Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Charles Todd, Michael Robotham, and Alexis Daria.

The Cliff’s Edge: A Bess Crawford Mystery

Charles Todd. Morrow, $27.99 (320p) ISBN 978-0-06-303994-0
Set in 1919, bestseller Todd’s stellar 13th Bess Crawford mystery (after 2021’s An Irish Hostage) sends the former WWI front-line nurse to Yorkshire. There, a cousin of Bess’s has a friend, Lillian Taylor, the companion to Lady Beatrice, who’s scheduled to have her gallbladder removed. The surgeon insists that Lady Beatrice have a nurse in attendance on her discharge from hospital, but she’s refused. Lillian wants Bess to try to change Lady Beatrice’s mind. In the end, the domineering aristocrat persuades Bess to serve as her post-op private nurse. Bess gets even more than she bargained for when her patient’s godson, Gordon Neville, suffers an accident, and she’s dispatched to help him. She finds Neville recovering from a fall off a cliff; Neville’s friend Frederick Caldwell suffered fatal injuries while apparently attempting to save him. A wound on the back of Frederick’s skull suggests a different story, and Bess’s investigation uncovers a complex web of secrets and possible motives for murder. Todd has few peers at both keeping readers turning pages for the reveal and making every character on those pages feel real. Those seeking emotional depth in their mysteries will be richly rewarded. Agent: Lisa Gallagher, DeFiore & Co. (Feb.)

Lying Beside You

Michael Robotham. Scribner, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-9821-6648-9
In British author Robotham’s fine third Cyrus Haven novel (after 2020’s When She Was Good), forensic psychologist Cyrus consults with police when a man and his daughter are found murdered in their home. After the disappearance of a second victim, Cyrus begins to see connections to a fatal incident that occurred years earlier. However, when Evie Cormac, his bright but troubled ward, inadvertently interferes in the investigation, Cyrus’s ability to probe further into the mystery is compromised. Meanwhile, his own fractured past is about to catch up with him. When Cyrus was a boy, his older brother, Elias, then 19, murdered their parents and twin sisters, and after 20 years in a psychiatric hospital, Elias is now being released. Can Cyrus and Evie endure living under the same roof with a psychotic killer? Robotham does a good job infusing suspense into the well-constructed plot, but at the end of the day this series is all about Cyrus and Evie. While pairings of older male investigators with younger female protégés are fairly common in crime fiction, Cyrus and Evie stand out from the pack. Readers will want to see a lot more of them. Agent: Richard Pine, InkWell Management. (Feb.)

Take the Lead

Alexis Daria. Griffin, $16.99 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-81796-9
Bestseller Daria (A Lot Like Adiós) brings heat to the dance floor in this delightful rom-com about reality TV stars who find love during a celebrity dance competition. Idealistic professional dancer Gina Morales, 27, dreams of being a star. Despite four seasons of the Dancing with the Stars–esque TV show The Dance Off under her belt, she’s never made it to the finals. But Gina has high hopes for her new partner: handsome and impossibly ripped Stone Nielson, the reluctant star of an Alaskan wilderness show. Stone hates reality TV and is only doing The Dance Off to help his parents through a rough patch, but working with Gina makes him realize his love of dance. Neither is interested in a showmance, but as Stone’s gruff exterior melts in the face of Gina’s bubbly personality, the pair can’t deny their explosive chemistry both on and off stage. When the paparazzi catch on to their burgeoning relationship, Gina and Stone must decide what to prioritize: their careers and a shot at the trophy or a chance at true love. The structure of the competition keeps the pages flying, and Daria does a fantastic job making the thrilling dance routines jump and twirl off the page. Add in the protagonists’ opposite personalities and fiery attraction, and this whirlwind romance scores a 10 out of 10. (Feb.)

Wanting: Women Writing About Desire

Edited by Margot Kahn and Kelly McMasters. Catapult, $17.95 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-64622-011-3
Essayists Kahn and McMasters reunite after editing This Is the Place to deliver an impassioned anthology of women’s perspectives on desire. “Our desires—and speaking them aloud—make us powerful,” contend Kahn and McMasters in their introduction, compiling the perspectives of women “parents and pilots, PhDs and porn connoisseurs” on what it means to want. Explaining the excitement of trying new foods, creative writing teacher Michelle Wildgen relates that “I wanted to eat, yes, but more than anything I was hungry to know” about unfamiliar dishes and the locales they come from. Poet Rena Priest contemplates her Native American ancestry and culture, discussing her wish for the decolonization of Native American land and for her to not have to “overcome stereotypes” to be treated with respect. “Can a dyke wear a dick and just have some damn fun?” asks essayist Amy Gall as she unpacks the complex gender dynamics of women wanting to have sex using strap-ons that resemble penises. The wide-ranging essays reflect the diversity of their authors while sharing a captivating rawness and sincerity. The result is a striking and powerful compendium on the multifaceted nature of longing. (Feb.)

The Last Tale of the Flower Bride

Roshani Chokshi. Morrow, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-06-320650-2
Bestseller Chokshi (best known for the YA novel The Gilded Wolves) makes her adult debut with a lush and haunting modern fairy tale about the nature of friendship and love. Indigo Maxwell-Casteñada, the heiress to a fortune, wants for nothing but love. She finds it in the unnamed narrator, a man who embraces all things mysterious and unexplained. Their marriage is built on sharing fairy stories, playing fantastical games, and maintaining a no questions asked policy about Indigo’s past. But when Indigo’s dying aunt and onetime guardian forces them to return to the House of Dreams, Indigo’s childhood home, secrets bubble to the surface. The ghost of Indigo’s childhood best friend clings to the House of Dreams and begs to be acknowledged. Soon fantasy and reality blur, testing the strength of the couple’s love, and even threatening their lives. Chokshi’s prose overflows with metaphor and lavish imagery, adding to the decadent, gothic feel as the mystery of Indigo’s past intensifies. The result is equal parts dizzying, dazzling, and foreboding. Agent: Thao Le, Sandra Dijkstra Literary. (Feb.)

Evil Flowers

Gunnhild Øyehaug, trans. from the Norwegian by Kari Dickson. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $25 (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-60474-5
In this charming and inventive collection, Øyehaug (Knots) plays with narrative conventions to dazzling effect, braiding jokes with earnest accounts of heartbreak. In “Birds,” an ornithologist loses all her memories of birds, jeopardizing her career but recapturing the joy she once found in bird-watching with her family. The four competing narratives of the “Thread” series place a lonely, elderly woman in a room with a hungry lion. In “Thread 2,” a Greek chorus intervenes, playfully urging the author to give the encounter a happy ending. In “Short Monster Analysis,” a woman wonders whether holding a 20-year grudge against a cruel lover makes her the monster in the story. And in the mysterious “By the Shack,” three women writers become trapped in a children’s book after a plane crash, where they live in a shack beneath stars that “click into place” in the sky. Charles Baudelaire, Inger Christensen, and Virginia Woolf are touchstones throughout, and in “Wish, Dream, Observation,” the narrator takes a crack at Henrik Ibsen’s constant presence in Norway, even when he is “not there.” Øyehaug often takes a postmodern swerve, highlighting how stories can be used to distance readers from their emotions but also to acknowledge and process them. This scintillating collection shouldn’t be missed. (Feb.)

Black Wolf

Kathleen Kent. Mulholland, $29 (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-28021-1
This intelligent, propulsive spy thriller from Edgar finalist Kent (the Betty Rhyzyk series) takes Melvina “Mel” Donleavy, a 26-year-old CIA agent on her first undercover mission, to Minsk, Soviet Belarus, a dangerous place in 1990 as Soviet control crumbles and the Byelorussian mafia gains increasing power. A “super recognizer,” Mel has the uncanny ability to remember every face she sees. Mel’s four-person team poses as a U.S. State Department group researching possible funding to the newly sovereign country. Their real task is to gather intel and assess new threats. Mel’s been given her own top-secret assignment: to investigate rumors that Iran is negotiating a clandestine pact with Belorussia to secure nuclear weapons. She soon appears on the radar of Martin Kavalchuk (aka the Black Wolf), the head of the country’s KGB. Meanwhile, women have been disappearing from the streets of Minsk, the work of a serial killer known as the Svisloch Strangler, and Mel winds up investigating the case. Kent draws on her own experience working for the U.S. Department of Defense to create an utterly convincing espionage novel full of tradecraft. Readers will eagerly await Mel’s further adventures. Agent: Danny Baror, Baror International. (Feb.)

Fragile Cargo: The World War II Race to Save the Treasures of China’s Forbidden City

Adam Brookes. Atria, $28.99 (348p) ISBN 978-1-982149-29-1
Journalist Brookes debuts with a novelistic account of Chinese curators’ largely successful efforts to save priceless antiquities first from Japanese bombs during WWII and then from potential looters during Mao Zedong’s Communist takeover. Led by Ma Heng, director of the Palace Museum in Beijing’s (then Peking) Forbidden City, the curators packed and shipped nearly 17,000 cases of objects, including a 10th-century scroll depicting a river in winter and a mid-15th-century red porcelain ewer, deep into China’s hinterlands, where they were stowed in caves, warehouses, and even a Buddhist temple. Many of the most valuable pieces ended up in Taiwan, while others were returned—after nearly 17 years—to the Forbidden City. Along the way, Brookes describes the objects in mesmerizing detail and vividly recounts the human toll of war. The most poignant portrait is of Ma Heng, who came under suspicion and endured a relentless program of “ideological transformation” in the 1950s. The Communist Party, Brookes writes, “took his devotion to the collections and turned it against him, hounding and humiliating him in his final days.” Art lovers and WWII buffs will devour this riveting and bittersweet history. Photos. Agent: Zoë Pagnamenta, Zoë Pagnamenta Agency. (Feb.)