cover image Alys, Always

Alys, Always

Harriet Lane. Scribner, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4516-7316-6

Lane’s wry debut delves into the political machinations of London’s literary scene. While driving home one night, Frances Thorpe comes upon an overturned car. She stays with the injured driver, the middle-aged Alys Kyte, until help arrives. Alys dies on the scene, and Frances realizes she’s heard the woman’s last words. When Alys’s family pursue Frances for closure, she learns that Alys was the wife of bestselling author Laurence Kyte. As an assistant at the books desk of a failing newspaper, Frances is familiar with his work, and a little starstruck. Talking to Frances seems to comfort the Kytes, particularly Polly, Alys’s college-bound daughter. As Frances spends more time with the family, the literati take note. What began as a dutiful visit to a grief-stricken family blooms into opportunity, and Frances quickly finds herself juggling ambition with honest affection for the Kytes, which becomes greatly more complicated when her attraction to Laurence turns out to not be entirely one-sided. Lane outlines Frances’s slow evolution from doormat to mercenary with dry humor and a sincere, if less than reliable, narrator. Agent: Grainne Fox, Fletcher & Company. (June)