For book lovers, it’s difficult to beat summertime, with its warmer days allowing for relaxing reading — at the beach, lounging in your backyard or, for those of us who live in steamier spots, wrapped in air-conditioned comfort. Regardless of where you indulge, you’ll be transported by this season’s new releases, which include stellar historical fiction by Lisa See and James Lee Burke, taut thrillers from Matthew Quirk and Shari Lapena, fantastic short stories by the incomparable Joyce Carol Oates and sunny beach reads from Elin Hilderbrand and Kristan Higgins, among many others.
Fiction by Big-Name Authors
Lady Tan’s Circle of Women by Lisa See (June 6), the author of Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, is an absorbing story set in 15th-century China. The novel follows a wealthy woman, Tan Yunxian, from childhood through the decades as she learns and practices medicine in an era when elite women, with their tiny, painfully bound feet and arranged marriages, had few freedoms.
Another wonderful June release is The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende (June 6), the esteemed Chilean American author of 2013’s The House of the Spirits, among so many great works. Her latest centers on a little girl, Anita Díaz, whose mother disappears after they escape violence in El Salvador for the United States. A remarkable group of people — including an older man who fled Nazi Germany — step in to give her a home.
Zero-Sum: Stories by Joyce Carol Oates (July 18) is a collection of dark, powerful new tales by the masterful literary icon. Many of the characters are rather unhinged (like the troubled protagonist in her recent novel, 48 Clues Into the Disappearance of My Sister). I’m not usually a big fan of short stories but was drawn in by nearly every one here.
Be Mine by Richard Ford (June 13) has the author revisiting Frank Bascombe, the cranky former sportswriter we’ve met in previous novels. Here Frank finds himself caregiver to his son, who’s been diagnosed with ALS, and forced to confront his own mortality (with plenty of wry humor).
In Flags on the Bayou by James Lee Burke (July 11) the Edgar Award winner tells the story of an enslaved woman on the run in Louisiana after she’s been accused of murder, as the Civil War roils the South.
Crook Manifesto by Colson Whitehead (July 18), the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner’s sequel to 2021’s Harlem Shuffle, is another wild romp, with salesman Ray Carney again trying (and failing) to stay legit in crime-ridden 1970s New York.
Somebody’s Fool by Richard Russo, the third novel in the author’s trilogy that began with Nobody’s Fool, returns to the colorful residents of North Bath in upstate New York, who are mystified and vexed by the discovery of a body in an old hotel and the annexation of their town by a neighbor. (July 25)
Another big upcoming novel has a mysterious dead person at its center: The Heaven and Earth Grocery Store by James McBride (August 8), the author of 2013’s National Book Award winner The Good Lord Bird. McBride’s latest is set in the 1970s, in the fictional town of Chicken Hill, Pennsylvania, where Jewish and Black Americans live side by side. When a skeleton is found at the bottom of a well, the investigation that follows reopens local wounds and uncovers a long-held secret.
Thrillers and Crime Fiction
There’s so much (fictional!) murder and other evil deeds to grip suspense lovers this summer. One of the more buzzed-about is T.J. Newman’s Drowning: The Rescue of Flight 1421 (May 30), whose drama is centered around an airplane crash in the ocean. The book sparked a bidding war among Hollywood bigwigs for movie rights (Warner Brothers won), and Newman’s own story probably helped sell it: She’s a former flight attendant who started writing her first novel, the 2021 bestseller Falling, at work, jotting down scenes on cocktail napkins at 35,000 feet.
In All the Sinners Bleed by S.A. Crosby (June 6), the bestselling author of 2021’s Razorblade Tears, a high school history teacher is shot in the fictional Charon County, Virginia, and Titus Crown, the county’s first Black sheriff and a former FBI agent, is tasked with the investigation. The crimes he uncovers, including the gruesome work of a serial killer, are horrifying.
Also look out for Inside Threat by Matthew Quirk (June 13), where Secret Service agent Eric Hill thwarts a presidential assassination and contends with a deadly traitorous plot, and Fearless by M.W. Craven (June 29), which kicks off a new series featuring Ben Koenig, a former head of the U.S. Marshal’s Special Operations Group who’s now in hiding — and in grave danger. The twist: Koenig has a unique condition where he is incapable of feeling fear.
Everyone Here Is Lying by Shari Lapena (July 25), the author of hit thrillers like 2016’s The Couple Next Door (her publisher calls her “the queen of suburban suspense”), is a dark domestic tale about a girl gone missing from her quiet neighborhood and the many possible suspects in her disappearance.
I enjoyed Peter Heller’s 2019 novel The River (he also wrote the 2012 bestseller The Dog Stars), so am looking forward to checking out Heller’s The Last Ranger (August 1), focused on a park ranger at Yellowstone who tries to uncover what sparked violence between a wolf biologist and local hunter.
And Broadway Butterfly by Sara DiVello (August 1), who considers herself a “true crime novelist,” is timed to the 100th anniversary of the real unsolved murder of a Manhattan “It" girl. DiVello’s story is centered around a female crime reporter determined to uncover the truth behind her killing.
Thriller fans can look forward to new installments in their favorite series, too, including Killing Moon by Jo Nesbø, (May 30), bringing back Harry Hole; An Evil Heart by Linda Castillo (July 11), a Kate Burkholder novel; Dead Fall by Brad Thor (July 11), featuring Scott Harvath; and Karin Slaughter’s After That Night (August 22), the next book in her Will Trent series, which has been adapted for TV on ABC starring Ramón Rodríguez as Trent.