Winspear’s Maisie: On the Case

Maisie Dobbs finds herself at a personal and professional turning point in Jacqueline Winspear’s Leaving Everything Most Loved, the 10th novel featuring her female detective in interwar Britain, which debuts at #7 on the Hardcover Fiction list. In the summer of 1933, a young Indian immigrant, Usha Pramal, is found dead in a London canal with a gunshot wound in her forehead. More than two months later, the victim’s devastated brother, freshly arrived by boat from India, hires Daisy to solve his sister’s murder. With the trail gone cold and the evidence thin, Maisie has her work cut out for her.

As Maisie assembles a profile of Usha, who dreamed of returning to India to open a school for poor girls, she feels a strong connection with the courageous young woman, a bond that dovetails with Maisie’s growing fascination with India. Meanwhile, Maisie worries that if she accepts the marriage proposal from the heir to a title and a large fortune, she’ll lose her independence by becoming a society matron.

The first book in the series, Maisie Dobbs (2003), won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. Five subsequent books in the series have been New York Times bestsellers: Elegy for Eddie; A Lesson in Secrets; The Mapping of Love and Death; Among the Mad; and An Incomplete Revenge. Originally from the U.K., Winspear now lives in California.—Peter Canon

Strout's Clout

There’s not much that isn’t good to say about Elizabeth Strout, who’s a charmer in person (Random knew what it was doing when they feted her at a prepublication lunch at Locanda Verde in New York City’s Tribeca), and for sure on the page. Olive Kitteridge, her last book, won the Pulitzer and hit numbers close to a million in sales. The Burgess Boys, her latest, appears on our Hardcover Fiction list at #6, with 10,000 copies sold in its first week, and has been racking up accolades all over the media. Publicist Maria Braeckel offered two pages of print review quotes, from the New York Times to O Magazine. The Burgess Boys is set in Strout territory—small town Maine (as was Kitteridge), the kind of town Strout grew up in. She went to Bates College and lives in “the-way-life-should-be state” now. In The Burgess Boys, she takes on family and a lawsuit around a hate crime (Strout has a law degree) involving the town’s Somalian community. Strout started her book tour in New York City with an “in conversation” with her editor Susan Kamil, the publisher of Random House, at Barnes & Noble on March 27, and will tour the major cities throughout April.—Louisa Ermelino

The Novel 'Z'

Therese Anne Fowler makes the #15 slot in Hardcover Fiction with her look at the other side of the Fitzgerald coin in Z: A Novel of Zelda Fitzgerald. Fowler’s novel ignores the conventional dismissal of Zelda as unhinged muse, choosing instead to concentrate on the private moments not easily translated into Hollywood one-liners and literary factoids. Fowler drew extensively from intimate letters between Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald to sculpt her protagonist’s persona. PW called this the “softer, more anxious Zelda… whose world is one of textured sensuality.” Indeed, the case for a lost literary talent is movingly made. Rivalries of the kind that in which Zelda found herself entangled would require finesse in any period, much less the war-shadowed ’30s and ’40s. Her stunted literary ambitions and much-heralded feud with Hemingway receive fresh perspective in Fowler’s hands. It’s interesting, within the evolving gender-equality debate, to consider how the iconic works of our male scribes distort the historical ledger—this novel at least complicates the image of “F. Scott Fitzgerald’s muse.”

“They were two sides of one coin,” Fowler says during her March 23 interview on NPR’s Weekend Edition. “So it’s very difficult to imagine that we would be talking about either one of them had they not been a pair.” The novel appears in a Wall Street Journal article about the fictionalization of Zelda in the lead up to Baz Luhrmann’s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Fowler is currently on a Southern book tour that includes a stop at the Alabama Book Festival, April 19–20 in Montgomery, Ala.—Seth Satterlee

Using the Force... to Create Origami

In Tom Angleberger’s Origami Yoda books, origami and Star Wars are the twin stars that life revolves around at McQuarrie Middle School. The kids in the series have relied on advice from origami finger puppet versions of Yoda, Chewbacca, and other Star Wars characters to get out of many a jam, and in Angleberger’s new spin-off book, Art2-D2’s Guide to Folding and Doodling: An Origami Yoda Activity Book (Abrams/Amulet), readers can learn how to draw and create origami versions of these and many more Star Wars characters, along with other crafts, writing exercises, and activities.

Angleberger has just begun a 15-city tour for the new book, beginning in the Boston area and taking him to New York, Illinois, Texas, California, Georgia, Virginia, and elsewhere. As with Angleberger’s events for the previous books in the series, origami demonstrations remain a key part of his presentations at schools, bookstores, and libraries; the author estimates that he has already taught thousands of fans how to fold Origami Yoda. Abrams initially printed 500,000 copies of Art2-D2’s Guide, and a combined 4.1 million copies of all four Origami Yoda books are currently in print.—John A. Sellers

The Dark Knight Rises on the Charts

Scott Snyder’s stylish take on Batman hits the Hardcover Fiction list at #14 with Batman: The City of Owls, the second volume of his New 52 run. Launched in late 2011, this version of Batman by Snyder (American Vampire) and Greg Capullo (Spawn) immediately captured an audience with a pulp-inspired version of the Dark Knight, as Batman takes on a mysterious cabal called the Court of Owls. What’s ingenious about the tale is how Snyder entwines the past histories of the characters into a brisk action tale—the Court of Owls conspiracy involves relatives of Bruce Wayne, Robin, and even the steadfast butler, Alfred Pennyworth.

It’s been a swift rise for Snyder to the top of comics most-wanted-writer list. American Vampire, which was his first book, featured Stephen King as a co-writer. Synder’s future projects look equally promising: a new take on Superman drawn by artist and DC Comics copublisher Jim Lee; and The Wake, with artist Sean Murphy, a SF tale that Snyder describes as “a big, twisted, sprawling science fiction and horror epic, all of which begins with a single, terrifying discovery at the bottom of the ocean.”

City of Owls also makes history for including a chapter drawn by Becky Cloonan (Demo; Conan): she’s the first woman ever to draw an issue of Batman.—Heidi MacDonald