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September 17, 2021

George Ernsberger
Posted 9/17/21

Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Custom House).

Intelligent, sophisticated first novel, that’s going to be hard to describe accurately without convincing you it’s a commonplace …

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September 17, 2021

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Fault Lines by Emily Itami (Custom House).

Intelligent, sophisticated first novel, that’s going to be hard to describe accurately without convincing you it’s a commonplace discontented-housewife lament. It’s beautifully written and deeply thoughtful, though that isn’t quickly apparent, either—the housewife, our narrator, Mizuki, presents at first as too compulsively witty to be seriously smart. It is to some extent a fish-out-of-water adventure; this housewife and mom has been places, done things—she has been a pop singer, in the USA, for one thing she’s done. It’s true that the adventurous parts of her life are in the past, now, but that was her choice, and though she has some nostalgia for them, we understand and believe that they strike her now as fine where they are, in her past. The story, now, is of a fully felt love affair, in very-well-off Tokyo, brilliantly evoked and made real without travel-guide details. Really, Itami’s a magician—well, no, that implies tricks; maybe say sorceror, instead.

Miss Kopp Investigates by Amy Stewart (Mariner).

This is the seventh novel in that historical series, so we know those sisters—and the investigating is becoming less dominant each time out, it seems. Investigating goes on, and crimes are involved and solved, but the central pleasure of these books has always been the sharp attention—no thumping it, but no looking away—on those women as characters (for one thing) and the places in the world that women that smart and inventive and self-confident could, and just couldn’t, expect to reach. The youngest, Fleurette, is central, here, for the first time in the series; she’s the prettiest of them, so the world will be even a little slower to realize how smart she is. It’s 1919, well after The Great War (remember the sisters . . . On the March?) and real change is being stirred up—and more is promised for the sisters in books to come. This continues to be a great place to go and people to live with for a while.

The Night She Disappeared by Lisa Jewell (Atria).

An A-list psychological / domestic suspense writer, surely about to pop up on bestseller lists (as always). Jewell is an ingenious enough plotter to satisfy the most demanding reader (and this new one is certainly ingenious and light-handed in managing two timelines) but is just as masterful at creating and then sustaining our belief in, and feelings for, every character we come to know.

The Last Guests by J. P. Pomare (Mulholland).

Psychological suspense novel of great ingenuity. A slightly complicated, likable young couple, the husband a rather deeply dented combat veteran, and both with secrets, list a house they own in a resort setting as a sort of air-bnb. But after a few nicely remunerative rentals, they discover tiny, high-tech surveillance cameras, installed all over that house—in every room. Which has ramifications even more sinister than the obvious ones.

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