bark loudly and act first. But when things get out-of-hand with one particularly violent patron, even he finds himself wildly out of his depth, and then things take an even more dangerous twist when an old friend from his days as a cop shows up at his door with a bullet in his gut.

A MAN NAMED DOLL is more than just a fascinating introduction to one truly singular character, it is a highly addictive and completely unpredictable joyride through the sensuous and violent streets of LA.

Jonathan Ames’s A Man Named Doll is due to be published by Mulholland Books in North America (April 20th) and Pushkin Vertigo in the UK (April 29th).

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Upcoming: SOMETHING NEW UNDER THE SUN by Alexandra Kleeman (Fourth Estate)

KleemanA-SomethingNewUnderTheSunUSI stumbled across this in a catalogue, and the synopsis caught my attention. Alexandra Kleeman‘s second novel — following the debut novel You Too Can Have A Body Like Mine and the short story collection Intimations — looks really interesting. Something New Under the Sun is a near-future story that takes a look at the darker side of Hollywood. Really looking forward to reading this. Here’s the full synopsis:

A novelist discovers the dark side of Hollywood and reckons with ambition, corruption, and connectedness in the age of environmental collapse and ecological awakening…

East Coast novelist Patrick Hamlin has come to Hollywood with simple goals in mind: overseeing the production of a film adaptation of one of his books, preventing starlet Cassidy Carter’s disruptive behavior from derailing said production, and turning this last-ditch effort at career resuscitation into the sort of success that will dazzle his wife and daughter back home. But California is not as he imagined: Drought, wildfire, and corporate corruption are omnipresent, and the company behind a mysterious new brand of synthetic water seems to be at the root of it all. Partnering with Cassidy — after having been her reluctant chauffeur for weeks — the two of them investigate the sun-scorched city’s darker crevices, where they discover that catastrophe resembles order until the last possible second.

In this poised and all-too-timely story, Alexandra Kleeman grapples with the corruption of our environment in the age of alternative facts. She does so with a meticulous and deeply felt accounting of our very human anxieties, liabilities, dependencies, and, ultimately, our responsibility to truth.

Alexandra Kleeman’s Something New Under the Sun is due to be published by Hogarth in North America (August 3rd) and Fourth Estate in the UK (June 10th).

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Upcoming: FOUR LOST CITIES: A SECRET HISTORY OF THE URBAN AGE by Annalee Newitz (WW Norton)

NewitzA-FourLostCitiesUSPerhaps best known to readers of CR as the author of the acclaimed novels Autonomous and The Future of Another Timeline, Annalee Newitz is taking a different tack for their next book: Four Lost Cities. I first learned of this book from a podcast interview with the author, quite some time ago. (I wish I could remember which one.) It is a book that explores four abandoned cities and tries to ascertain why their inhabitants abandoned them. Here’s the full synopsis:

A quest to explore some of the most spectacular ancient cities in human history — and figure out why people abandoned them.

In Four Lost Cities, acclaimed science journalist Annalee Newitz takes readers on an entertaining and mind-bending adventure into the deep history of urban life. Investigating across the centuries and around the world, Newitz explores the rise and fall of four ancient cities, each the center of a sophisticated civilization: the Neolithic site of Çatalhöyük in Central Turkey, the Roman vacation town of Pompeii on Italy’s southern coast, the medieval megacity of Angkor in Cambodia, and the indigenous metropolis Cahokia, which stood beside the Mississippi River where East St. Louis is today.

Newitz travels to all four sites and investigates the cutting-edge research in archaeology, revealing the mix of environmental changes and political turmoil that doomed these ancient settlements. Tracing the early development of urban planning, Newitz also introduces us to the often anonymous workers — slaves, women, immigrants, and manual laborers — who built these cities and created monuments that lasted millennia.

Four Lost Cities is a journey into the forgotten past, but, foreseeing a future in which the majority of people on Earth will be living in cities, it may also reveal something of our own fate.

Annalee Newitz’s Four Lost Cities is due to be published by W. W. Norton in North America and in the UK, on February 2nd, 2021.

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Upcoming: ASCENSION by Oliver Harris (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt/Little, Brown)

HarrisO-2-AscensionUSA couple of years ago, Oliver Harris introduced readers to his new protagonist, British spy Elliot Kane, in A Shadow Intelligence. This year, Kane returns in Ascension, which sees the agent pulled into a mystery surrounding the death of a close friend. Here’s the synopsis:

British spy Elliot Kane is forced out of semi-retirement to investigate a colleague’s suspicious death on Ascension Island, a remote and rocky outpost of the British military in the middle of the Atlantic.

Despite uncovering a deep plot to incite a new world war, Elliot Kane has been on probation with the service since his misadventures in Kazakhstan. Having taken up a job teaching college literature and linguistics, he surprisingly enjoys living a conventional life and wonders if he would even go back to spycraft. Then a colleague from an ages-ago mission reaches out with a request. One of her tech specialists was on a long-term mission, in deep cover, but has suddenly killed himself. The agency is afraid to finish this vital mission without knowing what prompted this seemingly healthy man to take his own life. The carrot in this offer is helping his old friend; the stick is a worse punishment from the Agency if he doesn’t comply. So Elliott poses as an academic researcher and heads to one of the most remote places on the planet, Ascension Island. 

Arriving on a rocky, barely livable island located in the Atlantic Ocean, halfway between Brazil and Angola, Kane is unsure whom to trust and why this lonely outpost is so important to the British military… until he uncovers dangerous secrets that lead straight back to London’s highest offices.

Oliver Harris’s Ascension is due to be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in North America (July 13th) and Little, Brown in the UK (July 1st).

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Upcoming: OLYMPUS, TEXAS by Stacey Swann (Random House/W&N)

SwannS-OlympusTexasUSIn 2021, Stacey Swann‘s “bighearted debut”, Olympus, Texas will arrive on shelves in North America and in the UK. I spotted it in a catalogue, and I’m very intrigued by it — it has “technicolor characters, plenty of Texas swagger, and a powder keg of a plot”, and has been described as “Wildly entertaining” by Richard Russo, who happens to be one of my favourite authors. So, yeah. Very much looking forward to giving this a try. here’s the synopsis:

The Briscoe family is once again the talk of their small town when March returns to East Texas two years after he was caught having an affair with his brother’s wife. His mother, June, hardly welcomes him back with open arms. Her husband’s own past affairs have made her tired of being the long-suffering spouse. Is it, perhaps, time for a change? Within days of March’s arrival, someone is dead, marriages are upended, and even the strongest of alliances are shattered. In the end, the ties that hold them together might be exactly what drag them all down.

An expansive tour de force, Olympus, Texas cleverly weaves elements of classical mythology into a thoroughly modern family saga, rich in drama and psychological complexity. After all, at some point, don’t we all wonder: What good is this destructive force we call love?

Stacey Swann’s Olympus, Texas is due to be published by Random House in North America and Weidenfeld & Nicolson in the UK, on May 4th, 2021.

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Upcoming: AFTER THE FALL by Ben Rhodes (Random House)

RhodesB-AfterTheFallUSBen Rhodes was one of President Obama’s longest-serving aides, and is a frequent contributor to various Crooked Media podcasts — in particularly, Pod Save the World. He is also the author of the excellent The World As It Is, his memoir of government service and also examination of foreign policy during the Obama years. In 2021, he has a new book coming out, which I am very eager to read: After The Fall: Being American in the World We Made.

Why is the world turning away from liberal democracy? And what can we do about it? The former deputy national security advisor to President Barack Obama and New York Times bestselling author of The World as It Is travels the globe in a deeply personal, beautifully observed quest for answers.

In 2017, as Ben Rhodes was helping former president Barack Obama begin his next chapter, the legacy they worked to build for eight years was being taken apart. To understand what was happening in his own country, Rhodes decided to look outward, at the wider world. Over the next three years, he traveled to dozens of countries, meeting with politicians, dissidents, and activists confronting the same forces that produced the Trump presidency: spreading nationalism, authoritarianism, and disinformation. Along the way, he was spied on by former Mossad operatives and the Chinese government, met with Hong Kong protesters and Russian oppositionists, and found people from Europe to Asia to the United States struggling to reconcile their own identities with the crude nationalism of their leaders — all while pursuing new strategies to fight back.

Equal parts memoir and reporting, After the Fall is an ambitious and essential work of discovery. Throughout, Rhodes reflects on how the 2008 financial crisis completed a collapse of public confidence in America, globalization, and democracy itself, opening a door to the wave of strongman leaders who have transformed our world — men like Viktor Orban in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Xi Jinping in China. He wrestles with how peoples’ yearning for identity and belonging has been weaponized by nationalists. And he learns from a diverse set of characters — from Obama to rebels to rising politicians–how we can choose a more hopeful story going forward.

Ben Rhodes’s After the Fall is due to be published by Random House in North America, on June 1st, 2021. (I couldn’t find any details of a UK edition at the time of writing.)

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