This is a good week to remind everyone that we live in a valley where there are all sorts of microclimates, and that many of the residents are not the children of Arctic explorers or the grandchildren of high altitude mountain climbers. Which is to say that snow and ice are strange atmospheric anomalies that cause all sorts of confusion. You can't see more than five feet ahead of you, you can't walk ten feet without sliding half of that distance, and the batteries in your smart devices drain in about thirty seconds flat. Thank goodness staying home and reading a good book is always a viable strategy.
However, if you need to duck indoors someplace to thaw out that icy layer that has collected on your shoulders, know that we have some new books to tease you with.
Boom. Look at this. James Patterson, right out of the gate. Oh, look. There's someone running on the cover, because you don't say to your audience THIS IS HOW WE'RE GOING TO DO 2020! just once. No, you make that proclamation at least twice! In fact, with this character looking over their shoulder, the implication is that YOU'RE ALREADY BEHIND! Read faster! Run harder! Go! Go! Go!
Oh, and the plot of Lost has something to do with crime syndicates in Florida and human trafficking, along with the occasional football analogy.
Speaking of Florida, Tim Dorsey has a new book out too. No one is running on this book, because, well, they're wearing an inner tube and they might be naked. Both of those things make running complicated, but we do appreciate them making the effort (much like we appreciate you braving the weather this week to visit the bookstore).
In Naked Came the Florida Man, Dorsey's long-time protagonist Serge A. Storms and his cohort-in-crime, Coleman, are touring cemeteries, including one that might be the last resting place of a world-famous television dolphin. Naturally, things go awry, especially when they begin to hear stories about a local bogeyman—Naked Florida Man!
Meanwhile, Ransom Riggs continues the American adventures of the peculiar children with The Conference of Birds. We wish we could tell you more than this, but apparently, "Ransom Riggs has a new book out" is all the marketing department of Dutton Books for Young Readers thinks we need to know.
Let's see if the cover gives us any more clues. There's a precocious child on the cover. She's got big ears, and she's talking to a ghost on a Spiritualist Phone, and there's a raven in the background. There. You know as much as we do. Plan accordingly.
And speaking of plans going awry, Scott Oden's epic A Gathering of Ravens finally hits paperback. There's been a lot of lovely press about A Gathering of Ravens, most of it filled with words like "sung like the bloody battle dirge of wide-eyed berserkers from the frozen mists that encircle the edges of the world" and "the sort of medieval fantasy that exhumes Tolkien, uses his skull as a topper for a war banner, and frightens even the hardiest of wolves with its warrior song." But we think it's a bit more of an emotional family drama than all that. Because, at the end of the day—and woe, but those days are short and filled with terror about the things that come in the night—Grimnir (the Corpse-Maker, the Life-Quencher, the Ice Cream Stealer, the Taker of Things That You Love, and about a dozen other names meant to instill fear in the locals) is misunderstood, and he really just wants—oh, what? Vengeance? A Dane slew his brother and all he wants vengeance?
Okay, so maybe not. Anyway, think Valhalla Rising meets The Last Kingdom as an elevator pitch, and you'll have an idea of what you're in for with A Gathering of Ravens.
And speaking of evocative pitches, Charlaine Harris is back with A Longer Fall, the second book in her Gunnie Rose series. This is weird western territory, with a radically changed American landscape. Lizbeth Rose is a gunslinger with an attitude, and she's been hired to transport cargo into Dixie. The train gets attacked, things blow up, Russian wizards show up (as they do), and Lizbeth finds herself caught between several warring factions, all of whom want whatever was in the mysterious crate that was on the train.
Harris is deft at character drama (just look at the Sookie Stackhouse series, for example), and she's demonstrating that she can write a propulsive thriller as well. Bonus points for the world-building and magic-slinging.
Delightfully, we have another book from the great Zora Neale Hurston. Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick is a new collection of stories from Ms. Hurston, and it includes eight previously uncollected stories that are part of her Harlem Renaissance series. Arranged in the order they were written, the stories of Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick chart Hurston's development as a writer, as well as the evolution of African American culture during the 20th century.
Meanwhile, Nick Petrie is back with the fifth Peter Ash novel. Petrie's books have been flying off the shelves around here, as this series is a great place to land after devouring all of Lee Child's Jack Reacher novels. In The Wild One, Peter Ash travels to Iceland in search of a missing woman's grandson. Naturally, things go awry for Ash as soon as he lands in Reykjavik (US Embassy wonks, a bad encounter with the locals, and a dogged local police chief), but all of this makes Ash dig in and do what he does best. Petrie is just hitting his stride with this series, and The Wild One definitely delivers.
Also, running dude on the cover. This really is a trend.
And speaking of writers hitting their stride, Maja Lunde is back this week with The End of the Ocean. Billed as the second book in her Climate Quartet (following 2017's phenomenal The History of Bees), The End of the Ocean is two disparate stories that eventually merge. In the first, a feisty Norwegian journalist and environmental activist gets tangled up in a local tycoon's efforts to ship ice to the Middle East. The second follows a young man and his daughter as they struggle to escape a drought that has been ravaging the European continent. Much like The History of Bees, these stories come together in a way that is deeply moving and emotionally satisfying.
And in case your stack wasn't tall enough this week, Jess Montgomery is also back with The Hollows, a sequel to last years The Widows, which was a fantastic early 20th century Appalachian murder mystery. This time out, newly elected Sheriff Lily Ross investigates the death of an elderly woman, who died in an old train tunnel. Complicating the mystery are reports of a ghostly figure haunting the train tracks. Like The Widows, The Hollows is a richly drawn historical mystery filled with a remarkable and memorable female cast.
Meanwhile, in the Your Dystopian Overlords Really Don't Care About You category we have Zed, a new book by Joanna Kavenna. In Zed, we've gotten ourselves into a totalitarian surveillance state (which, we know, is so last Thursday, in many ways), and this state is overseen by the Beetle Corporation, which is busy algorythming our lives into little boxes. Naturally, some wacky human person does something outside the nominal parameters of Beetle's algorythmic anticipatory prognostications, and then droids shoot the wrong people, followed by Skynet having a full-blown kernel panic. At which point, this cautionary tale picks up some dark humor and mordant wit on its headlong rush toward a techno-nexus of some kind. Sort of like The Terminator written by Terry Prachett.
Oh, and ha ha ha! This one came up in the list we use to check on what's coming out. Right. This officially comes out this week. We had sort of forgotten.
Anyway, unlike, say, the Ransom Riggs book, we know what this one is about. All we'll say is that if you have a secret hankering for a Pick The Way You Die (Horribly) sort of adventure story with multiple endings that has more than a whiff of Eldritch Horrors about it, well, you can confess that secret to us. We'll set you up.
If that description makes no sense to you, that's okay. You probably sleep just fine at night. But if you do worry about things that creep around in the dark, then perhaps you might be suitable for the Night Office. You just have to pass one of their entrance exams . . .
And finally, we have The Decent Inn of Death, which seems like a much more cozy place to visit than the Mansion of Madness. Set in the post-WWII English countryside, The Decent Inn of Death follows former Chief Inspector Angus Sinclair as he is drawn into the strange circumstances surrounding the death of beloved church organist Greta Hartmann. Greta, dear girl, has slipped and drowned in a shallow creek, and while her death is officially ruled an accident, an old friend refuses to believe such nonsense. "Greta always crossed that stream with care!" the friend cries. "She wasn't no willy-hilly hop-and-a-skipper." Retired Chief Inspector Sinclair is intrigued by this and starts to poke his nose into local affairs, and the case gets more interesting when rumors of Nazi war criminals start to surface . . .