4. Red Sparrow by Jason Matthews
A hypnotic plot. A tantalizing female protagonist. A scandal that reaches the halls of the U.S. Capitol. These are the creations of ex-CIA officer Matthews, and they help Sparrow fly to the heights of the spy-thriller genre. Smart and alluring, Dominika Egorova is a graduate of a Russian "sparrow school" — a twisted sort of academy where spies (both male and female) learn to charm priceless secrets from the "foreign nationals" they compromise. The pages catch fire as Egorova morphs from pliant tool of the state into revenge-seeking missile.
5. The Son by Philipp Meyer
You can't resist being drawn into this epic novel, which begins with Comanches kidnapping 13-year-old Eli McCullough from his Texas home in 1849. As sprawling as the state in which it's set, Meyer's big, bold story of one family's triumphs and catastrophes sweeps through the years and into the 21st century. Think Lonesome Dove meets Dallas.
6. Night Film by Marisha Pessl
The young author's wonderfully imagined second novel has been called everything from a "literary scavenger hunt" to "the next phase of the American novel." To enhance her noirish tale of the suicide of Ashley Cordova — the 24-year-old daughter of cult horror-film director Stanislas Cordova — Pessl created all sorts of narrative multimedia, from faux website pages to imaginary magazine articles, case notes, medical files and even phone-book entries. Pessl keeps you gasping for breath as the story nears its odd conclusion — certain to spark book-club battles!
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