September 2023


Butta, RyanThe ballad of Abdul Wade
Courtenay, AdamMr Todd’s marvel
Ellis, RoseBee Miles
Funder, AnnaWifedom
Morimoto, ShojiRental person who does nothing
Silver, Lynette RamsayAt war with my father

Wifedom by Anna Funder

Eileen O’Shaughnessy, George Orwell’s first wife, takes center stage in this potent biography. Funder (Stasiland), a former human rights lawyer, suggests that O’Shaughnessy, who married Orwell in 1936 and stayed with him until her death nine years later from a botched hysterectomy, was crucial to Orwell’s success; she typed and edited his manuscripts, managed his correspondence, cooked his meals, nursed him through ill health, tolerated his sexual affairs, and even cleaned the outhouse at their country home. According to Funder, she also directly influenced some of her husband’s most famous work, encouraging him to express his criticism of Stalinism as a satirical novel (Animal Farm) instead of the essay he had planned, and possibly inspiring 1984 with her poem “End of the Century, 1984,” about “a dystopian future of telepathy and mind control.” Funder pulls no punches when discussing Orwell’s cruelty, taking him to task for allegedly demanding that O’Shaughnessy let him sleep with one of the “young Arab girls” he had been eyeing while the pair were traveling in Morocco. Stylistic flourishes enhance the account, most notably the novelistic interludes interspersing Funder’s narration with first-person passages drawn from O’Shaughnessy’s letters that recreate scenes from her life, such as lying ill in London while the city was bombed during WWII. Full of keen psychological insight and eloquent prose, this shines. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2023

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Akec, KgshakHopeless kingdom
Awad, AmalBitter & sweet
Burke, James LeeFlags on the bayou
Cavanagh, SteveKill for me kill for you
Chidgey, CatherinePet
Connolly, CressidaBad relations
Delaney, JPThe new wife
Everett, Percival L.Erasure
Ford, RichardBe mine
George, NinaThe little village of book lovers
Gran, SaraThe book of the most precious substance
Green, SophieWeekends with the Sunshine Gardening Society
Grenville, KateRestless Dolly Maunder
Hamilton, KarenThe contest
Higgs, AnnetteOn a bright hillside in Paradise
Maldonado, IsabellaA killer’s game
O’Keeffe, AngelaThe Sitter
Patchett, AnnTom Lake
Patience, MartinThe darker the night
Pearse, LesleyBetrayal
Pin, CecileWandering souls
Quirk, MatthewRed warning
Rabess, CeciliaEverything’s fine
Rimmer, KellyThe Paris agent
Rodriguez, DeborahFarewell to the little coffee shop of Kabul
Silva, DanielThe Collector
Steel, DaniellePalazzo
Tolsen, S. E.Bunny
Van Ryn, ClaireThe secrets of the Huon wren
Walsh, ColinKala
Whitehead, ColsonCrook manifesto
Wright, AlexisPraiseworthy

Tom Lake by Ann Patchett

Patchett (The Dutch House) unspools a masterly family drama set in the early months of Covid-19. Lara and her husband live on a cherry orchard in northern Michigan, where they welcome their three adult daughters home to shelter in place. Emily, the oldest, is a young farmer who will inherit the family farm; Maisie is a veterinarian; and Nell, the youngest at 22, dreams of becoming an actress. They pass the hours picking fruit and listening to Lara tell the tale of her long-ago romance with “Duke,” a young actor who went on to become a major celebrity. Lara and Duke met during a summer stock production of Our Town, where she played Emily and he played her father, Editor Webb. Patchett alternates between present-day scenes of the cherry orchard and Lara’s younger years, including her brief foray as an actor in Hollywood, before an accident put a sudden end to her career. “There’s a lot you don’t know,” Lara tells Emily, Maisie, and Nell at the novel’s opening, and as Patchett’s slow-burn narrative gathers dramatic steam, she blends past and present with dexterity and aplomb, as the daughters come to learn more of the truth about Lara’s Duke stories, causing them to reshape their understanding of their mother. Patchett is at the top of her game. Publisher’s Weekly, June 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. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2023


Kala by Colin Walsh

Walsh’s engrossing if overstuffed story of lifelong friends revolves around a mysterious death in the tourist town of Kinlough, Ireland. In 2003, a group of teenage friends is shattered when one of the six, Kala Lannan, disappears amid circumstances that are only revealed near the end of the novel. Three of the others reunite 15 years later after Kala’s bones are discovered at a local building site. Joe Brennan, once Kala’s boyfriend and now a famous rock star, has recently returned to open a bar. Helen Laughlin, who was Kala’s best friend and is now a struggling investigative reporter in Canada, learns of the discovery while home for a wedding and determines to solve the mystery of Kala’s death. Mush, the glue of the group, still works at his mother’s café, and after Kala’s remains are found, his two teenage cousins go missing. Walsh unpacks individual events through multiple perspectives, and the novel thrives when Joe, Helen, and Mush grapple with conflicting memories of the past. There are a few too many red herrings, and some woolly hints of a temporal reality in which the characters see versions of themselves at different ages, yet the emotional pull of Walsh’s core trio steadies the ship. Despite some wobbles, this is hard to put down. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2023

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Brooks, KarenThe escapades of Tribulation Johnson
Mosse, KateThe ghost ship
Parry, AmbroseThe art of dying

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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Bell, AliceGrave expectations
Boland, PeterThe Beach Hut murders
Buchanan, GregConsumed
Cartmel, AndrewDeath in fine condition
Conroy, VivianLast seen in Santorini
Goodman, AlisonBenevolent society of ill-mannered ladies
Hannah, MariBlack Fell
Hannah, MariHer last request
Harrod-Eagles, CynthiaDying Fall
Hillerman, AnneStargazer
Hunter, CaraMurder in the family
Jackson, LisaThe last sinner
Jerrold, IantheThe studio crime
Lancaster, NeilThe night watch
Leadbeater, DavidThe midnight conspiracy
Lodge, GythaA killer in the family
Mackintosh, ClareA game of lies
MacNeal, Susan EliaThe king’s justice
Marston, EdwardSlaughter in the Sapperton Tunnel
Mina, DeniseThe second murderer
Reichs, KathyThe bone hacker
Watson, KatyThe three dahlias
Wolf, PatriciaOutback

Grave Expectations by Alice Bell

Bell shines in her sharp, funny debut, a supernatural whodunit centered on medium-for-hire Claire Hendricks. Claire and her best friend, Sophie, are headed to a former monastery in the small English town of Wilbourne Major, where Figgy Wellington-Forge, Claire’s university friend, has invited her to entertain the family with her gift. Readers will quickly deduce that Sophie is actually a ghost who serves as Claire’s spirit guide and eavesdrops on her marks to provide information that makes her powers seem more impressive. But Figgy’s plans to hold a séance as a birthday treat for her grandmother go awry when Nana dies suddenly. Her ghost appears to Claire and Sophie to inform them that, while her death was natural, she’s met the ghost of an unknown person inside the house’s library who was recently murdered. Claire decides to help solve the mystery, and enlists some of Figgy’s more trustworthy kin, while heeding Nana’s warning that someone in the family was the killer. The adroit plotting, which cannily plays with mystery tropes, is amply leavened with humor. Fans of the British TV series Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) will be eager for more adventures from Claire and Sophie. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2023


Murder in the Family by Cara Hunter

This cleverly constructed mystery from Hunter (Hope to Die) offers a full complement of surprises and loads of fun for clue-seeking readers. Twenty years ago, Luke Ryder, the young second husband of widowed mother Caroline Howard, was found beaten to death at the bottom of a stone staircase leading to the couple’s garden in London’s exclusive Campden Hill neighborhood. The murder, still unsolved, has become fodder for true crime aficionados. Now, the successful television series Infamous has taken up the challenge of solving the case, utilizing a panel of experts including a retired Metropolitan Police officer, a journalist, a barrister, and a forensic clinical psychologist. The director of the season is Guy Howard, Caroline’s son, who was 10 years old at the time of his stepfather’s death and wants to shut the case once and for all so his family is no longer gossip fodder. The novel is presented in the form of Infamous episode transcripts, plus newspaper articles, emails, text messages, and voicemails between the panel of investigators. It’s an effective gimmick, with newspaper clippings often throwing doubt on in-episode conclusions (and vice versa), and Hunter keeps the pacing lively and the cliffhangers plentiful. Armchair sleuths will savor this brisk and immersive puzzle. Publisher’s Weekly, August 2023


Dying Fall by Cynthia Harrod-Eagles

At the start of Harrod-Eagles’s solid 23rd mystery featuring London Det. Chief Insp. Bill Slider (after 2020’s Cruel as the Grave), Slider and longtime sidekick Det. Sgt. Jim Atherton are dispatched to a home after an anonymous caller reported spotting a body inside at the foot of a staircase. The shoes of the deceased, a 30-something woman, are on different steps, suggesting an accidental trip on a hole in the carpet at the top. But the massive head wound suggests that a murderer staged the scene. After the victim’s identified as Prue Chadacre, a secretary at the Historic Buildings National Drawings Archive, the plot thickens, as Slider and Atherton learn that Chadacre changed her birth name—and that the place she died was the site of another supposedly fatal accident decades earlier. Slider, who never met a pun he didn’t like (he complains that he’d expected the film Dunkirk “was going to be William Shatner’s autobiography”), and who’s a devoted family man, is a refreshing alternative to the dour leads of many police procedurals. Fans of Catherine Aird’s witty Inspector C.D. Sloan books will be hooked. Publisher’s Weekly, December 2021


The Benevolent Society of Ill-Mannered Ladies by Alison Goodman

In her delicious latest slice of historical genre fare, Goodman (the Lady Helen novels) introduces readers to Lady Augusta “Gus” Colebrook and her twin sister, Julia, two strong-willed Regency-era spinsters who wield their age and station to liberate struggling women in London. Hoping to distract a grieving Julia after her fiancé’s death, Lady Gus volunteers to retrieve compromising letters from a blackmailer as a favor for a friend. But what begins as a lark soon becomes a serious plot to aid women in trouble who have no other recourse, including a wife trying to escape her murderous husband, some girls kidnapped by a brothel, and a group of women unjustly committed to a madhouse. With the help of their loyal, quick-witted butler and a disgraced nobleman turned highwayman, Lady Gus and Julia risk their lives and reputations to solve cases and save women from bleak fates. Fierce, funny, and often dark, this is an eye-opening portrait of a colorful yet misogynistic period in English history. Readers will be eager to return for the duo’s next adventure. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2023


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Flannery, Tim F.Big Meg
Mayo, ThomasThe Voice to Parliament handbook
Percy, Sarah V.Forgotten warriors
Roland, DavidHow I rescued my brain
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Kingfisher, T.Nettle & Bone
Kowal, Mary RobinetteThe spare man

The Spare Man by Mary Robinette Kowal

An engineering magnate gets swept into a murder investigation in this vibrant space mystery from Kowal (the Lady Astronaut series). Communications scion Tesla Crane and her new husband, retired detective Shal Steward, take their honeymoon on a luxury spaceship en route to Mars under assumed identities to avoid publicity. When Shal witnesses the murder of the ultra-wealthy Haldan Kuznetsova’s assistant, George, Shal becomes the ship’s retrograde security team’s prime suspect, leaving Tesla and Shal determined to catch the real killer. Their sleuthing grows complicated, however, as promising leads crumble, suspects get murdered, and Tesla’s true identity gets out. Meanwhile, Tesla struggles to cope with her trauma from a lab accident years prior that killed six colleagues and left her in chronic pain. Kowal expertly weaves in red herrings and twists right up to the unmasking of the killer, and punctuates the suspense with moments of sparkling wit and the antics of Tesla’s therapy dog, Gimlet. The author’s nuanced portrayal of Tesla’s disabilities and the complexities of the technology that assists her to navigate them is particularly welcome. This is a page-turner. Publisher’s Weekly, July 2022


Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher

This deeply satisfying and darkly funny feminist fairy tale from Hugo Award winner Kingfisher (What Moves the Dead) finds its unlikely heroine in Marra, youngest princess of the Harbor Kingdom. Marra is better at knitting than politicking, and is relieved to be sent to a convent while her older sisters make political marriages to nobles from the Northern Kingdom. However, when Marra learns that the wicked Prince Vorling has murdered her older sister and seems likely to murder his abused second wife, Marra’s middle sister, as well, Marra takes action. She assembles a rag-tag team bent on overthrowing Vorling—including Bonedog, a resurrected dog skeleton; a dust-wife (a kind of necromancer) with a demonically possessed chicken for a familiar; a suicidally honorable and surprisingly diplomatic knight rescued from a Christina Rosetti-esque goblin market; and a frazzled fairy godmother who can only grant gifts of good health. The plot snaps along as quickly as a good joke, and beneath the whimsy, there’s an underlying sympathy and sincerity that enables Kingfisher to handle tricky issues like domestic violence with great compassion and care. At its heart a story of good people doing their best to make the unjust world a fairer place, this marvelous romp will delight Kingfisher’s fans and fairy tale lovers alike. Publisher’s Weekly, January 2022

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New additions to eBooks at SMSA

eBooks & Audiobooks help


GeneralChandran, ShankariChai Time at Cinnamon Gardens
GeneralHaratischvili, NinoJuja
GeneralMartin, KatThe last mile
GeneralSilva, DanielThe Collector
HistoricalGeum-yi, LeeCan’t I Go Instead
HistoricalMartin, MadelineThe Keeper of Hidden Books
MysteryBritton, FionaViolet Kelly and the Jade Owl
MysteryHall, BronwynThe Chasm
MysteryLa Plante, LyndaTaste of Blood
Non-FictionMayo, ThomasThe Voice to Parliament

The Collector by Daniel Silva

A lost masterpiece and a professional hit lure the world’s most famous spy back into the field. Summoned by an old friend to the Amalfi Coast, Gabriel Allon finds a murder scene and an empty stretcher that could have held only one painting, a painting of inestimable value that has been missing for decades—Vermeer’s The Concert, stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. Allon’s search for this cultural treasure leads him to an alliance with a Danish IT consultant—and gifted thief—and it will require the assistance of the team he once led as head of Israel’s intelligence service. As Silva’s fans will expect, this hunt for a work of art will quickly turn into something much bigger—maybe a rush to avert World War III? Over the course of 22 novels featuring Allon, Silva has vacillated between escapism and realpolitik. This installment is a near-perfect combination of both. One of the pleasures of a Gabriel Allon novel is that it allows us entrée into a world few will ever experience. But even as he might leave readers sighing over a Versace gown or a Michelin-starred meal, Silva asks us to take a hard look at what money can do. He shows us an underground economy in which irreplaceable works of art are used as currency or collateral—or, at best, end up in private vaults where they are protected but inaccessible. And the same wealth that makes commissioning the theft of a well-known and well-guarded masterpiece possible makes murder easy. None of which is to say that this is an anti-capitalist screed. This is a thriller, and it satisfies in the ways that a thriller should while also offering food for thought. And if the plot hinges on one absolutely outrageous coincidence… well, Silva’s fans will likely be willing to allow him that. Relevant and richly entertaining. Kirkus Review, July 2023

The Last Mile by Kat Martin

Martin’s suspenseful second Blood Ties romance (after The Last Goodnight) sends a couple searching for long-lost riches. Abigail Holland’s treasure-hunting grandfather leaves her his Denver home and a treasure map when he dies—and Abby’s determined to find the more than $200 million worth of gold promised by the map. She seeks out Gage Logan, who runs an organization called Treasure Hunters Anonymous, for his expertise. The pair join forces to find the treasure, but they’re not the only ones on the hunt—the members of a ruthless Mexican cartel are willing to lie, cheat, steal, and worse to claim the gold for themselves. As Gage and Abby inch closer to finding the loot, they court disaster at every turn. Martin keeps the sexual tension sizzling throughout, but some awkward language in the steamy scenes puts a damper on things (“Abby’s mouth went dry while dampness slid into her core”). Still, the couple’s charged connection and the plot’s heart-stopping twists will keep readers breathless until the final page. This smart, sexy thrill ride will hook readers who like their romance with a side of danger. Publisher’s Weekly, April 2022

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GeneralOrlando, CarissaThe September House
GeneralVerghese, AbrahamThe Covenant of Water
HistoricalCiesielski, J’NellThe Brilliance of Stars
MysteryDeviln, CaraMurder at the Seven Dials
MysteryNarozny, ChrisNot by Blood
MysterySullivan, TimThe Monk
MysteryThompson, VictoriaMurder in Morningside Heights 
MysteryTodd, MarionWhat They Knew
MysteryWallace, TillySeams like Murder 
Science FictionArcher, C. J.The Untitled Books

The September House by Carissa Orlando

If P.G. Wodehouse had written The Amityville Horror, the result might have approximated Orlando’s equally charming and spooky debut. Middle-aged, matter-of-fact, and stubborn, narrator Margaret Hartman has no intention of abandoning her Victorian dream home, even if her stolid housekeeper was in fact axe-murdered more than 100 years ago and the walls drip blood every September. (“It was going to be a long month. But that’s just the way of things.”) Margaret’s husband, unable to face another autumn of ghastly incursions, has left without word, and her daughter, Katherine, is about to visit for the first time, to search for him. Margaret must hide the haunted truths of her household from Katherine if she wants to avoid being bullied into moving—even if the facade of normalcy requires opening the dreaded basement door. As her neighbor Edie sighs, “Oh, Margaret, you’re in a real pickle.” That direct, practical voice is central to the pleasure of Orlando’s storytelling. While horror tropes abound, there are no screaming teens or action heroes—the ghosts are tactile and verbal, the neighbors know about the problem and pitch in, and, when push comes to shove, it’s a hard-won combination of biological and found family that unites to confront the supernatural threat. This utterly original haunted house tale is a joy. Publisher’s Weekly, June 2023


The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

Verghese’s breathtaking latest (after Cutting for Stone) follows several generations of a South Indian family as they search for the roots of a curse. The watery setting of Travancore (later Kerala) is described in dreamlike terms, with “rivulets and canals, a latticework of lakes and lagoons, a maze of backwaters and bottle-green lotus ponds.” There, a member of the Parambil family has drowned in each of the last three generations. The story begins in 1900 when a 12-year-old girl, who becomes known as Big Ammachi, marries a 40-year-old widower with a two-year-old son, JoJo. Big Ammachi sees the curse firsthand after discovering JoJo drowned at 10 in an irrigation ditch. At 16, she gives birth to Baby Mol, a daughter gifted with prophecy, and then to a son, Philipose, who becomes a newspaper columnist and marries Elsie, a beautiful and talented artist. They live in Big Ammachi’s loving home with their son, Ninan, until an accident sends the couple reeling. Philipose becomes an opium addict and Elsie returns to her family, but they reunite briefly and have a daughter, Mariamma, until another tragedy leaves newborn Mariamma motherless. A parallel narrative involves Scottish surgeon Digby Kilgour, who runs a leprosarium, and by the end, Verghese perfectly connects the wandering threads. Along the way, Mariamma becomes a neurosurgeon and seeks the cause of the drownings, and the author handily depicts Mariamma’s intricate brain surgeries and Kilgour’s skin graft treatments, along with political turmoil when the Maoist Naxalite movement hits close to home. Verghese outdoes himself with this grand and stunning tribute to 20th-century India. Publisher’s Weekly March 2023

Not by Blood by Chris Narozny

Narozny (Night Sniper, with James Patterson) impresses in his first solo thriller. New York City EMT Tina Evans gets a late-night call for help from her heroin addict brother Bill Morgan. Despite wondering “how many times can you rescue a man who just keeps hurling himself back in the water,” Evans travels to the Brooklyn address he provides. But when she reaches the derelict apartment building populated by “slumped male bodies shuffling here and there with no purpose or conviction,” Bill’s not in his room. Instead, she finds a gut-shot corpse nearby, whom she identifies as P.I. Jake Bickert after rummaging through his belongings. Convinced Bill isn’t capable of murder, Tina resists calling 911. The situation gets more complex when she finds her husband’s number on the dead man’s cell phone, gets a text to her own phone from an anonymous sender reading simply “Shhhhhh,” and learns that her husband is in critical condition after having been hit by a car. Narozny keeps his foot on the gas throughout, while fleshing out Tina’s tragic backstory to create a well-rounded and complex protagonist. Laura Lippman fans will be eager for more. Publisher’s Weekly, May 2023

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