An encouraging later-life drama that offers its protagonist a “penny of hope.”


A concert pianist searches for the truth of her mother’s death and learns her own self-worth in Santamaria’s debut novel.

In 2003 in Redmond, Washington, Morgen Marín,a teacher, painter, and pianist, often finds solace in music; she uses a Mozart quote as a mantra—“The music is not in the notes but in the silence between”—and even named her car Tutti, a term for when “the ensemble reunited after an extended solo passage.” One night, she prepares to play Fantasie for Piano by her abusive former teacher, Andras Bacon, for a future concert, but she finds herself flummoxed by the composer’s cryptic notes. Later, she finds out that her late mother became pregnant with her during a sexual assault and gave up on her own music career. Morgen also dwells on a dark moment 13 years ago when she drove past the scene of her mom’s fatal car accident, and she begins investigating her parent’s past. During all of this, she becomes director of chamber music at her alma mater, where everyone is welcoming and enthusiastic about her work. Toward the story’s conclusion, Morgen discovers family she never knew she had and confronts Andras. Although she grieves her mother’s death, she eventually learns to let go. Over the course of this novel, Santamaria offers readers characters that are vivid and memorable, and her prose carries itself with an easy, quick-reading cadence, as when Morgen recalls her mother’s sage wisdom: “Sometimes we don’t understand certain things, and all we can do is give life our best and keep moving forward. Maybe someday we’ll look back, and it’ll all make sense.” Morgen’s happiness at the end of the story also feels well earned—the recompense of a character who has learned to love herself, but only through long, hard struggle.

An encouraging later-life drama that offers its protagonist a “penny of hope.”

Pub Date: Jan. 13, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-64388-310-6

Page Count: 338

Publisher: Luminare Press

Review Posted Online: Oct. 27, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2020

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


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.


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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