Books to read this spring
The days are getting longer, which might make you think you should be spending more time outside, but just consider it more daylight hours to read. If you’re adventurous—and live in a cooperative climate—you can even take some of this month’s reading suggestions into the great outdoors.
Catriona McPherson (Midnight Ink, April 8)
McPherson is known for her historical mysteries featuring 1920s-era Dandy Gilver as well as her decidedly creepier standalones. This is one of the latter, set in and around a bookshop in Wigtown, Scotland. Lowell needs an assistant—his little business is getting out of hand. Jude, on the run from her old life in London, needs a place to stay and a distraction. Seems like a match made in literary heaven, except the town—and Lowell—are full of secrets. Some of them are of the walking, talking variety, like 19-year-old Eddy, who appears, pregnant from Ireland, claiming that Lowell is her father from a casual affair. Jude starts probing deeper into Wigtown’s history and it isn’t long before her questions start to have unpleasant consequences. Intricately layered and psychologically taut, this one might be a candidate to read in the daytime hours.
Melissa Ginsburg (Ecco, April 12)
In her fiction debut, poet Ginsburg brings readers to the seedier side of Houston, Texas, through the journey of Charlotte Ford, a young woman reeling from the news that her best friend has been murdered. Though she’s drifted away from Danielle Reeves in recent years after Danielle went to prison on a drug charge, Charlotte fondly remembers the girls’ high school years, before everything became about getting high. She and Danielle reconnected shortly before Danielle’s death, and it’s this feeling of unfinished business that drives Charlotte to immerse herself in Danielle’s new life, full of addicts and adult film stars, trying to find out what happened to her friend. It’s obvious that Charlotte, in her own way, is struggling as much as her friend, but Ginsburg paints a believably feisty woman whose guilt drives her to find answers, as detrimental as the search might be to her own well being.
Michael Robotham (Mulholland, April 12)
This tenth installment featuring Robotham’s indefatigable psychologist Joe O’Loughlin is one of the author’s more emotionally devastating works, and he’s not known for serving up happy tales. Joe is called to consult on the murders of a mother and daughter who’ve been killed in their home in the West Country. He’s not the only psychologist on the case, though. Milo “The Mindhunter” Coleman, one of Joe’s former students, is trampling over everything, giving brash predictions to the police and spilling privileged information to the press. He’s Joe’s opposite in every way. On the home front, Joe is shocked to learn that his former wife, Julianne, has been diagnosed with cancer and wants him to move back home for the summer to help care for their daughters, Charlie and Emma, while she undergoes treatment. In a perfect world, Joe would put the case aside and devote his full attention to his family. But as his ex-wife has noted in the past, he’s incapable of letting other people suffer if there’s a chance he can help. And as everyone but Joe may have predicted, the consequences are brutal. Robotham can, and does, write ingeniously clever crime stories but he’s also a keen observer of what makes a family, even one as fractured as Joe’s, tick.
Alex Segura (Polis, April 12)
In this sequel to Silent City, Miami journalist Pete Fernandez’s life doesn’t look great. He’s been fired from the Miami Times. His drinking is out of control and he splits his time between AA and helping out a friend at a used-book store. And to make matters worse, his ex-fiancée, Emily, is staying with him while she tries to sort things out with her waste–of-space husband, Rick. When a case comes along, it hits a little close to home: Emily’s friend Alice is missing and it looks like she’s the latest in a string of young women who’ve been snatched off the streets in Miami. It soon become clear that there’s a serial killer at work, one who sets his sights on Pete and Emily. Not the kind of new friend you want to make. Segura expertly mixes the darkest of noir tales in the grittiest of settings with one man’s search for personal and professional redemption.
Murder at the 42nd Street Library
Con Lehane (Thomas Dunne, April 26)
Lehane introduces readers to a new, wholly literary hero in this series opener featuring Manhattan librarian and reluctant amateur detective Raymond Ambler, who works, conveniently, in the crime fiction section. When someone shoots Dr. James Donnelly in the office of Harry Larkin, who runs the library’s Special Collections Division, Ray is the first one NYPD Detective Mike Cosgrove turns to for help. With his encyclopedic knowledge of the major players who could be involved in the murder, Ray, whose friendship with Mike stretches back years, seems like the perfect inside source. But as he starts sniffing around the case on his own and getting personally involved with a fellow librarian, it becomes more difficult to discern where his loyalties lie. It’s challenging to pull off a convincing amateur sleuth that readers would want to revisit, but Ray Ambler is definitely a welcome addition to the same cadre of fictional detective heroes he tends so carefully on his library shelves.