December 2023


Davidson, RobynUnfinished woman
Davis, WendyDon’t make a fuss
Dawson, ShanelleMy mother’s eyes
Mount, FerdinandKiss myself goodbye
Unreich, RachelleA brilliant life
Vincent, SamMy father and other animals

Unfinished Woman by Robyn Davidson

Australian travel writer Davidson (Tracks) excavates her childhood, romantic life, and family traumas in this raw and thorny memoir. She begins with a recollection of her mother’s 1961 suicide and the fight the two got into that day, before doubling back to interrogate the notion that the argument and the suicide were connected at all. “My mother is as close to me, and as hidden from me, as my own face,” Davidson concludes. In another passage, she describes her family’s shared jokes as granting them “the illusion of unity, belying the fact that behind each set of eyes were barricaded hordes of strangers. But then any human head is a bedlam, if you care to look.” This self-awareness underpins Davidson’s unsparing ruminations on her tense relationship with her older sister, the friction in her parents’ marriage, and her own interpersonal struggles, including a “catastrophic love affair” while she was living in London in her late 30s. Her rueful tone and assertion that her fate often felt like “the playing out of forces [she] had no hand in” hit hard. It makes for painful yet cathartic reading. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2023


A brilliant life by Rachelle Unreich

Journalist Unreich makes a graceful book debut with a family history, gleaned from interviews that she conducted with her 89-year-old mother, Mira, before she died from cancer. Born in a Czech village in 1927, Mira was the youngest of five children of Dolfie and Genya Blumenstock, Jewish shopkeepers. Her peaceful childhood ended in September 1940, when she was 13. Jews were banned from owning businesses or attending school, and their private property was confiscated by Czechoslovakian officials. In 1942, the round-ups began. Vowing to keep his family safe, Dolfie strategized their escape. Mira, like her siblings, had non-Jewish papers, but for her safety was sent away from the family to another town, where she rented a room and worked. At the same time as Dolfie protected his own family, he and his son smuggled Jews out of the Bochnia and Warsaw Ghettos, with the help of non-Jewish drivers. They hid the fugitives in homes, including Dolfie’s own, before sending them on to Budapest. But in 1944, the family met the fate of so many other Jews: Mira witnessed as Dolfie was murdered outside of his house; she and her mother were sent to a camp, one of over 40,000 situated all over Eastern Europe. Kraków-Płaszów, where Mira was sent first, was located in the south of Poland. “Originally a forced labour camp,” Unreich writes, “it had become an effective killing location.” By the time the war ended, Mira had spent nearly eight months in four camps; her mother and a brother had been killed. Mira’s recollections of the cruelty and sadism of the Holocaust are wrenching, yet the experiences did not quash her abiding faith in humanity. As a wife, mother, neighbor, and friend, she both embraced and enacted goodness. A daughter’s tender portrait of a woman who lived through terror. Kirkus Reviews, September 2023


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Moloney, HannahGood life growing
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Alderman, NaomiThe future
Alderton, DollyGood material
Baldacci, DavidThe edge
Berney, LouDark ride
Bernstein, SarahStudy for obedience
Birch, TonyWomen & children
Blanchard, TaniaA woman of courage
Child, LeeThe secret
Cummins, MickSo close to home
De Mille, NelsonBlood lines
Enright, AnneThe wren, the wren
Escoffery, JonathanIf I survive you
Hadfield, ChrisThe defector
Haratischwili, NinoJuja
Hayes, TerryThe year of the locust
Hwang, Bo-reumWelcome to the Hyunam-dong Bookshop
Kawaguchi, ToshikazuBefore we say goodbye
Keyes, DanielFlowers for Algernon
Knoll, JessicaBright young women
Lippman, LauraProm mom
McGahan, AnnaImmaculate
Murray, PaulThe bee sting
Nell, JoannaMrs Winterbottom takes a gap year
Reilly, MatthewMr Einstein’s secretary
Schmidt, MollySalt River Road
Treloar, LucyDays of innocence and wonder
Tsiolkas, ChristosThe in-between
Valentine, DanielleDelicate condition
Ward, JesmynLet us descend

The Future by Naomi Alderman

In the kinetic latest from bestseller Alderman (The Power), activists attempt to wrest power from three CEOs after a near-future apocalypse. The executives are Lenk Sketlish, the survivalist founder of the Fantail social network; Zimri Nommik, a serial cheater who runs the logistics and purchasing giant Anvil; and Ellen Bywater, who heads Medlar Technologies, a leading PC company, and often carries on imaginary conversations with her dead husband. When the trio receive an early warning about a pandemic said to be worse than Covid, they board a private jet to a secret doomsday bunker. A parallel narrative follows a group that’s been fighting for ecological and social change, among them Lenk’s assistant, Martha Einkorn, who grew up in her father’s survivalist cult; Albert Dabrowski, the ousted founder of Medlar; Zimri’s wife, Selah, who wrote some of the code for Anvil; and Badger, Ellen Bywater’s politically radical youngest child, who takes umbrage with a private early warning system for the über-rich. While Alderman’s erratic chronological jumps can be hard to follow, the narrative is eminently quotable (“The only way to know the future is to control it,” goes one line ready-made for a movie poster). The endless intrigue and surprising twists keep the pages turning. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2023


The Wren, the Wren by Anne Enright

The whip-smart latest from Booker winner Enright (The Gathering) explores the complex legacy of a revered Irish poet. It begins in contemporary Dublin with late poet Phil McDaragh’s granddaughter Nell, a recent university graduate who falls for and remains attached to a man despite suspecting he’s being unfaithful and feeling underwhelmed by the sex (“not even bad in a good way”). Enright contrasts Nell’s defiant and free-spirited narration with that of Carmel, Nell’s caring and practical mother, who ponders her daughter’s future and the pain of Phil’s abandonment of her mother, Terry, when she was battling breast cancer. Phil’s legacy is present within the novel in two forms: his poems, resplendent with images of birds and bucolic lyricism, which Enright presents in their entirety; and his troubling personal life, both as an absentee father and a toxic partner to various women (a former lover and fellow poet’s relationship with him is characterized on a Wikipedia page as “abusive”). Enright imbues a sense of great importance to domestic incidents, such as in a flashback to Nell as a child, when Carmel strikes her after she acts out by breaking a light fixture, but the tone is far from despondent; the prose fizzes with wit and bite. Enright’s discomfiting and glimmering narrative leans toward a poetic sense of hope. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2023


If I Survive You by Jonathan Escoffery

Escoffery’s vibrant and varied debut, a linked collection, chronicles the turbulent fate of a Jamaican American family in Miami. Trelawny, the main character in most of the entries, is the younger of two sons. He questions where his light skin places him within America’s racial categories and where he fits into family hierarchy: “You want to prove your father bet on the wrong son,” Trelawny narrates in the title story, addressing his father’s favorable treatment of his older brother, Delano, an arborist and musician. “In Flux” recounts Trelawny’s liberal arts education as he leaves Miami and attends college in the colder, and more racially homogenous, Midwest. “Odd Jobs,” “Independent Living,” and the title story center on the strange and ethically dubious gigs Trelawny takes to survive, including a running stint as a voyeur for a rich Miami couple, asking himself all the while: “What kind of employee are you? And just what kind of man?” Two stories exert a thrilling dramatic pull: In “Splashdown,” Trelawny’s cousin Cukie learns the lobster trapping trade, and something darker, from his estranged father; and “If He Suspected He’d Get Someone Killed…” follows Delano rushing to secure a bucket truck and a tree-trimming contract before a dangerous storm arrives. This charged work keeps a tight hold on the reader. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2022


The Bee Sting by Paul Murray

Secret pasts, forbidden desires, and shattered illusions figure into this ambitious family drama from Murray (Skippy Dies). Dickie Barnes, once a successful car salesman outside Dublin, forsakes the world to build an apocalyptic bunker in the woods. Still, he remains overshadowed by his late charismatic brother, Frank. Meanwhile, Dickie’s wife, Imelda, who can’t shake the feeling she should have married Frank, succumbs to the advances of Big Mike, a bewitching cattle farmer. Mike’s daughter is best friends with Dickie and Imelda’s eldest, the college-bound Cass, who derails her future by yielding to several kinds of temptation. And then there’s Cass’s young brother, PJ, who makes plans to run away from home with a mysterious online friend named Ethan. The prose is lovely, as Murray flits from teen shorthand to lyrical interiority (“Lying in bed that night he gets that running-out-onto-thin-air feeling. Tomorrow yawns beneath him like a chasm”). The third act veers into a baroque tragedy, as Dickie continues work on the bunker and the reader tries to understand how the Barneses got to this point. Is it the financial crash? The bee that stung Imelda on her wedding day? Or adult life “in all its theatre and cruelty”? The questions aren’t always enough to sustain the story, but their open-ended nature provokes readers to hang on to the end. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2023


Let Us Descend by Jesmyn Ward

Ward (Sing, Unburied, Sing) returns with the wrenching and beautifully told story of a young enslaved woman on a rice farm in the Carolinas. Annis picks up survival skills from her mother, Sasha: foraging herbs and mushrooms, fighting in self-defense, calling upon spirits of nature for guidance, and knowing when to run. But after Annis’s enslaver father attempts to rape her and Sasha intervenes, Sasha is sent away to be sold. Later, Annis is forcibly taken to the New Orleans slave market with Safi, another enslaved girl with whom she’s fallen in love. After Annis is made to work on a sugarcane plantation, she soothes her fear and anger with the memory of Sasha (“Didn’t Mama say I was my own weapon? That I was always enough to figure a way out?”). She also encounters Aza, a tempestuous wind spirit who has taken the name of Annis’s grandmother. When Annis learns the truth about Aza and Sasha, she must decide if she will trust Aza or heed the bewitching calls of the other spirits to give in and join them in another realm, and thereby alleviate her suffering. Throughout, Ward uses stark and striking language to describe Annis’s pain (“Every step feels like bone studding the ground: not flesh, not foot”; “My jaw aches. When I wake, my teeth are loose in my mouth”). Readers won’t be able to turn away. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2023

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Ashley, MelissaThe naturalist of Amsterdam
Cornwell, BernardSharpe’s command
Harding, PaulThis other Eden
Rogerson, PhoeniciaHerc
Weir, AlisonHenry VIII, the heart & the crown

This Other Eden by Paul Harding

Pulitzer winner Harding (Tinkers) suffuses deep feeling into this understated yet wrenching story inspired by an isolated mixed-raced community’s forced resettlement in 1912 Maine. Formerly enslaved Benjamin Honey and his Irish-born wife Patience settled Apple Island more than a century earlier. Now, the hardscrabble community includes gender-bending and incestuous siblings Theophilus and Candace Lark and their four, mentally disabled children; a Civil War veteran named Zachary Hand to God Proverbs, who lives in a hollow tree; Irish sisters Iris and Violet McDermott, who raise three orphaned Penobscot children; and the Honeys’ descendents. Christian missionary and retired schoolteacher Matthew Diamond has spent the past five years visiting the island during the summer to teach the community’s children. A deeply prejudiced man, he prays for the strength to overcome his “visceral, involuntary repulsion” to Black people, and is continually shocked at the children’s quick minds as well as Ethan Honey’s talent for drawing. With eugenics on the rise, the state sets in motion a plan to clear the island and Diamond contrives to send Ethan to a colleague in Massachusetts, where he can pass as white and study art. Harding’s close-third narration gives shape and weight to the community members’ complicated feelings about their displacement, while his magisterial prose captures a sense of place (“the island a granite pebble in the frigid Atlantic shallows”). It’s a remarkable achievement. Publisher’s Weekly, November 2022

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Baragwanath, TomPaper cage
Barrie, SarahVendetta
Bishop, D. V.The darkest sin
Bjork, SamuelThe wolf
Britton, FionaViolet Kelly and the jade owl
Brown, BryanThe drowning
Bryndza, RobertDevil’s way
Bryndza, RobertFear the silence
Bussi, MichelThe red notebook
Chen, ZijinBad kids
Cole, MartinaLoyalty
Connelly, MichaelResurrection walk
Craven, M. W.The botanist
Evanovich, JanetDirty thirty
Goddard, RobertThe fine art of uncanny prediction
Griffiths, EllyThe great deceiver
Hannah, SophieHercule Poirot’s silent night
Jardine, QuintinThe cage
Kernick, SimonThe first 48 hours
Macmillan, GillyThe fall
McDorman, DannWest heart kill
Patterson, James23 1/2 lies
Rubin, GarethThe Turnglass
Ryan, W. C.The winter guest
Schneider, Hansj0rgThe Basel killings
Wolf, PatriciaParadise

Paper Cage by Tom Baragwanath

When children begin to go missing in a small New Zealand town, the file clerk at the police station turns investigator. Set in the provincial town of Masterton, Baragwanath’s debut is both social novel and thriller, spinning the tensions between the white and Māori populations, the chokehold of street gangs, and the toll of drug addiction on young families into a suspenseful crime drama. As the novel opens, a child named Precious Kīngi has been missing for three weeks, and Lorraine Henry, a policeman’s widow who works in the file room at the station, is concerned that almost nothing is being done to find her or to protect the town’s other children. Lorraine’s life revolves around her job, drinking gin with her neighbor Patty (people wrongly suspect that they’re lovers), and helping out her adult, part-Māori niece, Sheena, whom she raised after her sister and brother-in-law were killed when returning from a seasonal job shearing sheep. Now Sheena has a 7-year-old son named Bradley, and on a night so rainy there are eels in the gutters, Lorraine heads over to their house. She’s greeted at the door by Bradley’s mostly absentee father, Keith, a drug dealer and gang member, and she immediately smells “the musty waft” and scorched lightbulbs of cooking drugs. Sheena shrugs off Lorraine’s worries but they’re well-founded. Sheena is on drugs, Keith is staying with her, and in the next few days, two more children will disappear. And one of them is Bradley. When an out-of-town investigator arrives to ramp up the search, he quickly recognizes Lorraine as the most likely person to offer any help. Resist the urge to race to the climax and keep Google close at hand to look up Māori words, because fully understanding the relationship between Masterton’s white and Indigenous cultures is central—not just to appreciating the book but to solving the mystery. Just the kind of dark, disturbing, gritty, and unusual treat thriller lovers are looking for. Kirkus Review, November 2023


Resurrection Walk by Michael Connelly

Harry Bosch and the Lincoln Lawyer team up to exonerate a woman who’s already served five years for killing her ex-husband. The evidence against Lucinda Sanz was so overwhelming that she followed the advice of Frank Silver, the B-grade attorney who’d elbowed his way onto her defense, and pleaded no contest to manslaughter to avoid a life sentence for shooting Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Deputy Roberto Sanz in the back as he stalked out of her yard after their latest argument. But now that her son, Eric, is 13, old enough to get recruited by local gangs, she wants to be out of stir and at his side. So she writes to Mickey Haller, who asks his half-brother for help. After all his years working for the LAPD, Bosch is adamant about not working for a criminal defendant, even though Haller’s already taken him on as an associate so that he can get access to private health insurance and a UCLA medical trial for an experimental cancer treatment. But the habeas corpus hearing Haller’s aiming for isn’t, strictly speaking, a criminal defense proceeding, and even a cursory examination of the forensic evidence raises Bosch’s hackles. Bolstered by Bosch’s discoveries and a state-of-the-art digital reconstruction of the shooting, Haller heads to court to face Assistant Attorney General Hayden Morris, who has a few tricks up his own sleeve. The endlessly resourceful courtroom back-and-forth is furious in its intensity, although Haller eventually upstages Bosch, Morris, and everyone else in sight. What really stands out here, however, is that Connelly never lets you forget, from his title onward, the life-or-death issues behind every move in the game. The most richly accomplished of the brothers’ pairings to date—and given Connelly’s high standards, that’s saying a lot. Kirkus Review, September 2023


Dirty Thirty by Janet Evanovich

Trenton, N.J., bounty hunter Stephanie Plum looks into a pair of jewelry heists in her goofy, good-natured latest adventure from bestseller Evanovich (after 2022’s Going Rogue). Martin Plover, owner of one of Trenton’s best-known jewelry stores, asks Stephanie to track down his missing security guard, Andy “Nutsy” Manley, who Plover believes stole a tray of diamonds valued at nearly a million dollars from his safe. Stephanie gladly accepts, seeing the job as a quick cash grab—she’s known Nutsy since childhood—and a nice complement to her other gig trailing Duncan Dugan, who jumped bail after being arrested for robbing Plover’s store on the same day Nutsy went missing (though he conclusively didn’t steal the diamonds). Joining Stephanie in her investigations are her flamboyant best friend Lula, and Bob, an excitable dog she’s taking care of for her boyfriend, Morelli, while he’s out of town. Series fans know what they’re in for, and Evanovich delivers it: quick wit, sly clue-dropping, and a well-utilized supporting cast including Stephanie’s irrepressible Grandma Mazur and the sexy Ranger, owner of a high-end security business who offers Stephanie backup (and a bed) as needed. This is fast-paced and laugh-filled fun. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2023


West Heart Kill by Dann McDorman

McDorman’s wily debut breaks the fourth wall immediately, in a sign of the authorial shenanigans to come: “This murder mystery, like all murder mysteries, begins with the evocation of what the reader understands to be its atmosphere,” goes the opening line. From there, McDorman introduces private detective Adam McAnnis, who’s finagled an invitation to a weekend-long bicentennial celebration at the West Heart hunting club in Upstate New York, where his old college friend’s family owns a cabin. After McDorman establishes his large cast (in part through a half-redacted list of dramatis personae), the plot speeds up with a suspicious drowning and the accidental shooting of West Heart president John Garmond. Looking to get to the bottom of both deaths, McAnnis interviews his fellow lodgers one by one. As the story unfolds, the omniscient narrator intrudes to offer up tangents on subjects including murder mystery genre rules (“The key is a sense of fair play—a reader must not feel cheated”) and Agatha Christie’s famous 1926 disappearance. While these peregrinations may not appeal to mystery fans who prefer a more direct route from crime to solution, McDorman ensures they never come at the expense of satisfying twists or shocks. For readers willing to try something a little different, this is quite the diversion. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2023

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Baird, JuliaBright shining
Box, DanThe man who wasn’t there
Fink, JesseThe eagle in the mirror
Ford, ClementineI don’t
McNab, AndyThe rescue
McNiven, Ian J.Innovation
Thomas, HedleyThe teacher’s pet
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Aaronovitch, BenTales from the folly
Taylor, JodiThe good, the bad and the history
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New additions to eBooks at SMSA

eBooks & Audiobooks help


BiographyDuff, MichelleJacinda Ardern
BiographyMarr, DavidKilling for country
General novelsCooper, CatherineThe island
General novelsDalton, TrentLola in the mirror
General novelsHeath, RebeccaThe Summer party
General novelsJacobs, R. J.This is how we end things
General novelsMurphy, NoraThe new mother
MysteryBarrie, SarahRetribution
MysteryCordani, AndreinaThe twelve days of murder
MysteryDe Castrique, MarkSecret lives
MysteryHeath, JackKill your husbands
MysterySwanson, PeterThe Christmas Guest
MysteryAnderson, LinThe wild Coast
MysteryWinspear, JacquelineThe white lady

Secret Lives by Mark de Castrique

Multiple shady characters spring into action when a Secret Service agent is murdered. Jonathan Finch is shot dead just outside the Crystal City apartments in Arlington, Virginia, while in the middle of an apparently felonious exchange involving cash and a satchel. Tenant Jesse Cooper, a student at nearby American University, cradles the dying Jonathan and hears his final words: “Tell Ethel the secret.” When she learns of the shooting, Crystal City landlady Ethel Fiona Crestwater immediately calls Cory Bradshaw, the head of the Secret Service, with the news that he’s lost an agent. One of the chief delights of de Castrique’s loopy crime yarn is that Ethel isn’t the frail, distracted septuagenarian she pretends to be but a whip-smart operator preeminent among the title characters. Det. Frank Mancini of the Arlington Police Department, who knows Ethel well, decides to investigate further with her and Bradshaw while trying to keep Jesse in the dark. Ethel does, however, give Jesse a gun for protection. Trevor Norwood, the man who killed Finch, is meanwhile plotting his own revenge. When FBI Director Rudy Hauser learns the identity of the dead man, he remembers him as “the key to twenty million dollars.” Bradshaw’s visit to Finch’s widow, Susan, muddies the water even further when she speculates that her husband may have committed suicide. An attack on Jesse brings FBI special agent Lisa Draper, yet another secretive soul, into the mix to begin her own investigation. De Castrique’s uber-twisty narrative strains credibility but consistently entertains. A taut and crisply told thriller whose charmingly shady protagonist triumphs over a labyrinthine plot. Kirkus Reviews, August 2022


The 12 Days of Murder by Adreina Cordani

Cordani  makes an impressive adult debut with this devious holiday whodunit. Twelve years ago, a group of university friends formed a murder mystery cosplaying group called the Masquerade Society. During their final game, the group’s ringleader, Karl, went missing, and another member’s expensive necklace vanished. In the present, each of the society’s former members—Charley, Leo, Sam, Gideon, Pan, and Shona—have been summoned by a mysterious invitation to a hunting lodge in the Scottish Highlands for a Christmas reunion game. What begins as lighthearted fun turns grave when Pan, who’d been assigned the role of “Lady Partridge,” is found dead and dangling from a pear tree. As the body count starts to rise, the group is forced to reopen questions about what happened to Karl all those years ago, and determine who among them poses a threat to the others. Cordani starts in the key of a holiday cozy but gets dark fast, a risky transition she pulls off without a hitch. Mystery lovers of all stripes will walk away satisfied. Publishers Weekly, September 2023


This is how we end things by R. J. Jacobs

Dorrance University in Shepard, North Carolina, has a top-ranked psychology department. Professor Joe Lyons, a well-known scholar, is conducting research on deception with a group of graduate students. In a study that skirts the boundaries of ethics, they deceive student volunteers and record their reactions. When Elizabeth, one of the graduate students, who is also Lyons’ lover, is found dead, the whole group is under suspicion. Campus-police officer Patrick King and Shepard police officer Alan Larson work together to find the killer. When Professor Lyons is also murdered, things become even more complicated. Neither officer has experience with murders, and the students, thanks to their studies, are all experienced liars. A late-spring storm that snows the whole town in makes the investigation more difficult. As the detectives sort through clues and false leads, secrets emerge. Readers of this psychological thriller will enjoy sorting through the complex alliances that lead to some surprising plot twists. Booklist, August 2023


The Prophet Song by Paul Lynch

An Irish family is shattered by the rise of a radical right-wing party in this slow-burning dystopian novel from Lynch (Grace). In the near future, Ireland is governed by the National Alliance Party, an eerily totalitarian mutation of nationalist politics dating back to the Troubles. Their leaders employ a militant secret police force, which rounds up trade unionist Larry Stack after he participates in a protest march. Larry’s four children assume he’s been killed along with others “disappeared” by the NAP, but his wife, Eilish, is in denial and refuses to consider leaving for somewhere safer. Lynch renders Eilish’s inner world with relentless blocks of page-long paragraphs, unbroken even during conversations with her father, Simon, who, in his dementia, often blurs past and present (he describes NAP “thugs” as “trouble,” suggesting they are reminiscent of IRA soldiers). Some of this might be lost on readers unfamiliar with the history. Still, the momentum of the prose lends an air of portentousness to the narrative until Eilish’s denial finally crumbles as she claims the body of one of her sons, who has been tortured to death, from a military hospital. Readers well-versed in the context will find Lynch’s vision painfully plausible. Publishers Weekly, October 2023


The Christmas Guest by Peter Swanson

Swanson does more with less in this punchy thriller that packs all the potency of his longer works. In 2019, an unnamed narrator decides to spend Christmas cleaning her New York City apartment. In the process, she rediscovers an “immediately recognizable” diary written by an American grad student in London named Ashley Smith, and flips to December 1989, a “murderous year” the narrator is hesitant to remember. The action then shifts to Ashley’s diary entries, recounting her invitation to the country home of her colleague, Emma Chapman, for the holidays. En route, she wonders if her time at the estate will feel like “a romance novel, or maybe a murder mystery.” It quickly becomes both: she’s met at the rail station by Emma’s hunky brother, Adam, and falls for him immediately, only to learn that he’s the prime suspect in the recent murder of a girl who looks exactly like Ashley. Swanson has plenty of knockout twists up his sleeve, but they never feel cheap, and he manages to build three-dimensional characters despite the brief page count. This is a perfect introduction to one of the cleverest talents in contemporary genre fiction. Publishers Weekly, August 2023

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General novelsCoble, ColleenEdge of dusk
General novelsGuertin, ChantelIt happened one Christmas
General novelsMartin, CharlesThe record keeper
General novelsSanders, NicolaDon’t let her stay
MysteryCarlisles, KateThe twelve books of Christmas
MysteryCoates, DarcyDead of Winter
MysteryDevlin, CaraDeath at Fournier Downs
MysteryEccleston, M. H.The trust
MysteryFlower, AmandaBecause I could not stop for death
MysteryFrost, JacquelineTwas the knife before Christmas 
MysteryHendy, HannahUnfortunate Christmas Murder
MysteryLafferty, MurChaos terminal
MysteryRosenfelt, DavidBest in snow
MysteryThompson, VictoriaMurder on St. Nicholas Ave
Science fictionWells, MarthaSystem collapse


The twelve books of Christmas by Kate Carlisle

A married couple with a long history of detecting travel to Scotland for a joyous occasion only to find themselves embroiled in murder and theft. Former spy Derek Stone and his bookbinder wife, Brooklyn Wainwright, are hosting a big family Christmas dinner in California when their friend Claire phones to say that she and her Scottish beau, Cameron MacKinnon, are getting married and they want Derek, Brooklyn, and Brooklyn’s parents to attend their wedding in Scotland–on New Year’s Eve. Claire seems worried about 12 Christmas-themed books, some of them very valuable, that went missing from the castle library after the couple hired a librarian to organize it. Castle MacKinnon, located on the shores of Loch Ness, features lovely views and incredible food. But a major fly in the ointment is a local family who seems to think their oldest daughter, Bitsy, should be marrying Cameron and are doing everything in their power to make Claire’s life a misery. Scary noises at night hint at a haunting, but Brooklyn’s more concerned about Olivia, the librarian who left the library door locked and who has an odd taste in books and an interest in Wicca. Bitsy uses the Scottish New Year’s tradition of welcoming neighbors as an excuse to move into the castle, forcing a postponement of the wedding. Soon after Bitsy’s unwelcome arrival, a local lad is found murdered in a castle closet. Brooklyn naturally puts the missing books on the back burner, and the wedding is postponed a few more days to allow her to investigate. Even though another murder follows, all the castle’s problems may be tied together if the sleuths can only untangle the clues. Pleasing characters and vivid descriptions of glorious Scotland overshadow the mystery in this quirky Christmas tale. Kirkus Reviews, September 2023

Edge of dusk by Colleen Coble

A law enforcement ranger investigates a cold case and searches for her kidnapped sister in this exciting series launch from Coble (A Stranger’s Game). Annie Pederson was nine years old when her younger sister Laura was kidnapped from the pier on Tremolo Island, Mich. Twenty-four years later, Annie works as a ranger and runs the Tremolo Marina and Cabin Resort, but in her spare time she continues to search for Laura. When Annie learns that her ex-fiancé, Jon Dunstan, has come back to town to care for his ailing father, she and Jon cautiously rekindle their romance. Then Annie discovers the bodies of two women who vanished nine years ago stashed in an old cabin on her property. Jon was the last person known to have seen the women before they disappeared and the recovery of their corpses stirs up old suspicions against him. Annie, convinced of Jon’s innocence, joins forces with him to investigate the murders, all while heeding signs from God to make peace with Laura’s disappearance. Coble expertly balances mounting tension from the murder investigation with the romantic tension between Annie and Jon. This fresh, addictive mystery delivers thrills, compassion, and hope. Publishers Weekly, May 2022


Because I could not stop for death by Amanda Flower

Emily Dickinson plays sleuth in this sprightly series launch from Flower (the Magical Bookshop mysteries). One night in 1855, Henry Noble, a stable hand with a tendency to get into trouble, tells his sister, Willa, a shy, insecure maid who’s just been hired to work for the Dickinsons, a well-to-do family in Amherst, Mass., that he’s about to make enough money to change both their lives—but he won’t tell her how until this coming Sunday. When Henry dies in a seeming accident at the town stable before Sunday, 25-year-old Emily, moved by Willa’s grief, insists that she and Willa launch their own investigation, starting with the stable. Courageous and intelligent, Emily asks uncomfortable questions of those with money and power, not just in Amherst but in Washington, D.C., a trip that the Dickinson family actually made by train in 1855. This mystery works best when it delves into the complexities of the Dickinson family, particular its depiction of Emily’s cold father, Congressman Edward Dickinson, and her controlling sister, Lavinia. This is a good start to what could be a rich historical series. Publishers Weekly, July 2022


Twas the Knife before Christmas by Jacqueline Frost

It’s December in the pseudonymous Frost’s sugary sequel to 2017’s Twelve Slays of Christmas, and Holly White, who’s busy working at her family’s Christmas tree farm in Mistletoe, Maine, takes a break one evening at the town’s new cupcake shop run by her friends Delores “Cookie” Cutter and Caroline West. Over cupcakes, Caroline mentions that the night before, at a benefit dinner, she yelled at her date, local entrepreneur Derek Waggoner, after he got “handsy.” Later, the ladies attend the town’s Christmas tree lighting celebration, which includes a “Guess How Many Mints” game. When the sheet covering the huge bowl standing next to the tree is whisked away, there stands revealed “a truckload of red and white swirled peppermints”—and a very dead Derek, who turns out to have been stabbed with Caroline’s butcher knife. In between consuming Christmas treats, Holly sets out to prove her friend’s innocence, despite the objections of her casual love interest, Sheriff Evan Gray. Never mind the slight mystery. Cozy fans with a sweet tooth will be in heaven. Publishers Weekly, September 2018


Chaos Terminal by Mur Lafferty

Lafferty’s rip-roaring second Midsolar Murders mystery (after Station Eternity) returns to the sentient space station Eternity, where reluctant sleuth Mallory Viridian contends with a cunning killer, a lost love, and a plethora of charming aliens. Because of Mallory’s unwitting connection to the Sundry, a wasplike hive mind, murders follow her wherever she goes—and she can’t resist investigating them. To escape all the death, she fled Earth for Station Eternity, a diplomatic outpost established to test the possibilities of coexistence between galactic-roaming species and a few fractious earthlings. Now, however, new humans are coming aboard—among them Mallory’s former best friend, her teenage crush, and an odious gossipmonger who turns up dead at the welcoming party. Of course, Mallory is drawn into the case. Lafferty does a solid job blending sci-fi worldbuilding and homicide investigation, though the plot feels a bit padded with flashbacks to Mallory’s past. Still, the colorful cast delights, replete with irresistible aliens who are mostly mystified by human behaviors, self-doubting AI space vehicles, and quirky human scientists, diplomats, and CIA agents. This whirlwind adventure is good fun. September 11, 2023

The record keeper by Charles Martin

The adrenaline-pumping third entry in Martin’s Murphy Shepherd series (after The Letter Keeper) explores human depravity and the healing power of love. Shepherd, a secret operative who moonlights as a popular novelist (under a pseudonym, of course), has worked for years with his mentor Bones to take down pedophiles and free victims of sex-trafficking (as Bones phrases it: “It’s why God put us on planet earth”). They have made an unstoppable team, but Bones has kept something from his mentee: Bones’s evil twin brother, Frank. Bones and Frank spent much of their youth in an orphanage run by sexually abusive priests, and decades later, Bones and Shepherd must deal with the disastrous consequences that trauma wrought on Frank. When Frank kidnaps Bones, Shepherd enlists a team of hackers to stop Frank before he destroys everything for which they’ve worked. Though the prose is plain, there’s potent commentary on the prevalence of sexual abuse in the church and its devastating effects on the victims. Series fans will snap this up. Publishers Weekly, August 2022


Best in Snow by David Rosenfelt

Edgar finalist Rosenfelt’s jaunty 24th Andy Carpenter mystery opens on a snowy November night in Paterson, N.J. Semiretired defense attorney Andy is walking his dogs in the park when Tara, “the greatest golden retriever the world has ever known,” discovers a hand protruding through the snow. It turns out to be connected to the body of Paterson’s mayor, Alex Oliva. The police are quick to arrest journalist Bobby Nash, who had written a negative story about Oliva, which turned out to be false and cost Bobby his job. Vince Sanders, the editor of the local paper and a longtime buddy of Andy’s, refuses to believe his former employee capable of murder and begs Andy to defend him. Soon homicides and attempted homicides are “popping up all over.” In the end, Andy must put his life in peril to draw out the bad guys. Rosenfelt matches crisp action scenes with wry dialogue, and he pithily conveys his characters’ shared histories. Newcomers as well as established fans will enjoy this installment. Publishers Weekly, August 2021


System Collapse by Martha Wells

By this point, seven books into bestselling Hugo Award winner Wells’s Murderbot series , readers come mostly for more snark from Murderbot, the killer robot with a heart of gold who narrates. So, though the mission the sassy, sentient Security Unit is sent out on this time breaks no new ground, fans won’t mind. Still as brutally honest as ever, Murderbot is now inexplicably acting below performance reliability parameters. It must figure out the issue and repair itself while on a mission to rescue the human settlers of a newly colonized planet from the Barish-Estranza corporation’s attempts to exploit them as slave labor. To convince these isolated colonists to trust Murderbot’s human crew over the corporate goons, Murderbot and its frenemy ART (Asshole Research Transport) decide to create a propaganda video using all the things they’ve learned about human emotions from watching television, especially Murderbot’s favorite space soap, Sanctuary Moon. The plot feels familiar and therefore somewhat unexciting, but Wells has turned a corner in her characterization of Murderbot as its human side shows more and more. This is a solid episode for the beloved android. Publishers Weekly, September 2023

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