Books Not To Miss | Debuts and Picks of the Month, May 2022

These four books were selected by LJ reviewers and editors as titles of particular note in the May 2022 issue of the magazine. Along with all the starred reviews of the May issue, these are essential titles to know, buy, suggest, and read.

These four books were selected by LJ reviewers and editors as titles of particular note in the May 2022 issue of the magazine. Along with all the starred reviews of the May issue, these are essential titles to know, buy, suggest, and read.

Gentill, Sulari. The Woman in the Library. Poisoned Pen. Jun. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9781728261942. $26.99; pap. ISBN 9781464215872. $16.99. M 

 Writer Freddie Kincaid studies the people sharing her table at the Boston Public Library, naming them “Freud Girl,” “Heroic Chin,” and “Handsome Man.” They hear a scream and learn that a woman has been murdered—that’s when Freddie says one of them is a killer. The subsequent story is Freddie’s account of her growing friendship with those three, attacks on two of them, and the growing awareness that one is attacking the others. But Hannah Tignone, a best-selling Australian author, is actually writing the story of Freddie and her new friends. The story within a story alternates Hannah’s writing with letters written to her by a wannabe author, Leo, who suggests changes to Hannah’s plot and characters. Freddie’s account of trying to discover which of her new friends is a killer is an engrossing mystery. At the same time, Hannah’s communication from the FBI allows the reader a glimpse into the life of a writer with a fanatical correspondent. VERDICT Ned Kelly Award winner Gentill (Crossing the Lines) presents a complex, riveting story within a story. The fictional story of an author writing about another writer with messy, complicated friendships and suspicion is an innovative literary mystery.—Reviewed by Lesa Holstine 

Miro, J. M. Ordinary Monsters. Flatiron. (The Talents, Bk. 1). Jun. 2022. 672p. ISBN 9781250833662. $28.99. FANTASY

 DEBUT In Miro’s historical fantasy, set in 1880s London and Edinburgh, two children are hunted by a man made of smoke and learn to harness their mysterious powers. Sixteen-year-old Charlie Ovid was much abused in his native Mississippi, yet he is still physically unscathed because his body can heal in an instant, while eight-year-old orphan Marlowe can melt a person into a puddle of flesh. Charlie and Marlowe are recovered by a flinty female detective who sets them on a path to London and the Cairndale Institute, a haven for children with strange powers that also harbors deeper, darker secrets. As Charlie, Marlowe, and the others at the Institute discover the truth, they learn that monsters can hide in plain sight. Miro’s world may be too bleak for some readers, but the action and characters’ connections are lights in the dark. The plot tangles are confusing, but Miro’s skillful prose will lead readers through the maze. VERDICT This grim but poignant debut showcases a bleak Victorian England, engaging characters, and the desire to belong.—Reviewed by Kristi Chadwick

Murphy, Dwyer. An Honest Living. Viking. Jul. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780593489246. $26. M

DEBUT An impressive debut noir from the CrimeReads website’s editor in chief. In mid-2000s Brooklyn, a disillusioned lawyer gets by with any odd jobs thrown his way, including a quick $10,000 payday involving one Anna Reddick, who asks him to dig up some dirt on her much older husband Newton, a rare book dealer who she claims sold off valuable titles from the family collection, to fund their divorce. Easy enough, until the real Anna Reddick, a celebrated novelist, shows up on the lawyer’s doorstep looking for the man who slandered her husband. Who set him up, and where is Newton now? To answer those questions, the unnamed protagonist is drawn into a world of antiquarian booksellers, among other quintessential New York characters, as well as the world of the elusive, brilliant woman who’s spending more and more time at his apartment. VERDICT Murphy’s writing is smart, ruminative, and referential. His narrator knows he’s in a story that mirrors the plot of the film Chinatown, and though the mystery itself is light on twists, it’s all worth it for this lovingly rendered snapshot of an already-bygone city, with details reeking of authenticity, down to the last barstool.—Reviewed by Michael Pucci

Shupe, Joanna. The Bride Goes Rogue. Avon. (Fifth Avenue Rebels, Bk. 3). May 2022. 384p. ISBN 9780063045064. pap. $8.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE

 Shupe continues her excellent Gilded Age–set “Fifth Avenue Rebels” series with this sexy third installment (following The Lady Gets Lucky). After she discovers that the fiancé her father arranged for her has no intention to wed, the furious Katherine Delafield decides to embark on a scandalous affair at a masquerade—only to accidentally connect with her would-be groom, Preston Clarke. They carry on their steamy affair, but drama outside of the bedroom puts a wrench in their liaison. In addition to having an excellent central romance, Shupe’s novel features glimpses into the lives of previous series characters, particularly Preston’s business partner Kit and his new wife, Alice, from the second book in the series. This novel also nudges along the stories of the rebellious Nellie Young and the long-suffering Duke of Lockwood. While this book can be read as a stand-alone, the secondary characters are a delightful bonus for series readers. VERDICT Once again, Shupe delivers a sparkling, sexy romance in a well-crafted and entertaining historical setting, filling the book to the brim with vivid, appealing characters that readers can’t help but love.—Reviewed by Jenny Kobiela-Mondor

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