Summer is all about sequels. The days are too hot and too long for a lot of heady thinking. We want lazy day reading: familiar characters, plots that aren't overly complicated, and destinations we've visited before.
For instance, here is The Cellist, the latest book in Daniel Silva's long-running series about Gabriel Allon, art restorer and super-spy. In this book—the twenty-first in the series—Allon must prove that the mysterious death of an old friend isn't an overt act of international assassination by a government agency but is, rather, the work of a private intelligence organization that seeks to sow discord and chaos by pitting governments against one another.
And speaking of sowing discord and chaos, James Patterson is zagging instead of zigging this week. His newest book is The Shadow. The cover exclaims "1st time in print!" and the tag line is "Crime has a new enemy." It's about a guy named Lamont Cranston who—wait a minute . . . How can this be a sequel?
Well . . . it's all in the name: Lamont Cranston. Keen-eyed readers will recall that Cranston's secret identity is The Shadow, and his adventures were all over the pulp magazines a hundred years ago. Patterson (and co-writer Brian Sitts) have done a whoopsie-dasie! and brought The Shadow into the future, where his ancient nemesis, Shere Khan—no, wait, that's the villain in Kipling's book—Cranston's arch-rival was Shiwan Khan, descendant of Genghis Khan and one of the proto mad villains intent on ruling the world. Anyway, Khan (the arch nemesis, not the tiger) also appears to have figured out how to jump forward a hundred years. The 21st century is in danger, and only the Man Who Knows can save us all.
And speaking of being saved, Grady Hendrix is back this week with The Final Girl Support Group, which is about the "final girls"—the women who have survived a horrible slasher film style assault. These girls have had their trauma immortalized in shlocky horror films, and each girl has dealt with her survival in her own way. Now, however, someone appears to be killing off the final girls, and Lynnette Tarkington—the most paranoid of the bunch—has to fight back one more, because this might be the sequel to end all sequels.
Hendrix has been killing it (sorry) over his last few books, and The Final Girl Support Group is both a love letter to a sub-genre of horror films and a biting social commentary. Much like in My Best Friend's Exorcism and The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires, The Final Girl Support Group is filled with all sorts of tropes you'd expect for the type of story it wants you to think it is, but Hendrix always has another trick up his sleeve. We're soooo looking forward to devouring this one.
And speaking of psychological twists, B. A. Paris returns with The Therapist, which is the story of Alice and Leo, a delightfully adorable couple who move into a posh new address in a gated cul-de-sac called The Circle. Oh god, yes. It's as creepy as it sounds. Naturally, things go awry with the very first dinner party that Alice throws. She learns that the previous occupant of the house was named Nina—which is the same name as her dead sister, by the way—and the person who has informed her of this factoid? Oh, he doesn't live in The Circle. In fact, he's got an ulterior motive with making contact with Alice. Everyone has secrets, you see, and this fellow needs Alice's help in digging up the past. Naturally, everyone starts acting like they've got a secret they want to protect . . .
And if that's not enough paranoia for you, here's Megan Miranda's Such a Quiet Place, which is about what happens when an accused killer's conviction is overturned and that individual returns to their community. Naturally, no one believes justice was served, and what happens when a small community starts to turn on itself? Oh, dearie. Things get much, much worse . . .
How about something a little lighter? Here's A Psalm for the Wild-Built, a Monk & Robot story by Becky Chambers. Once upon a time, the robots gained sentience, and upon doing so, they decided to separate from human society instead of participating in it. Now, an itinerant tea monk, who is still seeking an answer to their deeply existential question, has wandered into the wilderness, where they encounter one of the robots. This robot—named Mosscap—has been sent out to ask humanity yet another question: what do humans need? Lots of questions. Not many answers. But that's okay, because that is what life is all about, isn't it? We're delighted to have such a thoughtful and thought-provoking SF novel on the shelf. Enough with grim dystopians for awhile!
Meanwhile, Tj Klune's Flash Fire is here. The sequel to last years The Extraordinaries, Flash Fire follows Nicholas and Seth as they navigate young love, nefarious plots, pryokinetics, and attention deficit disorder. Superhero life is complicated, and in Klune's hands, these complications are delightfully grounded in the mundanity of interpersonal relationships. Quite delightful.
And speaking of delightful things, here's Amber Share's Subpar Parks: America's Most Extraordinary National Parks and Their Least Impressed Visitors. Because everyone is a critic, and because not every opinion is as well-thought out as it should be. Sure, Subpar Parks is filled with all sorts of fun factoids about our national parks, but come on, you know the ridiculous one-star reviews are the real draw.
Meanwhile, here's Chris McKinney's Midnight, Water City, a marvelous crime novel set in the 22nd century. Forty years after the planet has nearly been destroyed by a rogue asteroid, we're all living under the sea. Even underwater, crime never sleeps, and our nameless synaesethetic narrator must follow the clues to wherever they might lead. This one reminds us of both Philip K. Dick and Richard Morgan, in its re-imagining of the police procedural in a marvelously rendered futuristic landscape. Recommended.
And finally, for those who wonder if writers are as clever in their correspondence as they are in their fiction, we'd like to offer The Letters of Shirley Jackson. Scathing, catty, and heartbreaking in equal measure, this collection of Jackson's correspondence is a marvelous behind-the-scenes peek at how a writer's mind works. Endlessly entertaining.
And speaking of writers being catty, our Friday night Market on Main event continues this week with our very own Mark Teppo working the table out front. From 5 to 7pm on Friday, he'll be, uh, doing something entertaining and snarky with Blind Date Books. You should stop by and poke him. Not like that. More like the way you show up at the zoo and gawk at the penguins. And laugh at his dumb jokes. Otherwise, he'll be in a mood all weekend, and no one wants that.