The Insane Train
Sheldon Russell (Minotaur)
Railroad security agent Hook Runyon must help transport a trainload of dangerous mental patients from California to Oklahoma in a rough-edged 1940s historical that evokes both Chandler and Hammett.
The Red Door
Charles Todd (Morrow)
Scotland Yard inspector Ian Rutledge, a shell-shocked WWI veteran, looks into a missing missionary and a bludgeoning murder in a mystery that offers a tricky puzzle and incisive character portraits.
The Forbidden Rose
Joanna Bourne (Berkley Sensation)
In mid-revolution France, a noblewoman and a spy are torn between wartime practicality and headstrong passion. The gripping espionage story and wry voiceovers from the heroine will win hearts.
The Iron Duke
Meljean Brook (Berkley)
Brook's fabulous steampunk tale has an iron-boned war hero and a half-Asian detective inspector matching wits and wills on airships and battleships and in smoke-choked London as England recovers from 200 years of Mongol rule.
Grace Burrowes (Sourcebooks Casablanca)
Burrowes pulls off an improbable Regency affair between a spoiled ducal heir and a housekeeper with a secret.
Barely a Lady
Eileen Dreyer (Grand Central/Forever)
The wartime amnesia romance is as old as the hills, but RWA Hall of Famer Dreyer (aka Kathleen Korbel) makes this one work.
Trial by Desire
Courtney Milan (HQN)
Modern readers will be as intrigued by the Victorian-era political issues as they are by the central story of a man trying to reconnect with the wife he abandoned.
The Bone Palace
Amanda Downum (Orbit)
Deadly power games play out in haunted royal palaces, streets thronged with sex workers and political protesters, and sewers inhabited by seductive, amoral vampires.
Mira Grant (Orbit)
Grant (a pseudonym for urban fantasist Seanan McGuire) hits hard in a brutal tale of three bloggers following a Republican presidential candidate through the zombie-infested Midwest.
The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms/The Broken Kingdoms
N.K. Jemisin (Orbit)
These searing novels relate the struggles of ordinary people caught up in the machinations of gods at a time of global change when faith, power structures, and the fabric of reality have been called into question.
Who Fears Death
Nnedi Okorafor (DAW)
Young adult author Okorafor makes a blazing entrance onto the adult fiction scene with a story of love, pain, magic, and genocide in postapocalyptic Saharan Africa. Readers will be enthralled by troubled, fierce adolescent Onyesonwu and her quest to find and destroy the sorcerer who fathered her.
A Special Place: The Heart of a Dark Matter
Peter Straub (Pegasus)
This exquisitely horrifying outtake from A Dark Matter depicts a young psychopath's first steps along the path of becoming a serial killer. Straub drags the reader into the dark interstices of a deeply troubled mind, where brutality and murder seem only natural and right.
Charles Burns (Pantheon)
The adventures of Tintin get a dark mirror image as a young man named Doug suffers teenage angst and a hostile universe of talking maggots.
Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites
Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson(Dark Horse)
Gorgeous artwork and a smart, witty script elevate this tale of household pets who unite to fight occult menaces in idyllic Burden Hill.
How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less
Sarah Glidden (Vertigo)
An evocative, sometimes funny and often emotional recap of Glidden's birthright visit to Israel done with charming watercolors and no shortage of candid responses to the Jewish state and the Palestinian question.
Duncan the Wonder Dog
Adam Hines (AdHouse Books)
A powerfully imagined and visually detailed experimental work set in an otherwise naturalistic world where animals can speak and argue the moral consequences of their treatment by humans.
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty
G. Neri and Randy DuBurke (Lee & Low)
The origin of ongoing urban violence is explored through the true story of Robert "Yummy" Sandifer, an 11-year-old from the Chicago projects who gained infamy after killing a 14-year-old neighbor.
Greg Rucka and J.H. Williams (DC)
A crazy-intense achievement of spectacular artwork tells the story of Kate Kane, a gay former Marine who must save Gotham City from a crime-worshipping cult.
Dash Shaw (Pantheon)
A goofy yet gorgeously rendered, relentlessly experimental mashup of the high school sports hero and psychedelic drug novel genres that quite literally turns the book on its head.
Acme Novelty Library: Lint
F.C. Ware (Drawn & Quarterly)
Using an inventive and ever-evolving visual syntax, Ware chronicles the life of a difficult and flawed character from his birth to his death.
AX: Alternative Manga
Edited by Sean Michael Wilson and Mitsuhiru Asakawa (Top Shelf)
More like American indie comics than mainstream manga, this anthology of 33 artists from Japan's acclaimed magazine on alternative manga opens a new window on Japanese comics.
Weathercraft: A Frank Comic
Jim Woodring (Fantagraphics)
A disturbing fantasy of struggle from comics' premiere surrealist as the piglike Manhog endures the sufferings of Job from the cruel Whim.
The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them
Elif Batuman (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Batuman displays a fresh, quirky, voice in this account of her love affair with Russian literature and her travels through the former Soviet Union.
Let's Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship
Gail Caldwell (Random)
In this quiet, fierce work, Caldwell creates a memorable offering of love to her best friend, the writer Caroline Knapp, who died in 2002. Caldwell is unflinching in depicting her friend's last days, and writes of this desolating time with moving grace.
Composed: A Memoir
Rosanne Cash (Viking)
This work is a rare treat, since Cash, first-born of country music legend Johnny Cash, is not only a hereditary celebrity musician, having made scores of albums and #1 singles, but a terrific writer.
Washington: A Life
Ron Chernow (Penguin Press)
Chernow is back with another epic examination of another influential American founder. Thanks to a recent "explosion of research," Chernow produces the most complete and complex portrait of George Washington on record.
About a Mountain
John D'Agata (Norton)
D'Agata, after moving his mother to Las Vegas, becomes haunted by a proposed plan to house nuclear waste in a nearby mountain and by the suicide of a local boy. A genre-busting disquisition on place, consciousness, and culpability.
Travels in Siberia
Ian Frazier (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Drawn to what he calls "the incomplete grandiosity of Russia," Frazier combines the personal travelogue with in-depth history and gives readers a firsthand account of a place that calls up, for many, the terrifying unknown.
The Lost Cyclist: The Epic Tale of an American Adventurer and His Mysterious Disappearance
David V. Herlihy (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)
Set in the 1880s during the American cycling craze, this lively story follows cyclist-adventurer William Sachteleben as he retraces the path of Franz Lenz, a man whose attempt to cycle around the world ended with his disappearance near Turkey.