Here comes the heavy hitters of fall. The sluggers who will knock a ball over the bleachers and into the parking lot. The ones who will splinter the bat as they knock a line drive through the center field wall. The ones who will do a little two-step at the plate and then drop a squirrel right behind the shortstop. The ones who will totally play to the crowd. The ones who were added late to the roster, but who are definitely making a play for MVP this season. 

Hello and welcome to A Good Book's newsletter, where it's all balls and strikes until the seventh inning, where the metaphor falls apart and everyone would rather we just got to talking about books. 

Fine. Fine. Let's get with it. 

Leading off this week's roster is James Lee Burke. Another Kind of Eden is—in a few words snatched from the marketing copy—a "tale of justice, love, brutality, and mysticism set in the turbulent 1960s." It features Aaron Holland Broussard, who we first met in Burke's The Jealous Kind (back in 2016), and here, Broussand wanders into Denver, where he runs into tyrannical businessmen and intellectuals with dubious intentions. As per usual with Burke, the writing is impeccable, the walls of reality get thin, and everything becomes like a Boschian fever dream. Complex characters and murky morality abound. 

Up next is fan favorite James Patterson. He's working with J. D. Barker here and the result is The Noise, which is the story of two young girls who are minding their own business (checking rabbit traps) when a mysterious event kills everyone in a nearby town. Naturally, suspicious government agencies show up and even more suspicious plots are uncovered. This one moves along at a respectful clip, and will satisfy a lot more than die-hard Patterson fans. 

It's one of those "Oh, look, our veteran player just nailed a triple on his first at-bat in the game" sorts of books. 

And speaking of duos, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child are back this week with the umpteenth Special Agent Pendergast novel. In Bloodless, our "special" Special Agent and his team travel to Savannah, GA, where someone is killing folks and draining their bodies of blood. Naturally, Pendergast finds a reason to tie this case to a case from a half-century ago, and that's when things get really weird, as we've come to expect from this pair. 

Batting clean-up this week is Danielle Steele with her fifth (!) novel this year. Apparently, Steele stayed home during the pandemic and passed the time writing because holy stacks of loose-leaf pages, Batman! Steele is out-Pattersoning James P. 

Anyway, what's going on in Complications? It's the story of the Hotel Louis XVI, one of the most exquisite and bespoke hotels in all of Europe. After years of renovation, it's ready to open its doors again, and the first batch of guests may be its last. Scandals and tragedy and torrid romances, oh my!

Next, we have a sharp-eyed newcomer (relatively speaking). Silvia Moreno-Garcia is back with Velvet Was the Night, and let's just say what we're all thinking here: cover design still means something when you're not a publishing juggernaut. Scroll back up; we'll wait. 

See what we mean? 

Anyway, Moreno-Garcia is coming off the resounding success of last year's Mexican Gothic and she's following that one up with a . . . noir novel set in Mexico City during the '70s. It's not as much a head-scratcher as you might think, as Moreno-Garcia loves atmosphere and mood and attitude as much as she loves a good plot. Velvet Was the Night is the story of how a romance-fiction obsessed secretary and a lovelorn criminal enforcer find themselves during the brutally suppressed student riots of 1971. Secret police squads! KGB agents! Incriminating political photos! This one has it all. 

Meanwhile, aged designated hitter Robin Cook shows up with Viral, a slightly suspenseful screed against the corrupt American health care system. No one is really surprised by the soapboxing here, and the story hits the requisite beats, but yeah, it's a little like watching the DH clip a little dipper toward third base and struggle to beat the throw to first base. Everyone looks away as he struggles to catch his breath afterward. 

And speaking of books you don't buy for the cover, here's the 2022 Old Farmer's Almanac! Never flashy, but always a crowd pleaser. That'll make us forget the forgettable. Okay, moving on! 

And speaking of planning for next year, it's time for page-a-day desk calendars!

First up, we have Matt Kracht's delightful Field Guide to Dumb Birds of North America. Every day. Another dumb fact about dumb birds. We can barely contain our excitement. 

And speaking of adorable animals, how about a Liz Climo Daily Calendar? Look at those tiny party hats! The pig has juice in a cup! The hamster is in a safety zone! So very adorable. 

And not quite as adorable is the latest from manga body horror master Junji Ito. Sensor is a stand-alone graphic novel about a woman who gains mysterious powers after being exposed to a volcanic eruption that coats the countryside in strange glass "hair." Naturally, things get really weird and apocalyptic. Even weirder is the uplifting note of the ending. 

And speaking of uplifting, here's Farrah Rochon's delightful rom-com, The Dating Playbook. This is one of those "hey, let's craft a plan to hide what we're really up to because that would be embarrassing to talk about" sort of plots. Injured NFL star Jamar "Diesel" Dixon needs rehabilitation before he can get back on the field, and fitness consultant Taylor Powell needs a win in order to keep her business afloat. To hide the awkward truths as to why they are being seen together, they hatch this plan to pretend to be lovers. Which means they need a "playbook" (football speak, you know) to make sure they fake this convincingly. Naturally, real feelings start to blossom. Oops! 

Meanwhile, Laurel K. Hamilton is back with the first book in a new series. Eschewing vampires and fairies (oh my!), this time around she's all about angels and demons with A Terrible Fall of Angels. Starring Detective Zaniel Havelock, A Terrible Fall of Angels plays with the burned-out detective tropes while diving into metaphysical power struggles. The fantastic plays out bloody and magical across an urban landscape. 

And speaking of hard-boiled, Hard Case Crime's collection of Ray Bradbury's crime stories is out in paperback this week. Killer, Come Back to Me contains twenty stories, including Bradbury's first published mystery story, as well as a number of stories that were adapted for his TV show, back in the day. Crime isn't just for crime writers, you know. 

On the non-fiction shelves, we have Lizzie Johnson's Paradise, a deep report on the Camp Fire of 2018. We were thinking that this one is a bit tough to drop on the new release table this week, and then we realized there probably isn't a good time which means right now is fine. The West is getting dryer all the time, dear readers, and books like Paradise are important reminders that humanity isn't operating at its finest when it comes to natural resource management. 

And finally, speaking of resource management, here is David Rooney's About Time: A History of Civilization in Twelve Clocks. Rooney, who used to be the "Curator of Timekeeping" at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, London, does a tour of humanity's accomplishments through our obsession and cultivation of time. It's a fascinating look at the evolution of our understanding of our world and of time. 

Overheard Near the Beach »»

SERA: Oh, I'm so glad to see familiar faces. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom-glom glom glom.  

ROLLO: Oh, dear. Are they all here? 

SERA: Yes, so many new friends.

ROLLO: Is that Hodge? I thought both otters got swept up. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom glom glom glom. glom. 

SERA: No, no. Just Podge. Hodge is—well, he's over there, somewhere. 


SERA: Oh, you see him. Okay, good. 

ROLLO: What are they talking about? 

SERA: They're working on a plan. 

ROLLO: What kind of plan? 

SERA: Well, to rescue Podge, of course. 

GLOM-GLOM: glom glom Glom!

ROLLO: I agree with that sentiment. 

SERA: Maybe we should try to intercede . . . ? 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom glom glom. Glom glom glom glom glom. Glom, glom glom glom. 

SERA: True. 

Around the Campfire »»

TIBBS: Okay, so we know that the skinny one has been kidnapped and—

HODGE: Excuse me? 

TIBBS: Your friend. The skinny one. 

HODGE: His name is "Podge." 

TIBBS: Fine. Whatever. 

HODGE: . . . 

TIBBS: What? 

HODGE: If Podge is the "skinny one," what does—

SAMSWELL: You know, I think that's not important right now. Let's focus more on what needs to be done, okay? 

HODGE: . . . 

TIBBS: Right. Right. 

JET: Awkward!

TIBBS: Shut it, bird. 

JET: Really awkward. 

TIBBS: Do we have to put up with him? 

PHFEIPHFER: I do believe the raven carried the message that brought us all here, Tibbs, so . . . 

TIBBS: Fine. Fine. 

SAMSWELL: Maybe we should have someone else run this meeting, Tibbs. 

TIBBS: I'm very good at running meetings. 

SAMSWELL: Yes, yes. But this is more of a planning session than a meeting, really. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom glom. 

SAMSWELL: There you have it. The moose agrees with me. 

TIBBS: . . . 

SAMSWELL: Do you want to argue with the moose? 

TIBBS: No . . . 

SAMSWELL: All right, then. Who's good at this? 

HODGE: Well, I have been known—


HODGE: Oh, fiddle-dee-dee fine. 

SERA: I—I can do it. 

ROLLO: I second this idea!

SAMSWELL: I'll back that idea too. Okay, that's a quorum. 


SAMSWELL: Close enough. All right, Sera. You're in charge. What's the plan? 

SERA: Well, I . . . 

JET: Awkward!

SERA: Oh, shoo, you annoying bird. Go do reconnaissance. 

JET: Awk—

SERA: . . . 

JET: Okay! Roger roger!

SERA: There. Now, let's get down to it. Here is what we know: a group of Beach Patrols nabbed Podge from the beach where he was body-surfing. They claimed he was in violation of some silly local statute about having uncontrolled animals in public spaces. They took him to their citadel, which is here. 

ALL: <general noises>

ROLLO: That's a pretty good map. Did you draw that? 

SERA: Hodge did. 

ROLLO: That's a nice map. 

HODGE: I have an artistic eye, you know. 

SERA: We don't know the general layout inside the citadel, but we believe they have Podge in a locked closet. There are no windows. 

HODGE: No books either!

ALL: <general noise of wonderment and apprehension>

SERA: I know. I know. This is why we had Jet carry a message back to Stuck Valley. We have to get him out of there. No otter should ever be locked away without books. 

HODGE: No otter should be locked away period!

SERA: Yes. Of course. 

GLOM-GLOM: Glom glom glom. 

HODGE: Thank you, my friend. I know we'll get him out. 

SERA: There is a metal unit on top of the citadel. Inside it is an access port that leads to tubes. We think that if we can get someone inside these tubes, they can get a rope to Podge, which will allow him to escape. 

TIBBS: How big are these tubes? 

SERA: About this wide. We think. 

TIBBS: Well, count me out. I haven't been that slender since I was a cub. 

PHFEIPHFER: I was never that slender. 

GLOM-GLOM: glom glom glom-glom.

SERA: No one is asking you to remove your antlers, Glom-Glom. We'll find a way. 

ROLLO: I'm too small. 

TIBBS: How can you be too small?

ROLLO: I couldn't possibly drag a heavy rope that far. 

TIBBS: Ah, good point. What about . . . ? 

HODGE: What? Oh now you want the "not-skinny" one's help. I see how it is.


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