Our favorite books coming out this week include new titles from Sara Hashem, Dwyer Murphy, Laura Sims, and more.

How Can I Help You

Laura Sims. Putnam, $27 (256p) ISBN 978-0-593-54370-2
This brilliant slice of psychological suspense from Sims (Looker) is set mostly in the mundane confines of a Midwestern library. The Carlyle Public Library’s newest circulation clerk, Margo Finch, is a diligent employee who goes out of her way to keep the building clean. But Margo is actually a fugitive named Jane Rivers, a former nurse whose hospital stints coincided with a string of suspicious deaths—it’s Jane’s compulsion to help patients die, based on her own assessment that their time has come. Eventually, she comes to accept her dull work routine as a trade-off for her freedom, but her murderous urges are revived when a library patron is found dying in a restroom. That opportunity coincides with the arrival of a new research assistant, failed novelist Patricia Delmarco, who brings to the job secrets of her own, and gradually becomes obsessed with uncovering Jane’s past. Sims skillfully alternates between the perspectives of each woman, slowly bringing her simmering plot to a boil, and delivers a stunning climax. Patricia Highsmith fans will savor this unforgettable thriller. Agent: Chris Clemans, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (July)

The Stolen Coast

Dwyer Murphy. Viking, $27 (288p) ISBN 978-0-5936-5367-8
This atmospheric heist thriller from CrimeReads editor Murphy (An Honest Living) proves that genre readers really can have it all: terrific characterization, an intricate plot, and stylish writing to boot. Jack Betancourt lives in the rundown Massachusetts beach town of Onset. He leads a quiet life, working at a business built by his ex-spy father that helps people in trouble disappear: thieves, mobsters, spies, and fugitives of all sorts. Jack’s old girlfriend Elena, a lawyer with a very shady past, arrives back in Onset after a seven-year absence. She has a plan to steal diamonds valued between three and 180 million dollars (depending on the buyer) from a law firm colleague’s safe and needs Jack’s help to do it. Their scheme has a lot of moving parts, and bad luck threatens to shut them down, but Elena’s a ruthless leader, and Jack is driven by a cocktail of motivations even he can’t quite untangle. Murphy’s spare, polished prose carries a touch of Elmore Leonard and a whisper of Ernest Hemingway, but in balancing those influences he locates a style all his own. Strong characters, sharp wit, breathless action, and real emotional depth make this exceptional neo-noir sing. Agent: Duvall Osteen, Aragi, Inc. (Aug.)

The Jasad Heir

Sara Hashem. Orbit, $18.99 trade paper (400p) ISBN 978-0-316-47786-4
Hashem weaves a complex tapestry of magic, danger, and violence set against some vividly atmospheric worldbuilding in her mesmerizing debut. Essiya is a fugitive, the last surviving royal of the purged Jasad kingdom. Now going by Sylvia, she ekes out a furtive existence in Mahair, a city ruled by the militant Nizahlians, who burned her homeland to the ground. Torture and death await anyone accused of being a Jasadi magic-user, so Sylvia must rely on her fighting skills, feral nature, and survival instinct to get by. Hounded by ghosts of her traumatic past, she deceives and ultimately kills to keep her identity secret. However, when Sylvia catches the eye of her worst enemy, Arin of Nizahl, the heir to the Nizahlian throne, her tight grip over her own fate loosens. Arin, who doesn’t know of Sylvia’s royal blood, wants her help rooting out Jasadi rebels, who, meanwhile, seek to rally behind their queen. An angst-inducing game of cat and mouse begins when Arin declares Sylvia his champion in the Alcalah, a deadly tournament of fighters from all the known kingdoms. Meanwhile, an attraction as fierce as their enmity blossoms between the pair. Caught in the center of a tumultuous whirlwind, Sylvia must choose between her own safety and the lives of the people she loves. This nail-bitingly suspenseful romantasy will keep readers on tenterhooks. Agent: Jennifer Azantian, Azantian Literary. (July)

Sammy Espinoza’s Last Review

Tehlor Kay Mejia. Dell, $17 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-0-593-59877-1
Bestselling YA author Mejia (We Set the Dark on Fire) makes their adult debut with a smart second-chance romance that packs a hefty emotional punch. Sammy Espinoza’s career as a music critic is in jeopardy after it comes out that she gave her ex-girlfriend’s mediocre band falsely positive reviews in hopes of winning her back. She has one chance to save her job: get an exclusive interview from reclusive former rock star Max Ryan, who’s rumored to have a long-awaited debut solo album in the works—and who ghosted Sammy after one “magical” night together 10 years before the book’s start. Sammy’s hoping she can use his guilt over this to her advantage, and is taken by surprise when Max doesn’t remember her and asks her out all over again. She says yes, planning to charm him into opening up before revealing their history and her true motives. As they begin to date, however, she finds herself falling for Max all over again, especially as he supports her through some family turmoil. Sammy proves a delightfully snarky and quick-witted narrator and a subplot about her digging into her complicated family history adds both depth and nuance to this heartfelt rom-com. This is a knockout. (July)

Everybody’s Favorite: Tales from the World’s Worst Perfectionist

Lillian Stone. Dey Street, $27.99 (224p) ISBN 978-0-063-24103-9
Morning Brew contributor Stone debuts with a witty collection of essays about growing up a perfectionist in the thinness-obsessed, tabloid-crazed 2000s and beyond. She charts her long struggle with body image, from being labeled a “seventeen-minute miler” in elementary school gym class and garnering praise for shedding “baby weight” in high school to eating issues that lingered into her 20s and the measure of bodily acceptance she eventually found through weight lifting. Elsewhere, she recalls growing up in a repressive evangelical home and struggling to reconcile how she could “be pure of heart when my brain was on twenty-four-hour taboo cinema mode,” bombarded by doubts about God’s existence and “major, major pervert” thoughts. Stone’s at her best when probing the psychological complexities of young womanhood, as when she details her college-age efforts to be a “cool” girl to attract men, including a blueberry vodka–swilling “upperclassman with a long Eastern European last name, a wry smile, and a tiny, tiny butt.” Stone’s painfully sharp observations will draw readers in, and her honesty will keep them enthralled. This will go a long way toward helping readers feel less alone. (July)

The Nenoquich

Henry Bean. McNally Editions, $18 trade paper (208p) ISBN 978-1-946022-62-2
Screenwriter Bean’s marvelous novel, first published in 1982 as False Match, is about a nenoquich—the ancient Mexican word for a lifelong loser, born under a bad sign. It’s 1970, and wannabe writer Harold Raab, 26, is on the skids. He begs Penthouse magazine to give him an assignment, hangs out with his Berkeley, Calif., crew of fellow bohemians, and fills a notebook with their aimless adventures. His life acquires meaning when he meets the married Charlotte Cobin. Frustrated with her med student husband, whom Harold earnestly admires, she launches into a sexual relationship with Harold that brings him into unexpected mental contortions. “I was afraid of the fears ahead,” Harold writes in his diary, his existential questions about the future making it difficult to be intimate. Charlotte’s moods prove more than a match for the nervous Harold as they stumble from the bed to breakup to reconciliation, and he tries to figure out how to be a person (“Society is a language we all learn,” he reflects). Tension develops not only through Harold’s heartache and confusion, but in the fact that as his life crumbles, he finally has something to write about. Rediscovered, this stands as one of the great novels of adulthood’s losing battles. Agent: Chris Calhoun, Chris Calhoun Agency. (July)

Walking the Ojibwe Path: A Memoir in Letters to Joshua

Richard Wagamese. Milkweed, $18 trade paper (224p) ISBN 978-1-57131-394-2
Originally published in Canada in 2002, this harrowing memoir from Ojibwe novelist Wagamese (1955–2017) reflects on his turbulent childhood and struggle with alcoholism. In a series of dispatches to his estranged son, Joshua, who was six at the time of writing, Wagamese recounts growing up in a “traditional” Ojibwe family in Ontario—“hunting, fishing, trapping, gathering berries, smoking fish, and living as Ojibwe people had for generations”—until, for reasons unknown to the author, he was moved into foster care when he was a toddler. He cycled through different homes, living with well-meaning white couples with whom he felt unable to discuss his anxiety about being “the only Indian kid around.” After his first year of high school he struck out on his own, ending up homeless and taking to drinking. Wagamese captures the painful intractability of alcoholism and laments that even an enlightening four-day ceremonial “vision quest” failed to translate into sobriety. The crisp prose shines and readers will be moved by discussions of how the author’s separation from his parents resonated throughout his life, as when he suggests that his drinking “always came back to... the fact that I was unlovable.” Affecting and unflinching, this tugs at the heartstrings. (July)

Small Worlds

Caleb Azumah Nelson. Grove, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-8021-6196-3
Nelson revisits the Southeast London setting of Open Water in this astonishing account of a young British Ghanaian man’s dueling desires to please his parents and pursue his passion for music. The reader first meets narrator Stephen in church in summer 2010, where at 18 he’s humbled and quieted by the call to prayer, describing it as the chance to “speak to someone who is both us and the people we want to be.” When the music starts, though, Stephen doesn’t need to be anywhere else or become anyone else. With a bass line “getting to the heart of things” and a “pianist play[ing] secret chords from the soul,” he dances with his older brother, Raymond, their bond wordless and powerful. That night, Stephen and Raymond pursue their true calling, putting on a dance party with their friends and spinning old grime records. A year later, after Stephen has completed his first year of college, dancing provides relief from the pressure put on him by his father to prepare for a stable future, which comes to a head after Stephen announces he’s dropping out. Nelson plays their confrontation beautifully, mixing Stephen’s defiance with a yearning for acceptance, so when his father kicks him out of the house, the effect is even more devastating. Nelson’s assured writing captures the pulse of a dance party, the heat of a family’s bond, and the depth of spiritual fervor to conjure a story­ as infectious as a new favorite song. (July)