We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World). Reprint, a trade paperback, of last year's sensational first novel, somehow overlooked by this column until too late (when widespread rave …
We Cast a Shadow by Maurice Carlos Ruffin (One World). Reprint, a trade paperback, of last year's sensational first novel, somehow overlooked by this column until too late (when widespread rave reviews had already shown up). It's a near-future s-f novel, full of subtle, off-handedly brilliant inventions that we're halfway into the next paragraph before their originality fully stings us. This novel must sting not only white folks, although, surely, it especially enjoys stinging us—but not until after it has warmed us, some. You'll find yourself laughing even as you're weeping with this father quietly crazed in his determination to help his beloved almost-white son safely navigate this America that means to—not kill him, necessarily—the America of this future intends not to kill the smartest ones; but, something like lobotomize them. It's unforgiving, the novel is—much turns bad, not so much in the world (it's already bad enough) but in this family. Ruffin and his book are serious, at bottom, and there's no escaping the grip of this world—meaning, not only the world of this novel, but the one we remain in after we've read it.
Perfect Little Children by Sophie Hannah (Morrow). A suspense novel that's pretty near a horror novel, but for the fun of it, by a writer the column knows well and has recommended before, and that will show up on bestseller lists any week, now. The children are those of a former friend of the narrator—indeed, little children, that she hasn't seen in twelve years, and who haven't changed over those years. But…haven't changed, at all—haven't grown, haven't aged. Hannah is endlessly inventive, of course, and sustains suspense and provides surprises over the whole course of this book that you'll scarcely be able to put down.
The Poison Garden by Alex Marwood (Penguin). And a sort of theme insists on making itself felt in this column—this is a psychological suspense novel, not literary or explicitly political, and yet both unsettling and enlightening at real depth. It's fun to read, as suspense fiction is meant to be, creepy, credible, and satisfyingly resolved, but thought-provoking at real depth. Cults and those who are drawn to them and become not just inspired by, but something like drunk on, their beliefs aren't entertaining in real life, are they?
The Empty Bed by Nina Sadowsky (Ballantine). And (to end on a high note, cheering yet very smart) this “The Burial Society” thriller: the second of a series that the column has just woken up to. It should have more attention—maybe when number three arrives (it's already in work). But if you're interested in an unsupported but genuine recommendation: it's a complex, sophisticated action thriller by a woman who clearly knows the world she's taking us to (a lot in Hong Kong, in this one); and it's mostly women.
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