Whodunit, FBI-Style

Catherine Coulter’s 17th FBI novel, Bombshell, debuts at #3 on this week’s Hardcover Fiction list. The author’s first thriller, The Cove (1996), which has sold more than two million copies, introduced FBI husband-and-wife team Dillon Savich and Lacey Sherlock. In Coulter’s latest outing, Savich recruits FBI special agent Griffin Hammersmith, last seen in Backfire (2012), to join his unit in Washington, D.C. Savich sees something special in Hammersmith—an almost preternatural instinct for tracking criminals.

While on his way to Washington, Hammersmith stops to visit an old friend and learns that his sister, Delsey, a student at Stanislaus Music School in Maestro, Va., has been found unconscious, covered in blood, after a night of partying. The blood isn’t hers—so who does it belong to? Meanwhile, back in D.C., Savich and Sherlock have their hands full when the grandson of a former Federal Reserve Bank chairman is found murdered, every bone in his body broken, his corpse frozen at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial. Was it revenge against his grandfather for the banking collapse, or something more chilling? Perhaps Hammersmith, with his unique ability to “see” how criminals think, can identify the killer—and figure out what happened to Delsey.

Fans will be pleased to know that Coulter is now working on a new suspense thriller series—about a Brit in the FBI—co-writing with bestselling author J.T. Ellison. The first book, A Final Cut, will be released in September.—Peter Cannon

Enter the Void: “The Ethicist” Ponders Our Darker Natures

Cultural critics occupy a privileged space. After all, who wouldn’t want to write about pop culture and have the world listen? Chuck Klosterman, the author of seven books including Sex, Drugs, and Cocoa Puffs, returns to the bestseller lists with his essay collection, I Wear the Black Hat: Grappling with Villains (Real and Imagined), which debuts at #8 on our Hardcover Nonfiction list. Readers new to Klosterman’s books may know him as the current “Ethicist” for the New York Times Magazine, or from his writing about sports and popular culture for ESPN. In PW’s review (May 13), which praised Klosterman’s writing as “intellectually vigorous and entertaining,” we called the book an “exercise in pop-culture-infused philosophical acrobatics” that explores the subject of villainy, or rather “ ‘the presentation of material’ ” on the subject. Such a framework allows Klosterman to analyze a motley assortment of “bad guys” (Machiavelli, O.J. Simpson, Julian Assange, Sharon Stone, Don Henley). Among his many provocative questions, Klosterman asks: why does society embrace some villains and hate others? why does the author relate to Darth Vader? Klosterman’s extensive book tour has included stops in New York, Boston, Seattle, L.A., and Milwaukee, Wis., and will include appearances at the Philadelphia Free Library and New York’s Bryant Park Reading Series. On the book’s publication day, July 9, the author appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered. Meanwhile, excerpts have appeared in Entertainment Weekly and on Grantland.com.—Jessamine Chan

Bohjalian Sees ‘The Light’

Following the success of his previous novel, last year’s The Sandcastle Girls, which has sold more than 50,000 copies, Chris Bohjalian returns to our Hardcover Fiction list at #13 with The Light in the Ruins. The author’s no stranger to acclaim: his 16 books have been translated into more than 25 languages, and three have been turned into films, including 1998’s Midwives, which was bolstered by its selection to Oprah’s Book Club. (Said PW’s starred review, “Among the many achievements of this gripping, insightful novel is the remarkable fullness with which Bohjalian writes about both the physicality and the spirituality of childbirth.”) That novel tops Bohjalian’s Nielsen BookScan record (nearly 200,000 copies sold), but two of his other works, The Double Bind (2007) and Before You Know Kindness (2004), moved 150,000 copies each.

The Light in the Ruins, an exploration of post-WWII Italy that doubles as a murder mystery, was picked as one of B&N’s 13 Best Books of July and, again giving a nod to Bohjalian, O magazine selected it as “One of Ten Titles to Pick Up Now.” The author’s publicity tour has included stops at Books Inc. in Palo Alto and Warwick’s in La Jolla, Calif.; Third Place Books in Lake Forest Park, Wash.; and Denver’s Tattered Cover. Two weeks ago, he appeared with author Stephen Kiernan before a crowd of 300+ in Burlington, Vt., where he lives with his wife and daughter. The event was copresented by Burlington’s Phoenix Books and Fletcher Free Library. At an event at Powell’s in Portland, Ore., a fan brought along Bohjalian’s first novel, 1988’s A Killing in the Real World, much to his embarrassment: the author quipped on his Twitter account that the novel should be taught and studied for how not to write a book.—Gabe Habash

Government Intrigue

Brad Thor arrives onto our Hardcover Fiction list this week at #2 with his latest thriller, Hidden Order, about the Federal Reserve, the Washington, D.C., institution he calls “one of the most powerful organizations in the world” and bewitchingly adds “is neither federal, nor does it hold anything in reserve.” Leave it to Thor, a #1 New York Times bestselling author whose books historically break six figures, to tap into the latest hot-button issue. Hidden Order, his 13th novel of international intrigue featuring Scot Harvath, Navy SEAL turned counterterrorism operative, racked up sales of 26,433 in its first week. A familiar figure on TV news and talk shows, Thor was a member of the Department of Homeland Security’s Red Cell Program, a think tank that brings together people from intelligence, military, law enforcement, and the private sector in order to come up with potential terrorist scenarios. Research for Thor includes traveling; he even made a trip to Afghanistan in 2008 to shadow a black-ops team. Travel has served the author well: on his honeymoon, while on a train in Europe, he told a fellow passenger about his dream to write a novel. That passenger happened to be a sales representative for Simon & Schuster, Thor’s eventual publisher. Meanwhile, he’s still traveling: a nine-city tour to promote Hidden Order started July 10 in, of course, Washington, D.C.—Louisa Ermelino

Go Big or Go Home: A broad-minded debut with heart

Stephanie Evanovich (yes, she’s Janet’s niece) hits the #15 spot on the Hardcover Fiction list with her big, bold debut, Big Girl Panties. Holly Brennan, a widow who soothed her grief with food, decides to work off the pounds with the help of exceedingly image-conscious personal trainer Logan Montgomery, who offers her training sessions in part to soothe his guilt over initially pigeonholing her as just another “fat chick.” As Holly wins over Logan with her determination to rediscover happiness and health, the two of them share a journey toward accepting and loving Holly for herself. But Holly gets to that destination first, and then she has to decide whether she values her hard-earned self-esteem over romance with a man who hasn’t yet learned to really respect her. Meanwhile, Logan struggles with his dislike of commitment and his own prejudices as his hilariously shallow friends begin to take notice of Holly’s newly svelte form and spunky personality. Like Logan in his training sessions, Evanovich doesn’t push or preach, instead coaxing the reader along with appealing supporting characters and powerful portrayals of the pain Holly goes through both as a widow and as a large woman in a thin-obsessed world. PW’s starred review (Apr. 1) called the book an “incredibly entertaining debut” that “mesmerizes with wit, heart, and intelligence”; readers of every size are sure to agree.—Rose Fox