Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Susan Meissner, Karl Geary, and Andrew F. Sullivan.

Only the Beautiful

Susan Meissner. Berkley, $27 (400p) ISBN 978-0-593-33283-2
Meissner (The Last Year of the War) unfurls an emotionally rich narrative involving a young woman in 1930s California and a nanny in WWII Austria. Rosie Maras is orphaned at 16 when her parents and younger brother die in car accident. Her family had been living and working on a California vineyard owned by Truman and Celine Calvert, who become her temporary guardians. Celine is cold and distant, while Truman takes advantage of Rosie’s vulnerability, seducing her and getting her pregnant. Celine discovers the pregnancy and banishes her to a state infirmary, where she faces forced sterilization. Meanwhile, in Vienna, Truman’s sister Helen, who met Rosie, cares for a disabled child named Brigitta Maier. When Brigitta is taken from her home by the German government for their T4 euthanasia program, the Maiers and Helen are devastated. After the war, Helen returns to California and a widowed Celine bitterly reveals Truman’s infidelity, prompting Helen to set out to find Rosie and her niece, the only family she has left. Meissner seamlessly unites the two narratives, drawing striking parallels between Germany’s forced euthanasia of disabled people and eugenics in the U.S. Readers will be riveted. Agent: Elisabeth Weed, Book Group. (Apr.)

Juno Loves Legs

Karl Geary. Catapult, $27 (304 p) ISBN 978-1-64622-113-4
Geary’s heartbreaking latest (after Montpelier Parade) follows a pair of childhood friends as they age out of a hardscrabble Irish housing estate. Violence and religion define the constrained lives of Juno and her friend, Seán (nicknamed Legs), in the 1980s. They unite against abuse from nuns, priests, and playmates at their primary school where, as Juno narrates, “all the meanness in the world begins with a kind voice.” After they act out by dumping cement down toilets, a subsequent act of vengeance on an abusive priest at their school sends Legs to juvenile detention until he’s 18. Then, following a devastating loss in Juno’s family, she drops out of secondary school and lives rough in Dublin. Her reunion with a sickly Legs after he’s released is bittersweet, and he confesses the truth behind the incident that sent him to detention. Geary often finds poetry in Juno’s plainspoken narration, whether in lucid reflections on the brutality at the school or in Juno’s openhearted wonder at Dublin, where she discovers “the world was another, a vast other.” The blistering dialogue, too, captures the characters’ hard-won wisdom (“see everything, believe nothing, and definitely, don’t ever lend money,” a thrift store proprietor tells Juno). This is one to savor. (Apr.)

The Marigold

Andrew F. Sullivan. ECW, $19.95 trade paper (360p) ISBN 978-1-77041-664-2
Throughout this crisply written urban horror novel, Sullivan (Waste) makes a chilling case for humanity’s obsolescence. Ostensibly, the Marigold is a luxury tower in downtown Toronto. Actually, it’s a dilapidated wreck, emblematic of the city’s decay in the face of climate change, increasingly frequent sinkholes, and a moldlike eruption dubbed the Wet. Public health worker Cathy Jin and her partner, Jasmine, do their best to eradicate the Wet even as it evolves beyond their control, engulfing both buildings and people. At the same time, 13-year-old Henrietta Brakes climbs into one of the mammoth sinkholes in a futile attempt to rescue a friend who’s been dragged down. Meanwhile, Toronto’s movers and shakers discuss new civic developments, led by Stanley Marigold. Stanley’s father built the eponymous structure and now Stanley is eager to validate himself by erecting a second Marigold tower—and he’s willing to pay for each new construction with human sacrifice. Through linked vignettes, Sullivan peels back the layers of Toronto residents’ desperation to reveal a disturbing truth: though condo pitchmen promise customers a secure, worry-free existence, only through succumbing to the Wet can the characters find peace. This impressively bleak vision of the near future is as grotesquely amusing as it is grim. (Apr.)

Who Cries for the Lost: A Sebastian St. Cyr Mystery

C.S. Harris. Berkley, $27 (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-10272-5
Set in 1815, Harris’s outstanding 18th mystery featuring aristocratic sleuth Sebastian St. Cyr (after 2022’s When Blood Lies) opens with ex-Army surgeon Paul Gibson, a close friend of the detective, examining a corpse recovered from the Thames. The dead man’s features have been destroyed, possibly by a gunshot fired at close range, and he’s been “emasculated.” Those horrors take on added importance when Alexi Sauvage, the French expat physician who’s become Gibson’s lover, recognizes the murder victim as her husband, Maj. Miles Sedgewick, based on a pattern of saber scars on his chest, neck, and left arm. Sedgewick once served on Wellington’s staff, but St. Cyr, who knew him, considered the officer a “treacherous, untrustworthy bastard.” The search for Sedgewick’s killer takes on a different dimension after St. Cyr learns that his Machiavellian father-in-law, Lord Jarvis, may have employed the major on an espionage mission. The pressure to solve the case ratchets up when another mutilated corpse is dragged from the river. Harris does her usual superior job of combining a page-turning fair-play plot with plausible period detail. Both series fans and newcomers will be captivated. Agent: Helen Breitwieser, Cornerstone Literary. (Apr.)

Greek Lessons

Han Kang, trans. from the Korean by Deborah Smith and Emily Yae Won. Hogarth, $26 (192p) ISBN 978-0-593-59527-5
Booker winner Kang (The Vegetarian) explores the borders of the senses in this delicate love story. An unnamed Korean woman living in Seoul stops speaking after her mother dies and she loses custody of her eight-year-old son. An interest in language, though, continues to tug at her, and she enrolls in a Greek class. There, she begins writing poetry that catches the eye of her instructor who, unbeknownst to anyone else, is slowly losing his sight. Split between his dual homelands of Korea and Germany, the instructor picks up on the student’s search for a language beyond what can be expressed or seen with the naked eye, something the woman gestures at in her poetry: “a language as cold and hard as a pillar of ice.” In prose that merges memory, story, and poetry, Kang tracks how the two find in one another what is missing from the sensual world. This brilliant, shimmering work is never at a loss for words even when exploring the mind of a woman who won’t speak, and its pursuit of an authentic, exquisite new form is profound. Once again, Kang demonstrates great visionary power. (Apr.)

The Tip Line

Vanessa Cuti. Crooked Lane, $26.99 (288p) ISBN 978-1-63910-264-8
“I just wanted to get married,” declares 30-year-old Virginia Carey at the start of Cuti’s exceptional debut, a psychological thriller built in part from elements of a still-unsolved Long Island crime. After Virginia lands a job at the Suffolk County, N.Y., police department fielding calls to its anonymous tip line, Det. Charlie Ford asks her out. Virginia immediately decides she loves Charlie and imagines their romance, sex, and marriage in detail. Their first date is postponed after a woman who identifies herself as Verona calls to say that several dead prostitutes lie in the dunes at a nearby beach. The discovery of four corpses propels Charlie and police chief Declan Brady, another unmarried man who attracts Virginia’s interest, into a serial killer investigation. In later calls, Verona claims that a police officer whose name she doesn’t know is involved in the killings. Virginia has grown to trust the other woman, yet refuses to believe that her marriage prospects could be killers. Cuti uses sharply honed prose to evoke a mind driven by desire and denial. Fans of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley novels will want to take a look. Agent: Maria Whelan, InkWell Management. (Apr.)

The Secret Service of Tea and Treason

India Holton. Berkley, $17 trade paper (368p) ISBN 978-0-593-54726-7
Holton returns to a magic-infused Victorian London in her fiendishly clever third Dangerous Damsels romantic adventure (after The League of Gentlewoman Witches). When the Agency of Undercover Note Takers (A.U.N.T.) learns that a pirate is plotting to assassinate Queen Victoria, rival agents Alice Dearlove and Daniel Bixby must go undercover as a married couple to infiltrate the pirate’s house party and stop the scheme. As “professional heroes” who typically go it alone, they’re both wary about working with a partner—especially one they find so maddeningly attractive. The pair are surprised to find they have much in common, including their love of literary allusions and their levelheaded handling of curveballs lobbed at them by their salacious yet endearing pirate acquaintances. The longer they pretend to be in love, the more they actually fall for each other—but A.U.N.T. frowns on agents courting. As they descend further into the exciting and eccentric world of piratical hooliganism, Alice and Daniel must choose between their feelings and their duty. Holton’s signature tongue-in-cheek style shines, pairing dry wit with ludicrous situations to excellent effect. Alice and Daniel’s banter is a particular highlight, and their tender connection helps to ground all the action. This may be Holton’s best yet. Agent: Taylor Haggerty, Root Literary. (Apr.)

If We’re Being Honest

Cat Shook. Celadon, $28 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-84754-6
Shook’s delightful and perceptive debut follows a family through an eventful week that begins with a funeral and ends with a wedding. One sweltering Georgia summer, the Williams clan has gathered to mourn the death of patriarch Gerry, but they’re thrown for a loop when Gerry’s best friend announces during the eulogy that he and Gerry had been lovers for decades. While Gerry’s widow, Ellen, wants nothing more than to deal with this revelation and her loss in peace, her three children and four 20-something grandchildren make that impossible. They’re all dealing with their own crises: sensible granddaughter Alice is pregnant and not sure whether to tell the father; high-strung daughter-in-law Jennifer is wondering whether her husband is having an affair; and grandson Red, a youth pastor, is trying to come to terms with his sexuality. Like a stone skipped across water, Shook flits seamlessly from one character to the next, and remarkably, all emerge as three-dimensional characters. Even with its many strands of plot, the novel never feels rushed, and Shook sprinkles some wild surprises into the goings-on. Readers will find plenty to savor. Agent: Andrianna Yeatts, ICM Partners. (Apr.)