We’re back with another roundup of spring releases, this time with personal recommendations from the Simon & Schuster editors who worked on them! These industry insiders know their books best, so they do an expert job of getting to the heart of each story. They’re so convincing you won’t be able to resist!
When I started THE APPEAL, I simply couldn’t stop, inhaling nearly one hundred pages with my morning coffee. A new take on the epistolary novel—told entirely in emails, messages, and WhatsApp texts—this crime novel unfolds in ways you’ll never expect, leading you to suspect every character until its final breathless moments.
—Kaitlin O., Editor
Perfect for fans of Ruth Ware and Lisa Jewell, this “dazzlingly clever” (The Sunday Times) murder mystery follows a community rallying around a sick child—but when escalating lies lead to a dead body, everyone is a suspect.
The Fairway Players, a local theatre group, is in the midst of rehearsals when tragedy strikes the family of director Martin Hayward and his wife Helen, the play’s star. Their young granddaughter has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer, and with an experimental treatment costing a tremendous sum, their fellow castmates rally to raise the money to give her a chance at survival.
But not everybody is convinced of the experimental treatment’s efficacy—nor of the good intentions of those involved. As tension grows within the community, things come to a shocking head at the explosive dress rehearsal. The next day, a dead body is found, and soon, an arrest is made. In the run-up to the trial, two young lawyers sift through the material—emails, messages, letters—with a growing suspicion that a killer may be hiding in plain sight. The evidence is all there, between the lines, waiting to be uncovered.
A wholly modern take on the epistolary novel, The Appeal is a “daring…clever, and funny” (The Times) debut for fans of Richard Osman and Lucy Foley.
This novel is about well-meaning people behaving terribly; about what we’ll do for love—and what we’ll do to protect it; about the choices and sacrifices we make for our passions—artistic, romantic, or otherwise; and it all sparkles in elegant, atmospheric prose and cutting psychological insights. Not just a literary novel, not just a thriller, this book is a thrilling literary adventure.
—Zachary K., Associate Editor
A psychologically suspenseful, cunning love story following a young dancer unable to recall the last year of her life after suffering a head injury on her honeymoon, revealing an intimate portrait of love’s powers—as well as its dangers.
The year is 1996—a time before cell phones, status updates, and location tags—when you could still travel to a remote corner of the world and disappear, if you chose to do so. This is where we meet Gina Reinhold and Duncan Lowy, a young artistic couple madly in love, traveling around Europe on a romantic adventure. It’s a time both thrilling and dizzying for Gina, whose memories are hazy following a head injury—and the growing sense that the man at her side, her one companion on this strange continent, is keeping secrets from her.
Just what is Duncan hiding and how far will he go to keep their pasts at bay? As the pair hop borders across Europe, their former lives threatening to catch up with them while the truth grows more elusive, we witness how love can lead us astray, and what it means to lose oneself in love... The End of Getting Lost is “atmospheric, lyrical, and filled with layered insights into the complexities of marriage” (Susie Yang, New York Times bestselling author of White Ivy). “Kirman is wonderfully deft with suspense and plot” (Katie Crouch, New York Times bestselling author of Girls in Trucks) in this “electric page-turner” (Courtney Maum, author of Costalegre and Touch), a novel that is both a tightrope act of deception as much as it is an elegant exploration of love and marriage, and our cherished illusions of both. With notes of Patricia Highsmith, Caroline Kepnes, and Lauren Groff, Robin Kirman has spun a delicious tale of deceit, redemption, and the fight to keep love alive—no matter the costs.
I don’t normally consider myself a fan or horror novels, but I devoured Jennifer McMahon’s new novel, THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL, because it dives deep into themes that are close to my heart: the deep, lifelong connection between siblings; the difficult task of facing one’s own demons; the tragic fallout of too much ambition; the danger of playing God. Beyond the terror that McMahon mines to such extraordinary effect in her novels is the human element that makes her work so compelling, and that will launch THE CHILDREN ON THE HILL onto the list of must-read fiction.
—Jackie C., Senior Editor
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Drowning Kind comes a genre-defying new novel, inspired by Mary Shelley’s masterpiece Frankenstein, that brilliantly explores the eerie mysteries of childhood and the evils perpetrated by the monsters among us.
1978: At her renowned treatment center in picturesque Vermont, the brilliant psychiatrist, Dr. Helen Hildreth, is acclaimed for her compassionate work with the mentally ill. But when she’s home with her cherished grandchildren, Vi and Eric, she’s just Gran—teaching them how to take care of their pets, preparing them home-cooked meals, providing them with care and attention and love.
Then one day Gran brings home a child to stay with the family. Iris—silent, hollow-eyed, skittish, and feral—does not behave like a normal girl.
Still, Violet is thrilled to have a new playmate. She and Eric invite Iris to join their Monster Club, where they catalogue all kinds of monsters and dream up ways to defeat them. Before long, Iris begins to come out of her shell. She and Vi and Eric do everything together: ride their bicycles, go to the drive-in, meet at their clubhouse in secret to hunt monsters. Because, as Vi explains, monsters are everywhere.
2019: Lizzy Shelley, the host of the popular podcast Monsters Among Us, is traveling to Vermont, where a young girl has been abducted, and a monster sighting has the town in an uproar. She’s determined to hunt it down, because Lizzy knows better than anyone that monsters are real—and one of them is her very own sister.
A haunting, vividly suspenseful page-turner from the “literary descendant of Shirley Jackson” (Chris Bohjalian, author of The Flight Attendant), The Children on the Hill takes us on a breathless journey to face the primal fears that lurk within us all.
This is Anna Pitoniak’s third novel, and I’m thrilled to say that OUR AMERICAN FRIEND is her best book yet. While on its face, OUR AMERICAN FRIEND is a very different book from her first two novels, which were coming-of-age stories set in the worlds of finance and broadcast news, respectively, all three of her novels are about characters who are thrust into high-stakes situations—and how they choose to relate to one another within those circumstances. Who, or what, are they loyal to? Who do they choose to betray, when and why do they decide to lie? How does ambition factor in? How does love?
OUR AMERICAN FRIEND explores all of these themes, but in the propulsive package of a feminist spy thriller, a story of an unlikely friendship—and a subsequent betrayal—and a star-crossed romance that moved me to tears.
—Carina G., Senior Editor
A mysterious first lady.
The intrepid journalist writing her biography.
And the secret that could destroy them both.
Tired of covering the grating dysfunction of Washington and the increasingly outrageous antics of President Henry Caine, White House correspondent Sofie Morse quits her job and plans to leave politics behind. But when she gets a call from the office of First Lady Lara Caine, asking Sofie to come in for a private meeting with Lara, her curiosity is piqued. Sofie, like the rest of the world, knows little about Lara—only that Lara was born in Soviet Russia, raised in Paris, and worked as a model before moving to America and marrying the notoriously brash future president.
When Lara asks Sofie to write her official biography, and to finally fill in the gaps of her history, Sofie’s curiosity gets the better of her. She begins to spend more and more time in the White House, slowly developing a bond with Lara—and eventually a deep and surprising friendship with her.
Even more surprising to Sofie is the fact that Lara is entirely candid about her mysterious past. The First Lady doesn’t hesitate to speak about her beloved father’s work as an undercover KGB officer in Paris—and how he wasn’t the only person in her family working undercover during the Cold War.
As Lara’s story unfolds, Sofie can’t help but wonder why Lara is rehashing such sensitive information. Why to her? And why now? Suddenly Sofie is in the middle of a game of cat and mouse that could have explosive ramifications.
For fans of The Secrets We Kept and American Wife, Our American Friend is a propulsive Cold War-era spy thriller crossed with a fictional biography of a First Lady. Spanning from the 1970s to the present day, traveling from Moscow and Paris to Washington and New York, Anna Pitoniak’s novel is a gripping page-turner—and a devastating love story—about power and complicity and how sometimes, the fate of the world is in the hands of the people you’d never expect.
I could not put down this sweet, charming, earnest, and hilarious debut novel—except for my copious laugh breaks. The optimistic and hapless duo of Signor Speranza and his assistant Smilzo are the very definition of ‘quixotic.’ After a year of dark times, this novel is a ray of sunshine.
—Kaitlin O., Editor
The self-appointed mayor of a tiny Italian village is determined to save his hometown no matter the cost in this charming, hilarious, and heartwarming debut novel.
Vacuum repairman and self-appointed mayor of Prometto, Italy (population 212) Signor Speranza has a problem: unless he can come up with 70,000 euros to fix the town’s pipes, the water commission will shut off the water to the village and all its residents will be forced to disperse. So in a bid to boost tourism—and revenue—he spreads a harmless rumor that movie star Dante Rinaldi will be filming his next project nearby.
Unfortunately, the plan works a little too well, and soon everyone in town wants to be a part of the fictional film—the village butcher will throw in some money if Speranza can find roles for his fifteen enormous sons, Speranza’s wistfully adrift daughter reveals an unexpected interest in stage makeup, and his hapless assistant Smilzo volunteers a screenplay that’s not so secretly based on his undying love for the film’s leading lady. To his surprise—and considerable consternation, Speranza realizes that the only way to keep up the ruse is to make the movie for real.
As the entire town becomes involved (even the village priest invests!) Signor Speranza starts to think he might be able to pull this off. But what happens when Dante Rinaldi doesn’t show up? Or worse, what if he does?
A “hilariously funny and beautifully written” (Julia Claiborne Johnson, author of Better Luck Next Time) novel about the power of community, The Patron Saint of Second Chances is perfect for fans of Fredrik Backman and Maria Semple.
I swear, whether you have no time or less than no time, you will find time for this one. I fell hook, line, and sinker for Feyi, a gorgeous, young, talented artist living in New York City, who is just starting to go to parties again, and date, five years after losing her husband in terrible accident. The writing in this novel is as polished, as powerful, as perfect, and as vividly alive as it comes. Honest-to-God, it is just so good and so, so fun to read. I can’t wait to hear what you think.
—Lindsay S., VP, Editorial Director
A New York Times bestselling author, National Book Award finalist, and “one of our greatest living writers” (Shondaland) reimagines the love story in this fresh and seductive novel about a young woman seeking joy while healing from loss.
Feyi Adekola wants to learn how to be alive again.
It’s been five years since the accident that killed the love of her life and she’s almost a new person now—an artist with her own studio, and sharing a brownstone apartment with her ride-or-die best friend, Joy, who insists it’s time for Feyi to ease back into the dating scene. Feyi isn’t ready for anything serious, but a steamy encounter at a rooftop party cascades into a whirlwind summer she could have never imagined: a luxury trip to a tropical island, decadent meals in the glamorous home of a celebrity chef, and a major curator who wants to launch her art career.
She’s even started dating the perfect guy, but their new relationship might be sabotaged before it has a chance by the dangerous thrill Feyi feels every time she locks eyes with the one person in the house who is most definitely off-limits. This new life she asked for just got a lot more complicated, and Feyi must begin her search for real answers. Who is she ready to become? Can she release her past and honor her grief while still embracing her future? And, of course, there’s the biggest question of all—how far is she willing to go for a second chance at love?
Akwaeke Emezi’s vivid and passionate writing takes us deep into a world of possibility and healing, and the constant bravery of choosing love against all odds.
END OF THE WORLD HOUSE showcases the wonderful weirdness of Adrienne Celt’s brain. Her new novel is a trippy, time-and-space altering book that’s a bit LEAVE THE WORLD BEHIND, a bit SEVERANCE, a bit Groundhog Day. Reading it feels, in my opinion at least, a little like what being on mushrooms in a museum might feel like—fun, illuminating, mind-opening, shocking, and just a little bit scary. Needless to say, Adrienne’s way of thinking and of seeing the world is completely singular, and I loved having this portal into her brain.
—Carina G., Senior Editor
Groundhog Day meets Ling Ma’s Severance in End of the World House, a thought-provoking comedic novel about two young women trying to save their friendship as the world collapses around them.
Bertie and Kate have been best friends since high school. Bertie is a semi-failed cartoonist, working for a prominent Silicon Valley tech firm. Her job depresses her, but not as much as the fact that Kate has recently decided to move from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
When Bertie’s attempts to make Kate stay fail, she suggests the next-best thing: a trip to Paris that will hopefully distract the duo from their upcoming separation. The vacation is also a sort of last hurrah, coming during a ceasefire in a series of escalating world conflicts.
One night in Paris, they meet a strange man in a bar who offers them a private tour of the Louvre. The women find themselves alone in the museum, where nothing is quite as it seems. Caught up in a day that keeps repeating itself, Bertie and Kate are eventually separated, and Bertie is faced with a mystery that threatens to derail everything. In order to make her way back to Kate, Bertie has to figure out how much control she has over her future—and her past—and how to survive an apocalypse when the world keeps refusing to end.
I binge-watched the Netflix series The Haunting of Hill House. I was soon hungry for a replacement, a novel that would delicately balance bone-chilling terror and deep sadness. Jennifer Fawcett’s debut BENEATH THE STAIRS landed in my inbox at the right moment—and it wasn’t a replacement. It’s undoubtedly unique, an atmospheric and elegantly constructed novel about a woman’s descent into the heartland of mourning and guilt. Blending the best of horror, mystery, and suspense as we move through past and present storylines, this book will haunt you in more ways than one.
—Loan L., Editor
“An enthralling debut by a gifted storyteller!” —Wendy Walker, author of Don’t Look for Me
In this spine-tingling, atmospheric debut for fans of Jennifer McMahon, Simone St. James, and Chris Bohjalian, a woman returns to her hometown after her childhood friend attempts suicide at a local haunted house—the same place where a traumatic incident shattered their lives twenty years ago.
Few in sleepy Sumner’s Mills have stumbled across the Octagon House hidden deep in the woods. Even fewer are brave enough to trespass. A man had killed his wife and two young daughters there, a shocking, gruesome crime that the sleepy upstate New York town tried to bury. One summer night, an emboldened fourteen-year-old Clare and her best friend, Abby, ventured into the Octagon House. Clare came out, but a piece of Abby never did.
Twenty years later, an adult Clare receives word that Abby has attempted suicide at the Octagon House and now lies in a coma. With little to lose and still grieving after a personal tragedy, Clare returns to her roots to uncover the darkness responsible for Abby’s accident.
An eerie page-turner, Beneath the Stairs is about the trauma that follows us from childhood to adulthood and returning to the beginning to reach the end.
I’ve been a Tara Isabella Burton obsessive ever since I read her debut novel, SOCIAL CREATURE and pretty much stalked her agent for her next novel for years after. Tara is one of the best chroniclers of obsession I’ve read. And not just the typical ‘obsessive female friendship’ or ‘obsessive relationship’ type of obsession we see in lots of psychological suspense—she writes about Obsession with a capital O. Obsession to the point of destruction, and what it means when someone becomes consumed by faith—or fanaticism.
THE WORLD CANNOT GIVE explores religious fervor and obsession in the same way Emma Cline got into the inner workings of cult mentality in THE GIRLS. And Tara is the perfect person to write this book, as she’s both a novelist and a scholar of religion. In fact, she’s written two nonfiction books about religion and religious cults and was Vox’s religion reporter for years.”
—Carina G., Senior Editor
The Girls meets Fight Club in this coming-of-age novel about queer desire, religious zealotry, and the hunger for transcendence among the devoted members of a cultic chapel choir in a prestigious Maine boarding school—and the obsessively ambitious, terrifyingly charismatic girl that rules over them.
When shy, sensitive Laura Stearns arrives at St. Dunstan’s Academy in Maine, she dreams that life there will echo her favorite novel, All Before Them, the sole surviving piece of writing by Byronic “prep school prophet” (and St. Dunstan’s alum) Sebastian Webster, who died at nineteen, fighting in the Spanish Civil War. She soon finds the intensity she is looking for among the insular, Webster-worshipping members of the school’s chapel choir, which is presided over by the charismatic, neurotic, overachiever Virginia Strauss. Virginia is as fanatical about her newfound Christian faith as she is about the miles she runs every morning before dawn. She expects nothing short of perfection from herself—and from the members of the choir.
Virginia inducts the besotted Laura into a world of transcendent music and arcane ritual, illicit cliff-diving and midnight crypt visits: a world that, like Webster’s novels, finally seems to Laura to be full of meaning. But when a new school chaplain challenges Virginia’s hold on the “family” she has created, and Virginia’s efforts to wield her power become increasingly dangerous, Laura must decide how far she will let her devotion to Virginia go.
The World Cannot Give is a shocking meditation on the power, and danger, of wanting more from the world.
Photo credit: iStock / mario_brioschi