new books

How a 1920 Wall Street Bombing Tanked the Career of a Famous Detective

Jeffrey D. Simon

As is often true when there are multiple witnesses to a crime, there were varying accounts of the explosion. A sample of 21 witnesses did, however, reveal some points of agreement. Most of them said that a horse-drawn wagon was parked in front of or near the U.S. Assay Office, which was located on Wall Street at the time, and that it was old and dilapidated, its paint worn off.

Traveling Through Space at Lightning Speed in Samantha Harvey’s ‘Orbital’

Lee Polevoi

At times crew members engage in philosophical discussions, where fundamental questions are asked. What does it mean for our planet to be—presumably—the only one to sustain life in this galaxy and galaxies beyond? What does it mean if we’re not the only such life-form? Harvey also brilliantly captures the air of camaraderie these men and women depend upon to survive.

Finding Nature in a Half-Acre of Ground in ‘The Comfort of Crows’

Lee Polevoi

At the same time, the author is keenly aware of our dire political and climate conditions. She strives mightily to resist the bad feelings these situations engender: “Too often I feel I am living in a country I no longer recognize, a country determined to imperil every principle I hold dear and many of the people I love, too. Immersing myself in the natural world of my own backyard … is the way I cope with whatever I think I cannot bear.”

Burkhard Bilger’s Discovery of a War Criminal in the Family in ‘Fatherland’

Lee Polevoi

Soon after the liberation of France, Karl Gönner (called “Karl” throughout the book) was charged with ordering the execution of a villager aligned with the Resistance. A series of investigations followed, leading—many years later—to Karl’s official exoneration (though even that label was later rescinded by a German investigative committee.

Uncontacted Tribe Lives Far off the Grid in ‘The Last Island’

Lee Polevoi

Those of us in the hyper-connected world—that is, just about all other beings around the world—have, it seems, a perverse fascination with tribes who repudiate all contact with the outside world or are justifiably fearful of external contamination. It’s almost impossible to imagine a life devoid (or blessedly relieved) of modern “conveniences.”

A Diamond Heist Goes Awry in ‘The Stolen Coast’

Lee Polevoi

As with any novel steeped in noir, the narrator’s voice is everything. Does Jack’s voice, as shown here sounding somewhat detached from his surroundings, persuade us of the authenticity of his story? Yes, some of the time, while at other moments he comes across as much too naïve for this crooked line of work.

Families Break Apart Amidst Raging Conflict in Gripping WWII Novel

Heather B. Moore

On the march, she’d seen the Slingerland family and the Van der Hurk family, but she didn’t know where they had ended up. The guard led Mary and her family to a small house with a yard and fence, then ushered them toward the house. One side of the yard was dug out for a garden, although it looked as if it had been trampled recently. The house was a decent size for a family home, but not for the masses of women and children crowding inside the camp.

Murder Mystery Meets Sci-Fi in Nick Harkaway’s ‘Titanium Noir’

Lee Polevoi

Nick Harkaway’s new novel, Titanium Noir, continues in this vein. A mash-up of science fiction and hard-boiled detective story, it starts out promisingly enough. Cal Sounder, a “police consultant,” investigates the murder of a Titan, aged 90 but due to advances in technology inhabiting a 30-year-old’s body (and, when alive, standing more than seven feet tall). Cal’s investigation into this “dead nerd” spirals into unforeseen nooks and crannies, with dangerous repercussions.

Disaster at Sea and Survival in David Grann’s ‘The Wager’

Lee Polevoi

The result is a sweeping, old-fashioned yarn about disaster at sea. The book’s subtitle (A Tale of Shipwreck, Mutiny and Murder) accurately describes what awaits the reader. And if The Wager falls short in places, it’s not due to a lack of drama inherent in mutiny and murder on a desolate, far-off island. A key question underpins this account—that is, when differing individuals offer differing accounts of what occurred, whom can we believe?

Stories of Family Life Shine in Tessa Hadley’s ‘After the Funeral’

Lee Polevoi

In several stories, Hadley plays fast and loose with point of view. This may be jarring at first, but readers soon understand there are further twists in perspective yet to come. In “Men,” the point of view flits from one character to another before settling on Michelle, who works in a high-end restaurant, and Jan, Michelle’s long-estranged younger sister, whose hair is “old-gold color, a silky cut, feathered onto her shoulders.”

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