July 2023


Kessel, JosephThe man with miraculous hands
Marigliano, LindaLove language
Park, YeonmiWhile time remains
Richards, KeithLife
Thunig, AmyTell me again
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Melton, DruThe ultimate soup cookbook
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Anderson, Kim E.The prize
Arnott, RobbieFlames
Audrain, AshleyThe whispers
Benedict, MarieThe Mitford affair
Clements, RoryThe English fuhrer
Coleman, Claire G.Enclave
Dao, AndreAnam
Davis, FionaThe spectacular
Grossman, DavidMore than I love my life
Hashimi, NadiaSparks like stars
Jackson, JennyPineapple Street
Kuang, R. F.Yellowface
Labuskes, BriannaThe librarian of burned books
Lester, NatashaThe three lives of Alix St Pierre
May, KarinaDuck à l’Orange for breakfast
Neal, JenniferNotes on her colour
O’Flanagan, SheilaThe woman on the bridge
Rosende, MercedesCrocodile tears
Saunders, MykaelaThis all come back now
Scarrow, SimonBlackout
Smith, Martin CruzIndependence Square
Waller, ErickaDog days
Winn, AliceIn memoriam

Yellowface by R. F. Kuang

A struggling novelist passes off a manuscript left by her dead college friend in this excellent satire from Kuang (Babel, or the Necessity of Violence). Athena Liu, who is Chinese American, dies accidentally by choking at her Washington, D.C., apartment while celebrating a movie deal for one of her novels. At the celebration is June Hayward, who met Athena when they were at Yale together, and whose own career has stalled after her publisher folded. Since then, while watching Athena’s meteoric rise, she came to find her old friend “unbearable.” In the commotion after Athena’s death, June, who is white, pilfers a manuscript from her desk. Titled The Last Front, it’s a historical novel about the role of Chinese laborers in WWI. After June gets a six-figure deal for it, she excises slurs used against Chinese laborers and adds a love story between a white woman and a Chinese soldier. Against objections from Candice Lee, a Korean American editorial assistant, the book goes to market, where it climbs up the bestseller list and attracts a vociferous backlash from the AAPI community, plus a scathing review from a prominent critic, who calls it a “white redemption” narrative. June grows increasingly anxious as she’s accused online by @AthenaLiusGhost of stealing Athena’s work, then starts thinking she’s seeing Athena at readings and around town. Kuang provides a sharp analysis of publishing’s blind spots and guides the plot toward a thrilling face-off between June and Athena’s “ghost.” This is not to be missed. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023

The Book of the Most Precious Substance by Sara Gran

Former novelist Lily Albrecht, the narrator of this mesmerizing biblio-mystery from Gran (Marigold), now makes her living as a rare book dealer in the wake of a shattering personal tragedy. At a Manhattan book fair, she’s approached by Shyman, a fellow book dealer who has “a shadow in his face, a hollow echo in his laugh, that let you know he’d rather be around books than people.” Shyman asks her help in finding The Book of the Most Precious Substances, an extremely scarce 17th-century manual on sex magic, for a client. The handwritten volume promises sexual ecstasy and unlimited power to those who can complete its five steps, and some of the world’s wealthiest people are desperate to get their hands on it. Lily enlists the help of her friend Lucas Markson, a rare books archivist and librarian, and their quest takes them from New York to Los Angeles, New Orleans, Munich, and Paris. As they soon discover, many of the people looking for the book seem to end up dead, and Lily herself begins to feel that the strange book is pulling her into its embrace. Gran perfectly captures the eccentric world of antiquarian bookselling while portraying a profound and magical reckoning with loss and the possibility of going on. She has outdone herself. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2021


Independence Square by Martin Cruz Smith

Bestseller Smith’s stellar 10th mystery featuring Arkady Renko (after 2019’s The Siberian Dilemma) finds the maverick Russian investigator working for Moscow’s Office of Prosecution in June 2021. Relegated by his boss to desk duty, he serves as the office’s departmental liaison officer and attends pointless meetings where he’s “neither wanted nor needed.” He gets a chance to exercise his investigative skills when Fyodor Abakov, a bodybuilder who runs protection rackets in the city, asks him to trace his missing daughter, Karina, a violinist in a string quartet. That Karina is a member of an anti-Putin organization, Forum for Democracy, has led Abakov to fear that the government is behind her disappearance. Renko agrees to help, and his inquiry eventually takes him to Ukraine and Crimea in search of leads. His efforts are complicated by several brazen political murders, a new romantic opportunity, and a diagnosis that he has Parkinson’s, which has already affected his balance and energy level. Smith’s reveal about what happened to Karina is surprising, logical, and disturbing. Renko, who made his debut in 1981’s Gorky Park, remains the archetype of an honest cop working for a corrupt regime. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023

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Hynes, JamesSparrow
Iggulden, ConnEmpire
Maitland, K. J.The drowned city

Sparrow by James Hynes

In his declining years, a man reflects upon, and relates, the brutal circumstances of his earliest life as a slave living in the Roman Empire. Sold into slavery as a child and unaware of any details about his background, Jacob, the narrator of Hynes’ richly detailed historical novel, begins his story with a litany of the identities he may (or may not) have assumed or been forced into: Standing out on the list are “cinaedus,” “eunuch,” “pimp,” “slave,” and “whore,” alerting readers that this rendition of ancient life casts an eye on Roman culture beyond amphitheaters and gladiators. Raised in a brothel, after having been mistakenly bought as a girl slave, Jacob (the name adopted later by the narrator referred to initially only as Pusus or “Little One”) endures years of menial domestic labor and harsh treatment but falls into a quasi-familial relationship with several of the “wolves” (prostitutes) working there. The viscerally disturbing turns that his life takes during his preadolescent years force Jacob to create an alter ego for himself, and he becomes—via the escape hatch of his mind at least—the eponymous Sparrow. Pusus/Jacob/Sparrow (among his other acquired monikers) breaks the literary equivalent of the theater’s fourth wall and occasionally addresses readers with foreshadowing or commentary on the fallibility of memory, providing some relief from the inexorable grimness of his existence. Extensively researched, Hynes’ examination of an empire grappling with survival and the growing influence of the not entirely beneficent force of Christianity raises questions about trauma, identity, and the creation of intentional family in the context of the sympathetic narrator’s growing awareness of the world he is locked away from. A vivid portrait of a literal empire of pain. Kirkus Reviews, March 2023

 The Art of Dying by Ambrose Parry

When Will Raven returns to Edinburgh in 1849 as a medical doctor, he finds that sometimes there is no cure for damages inflicted in the past. Raven is cautiously optimistic, and why wouldn’t he be? After having studied abroad, he is now the newly appointed assistant to the famous Dr. James Simpson, who pioneered the use of chloroform. Despite problems in his past, Raven hopes his life at Queen Street will settle into a respected routine, but one glance at the woman he left behind when he went on his travels and he knows that’s unlikely. Beautiful, intelligent Sarah Fisher was only a housemaid, although her keen intelligence had helped him in the past (The Way of All Flesh, 2018). Feeling the difference in their status would always be a deterrent, Will left her and went abroad. Another man, though, felt no such hesitation. In Raven’s absence, a rich doctor fell in love with Sarah, and she is now married. However, when several patients die of unexplained causes and Dr. Simpson’s expertise is questioned, Raven and Sarah will again join forces to find out why. The author deftly weaves history into this lively tale, unfolding facts about medicine and misogyny with equal ease. Making Raven and Sarah such stubborn characters only increases their believability, and a twist at the end nicely increases the pleasure of this story. This is historical fiction at its most enjoyable, with facts smoothly blended into a clever plot. Kirkus Reviews, January 2020

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Abell, StigDeath under a little sky
Armstrong, KelleyThe poisoner’s ring
Bannalec, Jean-LucThe body by the sea
Billingham, MarkThe last dance
Blacke, OliviaVinyl resting place
Byron, EllenBayou book thief
Chien, VivienHot and sour suspects
Coles, RichardA death in the parish
Cosby, S. A.All the sinners bleed
Cotterill, ColinThe motion picture teller
Aegisdottir, Eva BjörgNight Shadows
Gomez-Jurado, JuanRed queen
Hannah, SophieThe killings at Kingfisher Hill
Hill, SusanThe benefit of hindsight
Jaswal, Balli KaurNow you see us
Kepler, LarsThe spider
Kirwan, CatherineCruel deeds
Malliet, G. M.Augusta Hawke
Marsons, AngelaDeadly fate
McIlvanney, LiamThe Heretic
Mercier, MercedesBlack lies
Patterson, JamesCross down
Preston, Douglas J.The cabinet of Dr. Leng
Quigley, MindySix feet deep dish
Rao, NilimaA disappearance in Fiji
Sandford, JohnDark Angel
Sauers, JoanEcho Lake
Slater, AliceDeath of a bookseller
Thorogood, RobertDeath comes to Marlow
Tindale, DarcyThe fall between
Walker, MartinA chateau under siege
Ward, SarahThe birthday girl

Now You See Us by Balli Kaur Jaswal

A Filipina domestic worker is accused of murdering her employer in Singapore. Corazon Bautista, who was once an advocate for workers like her, has returned to Singapore after a spell in the Philippines, older and wearier after having suffered a devastating loss in her home country. She is placed with Elizabeth Lee, a widow whose compassion causes Cora more complications than she could have imagined. Her old friend Angel has a broken heart and her own set of challenges, especially from the college-aged son of her longtime employers. But Cora’s and Angel’s troubles are no match for those of proud, young, persistent Donita, who’s stuck working for the vicious Mrs. Fann, whose cruelty has communitywide ripple effects. When the news breaks that a woman named Carolyn Hong has been murdered and Flordeliza Martinez, her maid, has been taken into custody, Cora, Angel, and Donita find their position in Singaporean society has become even more precarious overnight. They shouldn’t get involved given their pasts and their present circumstances, but the mystery of what really happened and who’s to blame engulfs them anyway. Author Jaswal weaves this captivating story with superb skill. Cora, Angel, and Donita are engaging characters with rich inner lives and personal histories. Their relationships with each other; their employers and the Republic of Singapore; and their families and homeland provide extraordinary texture to the violent crime at the story’s center. The novel doesn’t shy away from contemporary politics but doesn’t preach, either. Rather, it examines the lives of people who are part of a complex, often exploitative global system that devalues the lives of women and the profound responsibilities that are classified as women’s work—the rules these women must abide, both spoken and unspoken, their hopes and aspirations, and their varied grief. It’s a layered, compelling read. This novel explores the lives of maids and caregivers in Singapore with admirable craft and care. Kirkus Reviews, March 2023

The Cabinet of Dr. Leng by Douglas Preston

Bestsellers Preston and Child’s middling 21st Pendergast novel (after 2021’s Bloodless) finds Aloysius X.L. Pendergast, an FBI agent whose cases tend to involve monsters and the paranormal, still bereft after his ward and love-interest, Constance Greene, traveled in time to 1880 New York City at the end of the previous book. Flash back to 1880. Constance is hoping to prevent Enoch Leng, a sadistic doctor last seen in 2002’s The Cabinet of Curiosities, from causing the deaths of her sister, Mary, and her brother, Joseph. Since this 1880 New York City is in a different universe from the one in which Mary and Joseph died prematurely, Constance, who has barely aged since Leng gave her an elixir to prolong her life back then, believes she can save her siblings and gain a measure of justice without changing her own future. The action alternates between Constance’s efforts in the past and two present-day plot threads: Pendergast’s endeavor to rebuild the machine that enabled Constance’s time travel so he can join her, and a murder case partnering two of his investigative colleagues that feels like filler. This works best as a setup for the next book, which promises to resolve this one’s many dangling plot threads. Publisher’s Weekly, November 2022


Death Comes to Marlow by Robert Thorogood

Thorogood follows up 2021’s The Marlow Murder Club with another brisk and breezy cozy featuring 78-year-old Judith Potts, who creates crosswords for national newspapers, and her friends Suzie and Becks. Judith is surprised when Sir Peter Bailey—the head of one of the town’s most preeminent families—asks her to attend a garden party at his home the day before his wedding to his live-in nurse. There, the champagne-sipping guests suddenly hear a tremendous crash and, rushing into the house, find Sir Peter crushed beneath a fallen bookcase. As the only key to the room is in the dead man’s pocket, the police are quick to assume the death was accidental. Judith does not agree. But how will she and her friends prove that someone had committed murder inside a locked room? With quiet help from a police sergeant and their own wits, the women start parsing clues to home in on the killer. Thorogood’s characters are vivid and companionable, the dialogue sparkles with wit, and the plot gives armchair detectives a fighting chance to solve the mystery. This is good, fast-moving fun. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2023


A Disappearance in Fiji by Nilima Rao

Rao’s lively, elegantly constructed debut follows 25-year-old police sergeant Akal Singh, who was a rising star in Hong Kong until an embarrassing debacle led to his transfer to—in his words—the “godforsaken island” of Fiji in 1914. He does not hit it off with his new superior, Inspector General Thurstrom, and anticipates receiving only inconsequential assignments. The disappearance of a missing indentured worker on a sugar plantation at first raises little interest, but then newspapers start claiming the woman was kidnapped; the publicity forces Thurstrom to send Singh out to investigate. He arrives at the plantation of Henry Parkins and finds that its overseer, John Brown, is also missing. These disappearances don’t seem to concern Parkins and his wife, who suggest that Brown and the woman, Kunti, were lovers who ran away together, but after talking with other workers, Singh becomes convinced there’s something more sinister at play. As he interviews locals and learns more about Fiji’s class strata, Singh begins to wonder whether Brown and Kunti will ever return home. Rao skillfully weaves descriptions of the treatment and living conditions of Indian workers into the propulsive plot and draws a host of vibrant characters. This is an exceptionally promising debut. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2023

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Calvo, PacoPlanta sapiens
Klemperer, VictorTo the bitter end
Rosenberg, DavidPine Gap
Sarago, Sasha KutabahGigorou

Planta Sapiens by Paco Calvo

Are plants sentient? Calvo, a professor of philosophy of science at Universidad de Murcia in Spain, begins classes by demonstrating that, when exposed to an anesthetic, mimosa leaves stop withdrawing and Venus flytraps stop trapping. If a plant can be put to sleep as an animal can, writes the author, “perhaps we might consider the possibility that plants are not simple automatons or inert, photosynthetic machines. We might begin to imagine that plants have some kind of individual experience of the world. They might be aware.” To the relentlessly “zoocentric” human mind, movement and intelligence are linked, but plants could not exist in the brutal competition for survival if they did not take in information, learn, and plan ahead. Although lacking neurons like animals, they use similar electrical signals to engage with their surroundings. Despite possessing a completely different system, they’re doing something similar. Many scientists disagree with these notions, arguing that plant “behavior” is simply adaptation, a genetically encoded response to a stimulus that has proved advantageous over evolutionary time. Taking up the challenge, Calvo agrees that “it’s up to us to prove it” and proceeds to describe sophisticated behavior that will impress even skeptical readers. Following the sun during the day, some plants turn at night to face the sunrise the following day. Kept in a black box in the lab, they will not lose the memory for three or four days. Simple slime molds gather to form large masses than can solve maze problems and remember molecular likes and dislikes through communication between individual cells. Along with fascinating examples, Calvo devotes equal space to arguments with philosophers and fellow scientists over the meaning of intelligence. Readers will find it difficult to resist his claim that plants tailor their forms and experiences to their environments in a way that animals simply cannot. “If we look closely at how they do this,” writes the author, “we will be able to begin to understand why they do.” Persuasive evidence for plant intelligence. Kirkus Reviews, February 2020

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Jackson, AndyHuman looking
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Aaronovitch, BenWinter’s gifts
Cogman, GenevieveScarlet
Sanderson, BrandonTress of the Emerald Sea
Sterling, Michelle MinCamp Zero

Tress of the Emerald Sea by Brandon Sanderson

A fantasy adventure with a sometimes-biting wit. Tress is an ordinary girl with no thirst to see the world. Charlie is the son of the local duke, but he likes stories more than fencing. When the duke realizes the two teenagers are falling in love, he takes Charlie away to find a suitable wife—and returns with a different young man as his heir. Charlie, meanwhile, has been captured by the mysterious Sorceress who rules the Midnight Sea, which leaves Tress with no choice but to go rescue him. To do that, she’ll have to get off the barren island she’s forbidden to leave, cross the dangerous Verdant Sea, the even more dangerous Crimson Sea, and the totally deadly Midnight Sea, and somehow defeat the unbeatable Sorceress. The seas on Tress’ world are dangerous because they’re not made of water—they’re made of colorful spores that pour down from the world’s 12 stationary moons. Verdant spores explode into fast-growing vines if they get wet, which means inhaling them can be deadly. Crimson and midnight spores are worse. Ships protected by spore-killing silver sail these seas, and it’s Tress’ quest to find a ship and somehow persuade its crew to carry her to a place no ships want to go, to rescue a person nobody cares about but her. Luckily, Tress is kindhearted, resourceful, and curious—which also makes her an appealing heroine. Along her journey, Tress encounters a talking rat, a crew of reluctant pirates, and plenty of danger. Her story is narrated by an unusual cabin boy with a sharp wit. (About one duke, he says, “He’d apparently been quite heroic during those wars; you could tell because a great number of his troops had died, while he lived.”) The overall effect is not unlike The Princess Bride, which Sanderson cites as an inspiration. Engrossing worldbuilding, appealing characters, and a sense of humor make this a winning entry in the Sanderson canon. Kirkus Reviews, April 2023

Camp Zero by Michelle Min Sterling

Sterling’s stunning debut offers a glimpse into a climate change–ravaged future in which resources diminish quickly and new frontiers are hard to find. In desolate northern Canada, the enigmatic architect Meyer is building a settlement that promises hope for climate refugees. A group of escorts called the Blooms are flown into the build-site to be a sliver of beauty in the snowy wasteland. Among them is Rose, who hails from the Floating City, a luxurious, man-made metropolis that floats in Boston Harbor. She was secretly sent by a high-profile client to investigate the camp in exchange for an easier life for her Korean immigrant mother, but setbacks, mysteries, and a captivating man called the Barber hinder her progress with her mission. Meanwhile, Grant, who signed on to the project to extricate himself from both his wealthy family’s long shadow and a relationship that left him heartbroken, learns from the Diggers he’s been hired to teach that construction may well be futile. Nearby in a leftover Cold War station, a group of female experts in climate research grow from colleagues to friends to lovers as they unravel the cryptic mysteries of the team of men assigned to the same station before them. Sterling’s future is close enough to the present to be entirely recognizable, underlining this cleverly constructed climate fiction mystery with palpable terror: this world feels like one many readers could see within their lifetimes. This should earn a place on shelves alongside Station Eleven and Annihilation. Publisher’s Weekly, November 2022

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New additions to eBooks at SMSA

eBooks & Audiobooks help


General novelsAkec, KgshakHopeless Kingdom
General novelsDavis, FionaThe Spectacular
General novelsJafari, PiroozForty Nights
General novelsMcGregor, Fiona KellyIris
General novelsRabess, CeciliaEverything’s Fine
General novelsShepherd-Robinson, LauraThe Square of Sevens
MysteryEdvardsson, M. T.The Woman Inside
MysteryLight, CarolRoom for Suspicion
MysteryWood, MichaelFor Reasons Unknown
MysteryYokomizo, SeishiThe Devil’s Flute Murders

The Spectacular by Fiona Davis

A dancer joins forces with a psychiatrist to find a bomber targeting New York City in the kinetic latest from Davis (The Magnolia Palace). It’s 1956 and dancer Marion Brooks, 19, has just joined the Radio City Rockettes, having defied her father Simon’s wishes that she marry her childhood sweetheart and settle down. Though she’s sad to not have her dad’s approval, Marion is thrilled when her older sister, Judy, agrees to attend the Rockettes’ Christmas show. But tragedy strikes when a pipe bomb explodes in the theater, killing Judy. The Big Apple Bomber claims responsibility in a note, in which he also disparages Met Power, where Simon is an executive. Determined to stop the bomber, Marion seeks help from Peter Griggs, a psychiatrist she met on a blind date. Though police officers initially discount Peter’s profile of the bomber, one officer acknowledges Peter might be onto something. Emboldened, Marion and Peter surreptitiously search Met Power’s records to see if a disgruntled former employee could have set the bombs. As the plot builds to a dramatic climax that sees Marion putting her life at risk, Davis expertly incorporates behind-the-scenes details of the Rockettes, including the intricate choreography of their wooden soldiers number. This page-turner delivers the goods. Publishers Weekly, July 2023


Everything’s Fine by Cecilia Rabess

Rabess delivers a breezy yet unsettling debut about a liberal Black financial analyst who falls in love with a white Republican coworker. It’s the middle of the Obama years and Jess Jones, newly hired at Goldman Sachs, runs into Josh Hillyer, an old college classmate with whom she used to argue over politics. To her surprise, they slowly become friends despite his conservative views as he mentors her and helps her navigate office politics as the only Black woman in the firm. Eventually, Josh leaves Goldman to work at a big-time trader’s AI-powered firm, and he brings Jess along with him. Sparks inevitably fly between Jess and Josh as they try to work out their drastically different outlooks and backgrounds. Secrets are revealed, Jess gets in trouble with the boss, and everything comes to a head as the 2016 election approaches, building to a conclusion that lands as either shallowly romantic or an incendiary critique of capitalism, depending on the reader’s interpretation. Rabess’s humor is on-point, and the chemistry between the leads is electric; each scene involving them is fraught with a double-edged sword—after they hook up, Josh starts talking dirty and Jess responds, “Way to ruin the moment, you creepy loser,” before they have sex again. This is sure to spark conversation. Publishers Weekly, April 2023


The Devil’s Flute Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

Yokomizo (1902–1981) is at his absolute best in this fourth whodunit featuring Tokyo private detective Kosuke Kindaichi (after 2022’s Death on Gokumon Island). In 1947, Kindaichi is consulted by 20-something Mineko Tsubaki. Her father, Hidesuke, a flautist and composer, disappeared the previous spring, and his corpse was found six weeks later. The official verdict was that Hidesuke poisoned himself, but Mineko and her mother, who believe the corpse was misidentified, suspect he may still be alive. Kindaichi agrees to attend a divination session intended to summon the musician’s spirit and confirm his demise, during which another member of the Tsubaki household is murdered. Now saddled with two cases, Kindaichi must suss out Tsubaki family secrets to prevent even more carnage. From the ominous opening through the brilliant final reveal, Yokomizo ably blends suspense and fair-play detection. Superior atmospherics (“As I take up my pen to begin recording this miserable tale, I cannot help but feel some pangs of conscience,” Kindaichi begins) and a persistent sense of menace mark this as a classic of the genre. Publishers Weekly, May 2023

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GeneralGilmore, LucyThe Lonely Hearts Book Club
GeneralMatthews, Amy T.Someone Else’s Bucket List
MysteryAmphlett, RachelTurn to Dust
MysteryBrennan, AllisonSeven Girls Gone
MysteryMizushima, MargaretHanging falls
MysteryShelton, PaigeFateful Words
MysterySullivan, TimThe Patient
MysteryThompson, VictoriaMurder in Chelsea
MysteryWinstead, AshleyIn My Dreams I Hold a Knife
Science fictionWells, MarthaFugitive Telemetry

Seven Girls Gone by Allison Brennan

Bestseller Brennan’s overloaded fourth Costa and Quinn novel (after 2022’s The Wrong Victim) takes FBI special agent Matt Costa, head of the agency’s Mobile Response Team, and LAPD officer Kara Quinn to Broussard Parish, the heart of the Louisiana bayou, at the request of Beau Hebert, a small-town police detective. Seven young women have gone missing in recent years. Of those whose bodies have been found, one has been stabbed to death and four asphyxiated. All had drugs in their system. Beau’s investigation has been stymied by a corrupt police chief, and his only hope of bringing the women’s killer to justice lies with the MRT unit. The many moving parts of the plot, which include a plethora of suspects, a wide assortment of crimes, and an encounter or two with gators in the swamp, collide in a heap of a finale. Meanwhile, the personal relationship between Costa and Quinn continues to creep forward at a snail’s pace. Will Quinn continue to resist admitting a romantic commitment? Romantic suspense fans will want to stay tuned to find out. Publishers Weekly, February 2023



The Lonely Hearts Book Club by Lucy Gilmore

Gilmore knocks it out of the park with this passionate love letter to books, showing literature’s power to offer solace, understanding, and human connection. When frail but formidable former literature professor Arthur fails to show up to the library as usual, librarian Sloane, who recognizes him as a kindred spirit despite his cantankerousness, correctly guesses that he’s sick and refusing help. Sloane pushes her way into Arthur’s home, and his neighbor Maisey, part-time nurse Mateo, and grandson Greg soon follow. The five protagonists tell their stories in consecutive narrations: Sloane is grieving her sister and engaged to a man she doesn’t love; telephone psychic Maisey struggles to connect with her teenage daughter; charming but listless Mateo can’t commit to a job or to his boyfriend; and Greg’s fulfilling his mother’s dying wish of reconciling with his estranged grandfather. Drawn together by Arthur’s illness, they form an unlikely book club, bonding over The Remains of the Day, The Joy Luck Club, and Anne of Green Gables. While there’s a hint of romance between Sloane and Greg, the real love story here is with stories themselves. Gilmore’s complex characters jump off the page, and readers should have their handkerchiefs ready for some cathartic tears. This is a treat. Publishers Weekly, February 2023


Someone Else’s Bucket List by Amy T. Matthews

In this multiple-tissue contemporary romance, Matthews (End of the Night Girl) explores the bond between sisters, the role of social media in society, and the way medical debt can cripple an entire family. Jodie Boyd’s family is paralyzed with grief after Jodie’s outgoing older sister, Bree, an influencer, dies of cancer. Adding to the stress, they are responsible for her enormous medical bills. Jodie takes on extra hours at the car rental job she detests but then is offered a deal: agree to publicly complete the bucket list Bree posted on social media and Bree’s Instagram sponsor will pay off the debt. Shy, passive, and social media–averse Jodie reluctantly agrees and heads to New York to take on the nerve-racking assignments—the most intimidating of which is “fall in love.” Luckily, her high school crush, Kelly Wong, who abandoned Jodie at prom but whom she’s always carried a torch for, reenters her life and makes that task a bit easier. Matthews creates myriad tear-jerking moments and puts a fresh spin on the somewhat tired bucket list trope. Fans of Josie Silver and Cecelia Ahern will be taken by this story of joy after grief. Publishers Weekly, March 2023


Hanging falls by Margaret Mizushima

A K-9 cop seeks to solve the case of a dead body in the woods so she can take time off to investigate the mysteries of her own family. Mattie Cobb is finally stepping aside from her role as deputy and the human part of Timber Creek’s only K-9 team to connect with relatives she thought she’d lost many years before. Her sister, Julia, and her abuela have plans to welcome Mattie with open arms, if only she can get away for a few days. But those plans are put on ice when Mattie and her friend Glenna come upon a body while jogging at Hanging Falls. Robo, Mattie’s German shepherd partner, is needed to search the Colorado forests, so Mattie puts off her visit to find out who could have killed what appears to be an out-of-towner, then dumped him in the water. While Mattie keeps their shift from friendship to full-on romance private, she’s happy to have the help of Cole Walker on the case. Not only is Cole an adept vet whose knowledge is helpful in considering the possible role a horse tranquilizer played in the death, but his calm confidence steadies Mattie when she’s overwhelmed by emotions. A childhood of trauma and then foster care with Mama T has made Mattie slow to trust, and her police training has given her lingering questions about what really happened to split up her family. The sooner she solves the case of the body in the woods, the sooner she can reunite with Julia and Abuela to ask the hard questions about her own life. An imperfect heroine and her beloved canine sidekick: What’s not to like? Kirkus Reviews, July 2020

Fateful Words by Paige Shelton

In bestseller Shelton’s entertaining eighth Scottish Bookshop mystery (after 2022’s The Burning Pages), wealthy businessman Edwin MacAlister, who owns the Cracked Spine bookstore, selects four “winners” every year from people he’s corresponded with on literary matters. The prize is a coveted all-expenses-paid weekend-long literary tour of Edinburgh led by Edwin. When Edwin and his assistant, Hamlet, are unexpectedly—and mysteriously—unavailable to lead the tour, Edwin’s American expat employee, Delaney Nichols, is tapped to lead the group. The four winners, disappointed by the change, and their newly appointed guide, Delaney, begin the tour. Within 24 hours, the owner of the inn where they’re staying is dead from a fall, and one of the four has vanished. Delaney gamely carries on as she leads the group to places with literary ties, including the Writers Museum and Deacon Brodie’s Tavern, and the danger mounts. With the help of her husband, Tom, Delaney discovers a trail of false identities, fraud, and a killer intent on destroying Edwin. This is armchair tourism at its best, with a dash of murder for spice. Bibliophiles and cozy fans alike will be enchanted. Publishers Weekly, February 2023


In My Dreams I Hold a Knife by Ashley Winstead

Successful if depressed New York City consultant Jessica Miller, the narrator of Winstead’s captivating debut, decides to attend her 10th reunion at North Carolina’s Duquette University, despite the risk of reopening old wounds surrounding the stabbing murder of Heather Shelby, who belonged to a clique known as the East House Seven, which also included Jessica and Jack Carroll, Heather’s ex-boyfriend. Of the seven, only Jack declines to go, as every other member of the clique, except for Jessica, believes he killed Heather (the murder weapon was found in his room), though he wasn’t convicted of the crime. At the reunion, Heather’s brother, Eric Shelby, who works in the alumni office, takes the opportunity to interrogate Jessica and the others, certain one of them is the murderer. Flashbacks to their undergraduate days reveal deceit and disloyalty as well as Jessica’s romantic and financial struggles. The tension rises as Eric refuses to let the group leave until the truth is uncovered. Winstead does an expert job keeping the reader guessing whodunit. Suspense fans will eagerly await her next. Publishers Weekly, June 2021


Fugitive Telemetry by Martha Wells

Hugo and Nebula Award–winner Wells brings her solitude-craving, media-loving killer robot protagonist another step closer to independence in the entertaining sixth entry in the Murderbot Diaries series (after Network Effect). A dead body found in Preservation Station mall propels Murderbot, a SecUnit, into a new contract as a consultant in the murder investigation. Murderbot hopes to gain the refugee status that would enable it to stay in the Preservation Alliance, but it’s an uphill battle as rogue SecUnits are feared as unhinged killers—an unfounded fear in this case, as Murderbot wants nothing more than to catch up on its favorite soap opera in peace. Vexed by the illogical humans it’s forced to work with, Murderbot patiently explains its way through the clues it uncovers, and Senior Officer Indah can’t help being impressed with Murderbot’s investigative skills and surprisingly compassionate regard for life. Murderbot’s wry observations of human behavior are as humorous as ever and the mystery is thoroughly satisfying. This is another winning series installment. Publishers Weekly, January 2021

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