I received S. in the most appropriate way possible. A package left for me in my building lobby, no return address, appeared just as I was leaving for a week’s vacation. I scooped it up and fell headlong into its mystery before the plane had left the runway.
Topics like Dick Cheney’s Iraq-related effrontery and the kerfuffle about Supreme Court decisions come and go, but Donna Tartt’s The Goldfinch, published last November, has proven to be a durable fixture of dinner party conversations. The debate has been pretty clear-cut. On one side are those who think the nearly 800-page novel is way too long and undeserving of the Pulitzer Prize, let alone multimillion-dollar earnings. Then there are those of us who put the work in league with some of the more celebrated literary triumphs.
Sarah Lotz dabbles in many genres. She has written urban horror, mysteries, short stories, screenplays and pulp-fiction zombie thrillers with several collaborators, including her daughter. Lotz has also admitted she has a fondness for fake names. But for her latest novel, The Three, Lotz is the sole author writing under her own name, and the result is a mind-blowing book with more than a few breathtaking twists that will keep you guessing all the way to the final page.
Megan Abbott knows the emotional terrain of teen girls cold. Her novels The End of Everything and Dare Me (already optioned for a movie) examine the intricate lives, murky thoughts and questionable decision making of girls taking their first steps into a mature and sexual world. Abbott’s latest effort, The Fever, signals a change in scope, expanding her analysis of female angst to embrace the confusion, hysteria and sexual dynamics of not only the girls, but an entire family.
More than a quarter century has passed since Alan Furst published his first World War II–era spy thriller, Night Soldiers, and last month he came out with Midnight in Europe, the 13th title in what can only loosely be called a series. This works out to be about a book every two years, for me a biannual indulgence when deadlines and other commitments are set aside, the exercise regimen ignored and the wisdom of getting fresh air and eating full meals blissfully dismissed. Like the luxe repasts he describes—“layers of sliced potatoes and onions cooked slowly in creamy milk, and half a roast chicken from Brest, the best chicken in France”—each Furst novel is meant to be savored.
If Joshua Ferris, the 39-year-old author of the acclaimed novel Then We Came to the End, thought that reinventing himself with each book would earn him critical darlinghood (or even critical consistency), he may want to think again.