Lawrence Rungren

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Those We Thought We Knew

While the novel has several major characters, the fulcrum of the story is Det. Green, whose investigation forces her to confront the history and attitudes she has always conveniently ignored. The result is a powerful novel that pushes beyond Joy’s (When These Mountains Burn) rural noir to confront timely issues.

Be Mine: A Frank Bascombe Novel

While not the best of the four Bascombe novels (e.g., Let Me Be Frank with You), it is still a worthy conclusion to a series that ranks with Updike’s “Rabbit” novels for its incisive take on American life across several decades.

Gone to the Wolves

Wray deftly explores late adolescence with its roller-coaster intensity of friendship and the music that binds everything together, in this case heavy metal and its mythological fantasies, which here become all too darkly real.

A Broken People’s Playlist: Stories (from Songs)

Garricks’s Nigeria is a land broken by rapid change, and his characters have been broken psychologically and spiritually by it as well, living lives filled with longing and disappointment and seeking an ever-elusive redemption.

On the Savage Side

Narrated by the deceased Arc, McDaniel’s novel is by turns stark and poetic, a bleak and solemn elegy to lives that in another place and time might have been lived on the beautiful side. It’s also a tale of a nation unraveling, drowning in rivers of hopelessness and drug addiction.

Decent People

It’s built around a mystery, but this novel is more a deep literary exploration of the complex dynamics of race, class, and homophobia in the 1970s American South; it proves a worthy successor to Winslow’s acclaimed In West Mills.

The Deluge

This is a stunning achievement that may earn a place among dystopian and apocalyptic classics like 1984 and On the Beach. And perhaps most of all, it’s an unflinching and utterly compelling call to action to prevent an all-too-possible future.

The Bad Angel Brothers

As with any sibling rivalry, there are two sides to the story, and much of the tension hangs on whose perception is correct. Is Frank truly a villain, or is Cal an unreliable narrator whose perceptions are skewed by his experiences with Frank? Or are both statements true at once? A fraught psychological drama rich with mythic overtones.

The Lemon

Taking the death of Anthony Bourdain as a jumping-off point, this bitingly satiric tale examines the mix of greed and reverence that drives people who have something to gain or to protect. Boyd is the pen name of journalists Kevin Alexander and Joe Keohane and editor Alessandra Lusardi, publishing their first novel.

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