This week, we highlight new books from Julie Clark, Yu Miri, and H.G. Parry.
In this outstanding thriller from Clark (The Ones We Choose), New York socialite Clair Cook, who has a plan to run away from her emotionally and physically abusive husband, and Eva James, a woman heading home to Berkeley, Calif., who says she’s mourning her late husband, meet by chance at an airport bar at JFK before their flights. Claire tells Eva that she would do anything not to go to Puerto Rico, where her husband is expecting her. Eva agrees to fly to Puerto Rico in Claire’s place, and the two swap e-tickets and phones. On arrival at Oakland’s airport, Claire learns that the Puerto Rico flight has crashed, killing everyone aboard. Though she’s devastated that Eva has died in the crash, Claire takes the opportunity to assume the life Eva left behind only to discover that Eva was not who she said she was and was fleeing her own dangerous past. The moral dilemmas that the multifaceted, realistic characters face in their quest for survival lend weight to this pulse-pounding tale of suspense. Clark is definitely a writer to watch. Agent: Mollie Glick, Creative Artists Agency. (June)
In Yu’s coolly meditative, subtly spectral tale (after Gold Rush), Kazu, a former denizen of a Tokyo tent city, looks mournfully on the past. Kazu lingers around Ueno Park in present-day Tokyo, where he once spent several years camping among the homeless, and spends the days people-watching and reminiscing. He recalls his birth in 1933 in rural Soma; remembers how he sought work for long stretches away from his family, including a grueling stint doing construction work in preparation for the 1964 Tokyo Olympics; and replays his response to the death of his only son at 21, in 1981 (“My shock, my grief, my anger were all so great that crying felt inadequate”), which led him to drift away and spend more time alone in Tokyo. After two decades pass, he winds up living in the park. The banal conversations he overhears in the present from middle-class park visitors clash with the bleak recollections of his perpetual misfortune, along with the fraught history of the park as a mass grave and site of rebellion, details that emerge in Kazu’s remembered conversations with a fellow homeless man. The novel’s melding of memory and observation builds toward Kazu’s temporary eviction from the park in 2006. Yu’s spare, empathetic prose beautifully expresses Kazu’s perspective on the passage of time; he feels a “constant absence from the present, an anger toward the future.” This slim but sprawling tale finds a deeply sympathetic hero in a man who feels displaced and longs for connection after it’s too late. (June)
Isolation and despair undo the characters in Jónasson’s exceptional third and final novel featuring Reykjavík Det. Insp. Hulda Hermannsdóttir (after 2019’s The Island). In February 1988, Hulda, who has returned to work after time off to deal with an unidentified personal issue, is still struggling to get through the day and perform any meaningful work. She’s forced into action by her boss when multiple corpses are found on a farm, with indications that the bodies have been there since around Christmas. Flash back to a snowy day in December 1987. Einar and Erla Einarsson, who live on a remote farm, answer a knock on the door to an unexpected visitor, who introduces himself as Leó. The couple offer Leó shelter for the night, but Erla becomes suspicious of their guest’s account of how he arrived at their home. Jónasson ratchets up the nail-biting tension gradually, alternating the developments at the farm along with the events in Hulda’s life that led to her traumatic stupor. Fans of dark crime fiction that doesn’t pull punches will be amply rewarded. Agent: David Headley, DHH Literary (U.K.). (June)
Parry (The Unlikely Escape of Uriah Heep) gracefully bends genres into a witty, riveting historical fantasy as, at the end of the 18th century, magical rebellions against oppression spark around the world. In West Africa, a young girl is enslaved and given a new name, Fina. She’s taken to work on a Jamaican sugar plantation under the influence of a spell that effectively turns slaves into zombies and robs them of magic of their own. In France, five-year-old Camille Desmoulins is charged with illegal use of magic by the Knights Templar, inciting a fire for revolution in his heart as he grows older. Meanwhile, William Pitt, the newly named prime minister of Britain, fights against troubling legislation limiting magic use to the aristocratic classes. As revolution brews, a dark and powerful shadow works its way across the globe, uniting the disparate cast of characters, who must band together to defeat a sinister mystical force viler than any anti-magic law. Parry has a historian’s eye for period detail and weaves real figures from history—including Robespierre and Toussaint L’Ouverture—throughout her poetic tale of justice, liberation, and dark magic. This is a knockout. Agent: Hannah Bowman, Liza Dawson Assoc. (June)