New Books to Read in 2020

Some of my favorite authors have new books this year:

  1. Sophie Hannah – Perfect Little Children
  2. Chris Bohjalian – The Red Lotus
  3. Hilary Mantel – The Mirror and the Light
  4. Donna Leon – Trace Elements
  5. Carol Goodman – The Sea of Lost Girls
  6. Anne Tyler – The Redhead by the Side of the Road
  7. Isabel Allende – A Long Petal in the Sea
  8. Lisa Gardner – When You See Me

 

  1. Sophie Hannah (Author of The Nightingale and How to Hold a Grudge) has a new suspense mystery coming in February – Perfect Little Children:

” Beth hasn’t seen Flora for twelve years. She doesn’t want to see her today—or ever again. But she can’t resist. She parks outside the open gates of Newnham House, watches from across the road as Flora arrives and calls to her children Thomas and Emily to get out of the car.

There’s something terribly wrong. Flora looks the same, only older. Twelve years ago, Thomas and Emily were five and three years old. Today, they look precisely as they did then. They are Thomas and Emily without a doubt, but they haven’t changed at all. They are no taller, no older. Why haven’t they grown? How is it possible that they haven’t grown up?”

 

2. If you need more suspense, Chris Bohjalian (The Flight Attendant) has The Red Lotus coming in March:

” an American man vanishes on a rural road in Vietnam, and his girlfriend, an emergency room doctor trained to ask questions, follows a path that leads her home to the very hospital where they met.”

3. For fans of Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, Hilary Mantel is finally delivering the third book in the trilogy in March – The Mirror and the Light:

“With The Mirror & the Light, Hilary Mantel brings to a triumphant close the trilogy she began with Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. She traces the final years of Thomas Cromwell, the boy from nowhere who climbs to the heights of power, offering a defining portrait of predator and prey, of a ferocious contest between present and past, between royal will and a common man’s vision.”

4. Need a taste of Italy?  Donna Leon returns with a new Guido Brunetti mystery in Trace Elements, March 2020:

“When a dying hospice patient gasps that her husband was murdered over “bad money,” Commissario Brunetti softly promises he and his colleague, Claudia Griffoni, will look into what initially appears to be a private family tragedy. They discover that the man had worked in the field, collecting samples of contamination for a company that measures the cleanliness of Venice’s water supply, and that he had recently died in a mysterious motorcycle accident. Piecing together the tangled threads, Brunetti comes to realize the perilous meaning in the woman’s accusation and the threat it reveals to the health of the entire region. But justice in this case proves to be ambiguous, as Brunetti is reminded it can be when he reads Aeschylus’s classic play The Eumenides.”

5. Carol Goodman (The Lake of Dead Languages) has a new romantic mystery coming in March – The Sea of Lost Girls:

“Tess has worked hard to keep her past buried, where it belongs. Now she’s the wife to a respected professor at an elite boarding school, where she also teaches. Her seventeen-year-old son, Rudy, whose dark moods and complicated behavior she’s long worried about, seems to be thriving: he has a lead role in the school play and a smart and ambitious girlfriend. Tess tries not to think about the mistakes she made eighteen years ago, and mostly, she succeeds.

And then one more morning she gets a text at 2:50 AM: it’s Rudy, asking for help. When Tess picks him up she finds him drenched and shivering, with a dark stain on his sweatshirt. Four hours later, Tess gets a phone call from the Haywood school headmistress: Lila Zeller, Rudy’s girlfriend, has been found dead on the beach, not far from where Tess found Rudy just hours before. The more Tess learns about Haywood’s fabled history, the more she realizes that not all skeletons will stay safely locked in the closet.

6. And Anne Tyler, one of my favorite authors, has a new book in April: The Redhead by the Side of the Road:

“about misperception, second chances, and the sometimes elusive power of human connection…”

Can’t Wait?  These are coming in January:

7. Isabel Allende’s A Long Petal in the Sea

“From the New York Times bestselling author of The House of the Spirits, this epic novel spanning decades and crossing continents follows two young people as they flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in search of a place.”

8. Lisa Gardner’s When You See Me

Detective D. D. Warren, Flora Dane, and Kimberly Quincy—in a twisty new thriller, as they investigate a mysterious murder from the past…which points to a dangerous and chilling present-day crime.”

 

The Flight Attendant

41DOwpZKXvL._AC_US218_Chris Bohjalian’s The Flight Attendant is a book everyone who travels needs to read – maybe just not while you are on a plane.  If you’ve read any of Bohjalian’s books, you know his stories are compelling page turners, full of intrigue and twisting plot lines – this one is no exception.

Cassie is the well-preseved middle-aged flight attendant for first class international flights with a trailer park background morphed into a sleek attractive boozy lifestyle.  She meets Alex in seat 2C and the ride begins.  I won’t tell you much about the story – you need to read it yourself and enjoy the many twists and anticipate who will do what and where, but to tempt you – this is a thrilling chase with murder and espionage and those fearful Russians. You will constantly question who is the unreliable narrator and probably be surprised at the ending.  Maureen Corrigan has an excellent review for the Washington Post, if you want more details – Book Review.

As an added treat, Bohjalian referenced a number of authors I wanted to find. I actually stopped mid-chapter to find the Italian philosopher Carlo Levi’s essay on “Humanism,” and then found myself googling other philosophers.

Others mentioned in his acknowledgments – his research for the story – are now on my list to read:

  • Sarah Heploa’s Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget (page 214)
  • Heather Poole’s Cruising Altitude
  • Patrick Smith’s Ask the Pilot  
  • Richard Whittle’s Predator (a history of drones)

Related Reviews: 

The Sleepwalker

9780385542555_p0_v1_s192x300Chris Bohjalian’s The Sleepwalker had me reading until I found out whodunnit.  Unfortunately, I read until I went to bed – and then had trouble going to sleep.  I resisted googling “sleepwalking” – better not to now how factual the references were.

Bohjalian’s sleepwalker is a beautiful architect with an English professor husband and two  girls, one a college senior, the other nine years younger; she suffers from a sleepwalking condition that may have caused her death.  Her history reveals a night when she almost jumped off a bridge and another when she spray-painted the hydrangea in the front yard – remembering neither event.

When Annalee’s sleepwalking seems to be in remission, her husband leaves for an out of town conference, despite the possibility she might walk into the night without him nearby in bed.   The next morning, her daughter discovers her missing, and as the search continues, possible perpetrators emerge until finally the body is found – only to restart the investigation and the story in a different direction.

Throughout the plot, red herrings draw the reader into fake paths, highlighting character flaws and revealing salacious possibilities. Bohajlian builds the suspense with background on each of the suspects – the husband, of course; the detective who shared coffee and her condition; possible unknown lovers.  But I never guessed who really did it and how, despite the killer’s short ramblings of anonymous notes between the chapters. No spoilers here.

A fast-paced thriller with Bohjalian’s trademark surprise ending, The Sleepwalker is a mystery with Gothic tones and Alfred Hitchcock intrigue.

 

Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands by Chris Bohjalian

9780385534833_p0_v5_s260x420The news explodes with catastrophes periodically – an earthquake, a tsunami, a flood – and our attention is drawn to the horrors for a few days, maybe even weeks if the news cycle has little to do but monitor the clean-up.  After a while, the next explosion grabs the headlines, and those who were closely affected are forgotten.  In Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands, Chris Bohjalian focuses on the life of a sixteen year-old girl, whose father was the engineer who may have been responsible for the meltdown of a nuclear plant in Vermont.  Her life changes in a New York minute from typical teen-age angst and hijinks to misery, paranoia, and homelessness. Despite Bohjalian’s facility with words, this is a difficult book to read.

The protagonist, Emily, loves poetry and aspires to be a writer.  Her favorite author is her namesake – Emily Dickinson, and the story is sprinkled with the reclusive author’s poetry.  The title, however, as lyrical and visionary as it seems, is not poetic. The phrase originated from another horror – the teachers’ directions to the young children who had survived a massacre at their school.  To keep them from seeing their dead classmates, they were instructed to hold hands and close their eyes as they were escorted outside.  Bohjalian insists that the reader know this – his quirky balance between shock and relief that he does so well, as he guides the reader through Emily’s maze from orphaned self-mutilating survivor to sympathetic protector of a nine year-old runaway, and finally, to a semblance of salvation.

At one point, the author notes:

“…We watch it, we read about it, and then we move on.  As a species, we’re either very resilient or super callous. I don’t know which…”

Emily’s trials are unforgettable, and in her case…hope is not the thing with feathers…

 

The Night Strangers

It was a dark and stormy night.

No electricity in the eerie old mansion, a scary apparition calls for restitution, and bones morph into ghosts.   If you like Bohjalian’s brand of psychological drama, The Night Strangers will have the hair on the back of your neck prickling, and you will be wondering what is real and what is imagined.

Chip Linton was not as lucky as Sully Sullenberger; Chip crash landed his commercial jet into a lake, but thirty-nine passengers died.  Trying to recover from the trauma and guilt of surviving, Chip moves his family from tony West Chester, outside of Philadelphia, to an old house in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.  The basement of the house has a door sealed, conveniently, with 39 bolts.  The story’s narration flips from Chip’s thoughts as he tries to cope with his post-traumatic symptoms to his wife Emily, an attorney who finds work in the village, as she tries to normalize the family’s emotions, and then to their twin daughters, Garnet – red-haired and suffering from epileptic seizures, and Hallie, who, like her mother, acts as a stabilizing force.

What seems like a routine tale of a family in recovery, suddenly turns into a scary tale of “I see dead people.”  The village women who grow exotic plants in their greenhouses, and brew concoctions that can change perspectives add to the drama.

Bohjalian cleverly juggles reality with the paranormal, and you won’t know if the voices and apparitions are real or in Chip’s mind.  You may think you do, but you’ll need to read to the end to be sure.  By creating cliffhangers at strategic points in the plot, Bohjalian sustains the suspense.   The journey was more fun than getting there; the ending left me feeling robbed – but that’s Chris Bohjalian.

A great scary book to read through the night; keep your doors locked and a flashlight handy.

Read my review of another Chris Bohjalian thrillerSecrets of Eden