An often delightful and engaging tale that will make readers want to move to the author’s heartwarming fictional town.

ARNOLD FALLS

A debut novel about a small town and its fear of change.

Arnold Falls, a small town in upstate New York, is home to an array of residents, including celebrity chef Annie O’Dell, whose concerns are limited to the ratings of her cooking show and the state of her prune clafoutis; Bridget Roberts, the town pickpocket with a penchant for drinking Clagger, Arnold Falls’ infamous moonshine; and Aunt Doozy, the daughter of a brothel madam who’s plagued by uncontrollable flatulence. At the center of them of all is Jeebie Walker, a gay man in his early 40s who helps his friend Jenny Jagoda run for mayor against incumbent candidate Rufus Meierhoffer. Rufus is an incompetent politician who’s funded by a corrupt real estate developer who wants to replace Arnold Falls’ historic Dutch House with a rubber factory. Early on in the novel, Jeebie notes, “Incorrigibility is part of the Arnold Falls DNA,” and this assertion creates the story’s central conflict: Can Arnold Falls, and its residents, change for the better? Suisman’s prose is often incredibly funny, and his characters are charming in their varying degrees of ridiculousness while still maintaining a realistic, human sensibility. Scenes often feel like self-contained vignettes, highlighting the relationships between the various characters. This format mostly pays off, although some of the more emotional moments fall flat, due to a lack of exploration. Despite this, the community within Arnold Falls is as endearing as it is flawed. Readers will enjoy the ride, for example, when Jeebie debates the merits of Diana Ross in the local record store or Rufus unintentionally donates bomb-making materials to a city in Romania. As one character states, “The whole thing seems nuts but that’s Arnold Falls for you. You just go with it.”

An often delightful and engaging tale that will make readers want to move to the author’s heartwarming fictional town.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-79233-215-9

Page Count: 274

Publisher: Self

Review Posted Online: March 17, 2020

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A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

THE MIDNIGHT LIBRARY

An unhappy woman who tries to commit suicide finds herself in a mysterious library that allows her to explore new lives.

How far would you go to address every regret you ever had? That’s the question at the heart of Haig’s latest novel, which imagines the plane between life and death as a vast library filled with books detailing every existence a person could have. Thrust into this mysterious way station is Nora Seed, a depressed and desperate woman estranged from her family and friends. Nora has just lost her job, and her cat is dead. Believing she has no reason to go on, she writes a farewell note and takes an overdose of antidepressants. But instead of waking up in heaven, hell, or eternal nothingness, she finds herself in a library filled with books that offer her a chance to experience an infinite number of new lives. Guided by Mrs. Elm, her former school librarian, she can pull a book from the shelf and enter a new existence—as a country pub owner with her ex-boyfriend, as a researcher on an Arctic island, as a rock star singing in stadiums full of screaming fans. But how will she know which life will make her happy? This book isn't heavy on hows; you won’t need an advanced degree in quantum physics or string theory to follow its simple yet fantastical logic. Predicting the path Nora will ultimately choose isn’t difficult, either. Haig treats the subject of suicide with a light touch, and the book’s playful tone will be welcome to readers who like their fantasies sweet if a little too forgettable.

A whimsical fantasy about learning what’s important in life.

Pub Date: Sept. 29, 2020

ISBN: 978-0-52-555947-4

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: July 14, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

THE MYSTERY OF MRS. CHRISTIE

In December 1926, mystery writer Agatha Christie really did disappear for 11 days. Was it a hoax? Or did her husband resort to foul play?

When Agatha meets Archie on a dance floor in 1912, the obscure yet handsome pilot quickly sweeps her off her feet with his daring. Archie seems smitten with her. Defying her family’s expectations, Agatha consents to marry Archie rather than her intended, the reliable yet boring Reggie Lucy. Although the war keeps them apart, straining their early marriage, Agatha finds meaningful work as a nurse and dispensary assistant, jobs that teach her a lot about poisons, knowledge that helps shape her early short stories and novels. While Agatha’s career flourishes after the war, Archie suffers setback after setback. Determined to keep her man happy, Agatha finds herself cooking elaborate meals, squelching her natural affections for their daughter (after all, Archie must always feel like the most important person in her life), and downplaying her own troubles, including her grief over her mother's death. Nonetheless, Archie grows increasingly morose. In fact, he is away from home the day Agatha disappears. By the time Detective Chief Constable Kenward arrives, Agatha has already been missing for a day. After discovering—and burning—a mysterious letter from Agatha, Archie is less than eager to help the police. His reluctance and arrogance work against him, and soon the police, the newspapers, the Christies’ staff, and even his daughter’s classmates suspect him of harming his wife. Benedict concocts a worthy mystery of her own, as chapters alternate between Archie’s negotiation of the investigation and Agatha’s recounting of their relationship. She keeps the reader guessing: Which narrator is reliable? Who is the real villain?

A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

Pub Date: Dec. 29, 2020

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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