Kimberly Giarratano

It’s 1958, and a serial killer is targeting the Midwest. Their crimes are dubbed the Bloodless Murders, because the victims are all found exsanguinated. The police are baffled by the absence of blood at the scenes, as well as the lack of any signs of struggle.

When the Carlson family is murdered in the small Minnesota town of Black Deer Falls, local police find a teenage girl, Marie Catherine Hale, in the Carlson home, drenched in their blood. They arrest her and charge her as an accomplice, certain that she couldn’t have carried out the murders on her own. But Marie is unwilling to talk to investigators.

Instead, Marie offers to tell her story to the sheriff’s son, Michael Jensen, an aspiring reporter. Thoughtful and unassuming, Michael is a receptive ear for the tale Marie has to tell, even if both a tenacious prosecutor and the townsfolk resent him for it. But as Michael begins to fall for Marie, he struggles to be both her confessor and her savior.

All These Bodies is narrated by Michael, so readers only see Marie through his eyes. Her confession is rife with deflections and uncertainty. It’s clear that she has experienced trauma, though she never reveals its details and is generally spare with information about herself. Readers will more readily connect with Michael’s best friend, Percy, who supports Michael’s dream of escaping their small town, even though he knows it will mean losing him. The two share a deep bond, and Percy is vehemently protective of Michael, sometimes at a great personal cost.

Author Kendare Blake is best known for her paranormal horror novel Anna Dressed in Blood and her dark fantasy series, Three Dark Crowns. All These Bodies, a historical mystery with touches of gothic fiction, crime and the paranormal, is a notable departure for her. Blake is sparse with historical details, which keeps the story moving but can also make its 1950s setting seem arbitrary. However, her depiction of Marie’s misogynist treatment by the press feels both accurate to the period and ripped from contemporary headlines. Readers who enjoy mysteries heavy with ambiguity and light on straightforward, spelled-out solutions should plan for Blake to keep them reading well past bedtime.

When the Carlson family is murdered in the small Minnesota town of Black Deer Falls, local police find a teenage girl, Marie Catherine Hale, in the Carlson home, drenched in their blood.

Rora and her brother, Helos, are shape-shifters who fled their home in the Western Vale and have been living in the kingdom of Telyan. There, Helos works as a healer while Rora uses her shape-shifting abilities to spy for King Gerar. Although she has earned a place at court, Rora has found acclimating to Telyan difficult because of tensions between magical and non-magical people. 

When a deadly sickness spreads throughout the kingdom and the king’s younger son, Finley, is infected, King Gerar sends Rora, Helos and Weslyn, his oldest son and heir, back to the Vale in the hopes of bartering for a cure. It’s a mission fraught with dangerous beasts, poisonous plants and vicious political skirmishes that comes to a crescendo when Rora discovers that one of Telyan’s neighboring kingdoms is vying for war. 

Debut author Elayne Audrey Becker’s Forestborn is an ambitious fantasy novel that explores themes of identity, otherness and belonging. Rora’s ability to transform into animals as well as into other people means that she is never quite comfortable in her own skin, especially when she encounters those who harbor prejudices against shape-shifters. And although Rora and Helos are safe within Telyan, the same isn’t true for magical beings in other kingdoms, who are subject to cruel imprisonment, experimentation and expulsion.

Although political exposition initially weighs down the action, the novel soon moves at an exciting clip as Rora and her companions trip out on hallucinatory dew, meet wizened old giants and escape one dangerous situation after another. Becker has a light touch with the story’s romances: Rora and Weslyn’s shared experiences draw them close, and Helos longs to return to Finley with a cure. 

While Becker satisfyingly resolves her characters’ arcs, readers who prefer standalone novels should know that Forestborn ends on a cliffhanger. They’ll need to wait for the sequel to discover whether Rora and her companions’ deeper struggle for their very existence will succeed. 

Rora and her brother, Helos, are shape-shifters who fled their home in the Western Vale and have been living in the kingdom of Telyan. There, Helos works as a healer while Rora uses her shape-shifting abilities to spy for King Gerar.

A decade after the publication of her last Enola Holmes mystery, Nancy Springer returns with a new tale of subterfuge, intrigue and danger as the young sleuth takes on the case of a missing woman.

Now 15 years old and living independently in London, Enola receives a letter from Dr. John Watson summoning her to 221B Baker Street in the hopes that she might rouse her older brother, the enigmatic Sherlock Holmes, from a depressive state. While Enola is tending to Sherlock, Letitia Glover comes by to call upon the famous detective to find her missing twin sister, Felicity. Felicity’s husband, the powerful Earl of Dunhench, claims (without evidence) that Felicity has died. 

With Sherlock seemingly out of commission and smelling a rat herself, Enola vows to locate Felicity. She disguises herself as an aristocrat and drops in on the menacing earl—a dangerous move that even the clever Enola soon regrets. Runaway horses, narrow escapes, close calls and cryptic works of art enliven a well-paced if sometimes predictable mystery. 

Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche never hesitates to critique the abuses of classism and sexism endemic to 19th-century English culture, when it wasn’t unheard of for powerful men to dispose of inconvenient women through duplicity. At its core, however, the novel is an homage to the power of sibling relationships. Despite Sherlock’s initial melancholia, he rallies to protect Enola (even if she has already successfully managed to save herself unassisted), just as Letitia risks her life to save her sister. 

Readers whose only familiarity with Enola is via the recent Netflix movie starring Millie Bobby Brown (of “Stranger Things” fame) will slip easily into this new story, as all necessary context is provided in the form of a jaunty prologue narrated by the delightfully arrogant Sherlock. From there, Enola takes over the narration. Her confidence, self-assured schemes, intellectual wit and SAT-level vocabulary are enchanting and guaranteed to make readers ponder which Holmes is the superior detective. 

Stylishly written and briskly plotted, Enola Holmes and the Black Barouche will scoop up movie fans looking for further adventures with Enola. Best of all, there are six previous Enola Holmes mysteries waiting when they finish this one.

A decade after the publication of her last Enola Holmes mystery, Nancy Springer returns with a new tale of subterfuge, intrigue and danger as the young sleuth takes on the case of a missing woman.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Belleweather has just won $58 million in the Wisconsin lottery. It’s a life-changing amount of money that could lift Jane out of poverty and jump-start her dreams of becoming an oceanographer. Unfortunately, because Jane is a minor, she can’t come forward to collect the prize.

Jane could sign over the winning ticket to her mother, but she fears the money would only exacerbate the severe hoarding addiction her mom developed in the wake of her father’s death. Jane also considers asking her ex-boyfriend, Holden, to claim the prize. But he’s been a grade-A jerk ever since he got back from summer camp, and she’s not sure he would actually give her the money. All the while, Jane’s best friend, Brandon, a budding investigative reporter, has vowed to uncover the identity of the winner by any means necessary, complicating Jane’s attempts to conceal the truth. Ultimately, Jane must decide if she will be better off with money or without it.

Jamie Pacton’s second novel, Lucky Girl, explores the myriad ways money can change people. When the winning ticket is announced, everyone ponders what they would do with such an enormous windfall, but few consider the risks associated with newfound wealth. Eventually Jane learns of the tragedies that often befall lottery winners, their lives so frequently torn apart—and in some cases ended—by the greed and envy of those around them, and this possible fate makes her decision even more complicated.

The amount of money that can change someone needn’t be enormous, as Pacton skillfully reveals through Jane’s relationship with Holden. After spending a summer surrounded by rich kids at camp, Holden has suddenly become resentful of his middle-class upbringing. His dreams of wealth supersede his compassion toward Jane, whose situation at home is difficult. She’s often deprived of food and sleep due to her mom’s mental illness. Yet Jane remains kind, self-assured and determined in the face of hardship.

Readers who think they know exactly what they’d do if millions of dollars landed in their lap will think again after reading Pacton’s thoughtful novel.

Seventeen-year-old Jane Belleweather has just won $58 million in the Wisconsin lottery. It’s a life-changing amount of money that could lift Jane out of poverty and jump-start her dreams of becoming an oceanographer. Unfortunately, because Jane is a minor, she can’t come forward to collect the prize.

Seven years ago, Iris Hollow and her two older sisters disappeared from the streets of Edinburgh. They returned, transformed, a month later, with shocking white hair and their beautiful blue eyes now dark. Their parents’ relief quickly turned to suspicion as it became clear the sisters didn’t just look different; they now wielded the ability to force people to do their bidding. 

These days, Iris is finishing up high school while middle sister Vivi tours Europe with her punk rock band and the oldest, Grey, has become a fashion designer and model known for her outlandish, almost grotesque creations. When Grey vanishes without a trace, Iris and Vivi search for her, joined by Grey’s delightful and charming boyfriend, Tyler. But the search soon becomes a race for their lives when they realize they’re being hunted by a dangerous, otherworldly figure.

Australian-born British author Krystal Sutherland blends elements of detective fiction, fairy tales and horror in House of Hollow. Iris’ first-person narration gives the book a gorgeous but often dark feel that’s buoyed by witty banter between Vivi and Tyler, which cuts the tension and provides necessary levity. As the search for Grey grows increasingly frantic and desperate, Sutherland excellently conveys the way Iris and her sisters are bound not just by family ties but also by the trauma they shared when they were younger. 

Readers who enjoy fantasy books with contemporary or urban settings such as Holly Black’s Folk of the Air series or Melissa Albert’s The Hazel Wood will find much to enjoy here. Sutherland’s lush, gruesome prose, a sinister Scottish woodland setting and the powerful yet destructive role of magic combine for a truly chilling tale. Pick this up before bedtime, if you dare.

Seven years ago, Iris Hollow and her two older sisters disappeared from the streets of Edinburgh. They returned, transformed, a month later, with shocking white hair and their beautiful blue eyes now dark. Their parents’ relief quickly turned to suspicion as it became clear the sisters didn’t just look different; they now wielded the ability to force people to do their bidding. 

It’s 1959, and 17-year-old Mazie Butterfield dreams of becoming a Broadway star—no easy feat for a Nebraska farm girl who waitresses as a carhop for meager tips. When her beloved grandmother dies and leaves her a small inheritance, Mazie breaks up with her boyfriend, Jesse, and heads to New York City. 

Mazie knows getting a part in a Broadway musical will be tough, but she’s not prepared for the callousness of show business. Before she’s even opened her mouth to sing, casting directors dismiss her for her broad stature, freckles and quaint surname. Just when her money runs out, she gets a part in a traveling stage production that puts her at odds with a lecherous director. Mazie always knew that running toward a dream would be hard; she just never realized the heart she’d break could be her own.

The farm girl with big-city dreams is a classic Hollywood trope that feels fresh and contemporary in Melanie Crowder’s capable hands. The titular protagonist of Mazie is hardworking, if a tad naive. She’s open to new experiences, including getting acquainted with Broadway’s underground gay scene. Her confrontations with men who abuse their positions ring frustratingly true even in our #MeToo era. 

The conflict between Mazie and Jesse highlights the tough choices faced by those who seek stardom, leaving behind family and friends and altering their appearances and even their names to appease audiences. Although Mazie is white and Christian, she is asked to lose weight and slough off her country manners in order to be more palatable to Broadway producers. Crowder has clearly done her research as she brings the golden age of musical theater to life, but readers may find themselves just as nostalgic for the quiet life of a small Nebraska farm as for glitzy, postwar Manhattan by the time they finish Mazie’s story.

It’s 1959, and 17-year-old Mazie Butterfield dreams of becoming a Broadway star—no easy feat for a Nebraska farm girl who waitresses as a carhop for meager tips. When her beloved grandmother dies and leaves her a small inheritance, Mazie breaks up with her boyfriend, Jesse, and heads to New York City. 

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