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With her mischievous debut novel, The Extinction of Irena Rey, Jennifer Croft draws readers deep into a gnarled forest in which eight translators search desperately for their beloved, vanished author.
With her mischievous debut novel, The Extinction of Irena Rey, Jennifer Croft draws readers deep into a gnarled forest in which eight translators search desperately for their beloved, vanished author.
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Sasha LaPointe’s memoir in essays, Thunder Song, continues the work of her foremothers, in a Native punk mode all her own.
Sasha LaPointe’s memoir in essays, Thunder Song, continues the work of her foremothers, in a Native punk mode all her own.
Literary luminaries unearth stories of family, food and grief in seven satisfying memoirs by Sloane Crosley, Andres Debus III, Leslie Jamison and more.
Literary luminaries unearth stories of family, food and grief in seven satisfying memoirs by Sloane Crosley, Andres Debus III, Leslie Jamison and more.

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When a Scot Ties the Knot

There’s unlucky, and then there’s “Surprise! Your fake pen pal is actually a real person!” Madeline Gracechurch dreamed up Captain Logan MacKenzie, an honorable Scottish soldier conveniently stationed elsewhere, to get out of making her debut and continue her work as an illustrator of naturalist texts. Maddie writes letters to Logan for years before she finally decides to kill him off, thinking herself safe from matrimony forever. And then, of course, Logan shows up on her doorstep, letters in hand, intent on getting married for real so that his battle-weary men can settle down on Maddie’s extensive property. When a Scot Ties the Knot is an absolute sugar high of a romance, complete with digressions on subjects such as why some men look hotter in glasses, how to seduce women by bathing in mountain lochs and the mating travails of Maddie’s lobsters (their names are Rex and Fluffy). Tessa Dare’s great talent as an author is her ability to root farcical silliness in emotional reality: Logan’s quest to give his men a life where they can heal and flourish is treated with utmost seriousness, as is the paralyzing social anxiety that led Maddie to start writing him in the first place. 

—Savanna, Managing Editor 

The Bee Sting

Was ever a family more unfortunate than the Barneses, the dysfunctional crew at the heart of Irish writer Paul Murray’s masterfully crafted fourth novel? Dickie Barnes is barely holding on to his auto dealership; his glamorous wife, Imelda, resents their fall in status. Their daughter, Cass, who plans to attend university in Dublin, may be jeopardizing that future thanks to too many nights at the pub, while 12-year-old PJ’s plan to escape his bullies is only leading him into more danger. Beginning with Cass, each family member takes a turn telling the story as they see it, unveiling layers of damage, secrets and bad luck. What keeps this tale of woe engaging across more than 600 pages is Murray’s tenderness for the Barnes family, despite their flaws. The voice of each character is refreshingly distinct, and there’s much satisfaction in seeing the puzzle pieces of their perspectives click together to create a full view of this fractured family, who love each other deeply but rarely manage to communicate that love in the right way or at the right moment. A heartfelt tragedy with a bravura ending, The Bee Sting is a strikingly human and empathetic read.

—Trisha, Publisher 


Surely there could be no greater misfortune than that which befalls Major Brendan Archer, who, near the end of J.G. Farrell’s Troubles finds himself buried up to his neck in sand, awaiting drowning as the tide comes in. Troubles is the first in Farrell’s Empire Trilogy, a series of masterful, bleakly hilarious eviscerations of British colonialism. After returning from World War I, the Major goes to Ireland to be with his fiancée, Angela Spencer, a woman he hardly remembers. Angela’s Protestant, Anglo-Irish family runs a once-glorious hotel called The Majestic. Even through the scrupulously polite Major’s eyes, it’s clear that the Spencers are in denial about the state of the hotel and the precarity of their political situation, as tensions with the majority-Catholic people of the surrounding area rise to a deadly pitch. Still, none of them manage to bring the danger into focus, to the point that the Irish Republicans go nameless and faceless throughout the book, even as they pack rocks around the Major’s body and leave him to die. Sadly, Farrell himself met an unfortunate end: At only 44, he was swept out to sea while fishing. We can only imagine what other great novels he would have graced the canon with, had he lived longer.

—Phoebe, Associate Editor

The Odyssey

I never realized how often Odysseus wept: as Polyphemus the Cyclops wet the floor with the brains of his friends; on Aeaea when the clever witch Circe transformed his men into pigs; on the shore of Ogygia as Calypso’s captive; in the halls of the Phaeacians, as he bemoaned his misfortune. After two decades of trying and failing to read The Odyssey, I picked up Emily Wilson’s translation and saw myself in this most unlucky of men. I had long wanted to read Homer’s epic, but I found it unbearably dull and the verse too difficult to unravel. I could never even get to Scherie, let alone back to Ithaca. Wilson, the first woman to publish a translation in English, brings Homer’s epic alive. She writes in her translator’s note that other English translations render Homer’s text in “grand, ornate, rhetorically elevated English.” But the poet’s verse was not “bombastic or grandiloquent.” It was accessible, performed around the ancient world to people from all walks of life. Wilson opts instead to use straightforward language and syntax, along with good old iambic pentameter, to present a story that is full of suspense and pathos. I lost myself in The Odyssey, I found myself in Odysseus and I wept for his misfortune. 

—Erica, Associate Editor

There’s something weirdly engaging about a character who’s down on their luck. Fortunately (or not), their loss is our gain.
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The Mystery Writer

I tend to be skeptical of conspiracy theorists—wait, let me rephrase that: I think most conspiracy theorists are bat-guano-crazy, howl-at-the-moon wingnuts. So it was with some trepidation that I embarked on the reading of Sulari Gentill’s The Mystery Writer. One of the main characters is a dyed-in-the-wool conspiracy theorist caught up in an online matrix of resistance, revolution and heaven knows what else, who is led by a character named Primus, who for all we know may be a 42-year-old who still lives in his mom’s basement. Rent free. But let’s put that aside for a moment, and focus on the protagonist, Theodosia “Theo” Benton. Theo has made her way from Tasmania to her brother’s house in Kansas in hopes of becoming a writer. Against all odds, she befriends her literary idol in a local coffee shop, published author Dan Murdoch, whose presence in the corporeal world is, unbeknownst to him, racing toward a violent close. Oh, also, he may have been the aforementioned Primus. Or not. Conspiracy theories are notoriously flexible that way. But when Theo begins to look into the death of her friend/mentor, she will be forced to come to terms with the real-world consequences of internet rants. Gentill’s follow-up to The Woman in the Library is an original and entertaining read with likable characters (even some of the wingnuts), although it may put me off Kansas for a while.

The Stars Turned Inside Out

It’s been six years since author Nova Jacobs’ debut, The Last Equation of Isaac Severy, hit the bookstands, garnering an Edgar Award nomination for best American debut. And then we waited, and waited some more. I am quite happy to report that her second novel, The Stars Turned Inside Out, is well worth the intermission. Deep underground, in a secret location somewhere outside Geneva, the Large Hadron Collider goes about its business of smashing subatomic particles, allowing scientists to conduct all manner of experiments regarding the nature of the universe. When the body of physicist Howard Anderby is found in one of the tunnels, having apparently been exposed to lethal levels of radiation, security consultant Sabine Leroux is called in to determine the cause. Her investigation unearths several troubling situations that lend credence to the idea that Anderby’s death was not accidental. Sabine conducts interviews with other physicists and staff on-site, volleying scientific jargon back and forth, but it is all clearly explained, never overwhelming and will engender curiosity in the non-scientist reader. In Jacobs’ first book, the murder mystery was overlaid with mathematics; in this book, the murder mystery is overlaid with physics. I live in hope that the next one will feature chemistry or biology, and that I can further my education while doing what I enjoy—reading murder mysteries. 

Cast a Cold Eye

If violence is your cuppa oolong, look no further than Cast a Cold Eye, installment two of Robbie Morrison’s Depression-era, Scotland-set Jimmy Dreghorn series. His first, Edge of the Grave, won the 2021 Bloody Scotland Debut Prize for Crime Novel of the Year and I wouldn’t be surprised if the sequel carries on in that grand tradition. Violent crime in 1930s Glasgow tends to be domestic abuse or the result of gang-related scuffles, with fists, knives or razors as the weapons of choice. So when a boatman is executed with a single bullet to the back of the head, it is a shock. Inspector Jimmy Dreghorn and his sidekick, “Bonnie” Archie McDaid, get the case. The pair is awash in contrasts: Dreghorn is complex and unlucky in love, a John Rebus-like character out of place in the era; McDaid is a onetime Olympian wrestler who employs his martial arts skills to great advantage, often with humor that will be appreciated by readers, if not by his opponents. Morrison paints the Glasgow milieu in somber shades of gray and brown, often water-streaked and more than occasionally blood-streaked as well. The dialog is spot on, which is to say that there is a good case to be made for having a Scots-English dictionary near at hand. If you’re here for the action, the history, the brothers-in-arms camaraderie and a cracking good story, you’ve come to the right place, laddie.

Pay Dirt

V.I. Warshawski returns for her 22nd adventure in Sara Paretsky’s latest mystery, Pay Dirt. In this installment, the PI is not in her usual digs in Chicago, but rather in Lawrence, Kansas. That will not keep her out of trouble, though; she manages to find that pretty much anywhere. This time it’s in the form of Sabrina Granev, a teenage soccer player barely clinging to life after being found in a drug house, and a second woman who was not so lucky—found dead in the same house a few days later. The mystery explores financial greed; closely held family businesses; the mutual back-scratching of corporate interests, politicians, law enforcement officials and jurists; and a bunch of ripped-from-the-headlines points of contention: critical race theory (and ongoing racism in general), the specter of reparations, conspiracy theories, “wokeness” and more. And of course there are a couple of murders, and if the bad guys have their way, they will add Warshawski to that (growing) list. Warshawski remains in top form as she ages; battered some by life, perhaps a bit more acerbic and wryly cynical, but still a keen observer and first-person chronicler. As was the case with the 21 volumes that preceded it, Pay Dirt is unputdownable, a worthy addition to one of the finest series in modern suspense fiction.

Plus, the latest whodunits from Sulari Gentill, Robbie Morrison and Sara Paretsky round out a great month in suspense fiction.
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Christa Comes Out of Her Shell

A lovably quirky heroine is at the center of Abbi Waxman’s Christa Comes Out of Her Shell. Scientist Christa Liddle is conducting research on her beloved sea snails on an island in the Indian Ocean when a family crisis requires her to return to Los Angeles. There, she’s forced to face an old tragedy and new drama while surrounded by her mother, older sisters and childhood friends and enemies. Christa begins to see herself and others differently, including her onetime teenage crush, Nate Donovan. Told in first person and punctuated with media clips and Christa’s charming drawings, the story slowly reveals the Liddle family’s history and Christa’s own vulnerabilities. While the will-they-won’t-they love story between Christa and Nate is definitely a through line, it seems safe to predict another romance too—that of readers losing their hearts to the eccentric, larger-than-life Liddle clan.

The Lady He Lost

In The Lady He Lost by Faye Delacour, Lieutenant Eli Williams returns to early Victorian London after being presumed dead—completely upending the world of Jane Bishop, an impoverished spinster who was once devoted to him. It’s been two years since he endured a shipwreck and being kidnapped by pirates, and Eli discovers his fiancée married another, his brother spent his savings and Jane, the woman he actually loved, will barely look at him. But he’s determined to make things better, despite general suspicion about why it took him so long to get home and Jane’s declaration that while she still cares for him, she can’t imagine a future as his second choice. Can their burning desire for each other overcome these hurdles? Balls and gowns and picnics in the rain add historical flavor, as does Jane’s quest for financial autonomy. With its engaging leads and well-drawn supporting characters, The Lady He Lost is a highly entertaining read.

Old Flames and New Fortunes

Prepare to swoon while enjoying the ever-so-romantic Old Flames and New Fortunes by Sarah Hogle. Romina Tempest and her sister run The Magick Happens, a mystical shop in their small hometown of Moonville, Ohio. Romina’s floral arrangements, which use the language of flowers to nurture romantic hopes, are some of the store’s most popular offerings. But after an unforgettable first love and a disastrous recent relationship, Romina avoids entangling her own heart. But when that same first love, Alex King, returns to town, he and Romina must confront what went wrong and decide if they can move forward as more mature and forgiving lovers. Told from Romina’s perspective, this love story has witty banter, steamy love scenes and heartfelt apologies, but it’s Alex’s eloquent devotion that will melt the flintiest of readers. The colorful cast includes families both biological and created, and the promise of magic in the air adds extra sparkle.

This month’s column features second-chance love stories that will warm even the most skeptical of hearts.
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This Isn’t Going to End Well: The True Story of a Man I Thought I Knew by Daniel Wallace is an electrifying look at how to navigate loss. Wallace considers the nature of grief and connection as he tells the story of his brother-in-law William Nealy, who died by suicide at 48. After his death, Wallace grapples with unresolved feelings and troubling questions about Nealy’s life. Writing with compassion, reflection and self-scrutiny, he explores his own personal demons and the boundaries of friendship.

In A Dutiful Boy: A Memoir of Secrets, Lies and Family Love, Mohsin Zaidi recounts the challenges of his conservative upbringing in London. Raised by traditional Muslim parents, Zaidi has a difficult time coming to grips with his sexual identity. As a student at Oxford, he is able to live an authentic life as a gay man, but he finds himself at a turning point when his father and a witch doctor attempt to alter his sexuality. Exploring family, community and self-love, Zaidi’s bold, revealing book will spark inspired dialogue among readers.

Leta McCollough Seletzky investigates the complex life of her father, Marrell McCollough, in The Kneeling Man: My Father’s Life as a Black Spy Who Witnessed the Assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. McCollough belonged to the Invaders, a Black militant group in talks with Martin Luther King Jr. prior to his assassination, and he was on the scene when King was killed. Yet he led a surprising double life: He was also a police officer secretly charged with gathering information on the Invaders. In this powerful memoir, Seletzky struggles to accept the truth about her father and to reconcile it with her identity as a Black woman.

In Normal Family: On Truth, Love, and How I Met My 35 Siblings, Chrysta Bilton examines the remarkable circumstances of her parentage. During the 1980s, Bilton’s gay mother, Debra, decided to have children. With a handsome man named Jeffrey Harrison serving as a sperm donor, she became pregnant and gave birth to Bilton. Decades later, Bilton makes disturbing discoveries about Harrison, who harbored secrets about his donor experiences. Discussion topics such as identity, honesty and traditional parenting roles make this a standout pick for book clubs.

4 intriguing memoirs explore the nature of family secrets.

Who doesn’t love a pretty village? In these two debut mysteries, rolling countryside, cobbled streets and grand medieval manors create perfectly pastoral backdrops for murder most foul. 

The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder

Freya Lockwood is at loose ends: Her ex-husband is forcing the sale of their London home; their daughter, Jade, has left for university; and it’s been years since Freya’s been enthused about anything aside from motherhood. 

She once worked as an antiques hunter alongside her mentor, the debonair and wickedly intelligent Arthur Crockleford. They returned stolen antiquities to their rightful owners, a pursuit both exhilarating and fulfilling. But after a trip to Cairo ended terribly, Freya cut contact. She hasn’t spoken to Arthur or returned to her hometown of Little Meddington in the 20 years since.

As C.L. Miller’s The Antique Hunter’s Guide to Murder opens, Freya’s beloved and fabulous Aunt Carole calls with news of Arthur. He’s been found dead in his Little Meddington shop, and Carole’s convinced he’s been murdered. To add to the emotional upheaval, Arthur left Freya a letter imploring her to find the culprit using cryptic clues he’s set out for her.

The quest begins at an antiques enthusiasts’ weekend at nearby Copthorn Manor. The ivy-covered mansion is set on beautiful grounds, but inside the house, things are far from pretty. The shifty cast of characters present is filled with likely suspects, all of whom are ill-mannered at best and dangerous at worst. Can Freya and Carole untangle the deadly connections between past and present before the killer strikes again?

Miller adds authenticity by name-checking real antiques with help from her late mother, the author and “Antiques Roadshow” expert Judith Miller. Readers will enjoy following the trail of clues alongside Freya and Carole, who must also contend with their conflicting feelings about Arthur. This series kickoff capably combines a treasure hunt, a murder mystery and complex relationship dynamics, and is sure to keep readers curious and engaged, while perhaps pining for their own special antique, too.

How to Solve Your Own Murder

Kristen Perrin’s How to Solve Your Own Murder also centers on amateur sleuths who are aunt and niece. Although in this lively, twisty tale, Great-Aunt Frances is the recently deceased victim, found in the library of her stately mansion in the village of Castle Knoll.

Her 25-year-old great-niece and aspiring mystery novelist, Annie, is present for this sad discovery, being one of the family members and advisors Frances summoned to Gravesdown Hall to discuss her will. But while Frances’ demise is a terrible shock to the group, it wouldn’t have surprised Frances herself: In 1965, a fortuneteller told the then-teenager, “All signs point toward your murder,” and she’s been trying to preemptively solve her own murder ever since.

Castle Knoll residents have long scoffed at Frances’ belief in the prophecy, and bristled at her investigations of their foibles and indiscretions—all of which are detailed on a floor-to-ceiling murder board. That board will come in handy, since Frances left Annie and the other guests at Gravesdown an assignment: Whoever solves Frances’ murder within the week will be the sole heir to her money and property. If the police crack the case first, the estate will be turned over to real estate developers, thus destroying the charm of the village filled with those who doubted Frances.

Those drawn into Frances’ game include Saxon, her nephew and the village coroner; handsome and enigmatic Detective Crane; and Walter, her lawyer and friend. There are secrets and conflicts of interest galore, plus multiple ways to access Gravesdown Hall undetected, making for an absolute pile of red herrings. And while Castle Knoll is “like a picture on a biscuit tin,” there’s plenty of ill intent roiling beneath its delightful surface. Can Annie stay safe and find the murderer before week’s end? 

Perrin juggles characters and clues with aplomb, sketching in the past via teen Frances’ journals and immersing readers in the present through Annie’s determined, good-hearted point of view. Readers will root for her as she gains hard-won confidence in this entertaining exploration of family secrets.

All whodunit fans know that little country towns are really dens of sin.

Discover your next great book!

BookPage highlights the best new books across all genres, as chosen by our editors. Every book we cover is one that we are excited to recommend to readers. A star indicates a book of exceptional quality in its genre or category.


The latest from author-illustrator Randy Cecil is a fun book to read aloud, with beautiful oil-on-paper illustrations for readers to contemplate as they make their own discoveries right along with our diminutive hero.