Karen West, events director, Book Passage, Corte Madera, Calif.

A riveting new work, A Trace of Smoke (Tor, May) seduced me immediately, drawing me into an intoxicating world of intimate violence, complicated family relationships and voluptuous intrigue set in a time and place steeped in duplicity. Nazism is on the rise and police work is rife as people go missing and newspapers cry out their stories. Mischief swirls about a singular Berlin nightclub that embraces those who would cross-dress and love men who are forbidden to love them in return. Our heroine, Hannah, plunges into this world with reckless and determined abandon in search of her brother's truth. I defy any reader to not fall fully for Hannah as she follows the bright satin thread that is her brother's bold, dangerous life, leading her through murder and mayhem, risking her heart the entire way. When a small child enters the picture, expect to give up your immediate plans in order to finish this stirring novel in one exhilarating inhalation.