This week, we highlight new books from Riley Sager, Christina Britton, and Paul Doiron.
In this deliciously twisted psychological thriller from Howells (Her Sister’s Lies), Elise Buckley and her family move to the English village of Abingworth to make a fresh start. Elise’s prosperous, much admired physician husband, Andrew, who has cheated on her, promised to mend his ways, but he doesn’t. Their outwardly beautiful new home is really a “house of charades” and their marriage a sham. Meanwhile, the couple’s 14-year-old daughter, Niamh, becomes friends with 16-year-old Hollie Hampton, whose father and stepmother seem happy, but are they? When Hollie is found floating in a neighbor’s pool with her head battered in, Det. Supt. Nicola “Nicki” May, who recently returned to the force after a month’s compassionate leave because her husband walked out on her, investigates. The tension builds as the narrative shifts among the viewpoints of Elise, Niamh, and Nicky, whose search for Hollie’s killer uncovers extramarital affairs, abusive personal relationships, and worse. Readers will stay up all night to finish this one. Agent: Juliet Mushens, Agency Group (U.K.). (July)
Edgar finalist Doiron artfully blends a whodunit plot with superior characterizations in his top-notch 11th mystery featuring Mike Bowditch, who works for the Maine Warden Service (after 2019’s After Midnight). Bowditch rushes back home to Maine from Florida, where he was checking out the background of a prospective new warden, after getting a call from Ora Stevens, the wife of Bowditch’s longtime mentor and friend, Charley. Ora hasn’t seen or heard from Charley since he abruptly left home a few days earlier. The day before Charley departed, he got into an argument with a man at a roadside pop-up bazaar, because the man was selling an old game warden badge. Bowditch finds a note Charley left behind in which he expresses the fear he’s made “the worst mistake a man can make in this life,” one that potentially threatens his loved ones. These clues lead Bowditch to probe an incident in Charley’s past he hadn’t known about—Charley’s fatal shooting of a man suspected of murdering a warden who had gone undercover to bust a poaching ring. Doiron vividly portrays the Maine woods setting while maintaining taut suspense. This entry reinforces the author’s position in the front rank of regional thriller writers. Agent: Ann Rittenberg, Ann Rittenberg Literary. (June)
Britton’s tender first Isle of Synne Regency romance explores the healing power of love. When Miss Lenora Hartley is left at the altar for the third time, she flees to the remote Isle of Synne to stay with her godmother, Lady Olivia Tesh, and escape the scandal of one too many broken engagements. Around the same time, Peter Ashford, Lady Olivia’s nephew, returns to the isle with a single goal in mind: revenge against his uncle, the man he blames for his mother’s death. But Peter’s attraction to Lenora threatens both his revenge plot and his plans to return to Boston as quickly as possible, as her wit, intelligence, and caring nature break down his walls. Their budding relationship is tested by Lenora’s father’s desire that she marry a member of London high society, one of whom he sends to the isle to woo her. Despite the many obstacles to Peter and Lenora’s happiness, their chemistry is undeniable and the bond they develop unshakable. Britton (A Match Made in London) imbues her irresistible couple with impressive psychological depth, and the charming supporter characters of cunning Lady Olivia and rascally Quincy, Peter’s best friend, steal every scene they’re in. Readers will be hooked. Agent: Kim Lionetti, BookEnds Literary. (July)
Interior designer Maggie Holt, the heroine of this outstanding supernatural thriller from bestseller Sager (Lock Every Door), is shocked to learn after the death of her father, Ewan, that he has left Baneberry Hall, near Bartleby, Vt., to her. She hadn’t realized that Ewan still owned the spooky mansion that Maggie, Ewan, and her mother moved into 25 years earlier. Maggie’s parents were able to buy the house cheaply, because of a recent tragedy there—the prior owner smothered his six-year-old daughter with a pillow before killing himself. The Holt family had their own traumatic episodes in Baneberry Hall, including Maggie’s visions of a ghostly figure, which led to their fleeing one night. Ewan later wrote a bestselling book about their experiences. Maggie, who still suffers from night terrors, decides to move into Baneberry Hall to get a better understanding of what happened to her and to determine how much of her father’s book was true. Sager, who makes the house a palpable, threatening presence, does a superb job of anticipating and undermining readers’ expectations. Haunted house fans will be in heaven. Agent: Michelle Brower, Aevitas Creative Management. (July)
In this candid examination of life with obsessive-compulsive disorder, New Yorker cartoonist Katzenstein draws his brain as a broken record. “Your hands are dirty. Scrtchh. Your hands are dirty. Scrtchh. Your hands—.” Katzenstein succinctly conveys what it feels like to be trapped in a mental loop dominated by panic, guilt, and fears of “contamination.” Sometimes he’s a sweaty Sisyphus, mentally pushing a boulder up a hill even as he builds a relatively happy life in New York City; sometimes he’s swirling in an isolation, unable to get out of bed. For years, Katzenstein has managed day-to-day with the mantra—born of an acid trip that freed him briefly—“find the seconds that feel okay and live in them.” But eventually he realizes that to stretch out seconds into livable days, he has to accept the professional help he’s long resisted, and face his anxieties head-on. The moment he’s finally able to sit on a public toilet seat, he feels like a superhero. Katzenstein’s drawings range from broad caricature to genuinely creepy replays of darker fears. This refreshing and accessible debut, with crossover potential for older teens, will be a welcome addition to the growing canon of graphic medicine. Agent: Dan Mandel, Sanford J. Greenburger Assoc. (June)
Famed, beautiful Parisian singer Genevieve Dumont uses her alliance with the Resistance to rescue her mother from the Nazis in Robards’s thrilling latest (after The Fifth Doctrine). As the darling of Paris’s music scene, Genevieve receives adulation from the Nazis while secretly helping her manager, Max Bonet, an intelligence operative working with the British. When Genevieve returns to her childhood home and discovers that the Germans have killed her father and taken her mother, Baroness Lillian de Rocheford, prisoner, Genevieve becomes resolute in her efforts to rescue her and joins forces with her estranged sister, Emmy, also an agent for the British. Genevieve gains the attention of Gen. Claus von Wagner, a high-ranking German officer who she believes knows her mother’s whereabouts. In her quest to save Lillian, Genevieve persuades Max to help by revealing a painful story from her past. Together, Emmy, Genevieve, and Max risk their lives in a well-planned but highly risky mission to free Lillian from von Wagner’s German estate where she is being held prisoner. Robards blends commendable attention to historical detail with intense realism and deep feeling. Historical fiction fans will be enthralled with this richly hewn novel and the romance and danger lurking around its every corner. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media Group, LLC. (June)
A dauntless heiress becomes entangled with a devilishly handsome criminal kingpin in Shupe’s sizzling third Uptown Girls romance (after The Prince of Broadway). Gutsy do-gooder Justine Greene’s volunteer work representing the desperate and downtrodden of Gilded Age New York for the Legal Aid Society often lands her in compromising situations. For her latest case, she must locate her client’s deadbeat husband, putting her in the orbit of Jack Mulligan, the powerful overseer of the biggest criminal empire in New York State. Not one to be cowed, Justine asks the dastardly yet debonair Mulligan for his assistance in tracking down the man. As Mulligan helps Justine maneuver among New York City’s seedier element, their mutual attraction and flirtatious verbal sparring grow into an unorthodox relationship. Shupe masterfully captures the culture of New York City in the 1890s, highlighting the restrictions placed on women. In this context, it’s easy to see the appeal of the freedom offered by Mulligan’s roguish ways. The heat between the protagonists is palpable as their dangerous encounters in the criminal underworld push them toward each other. Blending drama, banter, and sensuality, this electrifying historical romance keeps the series going strong. Agent: Laura Bradford, Bradford Literary. (July)