An entertaining literary thriller that traces intrigue from the writer’s mind to the latest headlines.

A LONELY MAN

Will a man’s tales of Russian oligarchs and murders be a blocked writer’s salvation or his doom?

It’s been two years since British writer Power’s well-received fiction debut (Mothers: Stories, 2019), and it’s been four years since the publication of the debut story collection of his lead character, Robert Prowe (hmm). But Robert is blocked now and well past deadline on his contracted first novel while Power, of course, has delivered his. Robert is living in Berlin with his wife and two daughters when he meets fellow Briton Patrick, a ghostwriter. Their acquaintance grows to something like friendship as Patrick reveals his ties to a Russian millionaire who hired him to write about his rags-to-riches life and how he fell afoul of Putin. The oligarch, who gives Patrick computer files damaging to the Russian ruler, dies mysteriously, and Patrick fears he will be targeted next by the Kremlin’s thugs. Robert is skeptical about all this but recognizes good material for the novel he needs to write and so encourages Patrick to keep talking. Then strange things start to happen: A window that’s always locked is found open, a friend commits suicide, and on and on. There are familiar questions raised here about how writers get and use material from real life, but what Power does cleverly is make them part of the story’s rising suspense, stoking the tension and disconnect between Robert and Patrick and even inserting some novel within the novel as the narrative intermittently shifts into Robert’s fictional rendering of Patrick’s adventures with the oligarch. Power’s understated style abets the tension, creating gaps and unanswered questions that pull the reader along, recalling Hermione Lee’s description of Penelope Fitzgerald’s prose as “plain, compact, and subtle,” leaving “much unsaid."

An entertaining literary thriller that traces intrigue from the writer’s mind to the latest headlines.

Pub Date: May 4, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-374-29844-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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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: 978-1-4926-8272-1

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Sourcebooks Landmark

Review Posted Online: Sept. 30, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2020

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