The Death of Mrs. Westaway
The best-selling writer of psychological thrillers (In a Dark, Dark Wood and The Woman in Cabin 10) has a new winner, this one about Harriet Westaway, a young Englishwoman who makes her living reading tarot cards on Brighton Pier and owes a loan shark big bucks. After she learns that a Mrs. Westaway has died and left lots of money to Harriet, whom she claims is her granddaughter, Harriet is desperate enough to play along. She goes to meets her new family in their decrepit mansion and the situation grows increasingly complicated and creepy, Agatha Christie-style.
The Word Is Murder
Famed mystery writer Horowitz (2016’s Magpie Murders) inserts himself into the action of this clever, entertaining page-turner. A woman goes to a London funeral home to plan her own burial, then is strangled later that day. A Sherlockian oddball detective and a writer — a character known as Anthony Horowitz who, according to the story, is writing about the case — come together to untangle the clues and find her killer.
Groff is author of one of the best novels in recent years, Fates and Furies, and, wow, can she can write. These 11 short stories, mostly sharp and poignant (just a few are head-scratchers), are centered on the Sunshine State. They're atmospheric and dark slices of life: a homeless girl, lost; a mother whose husband seems to have disappeared; and two sisters who've been abandoned on an island and find ways to survive.
The Cabin at the End of the World
With gushing praise from Stephen King, this truly suspenseful — and bloody — horror novel begins with a gay couple and their daughter at their summer cabin, an idyll soon wrecked by a group of four strangers who claim that the world will end unless one member of the family volunteers to die. When they refuse, the situation grows violent, and news reports offer enough evidence of disaster for the couple (and the reader) to wonder whether the crazy prophets may be telling the truth.
The Summer Wives
Williams offers us a sweeping, romantic novel set in 1969, with flashbacks to 1951, on a tony Northeast resort island, and focusing on two generations of families — the Fishers, wealthy cocktail-swilling summer people, and the Vargases, working-class Portuguese American year-rounders. When young Miranda Schuyler’s mother marries into the Fisher family, Miranda falls in love with Joseph Vargas, the son of the lighthouse keeper, but a tragic event keeps them apart and Miranda away from the island for 18 years. Then she returns, now a leading actress, and faces her past.
Tyler’s latest gem follows a girl-woman named Willa through the decades, from childhood in 1967 through the turmoil of college, marriage and widowhood. A new chapter for Willa begins in 2017, when she learns that her son’s ex-girlfriend in Baltimore, Denise, has been shot. She’s never even met Denise, yet leaves her husband and home in the Southwest to help her and her child, only to find two things she’s missed her whole life: a sense of purpose and community. A charming, moving story that’s classic Tyler.
A light, tenderhearted debut novel that is sweetly uplifting in the way of Fredrik Backman's hit A Man Called Ove. Set in London, it’s about a lonely young reporter, Kate, and Rosemary, an 86-year-old widow, who end up joining forces to save their swimming pool (“lido” in Britspeak) from development. The story dives back in time to Rosemary’s youth and romance with her beloved late husband, which blossomed at the pool. A motley group of warm-spirited characters comes together to help Kate and Rosemary with their mission, understanding that they’re preserving more than a pool.
A well-crafted, gripping story by a two-time Edgar Award winner, Roy’s latest mystery is set in northern Florida, where ghosts of a family’s painful past loom large. Lane Fielding moves from Brooklyn with her daughters to her childhood home, a former plantation, despite horrible memories: She knows that her father once violently punished (and possibly even murdered) boys he disciplined at a neighboring reform school, and fears she may have inadvertently instigated the death of one. A girl goes missing and a woman is found dead, heightening tension just as Lane’s father’s cruel past has begun to resurface.
America for Beginners
A lovely debut novel about an Indian widow who heads to the U.S. to find her son, whom her husband said had died not long after he called them from his new home in San Francisco to tell them he was gay. Two young guides, an immigrant from Bangladesh and a young American woman (both a little lost), join her on a tour of America. The quirky threesome’s journey is moving and often very funny.
Rust & Stardust
In this entirely mesmerizing fictionalization of the true story that inspired Nabokov’s Lolita, the 1948 kidnapping of 11-year-old Sally Horner, Greenwood imagines Sally’s naive confusion that allowed her to be wooed by a disturbed older man, and the heartrending desperation of her devastated single mother. It’s a grim tale, but it’s also beautifully written, and doesn’t dwell on the horrifying sexual abuse that Nabokov so creepily romanticized. It’s thrilling, too, when Sally grows strong enough to plot her escape. Note that a nonfiction book on the subject comes out in September, The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel that Scandalized the World, by Sarah Weinman.
Sweet Little Lies
Little lies are big these days. Not to be confused with the Liane Moriarty book (and HBO series) Big Little Lies or the teen drama Pretty Little Liars, this British detective story is a smart page-turner that you’d never guess was written by a first-time novelist. It stars Kat Kinsella, a tough police sleuth who’s working a big murder case involving a woman she’d known briefly as a child — and whom her criminal father might have known too well. Her conflict of interest, which she doesn’t admit to her boss while she seeks the culprit, adds to the tension in a fast-paced story packed with lies (big and little) that are anything but sweet.
Where the Crawdads Sing
This beautiful, evocative novel is likely to stay with you for many days afterward. It’s about Kya, a young girl in the 1950s whose parents and siblings gradually all abandon her to live alone in the swamps of North Carolina. Shunned by the townspeople who call her “the Swamp Girl,” she becomes fiercely independent, but her yearning for love leads to trouble. The story periodically dives forward to 1968, when a man is found dead in the swamp, and everyone (including the reader, for most of this absorbing book) wonders whether Kya had something to do with it.