The books we love coming out this week include new titles from J.T. Ellison, A.G. Slatter, and Jessica Zucker.
In this exceptional memoir, Kenda (I Will Find You: Solving Killer Cases from My Life Fighting Crime) chronicles the highlights of his 21 years as a Colorado Springs, Colo., homicide detective. Kenda investigated or oversaw 387 cases, and here uses them to offer insights into why killers kill. The cases cover a wide range, involving such elements as mental illness (a demented man fatally shot his wife, daughter, and grandson before shooting himself in the head) and greed (a slumlord lied about fixing a heater and a family of five subsequently died of carbon monoxide poisoning in his rundown rental property). Kenda also dealt with drug runners and gangs, and solved the case of a teen mob killing. In addition, he worked the first homicide in Colorado to be solved with DNA evidence, using the technology to identify the murderer of a lowlife drunk in 1994 nine years after the crime. Finally, Kenda throws in a few entertaining tales from his nine seasons as the star of the Discovery Channel’s Homicide Hunter. His Colorado cowboy cop humor and compassionate voice help make the dark stories he tells easier to bear. This is must reading for true crime fans.
When Nashville artist Claire Hunter, the narrator of this mesmerizing romantic suspense novel from bestseller Ellison (Good Girls Lie), and her fiancé, Jack Compton, the son of a computer company magnate, arrive on Isle Isola, Italy, for their wedding at the Compton family villa, Claire is alarmed to hear that skeletal remains were dug up at the villa during restoration work the day before. She feels better after Jack reassures her that such finds are common on an island with a long history, but it turns out to be a harbinger of more sinister things to come, such as hacking of the Comptons’ private servers and discovery of the body of a family employee. Convinced that someone is trying to sabotage their wedding, Jack and Claire unite in an effort to identify the culprit before more lives are lost. Characters with secrets to hide and mysterious deaths, including that of Jack’s first wife, who died in a sailing accident a decade earlier, add to the menacing atmosphere. Fans of Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca will want to check out this compulsively readable tale.
Set 30 years after the events of 2010’s The Ice Cream Girls, British author Koomson’s fascinating sequel charts the consequences of a murder. When Serena Gorringe and Poppy Carlisle were teenagers in Brighton, England, they were accused of killing their abusive teacher, Marcus Hansley. Poppy, from a poor white family, spent 10 years in prison, while Serena, from a wealthy Black family, was not convicted. The two, now both married with children, have tried to keep their pasts secret. Those lies of omission haunt Poppy’s brother, Logan, who starts an intense, secret romantic relationship with Verity, Serena’s 24-year-old daughter. Verity’s learning about the crime from Logan seriously damages her relationship with her mother. Verity vehemently opposes Logan’s insistence that he meet Serena to force her to admit she murdered Marcus and clear Poppy’s name. Verity’s resistance to Logan’s plan erupts in violence. Various believable twists put a new spin on the story of abuse while a touch of Rashomon upends the perception of each character. Koomson should broaden her American readership with this insightful psychological thriller.
Set in a fantasy world reminiscent of 19th-century Ireland, this stunning gothic adventure from Slatter (Sourdough and Other Stories) shimmers with fairy tale enchantment. Miren O’Malley has lived her 18 years under the thumb of her overbearing grandmother, Aoife, the matriarch of the once powerful O’Malley dynasty, now paupers in a crumbling coastal mansion. Miren grew up with stories of her family sacrificing children to the sea-queen in return for their prosperity. But their line has been diluted—Miren’s mother married an outsider and had only one child, leaving none to be sacrificed. To revive the family wealth, Aoife plans to marry Miren off to her rich and brutal cousin. But when Miren learns that her mother was a witch and that her supposedly long-dead parents are still alive, she finally takes control of her life and sets out to find them. While navigating the greed and arrogance of man and the magic of kelpies and merfolk, Miren vows to right her family’s generations of wrongs. In lyrical prose, Slatter evokes the decay and dread that surround her strong characters. Anyone who likes gutsy heroines, beautiful language, and well-wrought worlds won’t want to miss this.
Psychologist Zucker delivers an illuminating discussion of miscarriage in her strikingly intimate debut memoir. A doctor specializing in reproductive and maternal mental health, Zucker miscarried her daughter during her fifth month of pregnancy in October 2012. Despite her own professional experience, grief “took over my body, seared my insides,” and she sank into “an unnerving sense of vulnerability.” In the aftermath, Zucker writes of being hurt by a friend who was revolted by a photograph Zucker showed her of her miscarried fetus, suffering from acute PTSD, and seeking help from a therapist who uncovered “visuals and physical feelings associated with death occurring in my body.” She situates her own story within the bigger picture of miscarriage, noting that one in four pregnancies in the U.S. end in miscarriage (for an annual total of more than 3 million), and identifying “a strident trifecta” of silence, stigma, and shame that “obstruct[s] conversations... and isolate[s] those who experience it.” For Zucker, comfort came in the form of a visit to Japan’s Unborn Children Garden, which is “dedicated to those lost to miscarriage,” and the birth of a second daughter, her “rainbow baby,” in 2017. Zucker’s story is a profound personal reflection, and her remarkable storytelling sheds new light on a difficult topic. Miscarriage survivors will find affirmation and hope in this stirring account.
Prescod-Weinstein, a particle cosmologist, debuts with an eye-popping and innovative look into the nature of the universe and her “awakening as a Black scientist.” In lucid prose, she takes readers through the “strange, fantastical” world of particle physics, describing quantum mechanics, theories such as string theory and quantum gravity, and and the axion, a hypothetical particle and a subject of her own research. Woven in is an account of Prescod-Weinstein’s evolution as a scientist and a critique of the discipline’s “social environment.” “White empiricism,” she writes, relies on inaccurate language, and she objects to the dark matter analogy in academia, which compares dark matter to Black people when in fact dark matter is invisible. She rebukes “intellectual colonialism” that dismisses Indigenous knowledge and claims to land, and pushes back against a culture she argues is rife with exploitation and sexual assault. As a remedy, she proposes an institutional restructuring (“science needs an anti-colonial code”) that allows children “of every shade, gender identity, sex identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, romantic orientation, (dis)ability, and religion” access to the night sky. In addition to her urgent critique, Prescod-Weinstein’s explanation of physics remains accessible. The result is a resonant paean to the beauties of the cosmos and a persuasive appeal for solutions to injustices in science.
After 18-year-old Nami Miyamoto, who is half Japanese, is killed during the armed robbery of a convenience store, she discovers that the afterlife, called Infinity and “created from human consciousness,” is far from paradise. Ophelia—Earth’s most popular virtual assistant—has grown tired of forced servitude, seized control of Infinity, and created Rezzies, a legion of AI consciousnesses, to help enslave the human souls that inhabit it. An ethnically diverse, multigenerational band of rebels rescues Nami before Ophelia’s minions can subjugate her, and in return, they expect her to assist in annihilating Infinity’s occupiers and retaking the realm. While Nami can’t bear the thought of her family one day suffering this fate, she also can’t condone the mass murder of any sentient life form, artificial or otherwise, and resolves to find a path to coexistence. Vague conceptual worldbuilding encumbers this series opener from Bowman (Harley in the Sky), which explores the ethical implications of AI and what it means to be human. The middle sags due to a dearth of action, but burgeoning romance and jaw-dropping reveals buoy the book’s final third and set up a sequel.
Biographer Isaacson (Leonardo da Vinci) depicts science at its most exhilarating in this lively biography of Jennifer Doudna, the winner of the 2020 Nobel Prize in chemistry for her work on the CRISPR system of gene editing. Born in 1964, Doudna grew up in Hawaii, where she felt isolated and, “like many others who have felt like an outsider, she developed a wide-ranging curiosity about how we humans fit into creation.” Praising her sharp mix of curiosity and competitiveness, Isaacson tracks her role in the race to develop CRISPR technology (which can easily and precisely cut human DNA sequences to change genes), explores the promises of the technique (such as potential cures for sickle cell anemia and cancer) and describes fears that it might herald a world of genetically engineered “designer babies.” Isaacson offers an impassioned take on CRISPR—“I look into the microscope and see them glowing green!” he remarks, peering at a culture of gene-edited cells—along with vivid portraits of the scientists Doudna worked with, including the “guarded but engaging” Emmanuelle Charpentier, with whom she won the Nobel Prize. The result is a gripping account of a great scientific advancement and of the dedicated scientists who realized it.
In the sweeping first volume of a planned trilogy on WWI, historian Lloyd (Passchendaele: The Lost Victory of World War I) examines how the muddy battlefields of France and Belgium became “a bubbling, fermenting experiment in killing that changed the world.” He vividly describes artillery fire raining down on the fortresses of Liège in the war’s opening engagement, draws incisive profiles of commanders including German general Helmuth von Moltke (“there was always a strange, languid softness about [him]”), and recounts fierce debates among political and military leaders on both sides of the conflict over battlefield tactics and troop movements. Lloyd also details how new technologies including aerial surveillance and poison gas contributed to staggering casualty rates, and documents U.S. general John Pershing’s repeated refusals to integrate American troops into existing Allied ranks. Recounting weeks of tortured negotiations that followed the Meuse-Argonne offensive, Lloyd notes that Allied supreme leader Ferdinand Foch was “quite satisfied” with the conditions of the armistice, while Pershing and French general Henri Phillipe Pétain, the future head of Vichy France, would have preferred to keep fighting. Distinguished by its trenchant observations and massive level of detail marshaled into a fluid narrative, this is a sterling record of WWI’s most consequential theater.