This week, we highlight new books from T. Jefferson Parker, Jennifer Hofmann, and Karen Rose.

Then She Vanished

T. Jefferson Parker. Putnam, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-525-53767-0

In bestseller Parker’s outstanding fourth Roland Ford novel (after 2019’s The Last Good Guy), the San Diego, Calif., PI takes on the case of state legislator Dalton Strait, whose wife, Natalie, has disappeared in the midst of a challenging reelection campaign. Natalie has run away before—she has a history of mental illness—but this time her abandoned car is found with the word HELP scrawled in lipstick on the back of the front seat. Meanwhile, the San Diego area is rocked by increasingly deadly terrorist attacks. A group called the Chaos Committee claims responsibility with a disturbing anarchist manifesto that takes aim at California’s elected officials at multiple level, inciting widespread violence. Ford’s investigation takes him into the heart of Strait’s prominent family, including his sister, an entrepreneur in the California marijuana business (legalized, but still threatened by Mexican cartels), as well as the larger social issues of the Chaos Committee and the community of wounded war veterans. The plot is as well crafted as it is thought provoking. Parker writes with confidence, insight, and real humanity. Agent: Robert Gottlieb, Trident Media. (Aug.)

The Standardization of Demoralization Procedures

Jennifer Hofmann. Little, Brown, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-42645-9

In this enrapturing debut, Hofmann constructs a beguiling tale of espionage, moral responsibility and the “spooky action” of quantum mechanics. Taking place in 1989 East Berlin before the fall of the wall, the story is structured around a series of entanglements and disappearances. Bernd Zeiger made his name in the secret police by writing a “demoralization” manual detailing how to sow confusion, extract confessions, and “put an entire nation, a world, to sleep.” In the 1960s, Zeiger spied on and elicited the confession of his neighbor Johannes Held, a quantum physicist withholding information about a secret American experiment in teleportation he’d gleaned while on a fellowship in the Arizona desert. In 1989, Zeiger tells Held’s story, and his role in it, to Lara, a young waitress to whom Zeiger is particularly drawn. The guilt-ridden and ailing Zeiger wants to offer Lara “coherence, linkages, the sequence of things”—in other words, the “perfect confession.” Shortly thereafter, Lara herself vanishes, and Zeiger sets about trying to locate her. The plot grows intricate but never convoluted as the connections between Zeiger, Held, and Lara gradually come into focus. In portraying two equally head-scratching phenomena—paranormal vanishings and the absurd, sinister workings of a totalitarian state—the novel hovers between genres like a subatomic particle between states. All the more impressive, Hoffman’s exceptional debut never loses sight of the desires, mysteries, and small acts of rebellion that persist within dehumanizing systems. (Aug.)

Demystifying Shariah: What It Is, How It Works, And Why It’s Not Taking Over Our Country

Sumbul Ali-Karamali. Beacon, $22.95 (240p) ISBN 978-0-8070-3800-0

Lawyer Ali-Karamali (The Muslim Next Door) explains shariah in order to “unwind stereotypes [and] eliminat[e] presumptions” in this illuminating study. With clarity and wit, she describes shariah’s origins, central texts, methodologies, and schools of thought, exploring something that was never a code of law, but rather a system of interpretation designed to evolve and be flexible. Ali-Karamali explains how shariah has operated over centuries—particularly the academic, legal, and social structures that supported it—and its later appropriation and transformation by colonizing powers, especially Europeans, who felt it was likely to provide an avenue for resistance. Despite the variety of postcolonial Muslim legal frameworks that emerged in the latter part of the 20th century, Ali-Karamali argues that “the shariah-based legal system that flourished for over a thousand years” is effectively gone. Rather than making comparisons to Jewish or Christian law, she effectively uses the U.S. Constitution throughout as a touchstone, prompting readers to think critically about the stereotypes of shariah that could just as easily be attributed to their own legal system, such as “outdated statements” within the Constitution that Americans don’t demand be disavowed or completely rewritten. This is a remarkably nuanced and thought-provoking history. (Aug.)

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant

Seth Dickinson. Tor, $29.99 (656p) ISBN 978-0-7653-8076-0

The dense but brilliant third volume of Dickinson’s The Masquerade series (after 2018’s The Monster Baru Cormorant) sees Baru Cormorant, haunted by memories of the woman she loved and lost, pushed even further into her self-destructive, all-consuming quest to save her family. In Baru’s effort to destroy the Imperial Republic of Falcrest from within, she has risen to the position of cryptarch, part of the invisible cabal that controls the Throne from the shadows. But as Baru pretends to serve her master, Cairdine Farrier, in his attempts to conquer the empire of Oriati Mbo, she privately plots against him. Baru has discovered the secrets of the Cancrioth—a cult of cancer worshippers secretly ruling Oriati Mbo—and the plague they’ve weaponized to wipe out their enemies. Caught between two implacable empires and facing betrayal at every turn, Baru must sacrifice everything and everyone she loves in order to bring down Falcrest. Dickinson weaves a byzantine tapestry of political intrigue, economic manipulation, and underhanded diplomacy. The narrative oscillates between past and present and alternates between numerous perspectives to create a harrowing picture of social conflict on a monumental scale. This staggering installment pushes the series to new heights and expands the fascinating fantasy world. Agent: Jennifer Jackson, Donald Maass Literary Agency. (Aug.)

Kiss My Cupcake

Helena Hunting. Forever, $15.99 Trade Paper (368p) ISBN 978-1538-7346-7-4

It’s cupcakes and cocktails vs. beer and pub grub in this delicious romantic comedy about feuding Seattle bar owners from Hunting (Meet Cute). Determined entrepreneur Blaire Calloway’s new bakery/bar is off the ground running, until yummy-looking Ronan Knight moves his pub next door and steals away her customers. Blaire’s desire to succeed without assistance from her wealthy but dysfunctional family makes her instant competitiveness with Ronan understandable and urgent, especially since they’re both in the running to be named the best bar in the Pacific Northwest by a social media influencer who’s holding a contest. As their rivalry ramps up amid increasingly brazen strategies to bring in business, their feud turns increasingly flirtatious and they eventually realize they’ll have to work together in order for either to succeed. Their romance develops at a convincing pace, and their relationships with their families round out the plot, with Ronan’s close relationship with his grandfather serving as a stark contrast to Blaire’s outlandish family. Though the plot stays relatively breezy, Hunting knows when to crank the heat and when to tug at readers’ heartstrings to keep the pages turning. Light and fluffy with the perfect balance of sweetness and spice, this is a winning confection. Agent: Kimberly Brower, Brower Literary. (Aug.)

Last Call on Decatur Street

Iris Martin Cohen. Park Row, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-7783-0816-4

Cohen’s thoughtful and vivid second novel (after The Little Clan) follows burlesque dancer Rosemary Grossman as she navigates friendship and loss on Twelfth Night in 2004 New Orleans. It’s been a year since Rosemary, now in her mid-20s, has seen her lifelong best friend, Gaby, after they fought about Rosemary’s job as a dancer at the Sugarlick. As children, the pair bonded while being ostracized in grade school: Rosemary for being poor, and Gaby for being black. Now, when Rosemary’s beloved dog, Ida, dies, she feels utterly alone. After her shift at the club, Rosemary wanders through the French Quarter, trying to track down a sometime lover. She befriends an affable street punk who’s questioning his sexuality and dealing with his own friend drama. Along the way, Cohen pens an eloquent love letter to New Orleans and captures her protagonist with succinct descriptions: “By the time I turned twenty, I was as old as I’ll ever be,” Rosemary thinks, recounting how her problem with alcohol contributed to her losing a college scholarship, and realizing how her relative privilege contributed to her rift with Gaby. Cohen also aces the difficult feat of crafting a credible narrator who has blind spots. The lush language, fully realized characters, and tight storytelling make this a winner. Agent: Dana Murphy, the Book Group. (Aug.)

The Quiet Girl

S.F. Kosa. Sourcebooks Landmark, $16.99 trade paper (384p) ISBN 978-1-7282-1556-3

Dueling narratives propel this stunning psychological suspense debut from Kosa (the Immortal Dealers fantasy series). When struggling entrepreneur Alex Zarabian meets novelist Mina Richards at a book signing, it’s love at first sight. The two marry six months later, and settle in Provincetown, Mass. Following a tiff about starting a family, Alex returns home to find his wife gone, and later reports her missing. When the police begin asking questions about Mina’s friends and family, he realizes that he knows practically nothing about her past. Chapters from Mina’s unpublished novel, which describe the frightening experiences of a woman suffering from memory loss and facing a murderer, alternate with sections headed by dates that follow Alex’s movements as he tries to understand who his wife really is and what’s become of her. He, too, is set to confront a murderer. Kosa, a clinical psychologist, does a masterly job of weaving together these two versions of reality. Readers will wonder what elements in Mina’s account truly reflect the people and events in her life. Interpretations of Alex’s experience shift with each new chapter from her book. Hitchcock fans won’t want to miss this nuanced, multilayered novel. Agent: Victoria Marini, Irene Goodman Literary. (Aug.)

Say No More

Karen Rose. Berkley, $26 (640p) ISBN 978-1-984805-30-0

Rose delivers a pulse-pounding mix of romance and terror in the no-holds-barred sequel to Say You’re Sorry. When Mercy Reynolds was 13, her mother smuggled her out of the Northern California cult she was born into—a daring escape that cost Mercy’s mother her life, and nearly Mercy’s as well. Fast-forward 13 years, and Mercy has just evaded a serial killer with the help of her estranged older brother, Gideon, who escaped the cult before she did, and his handsome best friend, Det. Raphael Sokolov. The news reports on the killer alert the cult to Mercy’s survival, and now Ephraim Burton, the cult leader and Mercy’s childhood abuser, is coming after her. She’ll need Raphael’s help to stop him. Mercy and Raphael’s daring mission to neutralize Ephraim and slow-simmering romance make for enthralling reading. Rose has a gift for taut plotting, making the hefty page count fly by. Mercy and Raphael leap off the page, and Ephraim is imbued with such evil that it’s a relief when he gets his gory just desserts. While violence and sexual assault mark this as not for the faint of heart, readers looking for high-octane romantic suspense won’t be able to resist. Agent: Robin Rue, Writers House. (Aug.)

She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next

Bridget Quinn. Chronicle, $35 (240p) ISBN 978-1-4521-7316-0

Art historian Quinn (Broad Strokes) commemorates the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment in this vibrant and witty chronicle of women’s rights in America. In 19 chapters illustrated by 100 female artists, Quinn profiles leaders of the women’s suffrage and feminist movements, as well as groundbreaking women in the fields of art, politics, sports, and music. She notes that Native American women in upstate New York had property rights and personal agency for centuries before the first women’s rights convention was held at Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848, and describes Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony as “the Marx and Engels” of the suffrage movement—”a pair of dangerous plotters cooking up revolution.” Other profile subjects include Mary Cassatt, whose Impressionist paintings of women in domestic scenes were “unlikely incendiaries,” according to Quinn; African-American journalist Ida B. Wells, who pushed back against segregation within the suffrage movement; Title IX legislator Patsy Mink; poet Audre Lorde; and the Guerrilla Girls, who fight for female artists’ representation in male-dominated art galleries. Colorful, attention-grabbing illustrations in a diverse array of styles enhance Quinn’s snappy prose on nearly every page. This soaring movement history has something for neophytes and experts alike. Agent: Danielle Svetcov, Levine Greenberg Rostan Literary Agency. (Aug.)