A sublime tale that makes its alpine setting uncanny, terrifying, and captivating.

IN THIS DELICIOUS GARDEN

OR LES ENFANTS DU PARADIS

In this debut novel, a valley in France where tourists flock possesses a darkly bizarre history, including mysterious disappearances.

During Chamonix’s annual Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc, American runner Cody spots several monkeys. As primates don’t typically live in France, he assumes he’s hallucinating. But Swede and fellow runner Harry “Nils” Nilsson has seen monkeys as well, and a local legend claims they were part of a plane crash in the Alps decades ago. When it later appears Cody has gone to verify the monkeys’ existence, Nils undertakes a treacherous climb to find him. Tourists to the alpine town, primarily skiers and climbers, sometimes vanish without much in the way of explanation. Some attribute these disappearances to animals kept by Eloise, an elderly local woman—creatures so frightening the townsfolk insist they wear bells so people can hear them when they’re close. But humans, too, can be menacing. Nicolas, for one, who’s spent many years in Chamonix as a pornographic filmmaker, ultimately develops such a disdain for tourists that he takes drastic measures. While locals are wary of outsiders, they may stand up for a family of Iraqi refugees when a political party is intent on pushing its anti-immigration policies. Divided by season into four parts, this novel assembles a colorful cast of characters. Though the spotlight continually shifts, there’s cohesion, as players consistently appear even when not the narrative focus. Pietras offers a smartly scripted tale that’s rich in historical significance, including a flashback to the World War II era, and discernible but nuanced themes, particularly an environmental message. The story’s surrealism stems predominantly from instances—generally hints—of the animals in the Alps. While some elucidation, like a potential origin for the monkeys, gears the story toward realism, it doesn’t make the creature encounters or periodic deaths any less unsettling.

A sublime tale that makes its alpine setting uncanny, terrifying, and captivating. (collage-style map, collages, author’s note, acknowledgements, list of sources, author bio)

Pub Date: March 1, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-73444-660-9

Page Count: 330

Publisher: Mediastopheles LLC

Review Posted Online: April 28, 2020

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A compelling portrait of a marriage gone desperately sour.

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

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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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