The Sentence Is Death
This mystery is a worthy and witty follow-up to last year's best-seller The Word Is Murder, the second in an expected trilogy featuring the brilliant and enigmatic Detective Daniel Hawthorne. The author again playfully inserts “Anthony Horowitz” into the action as a writer who — seeking book fodder — joins the Sherlockian Hawthorne in investigating a mysterious death. This time it's a celebrity divorce lawyer who was smashed over the head with a (pricey!) bottle of wine. You'll never guess whodunnit.
The Nickel Boys
After winning a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award for 2016's The Underground Railroad, Whitehead is facing sky-high expectations for his new novel. No worries: This is a gripping, beautifully written story, featuring a promising teen named Elwood Curtis who is mistaken for a criminal and sent to the Nickel Academy, a boys’ reform school in Florida in the early 1960s. He suffers some wild injustices, racial and otherwise, deep in the corrupt heart of the Jim Crow South. (Nickel is based on a real reform school from that era.) Expect another round of awards for Whitehead.
City of Girls
The author of Eat Pray Love has written a colorful, sexy story about a flighty young woman, Vivian Morris, who's thrown out of Vassar College in 1940 and heads to New York to spend time with her theater-director aunt and accompanying showgirls. The 19-year-old gets a real education in love and plenty else after she makes a scandalous mistake — detailed from the perspective of Vivian at 89, reflecting back upon her dramatic, romantic youth.
A TV writer and the author of hit novels such as Good in Bed and In Her Shoes, Weiner brings us another winner, maybe even her best book yet. The story follows two sisters, Jo and Beth Kaufman, as they grow up in Detroit in the ‘40s, then go on to college and adulthood, including all of the accompanying humiliations, detours and compromises often required of women (especially of their generation) before they can find their place in the world. A wonderful, absorbing novel skillfully woven with social critique, it's comparable to books by her more heralded male contemporaries (yes, Jonathan Franzen).
Summer of ‘69
Blockbuster author Hilderbrand sets this novel on her beloved Nantucket, but for the first time also takes us into the past — 1969. The story is about a family facing all of the tumult of the times: Kate Levin's only son is fighting in Vietnam and a daughter is wrapped up in the civil rights movement, while she, her mother and her youngest daughter, Jessie, 13, spend the summer on the island as history is being made (the moon landing, Chappaquiddick). With vivid descriptions of the songs, fashions and other details of the era woven throughout, it's a true nostalgia trip.
Chaos: Charles Manson, the CIA, and the Secret History of the Sixties
Tom O'Neill and Dan Piepenbring
Another rewind back to craziness of 1969, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the Manson killings in August. O'Neill, long obsessed with the case, questions many of the assumptions made in Vincent Bugliosi's famous true-crime account of the murders Helter Skelter. He also describes some bizarre encounters he's had while investigating the story through the years, and admits he still hasn't found a good answer to the core question: “How did Charles Manson, a barely literate ex-con who'd spent more than half his life in federal institutions, turn a group of previously peaceful hippies … into savage, unrepentant killers, in less than a year?”
Why? Because she's Nora Roberts and has a gazillion fans. Her latest is a coming-of-age story that is set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina and focuses on a boy, Zane Bigelow, whose wealthy family's perfect facade starts to crumble, thanks to his abusive father. Protecting his little sister, Zane works to escape (and learn from) his past as he grows into an adult and meets Darby McCray, a transplant from Baltimore. Their passion is ignited in classic Nora Roberts style.
Beneath the Tamarind Tree: A Story of Courage, Family, and the Lost Schoolgirls of Boko Haram
Plenty of drama in this tale. Sesay, a CNN reporter who grew up in Britain and Sierra Leone, was the only journalist to accompany 21 Nigerian schoolgirls home after being released by their kidnappers, the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram. She writes about the 2014 abduction of 276 students by hundreds of men in the middle of the night, the girls’ life in captivity and the political repercussions, both worldwide and within Nigeria. It's a deeply personal story, since Sesay grew close to many of the girls and is still involved in helping them recover. (Part of the book's proceeds will establish a fund for their medical care.) And she reminds us that more than 100 young women are still missing.
Lady in the Lake
The best-selling Baltimore mystery writer sets this fast-paced novel in, you guessed it, the 1960s. Maddie Schwartz is a housewife who leaves an unhappy marriage and fights to keep the entry-level job at a city newspaper she snagged after her big break — finding the body of a dead white girl. Maddie begins a dogged search for the culprit (or culprits) behind the murder, all the while gathering clues and connecting dots on the homicide of an African American woman named Cleo Sherwood, a case nobody seems to care about.
Chances Are …: A Novel
The author of 2001's Pulitzer Prize-winning Empire Falls is back with his first stand-alone novel since 2009's That Old Cape Magic. This suspenseful story is about three very different men in their 60s, longtime friends since college, who get together at a Martha's Vineyard beach house to revisit events that occurred there on a Memorial Day weekend back in 1971. It's centered on a mystery: What happened to a woman, Jacy Rockafellow, who was loved by all three men and hasn't been seen since?
When I Was White: A Memoir
Valentine grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1960s and ‘70s, unaware that her father was African American. She writes frankly about how learning this fact as an adult turned her entire perception of herself upside down, as well as her view of race in America. She questions why her family and others felt the need to hide the truth and wrestles with her insecurities about whether she can ever be “authentically black.” She comes to realize that there's no clear road map for her unique journey.
A Better Man
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache returns to his job as head homicide detective in this 15th book in Penny's popular series, and he's more beleaguered than ever. He faces an onslaught of crises — including flooding in the ever-quaint Quebec town of Three Pines, an urgent search for a missing woman and turmoil following a body's discovery in the rising flood waters. Trust Penny to offer another smart, well-plotted, suspenseful tale.