October 2023


Lumby, CatharineFrank Moorhouse
Priest, Ann-MarieMy tongue is my own
Steinberg, JonnyWinnie and Nelson

Winnie and Nelson by Jonny Steinberg

Journalist Steinberg (A Man of Good Hope) vividly recreates the political and private lives of anti-apartheid activists Nelson and Winnie Mandela in this exceptional dual biography. African National Congress (ANC) leader Nelson Mandela and social worker Nomzamo Winifred Madikizela met in Johannesburg in 1957. Already a target of the white ruling authorities, Nelson went underground in 1961; arrested and jailed the following year for inciting a strike, he eventually received a lifetime prison sentence. While cultivating an aura of suffering and martyrdom from his cell, Nelson evolved into an inspirational figurehead for a free South Africa. Meanwhile, Winnie raised their daughters, supported the family, and made a place for herself in the ANC. By the 1970s, the ANC became South Africa’s preeminent anti-apartheid organization and the Mandelas internationally known as its leaders. Privately, their marriage cracked under the strain. Winnie began taking lovers when Nelson first went underground, which he knew and accepted, though he preferred the myth he wove of their relationship. Rumors also circulated about her drinking and violent behavior. Two years after Nelson’s release in 1990, the couple divorced, costing Winnie the last of the power she held with the ANC. The tumultuous decades apart had turned them into “astonishingly scarred human beings,” Steinberg writes. Readers will be mesmerized by the thrumming tension and profound emotional complexity of this intimate portrait of two global icons. It’s a knockout. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023

Return to top


Adegoke, YomiThe list
Aoyama, MichikoWhat you are looking for is in the library
Atkinson, KateNormal rules don’t apply
Bowen, RhysThe Paris assignment
Brabon, KatherineBody Friend
Brownlow, JohnAssassin Eighteen
Diaz, HernanTrust
Gospodinov, GeorgiTime Shelter
Hall, BronwynThe chasm
Kawaguchi, ToshikazuBefore the coffee gets cold: Tales from the cafe
Leal, SuzanneThe watchful wife
Lefteri, ChristyThe book of fire
Levy, DeborahAugust blue
Montefiore, SantaWait for me
Pooley, ClareThe people on platform 5
Powers, KevinA line in the sand
Ripley, SamThe rule of three
Riwoe, MirandiSunbirds
Smith, ZadieThe fraud
Thai, ThaoBanyan moon

The List by Yomi Adegoke

In British writer Adegoke’s complex and revelatory U.S. debut, an online magazine editor in London is put in a difficult position after her fiancé is anonymously accused of harassment and physical assault at an office party. Ola Olajide has made her reputation by reporting on predators in the music industry, and she and her partner Michael Koranteng have garnered many online admirers as a prominent Black couple. A month before their wedding, an anonymous list of allegedly abusive men shows up on social media with Michael’s name on it. Though he’s cheated on Ola in the past, she refuses to believe he’s guilty. Michael is convinced that his former fling, Jackie, named him out of revenge for breaking things off with her, though he keeps this suspicion from Ola. Adegoke does a thorough job of tackling the many issues involved: there’s strong evidence against other men on the list, which causes Michael to appear guilty by association and attracts ire from an online mob, a situation that hurts Ola’s credibility as she neglects to join them in taking down her fiancé. The story is full of poignant turns and nuanced insights, such as when Michael examines how he was negatively conditioned as a boy by a misogynist culture. This page-turner has bite. Publisher’s Weekly, September 2023


I Did It for You by Amy Engel

In this stellar standalone from Engel (The Familiar Dark), the murder of teenagers Eliza Dunning and Travis Pratt is a settled matter for most people in Ludlow, Kans. Fourteen years ago, the pair was gunned down while they were making out in a car, and authorities later found the murder weapon, a .44 Magnum, under the mattress of 18-year-old Roy Matthews. Despite the lack of a clear motive, Roy was convicted and executed for the crimes, but his death didn’t satisfy Eliza’s younger sister, Greer, who’s long been convinced there’s more to the story. When two more teens are murdered under identical circumstances, Greer takes leave from her job in Chicago and returns to Ludlow. Officials chalk up the killings to a copycat, but Greer is certain they’re more closely tied to her sister’s murder and sets off on her own investigation, casting suspicion on old friends and enemies alike, even as she fears becoming a target herself. Engel elevates the already tantalizing mystery with an uncommonly raw portrayal of Greer’s grief—her palpable inner struggles form the backbone of the novel. Mysteries don’t come much better than this. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2023


Banyan Moon by Thao Thai

Thai debuts with an accomplished story of a Vietnamese American family’s complex relationships and pressing mysteries. Ann Tran, a professional illustrator living in Michigan with her wealthy boyfriend, Noah Winthorpe, has been called home by her mother, Hư ơ ng, to the family’s Banyan House on Florida’s Gulf Coast, where her grandmother Minh has died. Ann’s life is in disarray; she’s pregnant and unsure about her relationship with Noah, who has been cheating on her. Minh had known what it was like to be a single mother facing uncertainty. She left her native Vietnam in 1973 to honor her late husband’s dying wish that she protect their children. Hương, meanwhile, who always longed for an intact family, guards Ann from the truth of why Ann grew up without her own father. Now, as inheritors of the Banyan House, the two women have a chance to repair their relationship, and they decide to live there together until Ann’s baby is born. Still, Hương worries Ann will find evidence in the house of what happened to her father. In an emotional conclusion, Thai satisfyingly settles the question of whether total honesty is necessary to sustain loving connections between mothers and daughters. There’s no shortage of multigenerational family narratives out there, and this one really stands out from the pack. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2023


Normal Rules Don’t Apply by Kate Atkinson

This stunning collection from Atkinson (Shrines of Gaiety) is a master class in literary worldbuilding. These 11 interconnected stories happen in a world one step removed from this one, where human existence is regulated by the Void, a daily, five-minute apocalyptic event causing mass death. Here, characters proper to fairy tales, myths, and scripture rub shoulders with inhabitants of northern England in scenes from otherwise prosaic lives: recurring character Franklin, for example, who, over the course of the collection, meets a talking horse and a chatty dog, and finally drives off with Aoife, the bewitched child of a queen. In “Gene-Sis,” humankind is subject to the decisions of Kitty, an advertising executive and Sister of God, who must remake the world from scratch while simultaneously writing a campaign for a new, healthy smoothie. “Blithe Spirit” follows Mandy, a downtrodden secretary to a disreputable politician, who observes the investigation into her own murder from the ghostly beyond. Atkinson delights in metafictional possibilities: young Franklin’s idea for a novel—“A text based on non-linear dynamics, a Borgesian exploration of parallel worlds”—though ridiculed by other characters, mimics the collection’s structure. If the concept sounds promisingly fun, the whimsical but sharp prose is built to match, full of speculative glee, but tinged with poignancy. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2023

Return to top


Follett, KenThe armour of light
Hay, AlexThe housekeepers

The Armour of Light by Ken Follett

The latest in Follett’s Kingsbridge series takes readers to a time of turbulence. In late-18th- and early-19th-century England, Sally Clitheroe must struggle with personal tragedy in a time of great societal upheaval. After her first husband is crushed under an overloaded turnip cart, she must initially raise her son, Kit, on her own. She is an exceptionally strong woman, both physically and mentally, and is every bit a match for her second husband, Jarge Box. When he strikes his stepson, Jarge learns that he’s made a big mistake: “If you ever touch that boy again,” Sal warns, “I swear I’ll cut your throat in the middle of the night, so help me God.” Not that the young are generally respected; this is still an era when a child can be hanged for stealing 6 shillings worth of ribbon for his mother to resell for bread; when criticizing the government is a crime punishable by prison; and when two or more employees are forbidden by the 1799 Combination Act to criticize their employer. But monumental change is afoot with the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution, and it’s not all good. New spinning looms require fewer people to operate them, throwing many people out of work. Luddites, followers of Ned Ludd, destroy as many of the new machines as they can, but to no avail. Lawbreakers can sometimes avoid prison by joining the army, which ties into the dramatic set piece of this lengthy novel. When Wellington confronts Bonaparte at Waterloo, the carnage is horrific as cannonballs rip bodies to shreds. Sal and her son are central to the story. They are admirable characters without any obvious faults, but the rest of the cast has many: hanging judges, greedy businessmen, thieves, adulterers, murderers, and a bishop’s aide who harbors unseemly ambition. They are all well developed and believable, and readers will love to hate some of them. A treat for fans of historical fiction. Kirkus Review, June 2023

Return to top


Bartulin, LennyThe unearthed
Burr, ShelleyRipper
Cleeves, AnnThe raging storm
Cummins, FionaAll of us are broken
Cuskelly, MaryroseThe cane
Davis, LindseyFatal legacy
Engel, AmyI did it for you
Galbraith, RobertThe running grave
Green, George DawesThe kingdom of Savannah
Herron, MickThe secret hours
Hussey, WilliamKilling Jericho
James, PeterStop them dead
Jerrold, IantheLet Him Lie
Khan, VaseemDeath of a Lesser God
La Plante, LyndaTaste of blood
Maxwell, JessaThe golden spoon
McCaffrey, KateDouble lives
McCall Smith, AlexanderFrom a far and lovely country
Osman, RichardThe last devil to die
Robb, J. DPayback in death
Rose, KarenBeneath dark waters
Smirnoff, KarinThe girl in the eagle’s talons
Warner, DaveCity of light

The Raging Storm by Ann Cleeves

Bestseller Cleeves’s outstanding third Matthew Venn novel (following 2021’s The Heron’s Cry) sees the detective returning to a small village on the northern English coast to solve a pair of murders. In the middle of a storm one September afternoon, Jem Rosco—sailor, bon vivant, and local legend—enters a pub in his misty hometown of Greystone to await a visitor he won’t name. A few days later, a local rescue crew responding to an anonymous distress call discovers Rosco’s lifeless body in an anchored dinghy. Det. Insp. Matthew Venn and his bickering sergeants are called from Devon to investigate. Venn is less than enthusiastic: Greystone is home to the Brethren, a religious sect his family once belonged to, and he left unceremoniously several years earlier. As the detective and his officers dig into Rosco’s past, local magistrate Barty Parker—husband of Rosco’s first love, Nell—turns up dead as well. Then Nell herself disappears, and pressure mounts to identify the killer before the body count climbs. Cleeves crafts a devilishly intricate mystery that will surprise even seasoned genre fans, and Venn remains an appealing lead every bit as memorable as the author’s Vera Stanhope or Jimmy Perez. Cleeves’s fans and newcomers alike will be hungry for the next entry. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2023


Fatal Legacy by Lindsey Davis

Davis’s 11th historical mystery featuring first-century Roman private informer Albia (after 2022’s Desperate Undertaking) is more low-key than past entries, but no less gripping. Flavia, the adopted daughter of Marcus Didius Falco (hero of a prior Davis series), is asked by her Aunt Junia, who manages a grubby feeding post, to track down two customers who stiffed her. With only vague descriptions to go on, Flavia flexes her investigative skills to track down the deadbeats, only to land a more challenging assignment from one of their aunts after she confronts them. Tranquilla Euhodia’s niece is about to be married, but her future in-laws have raised questions about whether Euhodia’s brother is a free citizen, as he claims to be, or a slave. Flavia agrees to find proof that the boy is free, digging into an old murder in the process—and before long, she has a new murder to investigate. Unable to trust her employers or old confidants, Albia sets out to prevent more bodies from piling up. As always, Davis skillfully blends humor and historical detail. This classical series still feels fresh. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2023


The Golden Spoon by Jessa Maxwell

Byzantine chicanery seasoned with a dash of revenge greets six contestants gathered for Bake Week on the property of a crumbling Vermont manse, in Maxwell’s outstanding debut. Tantalizing backstage backstories include those of an ex-journalist from Brooklyn, a pie prodigy from Minnesota, a Bronx math teacher, a wealthy former CEO tech from Boston, a retired Rhode Island registered nurse, and a restorer of old buildings from New Hampshire. Hosting the competition’s 10th season is the heir to the manor, Betsy Martin, joined for the first time by an award-winning baker, Archie Morris, along with regular lead coordinator, Melanie Blair. Sabotage starts slow but early. A refrigerator door is left open; salt is replaced with sugar; a burner is turned up to high; gasoline replaces orange essence in a pie. By day three, it’s clear someone isn’t playing by the rules laid out in a “behemoth spiralbound packet.” Everything escalates to an extremely dark and stormy night (including a blackout), leading to startling revelations and a jaw-dropping confession. Sweet and savory turns deadly sour in this fast-paced, entertaining romp scheduled for a Hulu miniseries. Maxwell is off to a great start. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023


The Girl in the Eagle’s Talons by Karin Smirnoff

The propulsive seventh installment in the bestselling Millennium series (following 2019’s The Girl Who Lived Twice) reunites investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist and punk computer hacker Lisbeth Salander in the small town of Gasskas in northern Sweden. Blomkvist is there to attend his daughter’s wedding to Henry Salo, the town’s head commissioner, while Lisbeth has come to assume temporary custody of her 13-year-old niece, whose mother has mysteriously disappeared with a hard drive containing $400 million in bitcoin. Marcus Branco, the sadistic founder of a secretive energy firm intent on acquiring land in Gasskas, sends his henchmen to disrupt the wedding and kidnap Blomkvist’s grandson as leverage against Salo. The boy ends up in the clutches of a serial killer, forcing Blomkvist and Salander to team up once again, in hopes of saving his life. Smirnoff, following Stieg Larsson and David Lagercrantz as the series’ third author, adds new maturity and depth to the two leads, offers several jaw-dropping plot twists, and draws clever—if occasionally implausible—connections between disparate characters. Fans will find this a worthy addition to the series. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2023

Return to top


Booth, TimYou called an ambulance for what?
Butler, JonathanThe boy in the dress
Carlton, MichaelThe scrap iron flotilla
Dufty, DavidNabbing Ned Kelly
Edele, MarkRussia’s war against Ukraine
Pobjie, Ben100 weirdest tales from across Australia
Sales, LeighStorytellers
Winchester, SimonKnowing what we know
Wulf, AndreaMagnificent rebels

Magnificent Rebels by Andrea Wulf

Historian Wulf (The Invention of Nature) delivers an engrossing group biography of the late-18th-century German intellectuals whose “obsession with the free self” initiated the Romantic movement and led to the modern conception of self-determination. The group, which came together in the German university town of Jena, included poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe; philosopher Johann Gottlieb Fichte, who promulgated the idea of the Ich, or self, as the center of free will; Friedrich Schiller, whose breakout play, The Robbers, “showed how a good person could become a criminal as a result of experiencing injustice”; and philosopher Friedrich Schelling, who promoted “being in nature” as a means to self-discovery. Known as the Young Romantics, their lives and work embodied the “wild, raw, mysterious, chaotic, and alive,” according to group member August Wilhelm Schelling. Wulf pays particular attention to the cohort’s oft-overlooked female members, including Caroline Böhmer-Schlegel-Schelling, a free-spirited intellectual with a “core of steel” whose “refus[al] to be restricted by the role that society had intended for women” landed her in prison, among other controversies. Wulf also delves into the influence of the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars on the group and explains heady philosophical concepts in clear prose (“Is the tree that I’m seeing in my garden the tree-as-it-appears-to-us or the tree-in-itself?”). The result is a colorful and page-turning intellectual history. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2022

Return to top


Balogh, MaryRemember me

Remember Me by Mary Balogh

Bestseller Balogh’s memorable second Ravenswood Regency romance (after Remember Love) finds 22-year-old Philippa Ware, eldest daughter of the deceased Earl of Stratton, finally making her London debut. Her entrance into society was delayed by scandal: six years before the start of the book, her brother publicly revealed their father’s infidelity. She was not about to let his misdeeds deter her, until she overheard Lucas Arden, Marquess of Roath, describing her as “soiled goods.” Now she worries that lingering rumors will derail her chance of finding a husband, only to learn that no one in London even remembers her family’s notoriety—save, perhaps, for Lucas himself. Lucas’s grandfather, the Duke of Wilby, wants Lucas to wed soon and get an heir. Impressed by her poise and successful debut, the duke is convinced that Philippa would make the perfect bride and sets about playing imperious matchmaker. Balogh effortlessly captures the Regency era and the high stakes of the marriage market while instilling the narrative with the timeless reality of the impact of thoughtless words. Readers will be enchanted. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2023

Return to top


Baldacci, DavidVega Jane and the secrets of sorcery
Gong, ChloeImmortal longings
Klune, TJIn the lives of puppets

Immortal Longings by Chloe Gong

Bestselling YA author Gong (Foul Lady Fortune) probes her characters’ sense of identity in her wonderfully high-concept adult fantasy debut and Flesh and False Gods series launch, a clever riff on Antony and Cleopatra. Five years before the start of the novel, Princess Calla Tuoleimi of Talin murdered her own parents and went into hiding. Now, as Talin holds its annual gladiatorial-style games in the twin cities of San-Er, Calla reappears to finish what she’s started: kill the king, her uncle, and bring an end to inequality and poverty. Prince August Shenzhi, her cousin, aids her with this treasonous plan, but to complete it, she must first win the tournament. The inhabitants of Talin can jump between bodies at will, and royal exile Anton Makusa hopes to use this trick to win the games himself and put the prize toward keeping his comatose lover alive. As the games unfold, Calla and Anton strike an unlikely alliance that blossoms into a love affair—but only one can win, and to become victor, the star-crossed lovers will have to break their bond. Though this outing owes debts to both Shakespeare and The Hunger Games, the intricate magic system feels entirely fresh. Gong keeps the pages flying with pulse-pounding action, tension, and intrigue, creating an adventure that will linger in readers’ minds long after the last page. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023


In the Lives of Puppets by T.J. Klune

Bestseller Klune (Under the Whispering Door) draws from Pinocchio to create a gripping and heartfelt queer dystopian tale set in a world where humanity has been eliminated by robots. Victor Lawson, 21, was raised by his robot father, Giovanni, in a secluded forest in far-future Oregon. Together with two friends—antisocial Nurse Ratched (short for “Nurse Registered Automaton to Care, Heal, Educate, and Drill”) and neurotic vacuum Rambo—Victor discovers an angry, powerful android in the nearby scrapyard. Hap, as the trio comes to call him, quickly imprints on Victor, who repairs the android’s body with wood and powers him with a carved heart containing a drop of Victor’s own blood. When Giovanni is seized by the law and taken to the City of Electric Dreams, a recorded message from Giovanni reveals that Victor is the last surviving human—and that Hap is a model HARP (Human Annihilation Response Protocol) created by Giovanni to hunt and kill humans before he learned regret. Hap, who doesn’t remember this violent past, promises not to hurt Victor as they concoct a plan to rescue Giovanni. Klune makes the central question of what it means to be human feel direct, urgent, and fresh. Both very funny and deeply touching, this evocative retelling will delight Klune’s fans and newcomers alike. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023

Return to top

New additions to eBooks at SMSA

eBooks & Audiobooks help


GeneralEng, Tan TwanHouse of Doors
GeneralFrances, MichelleThe Playground
GeneralKhan, AmirHow (Not) to Have an Arranged Marriage
GeneralMiller, SuziePrima Facie
GeneralMorgan, ShannonHer Little Flowers
HistoricalChua, AmyThe golden gate
MysteryCartmel, AndrewDeath in fine condition
MysteryJames, PeterStop Them Dead
MysteryPenrose, AndreaMurder at the Merton Library
Sci-FiIslington, JamesThe Will of the Many

Murder at the Merton Library by Andrea Penrose

A scientific innovation stokes deadly rivalries in Penrose’s engrossing seventh Regency-era whodunit featuring the Earl of Wrexford and cartoonist Charlotte Sloane (following 2022’s Murder at the Serpentine Bridge). Distraught librarian Neville Greeley summons his family friend Wrexford to Oxford with a cryptic letter. Shortly before Wrexford arrives, however, a mysterious stranger stabs Greeley to death at his desk. After Wrexford discovers Greeley’s body, he launches an investigation in London, where his wife, Charlotte, is looking into a mystery of her own: a suspicious fire has destroyed the laboratory of inventor Henry Maudslay, who was on the cusp of building a ship that could cross the ocean powered by steam rather than sails. British naval operatives, German researchers, and Russian spies were all keenly interested in Maudslay’s research, but who would want to stop it? And might that same perpetrator be involved in Greeley’s murder? Penrose’s sprawling cast can be difficult to keep straight, but she rewards diligent readers with a pulse-pounding climax, and her deep dive into early 18th-century technology is a treat. In the crowded field of Regency mysteries, this series stands out. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2023


The House of Doors by Tan Twan Eng

Tan (The Garden of Evening Mists) explores the power of storytelling in this intoxicating outing. At Cassowary House in Penang, Malaya, in 1921, Lesley Hamlyn prepares to receive “Willie” Somerset Maugham, the famed English writer and friend of her husband, Robert. Increasingly drawn to Willie—who is desperate for new material for a novel to stave off bankruptcy—Lesley gradually unburdens herself to the author, unearthing a trove of long-buried secrets ranging from the personal to the political. Tan seamlessly merges fact and fiction as he explores the underlying tensions in both Lesley and Willie’s marriages, as well as Lesley’s intriguing involvement with the Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat Sen during his 1910 sojourn in Penang. A side plot involves Lesley’s friend Ethel Proudlock, another real-life figure, who stood trial for the murder of her fellow Englishman in Kuala Lumpur. As in Tan’s other works, the narrative dwells on memory and loss, its lush, dreamy prose evoking the bygone days of colonial pre-WWII British Malaya amid musings on life’s ephemeral nature, while never losing its eye for injustice: “For a woman to be remembered,” Lesley laments, “she has to either be a queen or a whore. But for those of us who lead normal, mundane lives, who will remember us?” This is a stunner. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2023


The Golden Gate by Amy Chua

The thrilling fiction debut from Yale law professor Chua (World on Fire) anchors a mind-bending murder mystery in the social turbulence of 1944 Berkeley, Calif. A report of gunfire brings police detective Al Sullivan to room 604 of the luxurious Claremont hotel. Inside, he finds William Wilkinson, a rich industrialist with political aspirations, unharmed. Everything—save the bullet hole in the wall—seems perfectly normal. When a hotel employee tells Wilkinson, “We thought you’d been murdered,” he enigmatically replies, “I have been.” A few hours later, Wilkinson is, indeed, found dead, and Sullivan launches an official investigation. Early evidence points to the three beautiful granddaughters of wealthy socialite Genevieve Hopkins Bainbridge, whose youngest sister, Iris, happened to be murdered in the same hotel room a decade earlier. The story alternates between Genevieve’s deposition and detective Sullivan’s first-person narration, with sly, Rashomon-style changes in interpretation accompanying each shift in perspective. Chua seeds the novel with fascinating nuggets of California history and real-life figures, including Margaret Chung, the first Chinese woman to become a physician in the United States. The result is a richly satisfying historical mystery that draws on its setting for more than mere atmosphere. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2023


The Will of the Many by James Islington

Maintaining suspense for almost 700 pages is a tall order, but Islington (the Licanius trilogy) makes it look easy in his staggering Hierarchy series launch, set in a world dominated by the Roman Empiresque Hierarchy. The Hierarchy maintains its power through an insidious scheme: those at the top draw energy, or Will, from those beneath them, who “voluntarily” cede some of their strength to benefit from the system. Against this backdrop, prison worker Vis, 17, must conceal that he’s really Diago, the prince of Suus, a kingdom vanquished by the Hierarchy when it executed Vis’s family. Vis gets an opportunity for revenge when he’s adopted by a powerful senator, Ulciscor Telimus, who wants him to join the Catenan Academy, where the next generation of Hierarchy leadership is trained. Ulciscor’s brother, Caeror, died there under suspicious circumstances, and Ulciscor hopes Vis can find the truth. But Vis’s options change after an encounter with violent rebels seeking to topple the Hierarchy. Islington’s worldbuilding is exceptionally detailed and thoughtful, making suspending disbelief effortless. Perfectly balancing character development and plot momentum, this will have fantasy fans clamoring for more. Publisher’s Weekly, March 2023


Her Little Flowers by Shannon Morgan

Morgan’s debut novel is a treat for fans of the supernatural. Francine Thwaite is a self-described spinster with the ability to see ghosts. She’s spent her life in comfortable solitude living in her family’s ancestral manor, where she cohabitates with a host of harmless spirits. An unexpected visit from Francine’s sister comes with the revelation that their late mother sought to bury a dark family secret. As the women dive into the mystery of their family’s past, a malevolent spirit is awoken in the home. Worse still, the more Francine discovers about this mystery, the more certain it becomes that Francine herself had a hand in the family tragedy. Horticulture and floriography play key roles in the novel, and the author’s research on the subjects creates a rich reading experience. Morgan’s prose is atmospheric without being overly dense, and tropes of the classic gothic novel are juxtaposed with references to the 21st century to create a sense of anachronism. VERDICT Overall, the novel provides a compelling supernatural mystery that will hold a reader’s attention right up to the last page. Recommend to fans of Kate Morton and Eve Chase. Library Journal, May 2023

Return to top


GeneralShah, R. D.Project Icarus
GeneralShiner, EmilyThe Wife in the Photo
GeneralWinstead, AshleyMidnight is the Darkest Hour 
HistoricalMarcus BrothertonThe Long March Home
MysteryAmphlett, RachelA Darker Place
MysteryCahoon, LynnDeath in the Romance Aisle
MysteryMitchell, Gracie RuthJuniper Bean Resorts to Murder
MysteryMizushima, MargaretStanding Dead
MysterySmith, SarahTwelve Steps to a Long and Fulfilling Death
MysteryTodd, MarionNext in Line

The Long March Home by Marcus Brotherton and Tosca Lee

In this tour de force from Brotherton (A Bright and Blinding Sun) and Lee (A Single Light), four friends’ lives change irrevocably when America becomes embroiled in WWII. In 1930s Mobile, Ala., preacher’s son Jimmy Propfield shares an idyllic upbringing with childhood sweetheart Claire Crockett and her younger brother Billy. Hank Wright soon enters their circle, and the four become inseparable as they grow up. But as high school graduation approaches, Jimmy wrestles with uncertainty about his future, and though he’s expected by his father to attend seminary, he’s driven by faith—and a telegram with shocking news——to enlist with Billy and Hank. (He’s also eager to create distance from Claire, with whom his relationship has fractured.) The three are assigned to the Thirty-First Infantry in Manila, which at first seems like a paradise. But things become dire after the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and the boys are taken prisoners of war, beginning a 60-mile march up the Bataan Peninsula to camps where unbelievable horrors await. They struggle to survive and return home, where Jimmy hopes to reunite with Claire. Brotherton and Lee masterfully capture what it was like for soldiers to face war’s atrocities, as well as the heartbreak of those waiting for them back home. This is a winner. Publisher’s Weekly, February 2023


Midnight is the Darkest Hour by Ashley Winstead

Winstead (The Last Housewife) serves up a sharp meditation on feminism and religious oppression in this atmospheric Louisiana-set thriller. Ruth Cornier, the independent-minded daughter of Pastor James Cornier, is the sole librarian in the small town of Bottom Springs, who takes particular pleasure in works of heretical fiction, including the Twilight novels. One afternoon, Ruth is devastated to learn that a human skull has been found in the swamp next to the library. When Ruth was 17, she was almost raped in the same swamp by itinerant worker Renard Michaels. Ruth’s friend Everett, a local outcast, intervened, and Michaels was killed in the ensuing fight and his body left to sink into the swamp. When the remains are identified as those of another man, Ruth’s worst fears are momentarily averted, but then a bigger problem emerges: might Bottom Springs have a killer on its hands? Alternating between past and present, Winstead movingly fleshes out Ruth and Everett’s friendship without sacrificing pace or surprise as the body count rises. Evocative prose (the setting sun is described as “fighting death, reaching out with grasping fingers of orange and rose against the falling twilight”) is a major plus. Fans of Michael Koryta’s Southern gothic novels, including The Cypress House, will be enchanted. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2023


Standing Dead by Margaret Mizushima

Mizushima’s plodding ninth Timber Creek K-9 Mystery (after 2021’s Striking Range) takes Deputy Mattie Cobb, a K-9 handler for the sheriff’s department in Timber Creek, Colo., and her sister, Julia, to Pueblo del Sol, Mexico, to see their mother, Ramona, and meet their stepfather, Juan Martinez, but the pair have decamped from the small village without leaving any indication of where they might be going. Back home in Timber Creek, Mattie and her German shepherd partner, Robo, are called to the scene of a crime. A dead man has been bound in an upright position to a tree. A closer examination reveals the victim to be Juan. Mattie is soon receiving ominous notes that not only threaten her life but also the lives of Ramona and Julia. The plot lurches along between Mattie’s search for clues to the kidnapper’s identity through her fragmented memories of the past and visits to the veterinary clinic of Cole Walker, her fiancé. Diehard fans will be pleased to learn that Mattie is ready to set a wedding date and that Robo’s adorable puppies are healthy, happy, and ready for new homes. This isn’t the place to start for newcomers. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2023


Death in the Romance Aisle by Lynn Cahoon

An Arizona bookstore owner with a penchant for real-life mysteries investigates a murder involving her best friend’s brother. Rarity Cole is a breast cancer survivor who left her former life to settle in Sedona, where she now has a group of supportive survivor friends. Her two new college student hires, Janey Ford and Caleb Thompson (who has a crush on Janey), will be running book club meetings for groups ranging in age from preschool through teens. The latest meeting of Rarity’s own Tuesday night Survivors’ Book Club is delayed because her pal Sam Aarons, who’s bringing the treats, is running late. When Sam arrives, she reports that her younger brother, Marcus, is visiting and thinking of joining her in Sedona. Marcus and Janey are immediately attracted to each other, so when Janey is found dead in a quarry, Sam’s boyfriend, Det. Drew Anderson, identifies Marcus, the last person seen with her, as his prime suspect—a position that seriously imperils Drew’s relationship with Sam. The book club members, who’ve honed their crime-solving skills in previous cases, pitch in to help, although it looks bad for Marcus. Drew’s visiting father, former police officer Jonathon Anderson, joins the sleuthing crew and serves as guardian for Rarity and her dog, Killer, when she receives threats for snooping. Janey was a twin with a trust fund, and since money is always a motive for murder, Marcus is hardly the only suspect for Drew to consider. Not much of a brainteaser but plenty of caring characters bring the story to life. Kirkus Review, July 2023

Return to top

Subscribe to stay up-to-date