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10 New Books We Recommend This Week

By July 27, 2018No Comments

Source : The New York Times

It’s almost August, which for some of us means there’s only one more month to look awkward in flip-flops and a thick smear of sunblock while we lie on a hammock or a sandy towel, sweaty and heat-dazed and content, with an open box of ginger snaps and a pile of books at our side. Thrillers, probably. This week we recommend a bunch of good ones — from the latest Megan Abbott novel (“Give Me Your Hand,” about rival scientists with a long history) to a new take on Raymond Chandler and his classic detective Philip Marlowe (“Only to Sleep,” by Lawrence Osborne) to Flynn Berry’s tale of a daughter seeking answers and vengeance after a murder close to home (“A Double Life”).

And because midsummer nights’ screams needn’t be limited to fiction, we’ve thrown in the true-life story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement in a turn-of-the-century murder case (as written by the former Times reporter Margalit Fox), along with Allie Rowbottom’s surprisingly dark family memoir of life as a Jell-O descendant. Bonus for Megan Abbott fans, just to bring things full circle: As Abbott did in her 2014 book “The Fever,”Rowbottom also offers a take on the mysterious twitching girls of Le Roy, N.Y. You might pair those books, like white wine and fish (or vodka and Jell-O), and ease out of summer that way, uneasily.

Gregory Cowles
Senior Editor, Books

CANDY, by Terry Southern and Mason Hoffenberg. (Grove, $16.) This satire of Voltaire’s “Candide” and parody of smutty novels, first published (and banned) in France in 1958, is now available in a 60th anniversary edition. It follows the story of Candy Christian, a young woman of thrice-scrubbed innocence who possesses nuclear pheromonal impact and a “heart too big” to deprive men. “Every sentence in ‘Candy’ seems to have a little propeller on it,” our critic Dwight Garner writes. “This episodic novel still lives because its joints are loose. It’s that rare book that smacks of a tight deadline only in good ways. There was no time to overthink it, to gum up the works.”

JELL-O GIRLS: A Family History, by Allie Rowbottom. (Little, Brown, $28.)Rowbottom — a descendant of the Jell-O fortune — weaves together her family history and the story of the classic American dessert to produce a book that alternately surprises and mesmerizes. “Despite its title, this isn’t a bland tale that goes down easy; ‘Jell-O Girls’ is dark and astringent, a cutting rebuke to its delicate, candy-colored namesake,” our critic Jennifer Szalai writes. “It’s also the kind of project that could turn unwieldy and even unbearable in the wrong hands. But Rowbottom has the literary skills and the analytical cunning to pull it off. Like a novelist, she can imagine herself into the emotional lives of others, while connecting her story and theirs to a larger narrative of cultural upheaval.”

GIVE ME YOUR HAND, by Megan Abbott. (Little, Brown, $26.) Abbott, who always immerses readers in hothouse subcultures in her novels — cheerleading, gymnastics — here explores the relationship between competitive scientists at a cutthroat university laboratory. “The reason to read this compelling and hypnotic novel is not the execution of the plot or the sleight-of-hand final revelation,” Ruth Ware writes in her review. “What makes it stand out is Abbott’s expert dissection of women’s friendships and rivalries.”

THE SINNERS, by Ace Atkins. (Putnam, $27.) The latest crime novel featuring Sheriff Quinn Colson revolves around a high-end marijuana operation, Fannie Hathcock’s thriving strip joint/brothel and a crooked trucking outfit based in Tupelo, Miss., that cons drivers into hauling stolen goods across state lines into Louisiana, a land of lush landscapes and exotic place names like Turtle Bayou, Lake Charles, Breaux Bridge, the Atchafalaya River. “If you’re a romantic,” Marilyn Stasio writes in her crime column, “just reading these luscious names can make you smell the wisteria, feel the breeze and melt into the scenery.”

ONLY TO SLEEP, by Lawrence Osborne. (Hogarth, $26.) A thriller that jolts Philip Marlowe, Raymond Chandler’s iconic private investigator, out of his quiet Mexican retirement and back into the world of scams and seductions. Osborne, who worked as a reporter along the border in the early 1990s, knows Mexico well and he passes that knowledge along to Marlowe. “The book’s greatest suspense centers on Osborne’s fealty to Chandler’s Marlowe,” our reviewer, Laura Lippman, writes. “I’m wide open to Osborne’s version …, which forces us to wonder at times whether he’s still a man of honor.”

CONAN DOYLE FOR THE DEFENSE: The True Story of a Sensational British Murder, a Quest for Justice, and the World’s Most Famous Detective Writer, by Margalit Fox. (Random House, $27.) Fox, a recently retired obituaries writer for The Times, tells the thrilling story of Arthur Conan Doyle’s involvement in a real-life murder case that might have intrigued his hero, Sherlock Holmes, about an innocent man wrongly accused in the early years of the 20th century. “All of this is developed with brio by Fox,” Judith Flanders writes in her review. “She is excellent in linking the 19th-century creation of policing and detection with the development of both detective fiction and the science of forensics — ballistics, fingerprints, toxicology and serology — as well as the quasi science of ‘criminal anthropology.’”

A DOUBLE LIFE, by Flynn Berry. (Viking, $26.) In this thriller, a London doctor searches for her father, a man of power who long ago disappeared after a murder it appears he committed. Berry tells stories about women who seethe over the knowledge of violence and are fueled by a howling grief for its victims. “Her prose can be as blistering as it is lush,” according to Karen Valby’s review. “The writing is rich and moody, without any unnecessary fuss. … As desperate and consumed as our messy heroine may get in the process, Berry always lets her hold onto her humanity.”

AFTER THE MONSOON, by Robert Karjel. (Harper/HarperCollins, $26.99.) Karjel’s Nordic-noir thriller refreshingly shifts the action from bleak Scandinavia to Djibouti, at the Horn of Africa, where spies and kidnappers converge and Swedish special forces confront the region’s jihadists. “Every corner of this rich, rewarding novel features one or another subversion of stereotypes,” Chris Pavone writes in his review. Karjel’s characters “are nuanced, their relationships complex and the background texture evocative; his subversions are of a delicious flavor.”

THE PRICE YOU PAY, by Aidan Truhen. (Knopf, $25.95.) Imagine “Pulp Fiction” crossed with Martin Amis on mescaline, and you’ll have a sense of this cocaine-infused, high-octane caper. In his review, Charles Finch calls it “brilliant, a latticework of barbed jokes and subtle observations and inventive misbehaviors, a high-end thriller, relentlessly knowing, relentlessly brutal.”

THE BANKER’S WIFE, by Cristina Alger. (Putnam, $27.) In Alger’s cerebral, expertly paced Swiss thriller, an American expat wife sorts through the conflicting stories surrounding her husband’s death and the shady investigations that follow. Tina Jordan, reviewing the book, calls it “slick, heart-hammering entertainment.”

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