This week, we highlight new books from Masha Gessen, Wayétu Moore, and Lauren K. Denton.

They Did Bad Things

Lauren A. Forry. Arcade CrimeWise, $25.99 (290p) ISBN 978-1-950691-44-9

The ominous note at the start of this superior riff on And Then There Were None from Forry (Abigale Hall) indicates that the narrative that follows is a diary recovered as evidence and that some of the pages are missing. Police Constable Hollis Drummond, newly promoted to CID detective, is expecting a relaxing weekend at Wolf-heather House, on Scotland’s Isle of Doon, but he realizes something is going on as soon as he arrives and sees the four other guests. The five shared a house more than 20 years earlier, while undergrads at London’s Cahill University, with Callum McAllister, who died mysteriously. Someone has lured the five to the isolated location, arranged for the sofa McAllister died on to be transported there, and left taunting notes on the stationery their dead classmate used when they lived together. Soon people start dying, leaving the survivors to wonder whether one of them is responsible for the bloodshed. Forry expertly maintains the nail-biting suspense while fully developing her characters. Agatha Christie fans won’t want to miss this one. Agent: Sandra Sawicka, Marjacq Agency. (June)

The Summer of Kim Novak

Håkan Nesser, trans. from the Swedish by Saskia Vogel. World, $16.99 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-64286-019-1

At the start of this moving elegy for lost innocence from Nesser (the Inspector Van Veeteren mysteries), 49-year-old Erik, the book’s narrator, promises to tell the reader about “a terrible and tragic event” that occurred the summer he was 14. In 1962, as Erik’s mother is dying of cancer, his grieving father sends the boy to the family’s ramshackle lake cabin with 14-year-old Edmund, a fellow student Erik hardly knows, and Erik’s older brother, a reporter who intends to write the Great Swedish Novel that summer. After a lazy month of swimming and fantasizing, handball champion Berra Albertsson is found dead in a gravel parking spot near where the boys are staying, his skull caved in, and his fiancée, Ewa Kaludis, the boys’ substitute teacher and the object of their dreams, is a suspect. Erik and Edmund embark on a protracted murder investigation that leads them into the mysteries of sex. Nesser sensitively probes the agonies and ecstasies of adolescence, making this an exquisite example of Nordic noir’s ability to reveal the darkest emotional depths beneath a cloudless summer sky. Agent: Elisabet Brannstrom, Bonnier Rights. (June)

Amish Generations: Four Stories

Kathleen Fuller. Zondervan, $15.99 trade paper (370p) ISBN 978-0-3103-5954-8

Fuller (Hearts of Middlefield) delights with four joyful Amish stories of love and faith. In “Young Love,” 20-something Fern has rheumatoid arthritis and worries her illness will one day make marriage and life as an Amish wife difficult. When her longtime crush, Dan, becomes single, Fern overcomes her doubts and starts a relationship with him, and they both learn to overcome pride and open their hearts to trusting others to make it work. “Long-Awaited Love” follows the marriage of Everett and Jemima as Everett reckons with some selfish decisions he made in his youth and repairs his relationship with his father. In so doing, he comes to recognize Jemima’s virtue of generosity; conversely, Jemima follows Everett’s example of setting boundaries with others and learns to honor her own needs. “Second-Chance Love” is a tale of discovering love after loss as Ben, a widower, and Lora Beth, a widow, bond through letters after meeting each other. Fuller particularly shines in “Never Too Late,” in which 63-year-old Elva, whose abusive husband of 45 years recently died, finds true love with a 70-year-old bachelor. Fuller cements her reputation a top practitioner of Amish fiction with this moving, perceptive collection. (June)

Surviving Autocracy

Masha Gessen. Riverhead, $26 (240p) ISBN 978-0-593-18893-4

National Book Award–winner Gessen (The Future Is History) delivers a scathing indictment of the Trump administration’s impact on “the American system of government.” Drawing on Hungarian sociologist Bálint Magyar’s concept of “autocratic transformation,” Gessen links Trump’s dominance over the Republican Party; “disdain for excellence,” particularly in the workings of government; manipulation of state institutions for personal gain; and packing of the federal courts with ultra-conservative judges to developments in “post-Communist countries” following the collapse of the Soviet Union. She also dissects Trump’s anti-immigration rhetoric and castigates the U.S. media for normalizing the behavior of education secretary Betsy DeVos and other Trump appointees by “privileg[ing] neutrality above all else, including substance” and “plac[ing] artificial limits on a journalist’s ability to observe reality.” Gessen ends her brisk, trenchant account with a call for “political figures of powerful moral authority” (she nominates the four freshman congresswomen known as “the Squad”) to combat Trumpism with a more inclusive and dignified vision of “America as it could be.” Gessen’s meticulous research and familiarity with the political and cultural history of post-Soviet Russia lend her arguments an authority lacking in other takedowns of Trump. Liberals looking to make sense of what they’re up against in the 2020 elections should consider this a must-read. Agent: Elyse Cheney, the Cheney Agency. (June)

The Book of Rosy: A Mother’s Story of Separation at the Border

Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo. HarperOne, $26.99 (246p) ISBN 978-0-06-294192-3

This disturbing and unforgettable memoir follows the path of Guatemalan mother Pablo Cruz, who fled to the U.S. in 2018 with her two sons after her husband is murdered, she herself is shot, and her oldest son is threatened by criminals. Writing with Schwietert Collazo, who initiated the Immigrant Families Together grassroots organization to aid mothers detained at the U.S. border, Pablo Cruz narrates her agonizing eight-day journey to the border crammed in a truck with other refugees and her 81 days in a cell after being separated by ICE agents from her boys (ages five and 15). In the months without her boys, who are placed in foster care in the Bronx while she remains in Arizona, Pablo Cruz paints a heartbreaking picture of the many incarcerated mothers who spend hours weeping and praying together. A devout evangelical Christian, Pablo Cruz draws upon her faith to see her through the desolation and despair, and eventually her prayers are answered by a group of angry, “bad-ass ladies” from Immigrant Families Together who raise a $12,000 bond for her release. This wrenching story brings to vivid life the plight of the many families separated at the U.S.-Mexico border. (June)

How to Die in Space: A Journey Through Dangerous Astrophysical Phenomena

Paul M. Sutter. Pegasus, $27.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-64313-438-3

“You’re not going to make it in space... space is nasty,” writes SUNY Stonybrook research professor Sutter (Your Place in the Universe) in the prologue to his wildly entertaining survey of the many materials, objects, and phenomena that can kill anyone who leaves Earth’s comparatively safe confines. Those hoping to find a new home on other planets won’t find much solace either, due to the sulfuric acid rain on Venus and the dense atmosphere of Jupiter, to name two perils. As for space travel, Sutter identifies asteroids, the magnetic fields of the sun (not to mention the heat), and exploding stars as just a few of the obstacles awaiting would-be explorers. Among the few things readers won’t be left worrying about are hostile aliens, since there’s no proof that extraterrestrial life, friendly or otherwise, exists. Sutter’s tone is suffused with enthusiasm for his topic and with disarming humor (the black hole chapter opens with “Admit it, you skipped right here without reading any of the previous chapters”). Funny and informative, Sutter’s gleefully bleak interstellar survey will foster a greater appreciation for humanity’s home, and a deeper understanding of space. Agent: Lane Heymont, Tobias Agency. (June)

Dead West

Matt Goldman. Forge, $26.99 (320p) ISBN 978-1-250-19134-2

In bestseller Goldman’s excellent fourth mystery featuring Minneapolis PI Nils Shapiro (after 2019’s The Shallows), Beverly Mayer, a grumpy matriarch, hires Nils to check on her grown grandson, Ebben, who she believes is wasting his time in the movie business. Ebben, whose fiancée has just died, is trying to launch a creator-focused studio, but Nils suspects that Ebben’s fiancée was murdered and that Ebben himself might have been the target. Along with his good friend Jameson White—a nurse and former athlete fighting inner demons after being on shift during a school shooting—Nils dives into the L.A. scene, meeting mysterious East European mobsters, attractive screenwriters, powerful agents, and plenty of others who might have wanted to kill Ebben. Goldman wisely keeps the Hollywood satire to a minimum, focusing instead on the actual detective work, the very real dangers Nils faces, and emotionally grueling issues Jameson is attempting to process. Goldman takes a classic trope—a working-class private detective set loose in Hollywood—and squeezes enough originality out of it to make for a dazzling tale. Agent: Jennifer Weltz, Jean V. Naggar Literary. (June)

The Summer House

Lauren K. Denton. Thomas Nelson, $26.99 (368p) ISBN 978-0-78523-253-7

Denton (Glory Road) delivers a moving story about the friendship of two women reeling from betrayal and divorce. In Safe Harbor, Ala., Lily Bishop comes home one day to find an apology note from her husband alongside signed divorce papers. Rose Carrigan, the co-owner and manager of a local retirement community, gets an email from her ex-husband and co-owner, who left her for his assistant, saying he wants to sell the company and has found a buyer. Lily and Rose strike up a friendship when Lily, who used to cut hair, goes to work as a hair stylist at the retirement community, and her arrival is the catalyst for fence mending between Rose and the largely disgruntled client base. Rose, still bitter after a difficult divorce, finds it easier to open herself up to new friendships, and Lily slowly becomes comfortable in her hairstyling skill, leaning in to her gut feelings to provide the inspired hairstyles that each client needs. Through their shared faith and resiliency, Lily and Rose bring calm and happiness to the formerly uptight community, and Rose is able to keep control. Rachel Hauck fans will want to take a look. (June)

Windows on the World

Robert Mailer Anderson, Zack Anderson, and Jon Sack. Fantagraphics, $24.99 (240p) ISBN 978-1-68-396322-6

This heart-wrenching 9/11 drama draws back the curtains on American myths, revealing a global and complicated world. Fernando is a college dropout working as a bellhop and reading Don Quixote in his native Mazatlan, Mexico, when the Twin Towers fall. His father, Balthazar, works as a dishwasher in the Windows on the World restaurant and sends money home to his family. Fernando’s mother spots Balthazar in a news clip of people fleeing the wreckage and soon Fernando is making his way to New York City. At a 9/11 rescue center, he’s told that “if [your father] didn’t officially work in the Towers, he can’t officially be missing.” From Downtown to Spanish Harlem, Fernando navigates a minefield of racism in the grieving city—and finds romance or something adjacent along the way. Joining a crew of Nigerian window washers, Fernando gains more insight into inequities with each swipe of his squeegee. Though he begins to mourn his father, he later discovers his disappearance is due to a smaller, domestic tragedy. The art is bold, cinematic, and deeply shadowed, and the unexpected ending is a product of cynical wisdom from looking back at the two decades since the event, and stronger for it. This is a resonant tale for troubling times. (May)

The Dragons, the Giant, the Women: A Memoir

Wayétu Moore. Graywolf, $26 (264p) ISBN 978-1-64445-031-4

In this beautiful memoir of dislocation, a young girl flees war-torn Liberia with her family to America. Moore (She Would Be King) begins with herself as a five-year-old living with her sisters, grandparents, and father in Monrovia. When the 1990 civil war erupts with terrifying massacres by rebels overthrowing president Samuel Doe (who Moore imagines as “the Hawa Undu dragon, the monster in my dreams, the sum of stories I was too young to hear”), the family heads for Sierra Leone, hoping to get to America. Moore describes this desperate trek in the lyrical voice of her younger self, a dreamy girl who filters the danger through a folktale lens. The middle section tracks her childhood after her family resettles in Texas, then her trauma-plagued young adulthood in Brooklyn (“nightmares were old friends”), and racially fraught romances (“I never feared my blackness, until the men,” referring to the black men she first dated in college). The book’s final section holds a mirror to the first, describing in her mother’s voice her mother’s journey from New York back to Africa to rescue her lost family. Building to a thrumming crescendo, the pages almost fly past. Readers will be both enraptured and heartbroken by Moore’s intimate yet epic story of love for family and home. (June)