April 24, 2021
Despite some much-needed spring weather to raise spirits the news cycle continues to be overwhelming. It is hard to concentrate on much else, so perhaps an all-consuming plot might be the best literary therapy. Whether it is an enigmatic thriller, a spy story, investigation into a dangerous cult, or a novel about the mysteries of place, this selection explores the many forms shadowy literature can take—featuring books set in Scotland, the wilds of Africa, the cobblestones of Italy, and our own New York.
Buyer, Center for Fiction Bookstore
By Flynn Berry
Published by Viking
When I discovered Under the Harrow over five years ago I knew Berry would become a success. She writes terrific psychological suspense and the new novel is even richer and deeper than the ones before. Two Irish sisters are the focus in this intimate spy story that takes place decades after the Good Friday Agreement, making the plot fresh and still incredibly tense. When one sister sees the other on the TV news in a Patty Hearst-like terrorist incident she must discover the truth behind this shocking image. Here’s an interview with the author that will illuminate how and why she created this story.
In the Company of Killers
By Bryan Christy
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons
Christy’s first fiction makes use of his day job as a writer for National Geographic, setting his story in Kenya among animal poachers, journalists and corrupt politicians. Our always-appealing hero is a solitary adventurer and wildlife crime investigator working for a similar type of magazine who is recruited to the CIA by his boss and mentor. (This sort of job is a great cover.) There are spies and double agents, a rekindled love interest, and lots of moral dilemmas. Evoking le Carré might seem a stretch, but trust me, with this eco-thriller Christy has it down his first time out..
Don't Call It a Cult
By Sarah Berman
Published by Steerforth Press
Even if you didn’t get addicted to the TV series about NXIVM, this account about narcissistic cult leader and sexual predator, Keith Raniere, is a shocking and absorbing tale. Now in prison, he was like a Pied Piper to young women trying to find themselves. They easily relinquished all power in the name of the ‘family’ he created that promised them a beautiful life, fulfilling work and personal happiness. Instead they were branded, raped and starved. Berman digs into the details to uncover what made it work for so long. It’s a fascinating story.
By Carole Johnstone
Published by Scribner
Mirrorland will keep you up at night trying to guess the murderer in this superbly fashioned thriller. Years ago now-estranged Scottish twin sisters invented an imaginary world to endure their harrowing childhood. Summoned from her home in Los Angeles to the scene of the original trauma by her sister’s disappearance, Cat discovers mysterious clues. There begins a heart-stopping race to find her sibling, dead or alive. Johnstone manages to create a world on the page that is completely visual and very, very tricky. Listen to the author read an excerpt here..
Ghosts of New York
By Jim Lewis
Published by West Virginia University Press
Not a traditional ghost story but a portrait of the city as revealed by several characters whose separate lives eventually link together. By following these disparate people Lewis recreates a New York that captures the mystery and intrigue of the city. It made me yearn for pre-pandemic times when random interactions and observed lives made you feel like a constant voyeur. The author has an uncanny ability to paint pictures on the page. And while his first novel, Sister, is nothing like the new work, it’s a stunning, yet unnerving novel of a Southern family that’s well worth your time.
By Debra Jo Immergut
Published by Ecco
Imagine coming face-to-face with yourself, but you 20 years ago. Or looking in the mirror and wondering how you’ve ended up in this particular life. Is this a mid-life crisis or something more sinister? That is the set up for this clever page-turner that was named one of the New York Times Best Thrillers of 2020. Immergut, who teaches at the Center, generates the essential elements of psychological suspense in an unnerving labyrinthine plot, plus great New York locations. And it’s just out in paperback..
By Jhumpa Lahiri
Published by Knopf
Don’t forget to check out Jhumpa Lahiri’s newest novel, her first in eight years—a gorgeous, elegiac reverie covering a year in the life of one woman in a large Italian city. She creates such an intensely palpable atmosphere you can imagine walking right alongside her character. A gifted translator, Lahiri wrote this beautiful book first in Italian and translated it herself into English. How she could accomplish that (Italian being her third language), is a mystery to me.