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Mississippi Blood Cover Image
ISBN: 9780062311153
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Published: William Morrow & Company - March 21st, 2017

Mississippi Blood is the final book in Iles’ trilogy which began in the turbulent ‘60s in the racially unsettled state of Mississippi. The trilogy follows the story of Penn Cage’s father, Tom, a locally revered doctor who is known for his compassion to the black community.

It follows the trajectory of the Double Eagles, a violent, virulently racist spin off of the Ku Klux Klan that believed the Klan’s ways were too passive. This lawless group was responsible for countless murders, possibly including the assassination of JFK, and the FBI has been trying for decades to penetrate the group and bring them to justice.

Sometime along the way Penn’s father, Dr. Cage, crossed paths with the Double Eagles, and now the sins of the father are being visited on the son - and everyone else in their lives.

In Mississippi Blood, Dr. Cage stands accused of murdering his black former nurse - Viola Turner - and he doesn’t seem to be putting up much of a defense.

I devoured this 800-page whopper in just a few sittings. If you read Natchez Burning and The Bone Tree, you are already up to speed and ready to jump right in. Although Mississippi Blood can stand alone, this is an instance in which I’d recommend reading all three novels in order. It’s a long story with a lot of ground to cover, but a vivid one with easily imaginable characters and truly evil bad guys. Greg Iles fans won’t be disappointed!

The Travelers Cover Image
ISBN: 9780385348508
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Published: Broadway Books - January 10th, 2017

Travelers is a well-respected magazine about, well, travelers and traveling.

Will Rhodes is a writer for the magazine who is a bit disenchanted with his life and his marriage, and makes the mistake of allowing himself to be seduced by a woman who uses her power over him to coerce him into a life of espionage.

But just for whom is he spying? And why is he spying on his co-workers? Pretty soon he realizes that the life he thought was boring was never the life he'd been leading at all.

This is one of those stories where no one is who they appear to be, and the more you learn, the less you understand - in other words, a classic Chris Pavone novel!

Our Short History Cover Image
ISBN: 9781616206222
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Published: Algonquin Books - March 21st, 2017

This novel is a whole-box-of-Kleenex read, but in a good way. It’s a sad story that never descends into the maudlin or becomes cliched in its prose.

Karen Neulander is raising her son, Jake, now six years old, as a single mom. Jake’s father, Dave, made it clear when Karen told him she was pregnant that ‘I love you’ didn’t also mean ‘I’m ready to have a family with you.’ And so she never told him that she’d had a baby boy who was the love of her life. Karen is a political consultant in New York and has it all - a big career, a darling son, and, now ovarian cancer.

This book is written from Karen to the future Jake, and chronicles the most painful thing of all - the fact that Jake wants to meet his father, and Karen feels that she has no choice but to facilitate that. Impossibly, Dave is thrilled and wants to become part of Jake’s life, and Karen is resentful and terrified that the son SHE’D raised - HER best thing - would be taken over by the man who’d dumped them both.

This book could have been formulaic - doling out advice to a child too young to yet comprehend it by a mother embracing every day with courage - but Our Short History is much more complex and heartfelt than that. It will kick you in the gut to read it, but you’ll feel grateful for having done so when you’ve finished.

The Fifth Petal Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101905609
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Published: Crown Publishing Group (NY) - January 24th, 2017

Brunonia Barry wrote The Lace Reader, one of my permanent staff pick books, so there was no question that I'd read her new novel, also set in Salem, MA.

In Barry's hands, I'm always able to fully suspend disbelief and fall into her world of present day if-not-quite-witches, then women with the ability to read our thoughts or touch illness with healing sounds and the like.

The Fifth Petal features Callie Cahill who was only a child when her mother and her mother's friends - referred to as 'the Goddesses' around Salem for their seductive charms - were murdered in the 1980s. All grown up now, Callie has returned to Salem and finds that there the past is never more than a heartbeat away.

The Fifth Petal is part mystery, part intrigue, part history and plain old storytelling at its finest. This was one of those books I hurried home to read and at the same time dragged my feet on finishing - not wanting to rejoin the 'real world' after I turned the last page.

I highly recommend this book!

A Gentleman in Moscow Cover Image
ISBN: 9780670026197
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Published: Viking - September 6th, 2016

In 1922, Count Alexander Rostov is deemed an unrepentant aristocrat by the newly minted Bolshevik regime and is sentenced to house arrest in the grand Metropol hotel where he lives.

Rostov turns out to be a charming man beloved of the hotel staff, and able to see the bright side of even his exile to former servants' quarters in the eaves.

An erudite man with a sense of humor, Rostov consoles himself with great literature and friendships while some of Russia's most tumultuous changes happen just beyond his sight.

Because Rostov is such a likable gentleman, his unlikely friendships with an inquisitive 9 year old girl, an outgoing American, a celebrated actress, a feisty chef and the others who make up his new day-to-day existence unexpectedly provide him with a life full of meaning and a totally different kind of freedom than that denied him by the government.

Richly drawn and contemplatively written, A Gentleman in Moscow is another tour de force from the man who gave us Rules of Civility - Amor Towles.

I See You Cover Image
ISBN: 9781101988299
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Published: Berkley Books - February 21st, 2017

Just when I think I've found the next big thriller, I read yet another stunner like I See You.

Zoe Walker is commuting home from her London job when she sees a familiar face in a newspaper classified ad - her own! It's accompanied by a phone number and a listing for FindTheOne.com. Zoe is mystified. Every day the ad seems to appear with a new woman's face. And then Zoe realizes that she's also seeing some of these faces in other parts of the paper - as crime victims.

In this twisted game of cat and mouse, no one, it seems, is safe. This is a rip-roarin' read with a great zing at the end. Very good!

The Girls Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812998603
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Published: Random House - June 14th, 2016

Evie is only fourteen when she sees the exotic girls in their ragged clothes and unkempt hair and vacant eyes in the park by her CA home. And she's mesmerized.

When a chance encounter later with one of the girls, Suzanne, leads to an invitation to visit a commune, Evie is smitten.

In the lawless, free-love atmosphere of the drug-soaked '60s cult, Evie feels seen and appreciated for the first time ever.

Emma Cline's genius is in getting us to empathize with the awful neediness that would hold a girl in thrall to a cult leader and his followers - and to see through her eyes the horrors that her newfound "family" perpetrated.

Powerful and edgy, The Girls will surprise you with its ability to make you understand what, in retrospect, seems so unbelievable.

The Couple Next Door Cover Image
ISBN: 9780735221086
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Published: Pamela Dorman Books - August 23rd, 2016

I blew through this debut suspense novel. I liked the story, the depth of the characters and the little surprises that changed the direction of my thinking.

Marco and Anne have gone to dinner at the next door neighbors' and left their 6 month old baby asleep in her crib because their sitter cancelled at the last minute. They've taken their baby monitor and one of them runs home every half hour to check on her. But sometime between Marco's 12:30 check and when they go home, Cora is taken.

Suspicion is immediately focused on the parents, but the truth gets increasingly complicated as secrets, lies and unfaithfulness keep twisting the focus from one character to another.

The early reader edition that I read had a few plot problems, but I (and no doubt other booksellers and reviewers) pointed them out, so I expect they will be taken care of by the time you get your hands on a copy - and you will want to, because The Couple Next Door is a thrilling thriller indeed!

Lincoln in the Bardo Cover Image
ISBN: 9780812995343
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Published: Random House - February 14th, 2017

Oh, George Saunders, what an imagination you have! Lincoln in the Bardo has the feel of a classic - and indeed it may become one to future readers.

The book takes place over the course of one night in 1862. Abraham Lincoln’s beloved son Willie has died and the President, unable to fully let go, visits his crypt in Oak Hill cemetery.

Saunders says that a friend had mentioned that Lincoln visited the cemetery several times to hold his son’s body, and that that image was inextricably now bound in his mind with the Pietà (the famous sculpture by Michelangelo of Mary holding Jesus’ body).

So that was the jumping off point for a novel built from real and fictional accounts of the death of young Lincoln and its aftermath.

Saunders points out that his novel is peopled mostly by ghosts, who form a Greek chorus of narrators. It is perhaps this more than anything else that gives the novel the feeling of classic literature.

That being said, Lincoln in the Bardo is easily readable and in fact leaves you with much to contemplate about the nature of love and death and heaven and earth. So many of my contemporaries say the name George Saunders on whispered, reverent breath. I guess I’m now one of them! Wow.

The Nowhere Man: An Orphan X Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250067852
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Published: Minotaur Books - January 17th, 2017

Last year I entreated you to read Orphan X - the first in a new series by Gregg Hurwitz about a man who’d been plucked from the streets as a boy and trained as a covert agent, code-named Orphan X.

Orphan X, also now known as Evan Smoak, helps desperate people and asks them to hand his number off to someone else in dire straights.

But in Nowhere Man, Evan himself is in dire straights - he’s been captured and is being auctioned off to the highest bidder among the many evil-doers he’s crossed in his years working for the government.

This novel reads like a James Bond action adventure. Snow covered chalets, snipers, helicopters, psychotropic drugs, narcos...it has it all in a page-turner that will thrill every thriller-lover out there. If you still haven’t read Orphan X, come in for your copy today because in a few more days you’re going to be ready for The Nowhere Man!

Once a Crooked Man Cover Image
ISBN: 9781250112064
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Published: Minotaur Books - January 10th, 2017

By turns funny and serious, David McCallum's (whom you know from NCIS & Man From U.N.C.L.E.) novel is reminiscent of Elmore Leonard.

Harry, an actor in New York, pops into a restaurant to use the bathroom. When he's told the restaurant is closed, he runs outside and around back to relieve himself, and overhears what seems to be details of a plot to murder a man in London. 

After wrestling with his conscience for a bit, Harry decides to fly to England and try to warn the intended victim.

That's how he ends up with a suitcase of money, being pursued by mobsters, being used by British law enforcement and many, many other exploits in this raucous book.

Just when it all seems over-the-top comical, something brutal happens and totally reverses the tone.

You may buy this book because of its author, but you'll read it because it's good.