Tuesday, December 7, 2021
Dec. 7, 2021

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Spooky reads to help kick off fall


Time for a new paperback? Here are six fresh-off-the-press possibilities; a little mystery-heavy (hey, it’s now fall), but something for everyone.

“Snow” by John Banville (Hanover Square Press, $16.99). For years, the Irish novelist Banville has written a series of crackling mystery novels under the name of Benjamin Black — but this whodunit, set in 1950s Ireland, is under his own name. (Banville recently told The New York Times that he’d killed off Black: “I shut him in a room with a pistol, a phial of sleeping pills and a bottle of scotch, and that was the end of him.”) By whatever name, “Snow” is a gripping, classic read. “Banville is one of the great stylists of fiction in English and ‘Snow’ allows the limpid cadences of his prose free rein,” wrote NYT reviewer William Boyd, calling the book, “An entertainment, perhaps, but a superbly rich and sophisticated one.”

“The Less Dead” by Denise Mina (Little, Brown, $16.99). The very prolific Mina, a Scot whose tough, witty crime fiction I’ve been gobbling for years returns with a stand-alone tale of a Glasgow doctor trying to solve her birth mother’s murder. In a starred review, Kirkus Reviews called it “a bold and bracing twist on the fallen-woman-as-victim story.”

“What Are You Going Through” by Sigrid Nunez (Penguin, $17). I was charmed, a few years back, by Nunez’s novel “The Friend,” about a woman mourning a death. Her new book was described by NPR’s Heller McAlpin as “a worthy follow-up — a companion piece, if you will — that considers the comforts and emotional risks of a different sort of companionship.” The book, which follows a woman helping a friend end her life, encompasses great sadness, but isn’t grim, McAlpin wrote, adding: “Nunez has written another deeply humane reminder of the great solace of both companionship and literature.”

“The Thursday Murder Club” by Richard Osman (Penguin, $17). I read this book during a particularly dark stretch of the pandemic last year, and it lightened my spirits considerably. Osman, a British quiz show host, sets his debut in a pastoral British retirement village, where four seniors team up to solve a crime. Sounds a bit twee, but it’s actually funny, clever and often unexpectedly poignant.

“The Divine Miss Marble: A Life of Tennis, Fame, and Mystery” by Robert Weintraub (Penguin, $18). For those in need of a biography, this one — of tennis great Alice Marble — sounds potentially diverting. A champion in the late ’30s, Marble had a fascinating life that also encompassed writing for DC Comics, hanging out with Hollywood stars, fighting for racial equity in the tennis world, and (just maybe) a stint as a spy in World War II. “It’s a dreamy, indomitable life worth reading about,” wrote Washington Post reviewer Liz Robbins.

“White Ivy” by Susie Yang (Simon & Schuster, $17). “Susie Yang’s wonderful debut novel, ‘White Ivy,’ is literary fiction rather than category romance, but the author uses romance the way Jonathan Lethem or Ling Ma use science fiction and horror: as inspiration, as a theme ripe for variation, as a counterpart to argue with and as a lover to court,” wrote Los Angeles Times reviewer Noah Berlatsky.