New year, new roundup of editors recommendations! In this edition, our editors advocate for some soon-to-be book club favorites, an outside-of-the-box brilliant mystery, and a wholly new type of terrifying horror novel (you’ve been warned). With a seal of approval from the publishing’s top editors, these new releases are guaranteed to hook you this spring.
“THE TWYFORD CODE is one of the most original and clever books I’ve ever read, with a story that had me racing to grab a notepad in its final pages. Because it’s not just a brilliant mystery, told in the inventive format of voice memo transcriptions. There are really two stories unwinding in almost parallel fashion here, and when they finally intersect, the result is a moving portrait of love in its many forms. No one else is writing like Janice Hallett, and the execution of this book proves why: no one else could pull it off.” —Kaitlin O., Editor, on The Twyford Code
The mysterious connection between a teacher’s disappearance and an unsolved code in a children’s book is explored in this fresh novel from the author of the “clever and often wryly funny” (PopSugar) novel The Appeal.
Forty years ago, Steven “Smithy” Smith found a copy of a famous children’s book by disgraced author Edith Twyford, its margins full of strange markings and annotations. When he showed it to his remedial English teacher Miss Iles, she believed that it was part of a secret code that ran through all of Twyford’s novels. And when she disappeared on a class field trip, Smithy became convinced that she had been right.
Now, out of prison after a long stretch, Smithy decides to investigate the mystery that has haunted him for decades. In a series of voice recordings on an old iPhone from his estranged son, Smithy alternates between visiting the people of his childhood and looking back on the events that later landed him in prison.
But it soon becomes clear that Edith Twyford wasn’t just a writer of forgotten children’s stories. The Twyford Code holds a great secret, and Smithy may just have the key.
“A modern Agatha Christie” (The Sunday Times, London), Janice Hallett has constructed a fiendishly clever, maddeningly original crime novel for lovers of word games, puzzles, and stories of redemption.
“Like Rachel Beanland’s debut novel, FLORENCE ADLER SWIMS FOREVER, THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE is thought-provoking book club fiction at its finest. It’s a propulsive, pulse-pounding exploration of how people reveal their true natures during tragedies, as well as a deeply feminist novel that exposes the irony that during a time when male chivalry was seen to be of the utmost importance, that chivalry was not apparent in the midst of the inferno, when men escaped the theater at much higher rates than women. And Rachel isn’t making this up! In fact, the details of the fire, as well as many of the characters at the heart of the novel, are based on fact and on real people Rachel uncovered during her extensive historical research. Although the fire was the deadliest in this country’s history at the time, it has never been the subject of a novel. Ultimately, what I love most about this book is that it is a novel of moral suspense. Rachel is so good at taking vivid, complicated characters and placing them into incredibly difficult situations and seeing how they act. Do they betray their stated ideals? Do they act on them? Rachel is one of the best novelists writing book club fiction about characters making morally complicated, difficult decisions, and her powers are on the utmost display in THE HOUSE IS ON FIRE.” —Carina G., Senior Editor, on The House Is on Fire
The author of Florence Adler Swims Forever returns with a masterful work of historical fiction about an incendiary tragedy that shocked a young nation and tore apart a community in a single night—told from the perspectives of four people whose actions during the inferno changed the course of history.
Richmond, Virginia 1811. It’s the height of the winter social season, the General Assembly is in session, and many of Virginia’s gentleman planters, along with their wives and children, have made the long and arduous journey to the capital in hopes of whiling away the darkest days of the year. At the city’s only theater, the Charleston-based Placide & Green Company puts on two plays a night to meet the demand of a populace that’s done looking for enlightenment at the front of a church.
On the night after Christmas, the theater is packed with more than six hundred holiday revelers. In the third-floor boxes, sits newly-widowed Sally Henry Campbell, who is glad for any opportunity to relive the happy times she shared with her husband. One floor away, in the colored gallery, Cecily Patterson doesn’t give a whit about the play but is grateful for a four-hour reprieve from a life that has recently gone from bad to worse. Backstage, young stagehand Jack Gibson hopes that, if he can impress the theater’s managers, he’ll be offered a permanent job with the company. And on the other side of town, blacksmith Gilbert Hunt dreams of one day being able to bring his wife to the theater, but he’ll have to buy her freedom first.
When the theater goes up in flames in the middle of the performance, Sally, Cecily, Jack, and Gilbert make a series of split-second decisions that will not only affect their own lives but those of countless others. And in the days following the fire, as news of the disaster spreads across the United States, the paths of these four people will become forever intertwined.
Based on the true story of Richmond’s theater fire, The House Is on Fire offers proof that sometimes, in the midst of great tragedy, we are offered our most precious—and fleeting—chances at redemption.
“Smith is one of those novelists whose imagination feels supercharged as it builds speculative and threatening worlds, in this case an Antarctic colony of global apocalypse survivors seeking to reinvent civilization. This is a Mad Max landscape set at the bottom of the globe, where the urgent need to develop ‘cold people’—genetically engineered beings who can cope with dramatic temperatures well below freezing—has led to strange and sentient creatures who cannot be controlled by their creators. It’s all totally creepy and fascinating. Smith’s prose is crystalline and elegant, even as he draws us rapidly to the book’s climax. We may not want to be in this world, but we do want to know what happens in it.” —Colin Harrison, VP, Editor-in-Chief, on Cold People
From the brilliant, bestselling author of Child 44 comes a suspenseful and fast-paced novel about an Antarctic colony of global apocalypse survivors seeking to reinvent civilization under the most extreme conditions imaginable.
The world has fallen. Without warning, a mysterious and omnipotent force has claimed the planet for their own. There are no negotiations, no demands, no reasons given for their actions. All they have is a message: humanity has thirty days to reach the one place on Earth where they will be allowed to exist…Antarctica.
Cold People follows the perilous journeys of a handful of those who endure the frantic exodus to the most extreme environment on the planet. But their goal is not merely to survive the present. Because as they cling to life on the ice, the remnants of their past swept away, they must also confront the urgent challenge: can they change and evolve rapidly enough to ensure humanity’s future? Can they build a new society in the sub-zero cold?
Original and imaginative, as profoundly intimate as it is grand in scope, Cold People is a masterful and unforgettable epic.
“THE HOUSE OF EVE is the perfect book club read. Its immersive setting and propulsive plot will transport readers to 1950s DC and Philadelphia, all while effortlessly tackling issues of race, colorism within the Black community, and class. It’s also an epic love story about people transcending race and class in the name of love. We also fell hard for the story behind the novel; this is a personal story for Sadeqa, whose grandmother became pregnant with Sadeqa’s mother at fourteen. This led Sadeqa to wonder: why, in all of her research on homes for unwed mothers—of which there were many in the US during this time period—had she never heard about a place for Black girls like her grandmother? Eventually, she stumbled upon the Florence Crittendon Home for Girls, which served as the basis of Ruby’s story. We love that this is a transporting historical novel grounded in deep research, and one with a personal family hook for the author.” —Carina G., Senior Editor, on The House of Eve
From the award-winning author of Yellow Wife, a daring and redemptive novel set in 1950s Philadelphia and Washington, DC, that explores what it means to be a woman and a mother, and how much one is willing to sacrifice to achieve her greatest goal.
1950s Philadelphia: fifteen-year-old Ruby Pearsall is on track to becoming the first in her family to attend college, in spite of having a mother more interested in keeping a man than raising a daughter. But a taboo love affair threatens to pull her back down into the poverty and desperation that has been passed on to her like a birthright.
Eleanor Quarles arrives in Washington, DC, with ambition and secrets. When she meets the handsome William Pride at Howard University, they fall madly in love. But William hails from one of DC’s elite wealthy Black families, and his parents don’t let just anyone into their fold. Eleanor hopes that a baby will make her finally feel at home in William’s family and grant her the life she’s been searching for. But having a baby—and fitting in—is easier said than done.
With their stories colliding in the most unexpected of ways, Ruby and Eleanor will both make decisions that shape the trajectory of their lives.
“DELICIOUS MONSTERS is one of those rare books that transcends its own genre. It’s a horror story showing that the worst kind of horror—the kind that takes root in your soul—is not ghosts, nor demons, but instead it’s the terrible things humans can do to each other. Yet at its heart, this book is deeply hopeful. There is hope in acknowledging trauma. There is hope in being kind to yourself even on the days it’s hardest. And there is hope in falling in front of those you love and trusting them to catch you. This book leaves me with chills. It’s kept me up at night—and not because of the horror, but because of the beautiful truths within it.”—Sarah M., Senior Editor, on Delicious Monsters
The Haunting of Hill House meets Sadie in this evocative and mind-bending psychological thriller following two teen girls navigating the treacherous past of a mysterious mansion ten years apart.
Daisy sees dead people—something impossible to forget in bustling, ghost-packed Toronto. She usually manages to deal with her unwanted ability, but she’s completely unprepared to be dumped by her boyfriend. So when her mother inherits a secluded mansion in northern Ontario where she spent her childhood summers, Daisy jumps at the chance to escape. But the house is nothing like Daisy expects, and she begins to realize that her experience with the supernatural might be no match for her mother’s secrets, nor what lurks within these walls…
A decade later, Brittney is desperate to get out from under the thumb of her abusive mother, a bestselling author who claims her stay at “Miracle Mansion” allowed her to see the error of her ways. But Brittney knows that’s nothing but a sham. She decides the new season of her popular Haunted web series will uncover what happened to a young Black girl in the mansion ten years prior and finally expose her mother’s lies. But as she gets more wrapped up in the investigation, she’ll have to decide: if she can only bring one story to light, which one matters most—Daisy’s or her own?
As Brittney investigates the mansion in the present, Daisy’s story runs parallel in the past, both timelines propelling the girls to face the most dangerous monsters of all: those that hide in plain sight.
“This is possibly the most amazing self-emancipation story in American history. I am amazed that I had never come across it before and that it is not widely known. I hope this book will change that fact. The story Ilyon Woo tells is dramatic and suspenseful. It speeds along like a locomotive. The two key characters, Ellen and William, are impossible not to admire for their ingenuity and courage. This book has to become a classic in the literature of slavery.” —Bob B., VP, Executive Editor, on Master Slave Husband Wife
The remarkable true story of Ellen and William Craft, who escaped slavery through daring, determination, and disguise, with Ellen passing as a wealthy, disabled White man and William posing as “his” slave.
In 1848, a year of international democratic revolt, a young, enslaved couple, Ellen and William Craft, achieved one of the boldest feats of self-emancipation in American history. Posing as master and slave, while sustained by their love as husband and wife, they made their escape together across more than 1,000 miles, riding out in the open on steamboats, carriages, and trains that took them from bondage in Georgia to the free states of the North.
Along the way, they dodged slave traders, military officers, and even friends of their enslavers, who might have revealed their true identities. The tale of their adventure soon made them celebrities, and generated headlines around the country. Americans could not get enough of this charismatic young couple, who traveled another 1,000 miles criss-crossing New England, drawing thunderous applause as they spoke alongside some of the greatest abolitionist luminaries of the day—among them Frederick Douglass and William Wells Brown.
But even then, they were not out of danger. With the passage of an infamous new Fugitive Slave Act in 1850, all Americans became accountable for returning refugees like the Crafts to slavery. Then yet another adventure began, as slave hunters came up from Georgia, forcing the Crafts to flee once again—this time from the United States, their lives and thousands more on the line and the stakes never higher.
With three epic journeys compressed into one monumental bid for freedom, Master Slave Husband Wife is an American love story—one that would challenge the nation’s core precepts of life, liberty, and justice for all—one that challenges us even now.
“If you, like me, spent the pandemic in a haze of TV reunion shows and rom-coms, then THE REUNION is the perfect pick for you. It’s both a sweeping story of a second chance, friends-to-lovers romance and a thoughtful look at the pitfalls of fame. I couldn’t get enough of Liv and Ransom’s off-screen chemistry and the interstitials that provide color commentary on the cast, crew, and show. By the end of the novel, I was logging into Netflix to see if I could binge Girl on the Verge—but for now the book will do.” —Kaitlin O., Editor, on The Reunion
When two former teen stars reconnect at the reunion for their hit TV show, they discover their feelings for one another were not merely scripted in this charming and heartwarming novel perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Sally Thorne.
Liv Latimer grew up on TV.
As the star of the popular teen drama Girl on the Verge, Liv spent her adolescence on the screen trying to be as picture perfect as her character in real life. But after the death of her father and the betrayal of her on-screen love interest and off-screen best friend Ransom Joel, Liv wanted nothing more than to retreat, living a mostly normal life aside from a few indie film roles. But now, twenty years after the show’s premiere, the cast is invited back for a reunion special, financed by a major streaming service.
Liv is happy to be back on set, especially once she discovers Ransom has only improved with age. And their chemistry is certainly still intact. They quickly fall into their old rhythms, rediscovering what had drawn them together decades before. But with new rivalries among the cast emerging and the specter of a reboot shadowing their shoot, Liv questions whether returning to the past is what she needs to finally get her own happy ending.
“Dr. Ricardo Nuila has given us a character-driven, intimate story about the Harris Health System and Ben Taub Hospital, in Houston, Texas, and those the hospital serves. Through patient stories—patients who are un- or underinsured—readers learn how we got to this point, in which we deny access to care to over 26 million Americans. Nuila follows five patients, at moments of acute medical crisis, as they try to save their own lives without the golden ticket of health insurance. One of the few places that’s possible: a public, safety-net hospital like Ben Taub. Readers will be moved and angered and inspired by this compassionate and graceful book—and will question the current state of affairs, whether insured or uninsured.”—Kathy B., VP, Editorial Director, on The People’s Hospital
Where does one go without health insurance, when turned away by hospitals, clinics, and doctors? In The People’s Hospital, physician Ricardo Nuila’s stunning debut, we follow the lives of five uninsured Houstonians as their struggle for survival leads them to a hospital where insurance comes second to genuine care.
First, we meet Stephen, the restaurant franchise manager who signed up for his company’s lowest priced plan, only to find himself facing insurmountable costs after a cancer diagnosis. Then Christian—a young college student and retail worker who can’t seem to get an accurate diagnosis, let alone treatment, for his debilitating knee pain. Geronimo, thirty-six years old, has liver failure, but his meager disability check disqualifies him for Medicaid—and puts a life-saving transplant just out of reach. Roxana, who’s lived in the community without a visa for more than two decades, suffers from complications related to her cancer treatment. And finally, there’s Ebonie, a young mother whose high-risk pregnancy endangers her life. Whether due to immigration status, income, or the vagaries of state Medicaid law, all five are denied access to care. For all five, this exclusion could prove life-threatening.
Each patient eventually lands at Ben Taub, the county hospital where Dr. Nuila has worked for over a decade. Nuila delves with empathy into the experiences of his patients, braiding their dramas into a singular narrative that contradicts the established idea that the only way to receive good healthcare is with good insurance. As readers follow the movingly rendered twists and turns in each patient’s story, it’s impossible to deny that our system is broken—and that Ben Taub’s innovative model, which emphasizes people over payments, could help light the path forward.
“Kieran Scott’s dead-on take of suburban malice within the queen-bee ranks of a school’s parent association will make mothers everywhere wince—and laugh—in recognition, and her twisty plot, encompassing embezzlement, adultery, and murder, will keep readers turning pages.” —Jackie C., Senior Editor, on Regrets Only
In a fast-paced new novel in the vein of Big Little Lies, a single mom goes undercover to investigate a host of disturbing secrets held by the leaders of a local suburban parent-school association, including embezzlement, bribery, adultery, and murder—by the bestselling author of Wish You Were Gone.
Paige Lancaster, single mom and prodigal daughter, has returned to the East Coast from her prestigious, well-paid job in Los Angeles, writing for the smartest detective series on television. Something terrible happened to her back in Hollywood. Okay, two terrible things, one featuring a misplaced tire iron—and now she’s broke, homeless, and living with her widowed mother and eight-year-old daughter, Izzy, in her Connecticut hometown.
Paige needs to buckle down and find a new writing gig but first, she meets the movers and shakers of Izzy’s school’s Parent Booster Association, run by the intimidatingly gorgeous Ainsley Anderson, who just happens to be married to Paige’s old high school flame, John.
Then she shows up at the annual Parents and Pinot fundraiser, held at Ainsley and John’s dazzling mansion in the toniest part of town, where she’s caught in a compromising position with John, accidentally destroys the guest bathroom, overhears an incriminating conversation, and discovers that her purse has gone missing. And later that night, Ainsley turns up dead at the bottom of her own driveway.
Did she fall? Or was she pushed?
Paige may have only written about detectives, but she is convinced she can handle a little undercover sleuthing. After all, it’ll give her an excuse to spend more time with John. Still, she can’t help but wonder: could he be capable of murder? Or could one of the PBA members have planned a dastardly crime to reach the top? But the most important question of all: will Paige ever get her life back on track?
“Michelle Min Sterling’s CAMP ZERO is one of the most masterful debuts to ever cross my desk. Set in a near-future camp at the icy edge of the earth, the novel follows an unforgettable cast of characters whose paths converge in a brilliant twist of fate that will change everything. With its dazzling surprises, red-hot pacing, and remarkable world building, CAMP ZERO is an empowering and hope-filled story that heralds the coming of a groundbreaking new voice in literary fiction.”
—Natalie H., Senior Editor, on Camp Zero
In a near-future northern settlement, a handful of climate change survivors find their fates intertwined in this mesmerizing and transportive novel in the vein of Station Eleven and The Power.
In the far north of Canada sits Camp Zero, an American building project hiding many secrets.
Desperate to help her climate-displaced Korean immigrant mother, Rose agrees to travel to Camp Zero and spy on its architect in exchange for housing. She arrives at the same time as another newcomer, a college professor named Grant who is determined to flee his wealthy family’s dark legacy. Gradually, they realize that there is more to the architect than previously thought, and a disturbing mystery lurks beneath the surface of the camp. At the same time, rumors abound of an elite group of women soldiers living and working at a nearby Cold War-era climate research station. What are they doing there? And who is leading them?
An electrifying page-turner where nothing is as it seems, Camp Zero cleverly explores how the intersection of gender, class, and migration will impact who and what will survive in a warming world.
“In luminous and honest prose, Omer Aziz’s memoir delves into his childhood as the son of Pakistani immigrants in Canada, rising through elite educational institutions and organizations, inspired by the charisma of Barack Obama. Through his ascent, Aziz questions if assimilation is truly the only option, and if so, what is its cost? In this compelling memoir, I was reminded of the wisdom found in Saeed Jones HOW WE FIGHT FOR OUR LIVES, and the beautiful and powerful commentary in Sarah Smarsh’s HEARTLAND. Equal parts of engaging prose and good humor, BROWN BOY is a memoir that will stay with you long after the page, addressing questions on race, class, and culture.” —Kathy B., VP, Editorial Director, on Brown Boy
Brown Boy is an uncompromising interrogation of identity, family, religion, race, and class, told through Omer Aziz’s incisive and luminous prose.
In a tough neighborhood on the outskirts of Toronto, miles away from wealthy white downtown, Omer Aziz struggles to find his place as a first-generation Pakistani Muslim boy. He fears the violence and despair of the world around him, and sees a dangerous path ahead, succumbing to aimlessness, apathy, and rage.
In his senior year of high school, Omer quickly begins to realize that education can open up the wider world. But as he falls in love with books, and makes his way to Queen’s University in Ontario, Sciences Po in Paris, Cambridge University in England, and finally Yale Law School, he continually confronts his own feelings of doubt and insecurity at being an outsider, a brown-skinned boy in an elite white world. He is searching for community and identity, asking questions of himself and those he encounters, and soon finds himself in difficult situations—whether in the suburbs of Paris or at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Yet the more books Omer reads and the more he moves through elite worlds, his feelings of shame and powerlessness only grow stronger, and clear answers recede further away.
Weaving together his powerful personal narrative with the books and friendships that move him, Aziz wrestles with the contradiction of feeling like an Other and his desire to belong to a Western world that never quite accepts him. He poses the questions he couldn’t have asked in his youth: Was assimilation ever really an option? Could one transcend the perils of race and class? And could we—the collective West—ever honestly confront the darker secrets that, as Aziz discovers, still linger from the past?
In Brown Boy, Omer Aziz has written a book that eloquently describes the complex process of creating an identity that fuses where he’s from, what people see in him, and who he knows himself to be.
“Stories about the end of the world have always fascinated us. Apocalyptic novels entertain because they feel so distant from the world we live in. NOT THIS ONE. This is a family novel struck through with humor, but it is nervous laughter. Because Jens Liljestrand has nailed the terrifying truth which is that even as the world literally? ends, it is the great tragedy of the human to condition to wonder, ‘but what does it mean...FOR ME?’ If Greta Thunberg and Jonathan Franzen wrote a novel: this would be it. I couldn’t put it down, and it has stayed with me ever since.” —Alison C., VP, Executive Editor, on Even If Everything Ends
Life goes on in the face of a climate crisis in this astonishing and unforgettable debut novel that follows four characters as they struggle to survive in a burning world.
Even when the climate crisis escalates beyond our worst nightmares and people become refugees, the world keeps turning and life carries on as usual: teenaged love stories, marital collapses, identity crises, and revolts against hopeless parents continue to play out.
Didrik is a forty-year-old media consultant whose misguided efforts to become the family hero render him a pathetic vision of masculine incompetence. Melissa is an influencer with a suitcase full of lost dreams after denying climate change for years. André is the nineteen-year-old loser son of an international sports star who uses the erupting violence around him to orchestrate his own personal vengeance on his negligent father. And Vilja is Didrik’s teenaged daughter who steps into a leadership role in the face of adult ineptitude.
“Simultaneously nerve-wracking, astute, and consumedly entertaining” (Sydsvenskan, Sweden) and through these four related stories, Even If Everything Ends eloquently illustrates a picture of a very near future that is at once extraordinary and entirely realistic.
Photo credit: iStock / Vimvertigo