This week, we highlight new books from Jeffrey Deaver, Rumi Hara, and Charlie Kaufman.

The Goodbye Man

Jeffery Deaver. Putnam, $28 (432p) ISBN 978-0-525-53597-3

Bestseller Deaver’s outstanding sequel to 2019’s The Never Game takes professional reward seeker Colter Shaw to Washington State in pursuit of the bounty offered for information leading to the apprehension of Adam Harper and Erick Young, who are accused of first burning a cross on a church lawn and then shooting two people. Shaw’s superior tracking skills enable him to locate Harper and Young, but the encounter ends with a disturbing suicide. Shaw’s pursuit of the reason for the suicide leads him to the Osiris Foundation, a shadowy organization that promises those who attend its three-week course “a happy and contented life.” The investigator’s suspicions about Osiris increase after he discovers that a reporter who’d mentioned it in an article about cults was murdered, supposedly by a hold-up man who was subsequently shot to death by the police. Deaver balances suspense and plausibility perfectly as he depicts Shaw’s efforts to infiltrate Osiris and learn the truth. This is a perfect jumping-on point for readers new to one of today’s top contemporary thriller writers. Author tour. Agent: Deborah Schneider, Gelfman Schneider Literary. (May)

We Had No Rules: Stories

Corinne Manning. Arsenal Pulp, $15.95 trade paper (192) ISBN 978-1-55152-799-4

Manning’s debut collection exquisitely examines queer relationships with equal parts humor, heartache, and titillation. Many of the stories hinge on age differences, occasionally with recurring characters who repeat the pattern of past sexual encounters. The title story follows a young unnamed lesbian runaway learning the ropes of 1980s New York City via a new haircut and wardrobe, and her sexual initiation with an older roommate. “The Boy on the Periphery of the World” follows two millennial men attending a lavish AIDS benefit, where they contend with the relative ease of their lifestyle compared to older gay men, whose perspectives cause them to question their identity (“Brian and I fuck, but we aren’t gay yet”). The runaway reappears decades later in the Pacific Northwest, where she runs a farm and talks about creating a community for queer and trans people. Her goals are complicated by a burgeoning attraction to a young farmhand (“All these systems are waiting right underneath you, and if you aren’t paying attention, you become complicit,” she reflects). Manning handles complicated subject matter with playful self-awareness (one story begins, “Oh, fuck it, I’m writing lesbian fiction”). This enriching view of queer worlds unpacks narratives that have always been there, even if they’re not often seen. (May)


Rumi Hara. Drawn & Quarterly, $24.95 trade paper (228p) ISBN 978-1-77046-397-4

Kyoto-born, Brooklyn-based cartoonist Hara evokes the wonder of childhood, with equal parts precision and whimsy, in this meticulously observed debut. Noriko “Nori” Iwasaki, a rambunctious, imaginative little girl, spends her days in 1980s suburban Japan with her Grandmother while her parents are at work. She chases magical rabbits across her preschool’s playfield, explores the neighborhood’s ditches and shopping district, celebrates at festivals, plays with sassy local kids and the varied urban wildlife that hide around every shrub, and, in the book’s longest sequence, vacations in Hawaii on a trip won at a fair. The world of adults hums away in the background, still healing from WWII; old-timers reminisce about wartime privations, and the Hawaii escapade is held up as “a symbol of peace and revival” by the neighborhood business association. But Hara always returns to Nori’s private world, masterfully immersing the reader in a small child’s perception, cramming panels with Richard Scarry–like ramshackle houses and busy gardens, irresistible fantasy sequences, and details—an ice cream advertisement, fish swimming in a tidal pool—a preschooler would light on. Nori and her playmates are sketched in loose lines with pitch-perfect body language. These satisfying sunny adventures succeed at being specific to their time and place while tapping into a sense of collective young memory, leaving the reader lighter and nostalgic. (May)


Charlie Kaufman. Random House, $28.99 (720p) ISBN 978-0-399-58968-3

Screenwriter/director Kaufman’s debut brims with screwball satire and provocative reflections on how art shapes people’s perception of the world. While visiting St. Augustine, Fla., to research a book, B. Rosenberg, a pretentious film historian and critic, crosses paths with Ingo Cutbirth, an elderly former child actor who shows B. an unnamed film created with stop-motion puppetry that was 90 years in the making and takes three months to watch. B. appraises the film (“about the artifice of fiction and the paucity of truth in our culture,” among many other things), as “the greatest cinematic masterpiece of perhaps all time.” After Cutbirth dies, he bequeaths the film to B., who loses it in a car fire and spends the rest of the novel consulting with therapists, desperate to reconstruct his experience of the film. Along the way, B. suffers a series of comic setbacks in his career and personal life, which leave him wondering, “Where does the movie end and my mind begin?” The Pynchonesque scope of Kaufman’s novel gives him liberty to have his opinionated narrator comment on innumerable cultural touchstones, especially in cinema, where B. throws shade with tongue firmly in cheek at filmmaker Charlie Kaufman, whom he derides as “a monster unaware of his staggering ineptitude.” B.’s outsized personality and his giddily freewheeling experiences make this picaresque irresistible. (May)

Amboy: Recipes from the Filipino-American Dream

Alvin Cailan, with Alexandra Cuerdo. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $35 (352p) ISBN 978-1-328-93173-3

In this exciting debut cookbook, chef and restaurateur Cailan shares recipes inspired by his Filipino immigrant parents. Here he reflects on his culinary growth from childhood as “a knucklehead kid who wanted to be Gordon Gekko,” through a period living “the extravagant, hip-hop baller lifestyle,” to his becoming the chef/owner of the Usual in Brooklyn and several other restaurants across the country. Chapters are devoted to places and people and foods associated with each: Cailan’s great-grandmother Lola smelled of baby powder and whipped up dishes like cheeseburger lumpia (the Philippine version of spring rolls). A chapter recalls his teenage stint as a dishwasher and prep cook at a convent, cooking the likes of chicken sprinkled with Knorr tamarind soup mix. Recipes run the gamut from simple (tilapia fish sticks; ratatouille adobo) to a seven-day roast pig project that includes instructions for laying a brick fire pit. All showcase in-your-face attitude: a bacon-and-egg banh mi, for instance, is titled “The Bone Mi.” Though there are nods to healthier eating (lentils with peanut butter offer “the Filipino flavors without the bypass surgery,” that is, without the traditional ox tail), these are generally high-fat and high-flavor options, including ramen with fermented shrimp paste and ground pork. The many short q&a’s interspersed are often funny and always candid, such as one that chronicles Cailan’s disintegrating relationship with his one-time best friend and cocreator of his first restaurant, Eggslut, in L.A. This wild ride of a collection has bluster, but also heart and personality to spare. (Aug.)

The Black Cabinet: The Untold Story of African Americans and Politics During the Age of Roosevelt

Jill Watts. Grove, $30 (560p) ISBN 978-0-8021-2910-9

Watts (Hattie McDaniel: Black Ambition, White Hollywood), a professor of history at California State University, San Marcos, delivers a unique and enlightening portrait of “the informal group of black federal employees” who sought to advance African-American interests during the New Deal. Led by Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of Bethune-Cookman College and a friend of First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, the “Black Cabinet” included housing expert Robert C. Weaver, attorney William H. Hastie, and Robert Vann, editor of the Pittsburgh Courier and a leading advocate for shifting black votes from Republicans to Democrats. Watts details the group’s internecine political quarrels as well as their efforts to integrate the federal workplace, end “race-based wage differentials,” and rally support for antilynching legislation, among other objectives. Lesser-known civil servants such as Lucia Mae Pitts, “the first African American woman to serve as a secretary to a white federal administrator in Washington, D.C.,” receive overdue attention, as does the influence of the black press on Roosevelt’s staffing decisions. Watts finds drama in committee meetings and unemployment surveys, and expertly tracks her subjects across the maze of federal bureaucracy. The result is a groundbreaking reappraisal of an unheralded chapter in the battle for civil rights. Agent: Victoria Sanders, Victoria Sanders & Associates. (May)

The Streel: A Deadwood Mystery

Mary Logue. Univ. of Minnesota, $22.95 (224p) ISBN 978-1-5179-0859-1

In 1877, 15-year-old Brigid Reardon, the narrator of this superior series launch from Logue (the Claire Watkins mysteries), and her 16-year-old brother, Seamus, are dispatched by their impoverished Irish parents to America. Seamus seeks his fortune out West, while Brigid, who knows she must go into domestic service, winds up with the wealthy Hunt family in St. Paul, Minn. Just as she catches the eye of handsome heir Charlie Hunt, she receives news of her mother’s death. After praying to St. Brigid, she realizes she needs to be with her only family in America and sets out to join Seamus in Deadwood, a raw gold-mining town in the Dakota Territory. Soon after her arrival, Seamus is accused of murdering a prostitute he was in love with. After Seamus flees, it’s up to Brigid to find the real killer. Her investigation is hampered by male reluctance to see women as anything except wives or whores—and further complicated by Brigid’s uncertainty about how smooth-talking Charlie views her. A well-constructed plot, lilting prose, and a heroine who’s determined to escape constricting female roles make this an exceptional regional historical. Readers will look forward to Brigid’s further adventures. (May)

Catherine House

Elisabeth Thomas. Custom House, $26.99 (240p) ISBN 978-0-06-290565-9

Thomas’s spellbinding debut opens in 1996 on Ines Murillo’s first night at a small, highly selective college in the Pennsylvania woods. Drunk after a party, Ines reflects on her relief that behind Catherine House’s locked gates, no one knows about her past. Renowned for controversial research regarding a mysterious elemental substance called plasm, the school holds classes year-round, and students remain confined to Catherine’s rural estate. Eager to disassociate from a past trauma, Ines falls behind on her work while seeking solace in a string of sexual encounters before finding a group of friends who feel closer to family than anything she’s ever known. Still, Ines can’t ignore her growing suspicions about the school’s plasm experimentation in “psychosexual healing,” in which students are subjected to mass hypnosis. Ines’s academic probation leads her to forced isolation in the “Restoration Center,” where a professor places plasm pins in her head and tells her she’ll never think of her past life again. Surreal imagery, spare characterization, and artful, hypnotic prose lend Thomas’s tale a delirious air, but at the book’s core lies a profound portrait of depression and adolescent turmoil. Fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History will devour this philosophical fever dream. Agent: Kent Wolf, Friedrich Agency. (July)

The Museum of Whales You Will Never See: And Other Excursions to Iceland’s Most Unusual Museums

A. Kendra Greene. Penguin, $22 (272p) ISBN 978-0-1431-3546-3

Artist and Southwest Review associate editor Greene (Vagrants and Uncommon Visitors) delivers a delightful one-of-a-kind journey through some of Iceland’s, if not the world’s, most unusual museums. Greene takes the reader all over the small island nation, from remote Bíldudalur, home of the Icelandic Sea Monster Museum, to tiny Skógar, home to 21 people and to Iceland’s largest museum outside of Reykjavík. The institutions visited range from collections of mundane artifacts from Iceland’s once-thriving herring industry to the most unlikely of museums, the Icelandic Phallological Museum, a “kind of mammal-phallus Noah’s Ark.” Greene turns what easily could have become a mere cabinet of curiosities into a thoughtful and complex work. Insightful meditations on the nature of collecting and writers’ role as organizers and curators of their own work complement passages on Icelandic history, and all add color and context to the museums described. Almost as hard to classify as it would be not to enjoy, Greene’s expertly assembled blend of travel writing, history, museum studies, and memoir proves as memorable as any museum exhibition. (May)

The Man Who Ran Washington: The Life and Times of James A. Baker III

Peter Baker and Susan Glasser. Doubleday, $35 (732p) ISBN 978-0-385-54055-1

A bygone era of bipartisan pragmatism and statesmanship is elegized in this sprawling biography of the leading advisor to Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Husband and wife journalists Baker (no relation) and Glasser (coauthors, Kremlin Rising) style James Baker as possibly “the ultimate Washington player,” noting that he shepherded landmark tax cuts through Democratic congresses as Reagan’s chief of staff and treasury secretary; negotiated the dismantling of the Soviet empire and German reunification as Bush’s secretary of state; and organized bruising political warfare while managing presidential campaigns and masterminding George W. Bush’s strategy in the 2000 election dispute. There’s plenty of West Wing backstabbing, situational ethics, and profane tirades in the authors’ vibrant narrative as Baker (aka the “Velvet Hammer”) outmaneuvers rival White House power brokers and authorizes attack ads against Michael Dukakis in the 1988 election. But in their telling, Baker also champions a relatively enlightened establishment politics, sidelining right-wing Republican zealots, forging relationships with liberal congressmen and communist reformers, and crafting workable domestic and international initiatives. The contrast with the current White House is pointed, resulting in an engrossing study of a kind of government leadership that readers may conclude is both obsolete and sorely needed. (May)