Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Mark Billingham, Charlotte Mendelson, Carin Berger, and more.

The Last Dance

Mark Billingham. Atlantic Monthly, $28 (400p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6194-9
Billingham (Sleepyhead) launches a cracking new mystery series featuring the charming, sarcastic British Det. Sgt. Declan Miller. Miller’s wife, Alex—also a detective—was recently murdered on the job. Afternoons spent in the company of his pet rats and punctuated by visits from Alex’s ghost are not enough to keep Declan away from work for long, though, and he returns, grieving, after a six-week hiatus. The first case assigned to Miller and his new partner, Sara Xiu, is a double murder. It initially appears that the two victims—an organized crime heir and an IT consultant—have nothing in common, but after Declan taps into a network of sources spanning his and Alex’s ballroom dancing friends, an old informant, and Alex’s ghost, he starts to fear a complex conspiracy is at hand. Meanwhile, Declan’s friend, prison snitch Gary “Chesshead” Cole, tries to find Alex’s murderer, with tragic results. Billingham imbues Miller with a brilliant sense of humor and populates the margins of this well-paced mystery with lovable, fully fleshed characters whom readers will adore. This is the author at his best. Agent: David Forrer, InkWell Management. (July)

The Exhibitionist

Charlotte Mendelson. St. Martin’s, $29 (304p) ISBN 978-1-250-28693-2
Mendelson’s brilliant latest (after Almost English) offers an eviscerating portrayal of an unhappy family in London. With scalpel-sharp prose, the author dissects each of the Hanrahans, beginning with the clan’s patriarch, Ray. A pompous artist well past his prime, Ray showers his family with abuse, blaming his failures on his wife, Lucia, who is also an artist. Lucia has spent her whole married life catering to Ray’s ego, playing down her own talents for fear that any success of her own might derail her husband. Their older daughter, who is in her 30s, still lives at home and indulges Ray’s self-pity, while the younger one has escaped to Edinburgh to teach—a profession Ray disdains—but has been coerced back to London for the opening of an exhibition of Ray’s work in 2010, the first in many years. Meanwhile, Lucia’s son from a previous relationship, Patrick, is preparing Ray’s gallery for the show of his work, though Ray has verbally lacerated Patrick for so many years that he barely functions. Everyone has secrets, Lucia’s by far the most intriguing. Not only is she desperately in love with a female MP, but she’s not told anyone yet that she’s been offered the chance to represent Great Britain at an international art exhibition, news she knows would destroy Ray. Mendelson shines especially when depicting the inner life of Lucia, who must reconcile a passionate vocation with the rigors of domestic responsibility. This crackles with female fury, insecurity, and desire. (July)

In the Night Garden

Carin Berger. Holiday House/Porter, $18.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-8234-4986-6
Using finely cut paper shapes to create a striking sequence of collaged spreads, Berger (A Curious Menagerie) meditates on the magic that unfolds around an ordinary house at night. Alongside a black cat, a gingham-clad child portrayed with brown skin stares up at the sky in an early spread: “In the night garden, you can lie on the cool grass and look up to the millions and trillions of stars.” But it’s the cat that subsequently threads its way through most of the book’s spreads. The feline stalks behind brilliant white moonflowers that “unfurl and release their intoxicating perfume,” becomes the face of a shooting star, bats at a firefly in a garden densely patterned with stylized flowers, and sits listening to a hoot owl “calling to you from a far-off tree.” Alongside tranquil text, landscapes bear traces of mosaics, tapestry art, and William Morris prints, their layered components sometimes represented in snips of handwritten and printed pages. All the senses are engaged as, en route to a cozy “sleep tight,” Berger presents the smells, the sounds, and the sights of nighttime as elegant, dazzling, and serene. Ages 3–6. (July)

The Devil’s Flute Murders

Seishi Yokomizo, trans. from the Japanese by Jim Rion. Pushkin Vertigo, $15.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN 978-1-78227-884-9
Yokomizo (1902–1981) is at his absolute best in this fourth whodunit featuring Tokyo private detective Kosuke Kindaichi (after 2022’s Death on Gokumon Island). In 1947, Kindaichi is consulted by 20-something Mineko Tsubaki. Her father, Hidesuke, a flautist and composer, disappeared the previous spring, and his corpse was found six weeks later. The official verdict was that Hidesuke poisoned himself, but Mineko and her mother, who believe the corpse was misidentified, suspect he may still be alive. Kindaichi agrees to attend a divination session intended to summon the musician’s spirit and confirm his demise, during which another member of the Tsubaki household is murdered. Now saddled with two cases, Kindaichi must suss out Tsubaki family secrets to prevent even more carnage. From the ominous opening through the brilliant final reveal, Yokomizo ably blends suspense and fair-play detection. Superior atmospherics (“As I take up my pen to begin recording this miserable tale, I cannot help but feel some pangs of conscience,” Kindaichi begins) and a persistent sense of menace mark this as a classic of the genre. (July)

Three Fires

Denise Mina. Pegasus Crime, $22 (352p) ISBN 978-1-63936-455-8
Mina (Rizzio) fictionalizes the life of Dominican friar Girolamo Savonarola (1452–1498), who was executed for heresy, in this vivid historical thriller. The novel opens in 1498 Florence, with Savonarola reading a coerced confession stating that he’s been lying about having the gift of prophecy. It then flashes back nearly 30 years, to when Savonarola’s hopes for marriage and a successful career as a physician are dashed, setting him on the path to religious fanaticism. Even readers who know what comes next— namely, the 1497 Bonfire of the Vanities, in which Savonarola and his followers burned books and clothes and other “extravagances” all across Florence—will be captivated by Mina’s lyricism (reading his confession to the assembled crowd, Savonarola sees “the dust motes swimming aimlessly in the warm air above their heads and imagines that each speck is an iota of faith leaving a person in the room”) and the insightful connections she draws between medieval ideological battles and 21st-century culture wars. This is a triumph. (Aug.)

A Place for Us: A Memoir

Brandon J. Wolf. Little A, $28.99 (222p) ISBN 978-1-5420-3646-7
In activist and Pulse nightclub shooting survivor Wolf’s blazing debut, he recounts how growing up queer and mixed-race taught him the importance of safe community spaces, and how the 2016 tragedy he endured pushed him to dedicate his life to protecting them. Wolf grew up in a strict white household in rural Oregon, never meeting his Black biological father. After his mother’s death, Wolf felt like an outcast in his own home: “I was deep behind enemy lines.” Neither college nor his first jobs provided the sanctuary he dreamed of. Instead, Wolf moved to Orlando and finally felt the embrace of home at Pulse: “Before me was an ocean of beautiful Black people, gyrating their hips to the beat, carefree and full of life, everything I’d worried I couldn’t be if I embraced the truth of who I was.” Wolf lost both his best friend, Drew, and Drew’s partner, Juan, in the shooting, and he dedicates significant space to memorializing them before detailing how the massacre drove him to full-time activism. In stirring prose, Wolf mounts a testament to the power of community and a howling cry for justice. This is unforgettable. Agent: Jud Laghi, Jud Laghi Agency. (June)