The arrival of the spring season may signal some readers to shift to pleasant stories, but Off the Shelf readers seem to take it as a signal to turn to murder and mystery. At least, that’s what’s reflected in these most popular books of the month! With great page-turners, immersive settings, and premises that beg to be devoured, these books have been catching the attention of readers—and for good reason.
Sallie Kincaid, the feisty and determined woman at the heart of bestselling writer Jeannette Walls’ HANG THE MOON, has always been a big fish in a small pond. Her father, Duke, is one of the most powerful men in their small town in 1920s Virginia, and Sallie gets her quick wit and daredevil attitude from him. But when Sallie tries to teach her timid half-brother to embrace more risk, and it ends in disaster, Sallie is cast out of the family. Years later, determined to fight her way back into the Big House, Sallie will uncover the dark secrets that have defined her family since before she can remember.
From Jeannette Walls, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Glass Castle, comes a riveting new novel about an indomitable young woman in Virginia during Prohibition.
Most folk thought Sallie Kincaid was a nobody who’d amount to nothing. Sallie had other plans.
Sallie Kincaid is the daughter of the biggest man in a small town, the charismatic Duke Kincaid. Born at the turn of the 20th century into a life of comfort and privilege, Sallie remembers little about her mother who died in a violent argument with the Duke. By the time she is just eight years old, the Duke has remarried and had a son, Eddie. While Sallie is her father’s daughter, sharp-witted and resourceful, Eddie is his mother’s son, timid and cerebral. When Sallie tries to teach young Eddie to be more like their father, her daredevil coaching leads to an accident, and Sallie is cast out.
Nine years later, she returns, determined to reclaim her place in the family. That’s a lot more complicated than Sallie expected, and she enters a world of conflict and lawlessness. Sallie confronts the secrets and scandals that hide in the shadows of the Big House, navigates the factions in the family and town, and finally comes into her own as a bold, sometimes reckless bootlegger.
You will fall in love with Sallie Kincaid, a feisty and fearless, terrified and damaged young woman who refuses to be corralled.
Alice Hoffman is the queen of sprinkling bits of mystic and magic into spellbinding books. In THE MUSEUM OF EXTRAORDINARY THINGS, Coralie Sardie’s father owns a Coney Island freak show known as The Museum of Extraordinary Things. With Coralie’s excellent swimming skills, she is cast as a mermaid amongst other odd humans. Coralie’s world is changed forever when she spots a dashing Russian photographer snapping pictures near the Hudson river. While Coralie is mystified by Eddie and his striking looks, she becomes entangled in his secrets, as his photographs of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire bring suspicions.
Coralie Sardie’s father runs a Coney Island freak show where she appears as “the Mermaid,” alongside performers like the Wolfman, the Butterfly Girl, and a one-hundred-year-old turtle. When she meets Eddie Cohen, a Russian immigrant photographer, they become embroiled in a moving story of young love in tumultuous times.
It is truly the sign of a gifted author that a book devoted to teaching people the correct way to kill someone and get away with it could be so entertaining, so clever, so funny, and also be a really feel-good story. It is also a testament to the author that the characters were so likeable or despicable, depending on whether they were the student or the person to be deleted, that you were rooting for their success. This is one book I won’t soon forget. If you love murder mysteries, clever mission—impossible-type scenarios, and just a great well-written story, then this is definitely one you don’t want to miss.
From the diabolical imagination of Edgar Award–winning novelist, playwright, and story-songwriter Rupert Holmes comes a devilish thriller with a killer concept: The McMasters Conservatory for the Applied Arts, a luxurious, clandestine college dedicated to the fine art of murder where earnest students study how best to “delete” their most deserving victim.
Who hasn’t wondered for a split second what the world would be like if a person who is the object of your affliction ceased to exist? But then you’ve probably never heard of The McMasters Conservatory, dedicated to the consummate execution of the homicidal arts. To gain admission, a student must have an ethical reason for erasing someone who deeply deserves a fate no worse (nor better) than death. The campus of this “Poison Ivy League” college—its location unknown to even those who study there—is where you might find yourself the practice target of a classmate…and where one’s mandatory graduation thesis is getting away with the perfect murder of someone whose death will make the world a much better place to live.
Prepare for an education you’ll never forget. A delightful mix of witty wordplay, breathtaking twists and genuine intrigue, Murder Your Employer will gain you admission into a wholly original world, cocooned within the most entertaining book about well-intentioned would-be murderers you’ll ever read.
Rupert Holmes’s much celebrated career ranges from chart-topping story songs with surprising twists—“Escape (The Pina Colada Song)”—to Tony Award–winning whodunit musicals—The Mystery of Edwin Drood—Edgar Award–winning comedy-thrillers—Accomplice—and the Nero Wolfe Best American Mystery Novel nominated Where the Truth Lies, made into an Atom Egoyan motion picture starring Colin Firth and Kevin Bacon. Called “an American treasure” (Los Angeles Times), “a true Renaissance man” by Newsweek, “a comic genius” (Kirkus Reviews) and simply “a genius” (The Times, London), Rupert Holmes brings his wickedly clever storytelling talents to this outrageous and darkly comic mystery set in a secret, idyllic campus where students learn how to “do in others as you would have others do you in.”
As a professor of 1800s American literature, I love teaching books that take place at the turn of the century. While we associate it with buttoned-up Victorian values of the previous century, it was an exciting—and terrifying—time of change. VERA illuminates a dark and dangerous world at the start of the twentieth century through the story of Vera Johnson, an illegitimate daughter of San Francisco’s most infamous bordello owner. Her life has always been defined by the violent confines of a family paid to raise her. But after the great quake wrecks the city and transforms it into the underworld of her nightmares, Vera, her innocent sister, and her one-time rival team up to forge a new world.
New York Times bestselling author Carol Edgarian delivers “an all-encompassing and enthralling” (Oprah Daily) novel featuring an unforgettable heroine coming of age in the aftermath of catastrophe, and her quest for love and reinvention.
Meet Vera Johnson, fifteen-year-old illegitimate daughter of Rose, notorious proprietor of San Francisco’s most legendary bordello. Vera has grown up straddling two worlds—the madam’s alluring sphere, replete with tickets to the opera, surly henchmen, and scant morality, and the quiet domestic life of the family paid to raise her.
On the morning of the great quake, Vera’s worlds collide. As the city burns and looters vie with the injured, orphaned, and starving, Vera and her guileless sister, Pie, are cast adrift. Disregarding societal norms and prejudices, Vera begins to imagine a new kind of life. She collaborates with Tan, her former rival, and forges an unlikely family of survivors, navigating through the disaster together.
“A character-driven novel about family, power, and loyalty, (San Francisco Chronicle), Vera brings to life legendary characters—tenor Enrico Caruso, indicted mayor Eugene Schmitz and boss Abe Ruef, tabloid celebrity Alma Spreckels. This “brilliantly conceived and beautifully realized” (Booklist, starred review) tale of improbable outcomes and alliances takes hold from the first page, with remarkable scenes of devastation, renewal, and joy. Vera celebrates the audacious fortitude of its young heroine, who discovers an unexpected strength in unprecedented times.
When Cara meets and falls in love with funny and charming Brendan, she believes he is part of an experimental unit for the U.S. Special Forces. How else can she explain the secret she’s seen with her own eyes: he can breathe underwater. But after giving birth to their son Micah, Brendan has mood swings that make her question everything. One day, Brendan disappears, taking Micah with him. Years later, now married to a different man, Cara can’t stop believing that her son is out there somewhere . . . along with the truth about her first love.
“Moving and immersive...truly compelling.” —Marjan Kamali, nationally bestselling author of The Stationery Shop
What happens when the man you love most in the world—who may be lying about everything—unexpectedly disappears and takes your small child with him? Emma Fedor’s riveting and powerful debut explores the fierceness of first love and how far one woman will go to learn the painful truth about her family.
When Cara and Brendan first meet, she’s fresh out of college, recovering from the recent death of her mother, and spending time on Martha’s Vineyard while trying to figure out her next steps. She’s swept away by Brendan’s humor and charm, and intoxicated by his thrilling, dangerous secret: he can breathe underwater. Able to stay beneath the waves for longer than should be possible, Brendan reveals that he is part of a secret experimental unit of the US Special Forces. And Cara, struck by the power of his conviction, by his unstoppable charisma, and by the evidence before her, believes him.
Their summer romance turns serious. Then Cara gets pregnant. When their son, Micah, is born, she’s sure their happy ending is underway. Still, she’s thrown by Brendan’s dramatic moods, his unexplained disappearances, and the weight of his secrets. Cara is determined to stay strong for her young family, to heal Brendan’s psychic wounds, to keep him safe. Until he and baby Micah vanish, leaving her desolate and alone and questioning everything she once thought was true.
Five years later, Cara is still struggling to move forward, married to another man and trying to rebuild her life, when a local fisherman announces he’s spotted two people—one of them a small child—treading water in Nantucket Sound, far from any vessels and miles from shore. The news rekindles Cara’s never-abandoned hope that her little boy may still be alive. As she fights to untangle delusion from reality, and revisits a past she’s worked hard to reconcile, Cara is determined to learn the truth about her lost love and finally find her son.
I completely devoured bestselling author Amy Stuart's A DEATH AT THE PARTY. I know it has been said many times over by thriller readers but this book truly had me guessing whodunit until the very end, and I have been raving about it to everyone I know since. It’s set over the course of a single day during an elaborate garden party and shows how a family drama devolves and rumors twist until they result in doting wife, mother, and daughter Nadine standing over a dead body in the cellar. If you love books by authors Lisa Jewell, Ashley Audrain, and Lucy Foley, you'll definitely want to pick this one up. A DEATH AT THE PARTY is a tense, literary thriller filled with secrets, haunting memories, and an exquisite twist ending.
Read more of 15 New Thriller Novels We Can’t Stop Talking About
In this tense, spellbinding thriller set over the course of a single day, a woman prepares for a party that goes dreadfully wrong—for fans of Ashley Audrain and Lisa Jewell.
Nadine Walsh’s summer garden party is in full swing. The neighbors all have cocktails, the catered food is exquisite—everything’s going according to plan.
But Nadine—devoted wife, loving mother, and doting daughter—finds herself standing over a dead body in her basement while her guests clink glasses upstairs. What happened? How did it come to this?
Rewind to that morning, when Nadine is in her kitchen, making last-minute preparations before she welcomes more than a hundred guests to her home to celebrate her mother’s birthday. But her husband is of little help to her, her two grown children are consumed with their own concerns, and her mother—only her mother knows that today isn’t just a birthday party. It marks another anniversary as well.
Still, Nadine will focus just on tonight. Everyone deserves a celebration after the year they’ve had. A chance for fun. A chance to forget. But it’s hard to forget when Nadine’s head is swirling with secrets, haunting memories, and concerns about what might happen when her guests unite.
Mixing murder, baked goods, and a famous television show creates the perfect recipe for a delicious mystery. THE GOLDEN SPOON follows the six bakers invited to compete on TV’s hottest baking show, Bake Week, which takes place on the grounds of the striking Grafton estate in Vermont. But when the competition turns deadly, everyone is a suspect. Smoothly blending each character’s storyline together to create a shocking twist, THE GOLDEN SPOON will keep you guessing until the very end.
“This delicious combination of Clue and The Great British Bakeoff kept me turning the pages all night!” —Janet Evanovich, #1 New York Times bestselling author
Only Murders in the Building meets The Maid in this darkly beguiling locked-room mystery where someone turns up dead on the set of TV’s hottest baking competition—perfect for fans of Nita Prose, Richard Osman, and Anthony Horowitz.
Every summer for the past ten years, six awe-struck bakers have descended on the grounds of Grafton, the leafy and imposing Vermont estate that is not only the filming site for “Bake Week” but also the childhood home of the show’s famous host, celebrated baker Betsy Martin.
The author of numerous bestselling cookbooks and hailed as “America’s Grandmother,” Betsy Martin isn’t as warm off-screen as on, though no one needs to know that but her. She has always demanded perfection, and gotten it with a smile, but this year something is off. As the baking competition commences, things begin to go awry. At first, it’s merely sabotage—sugar replaced with salt, a burner turned to high—but when a body is discovered, everyone is a suspect.
A sharp and suspenseful thriller for mystery buffs and avid bakers alike, The Golden Spoon is a brilliant puzzle filled with shocking twists and turns that will keep you reading late into the night until you turn the very last page of this incredible debut.
Love the small-town charm of Louise Penny's novels? William Kent Krueger’s LIGHTNING STRIKE will plop you down in Aurora, a close-knit community on the shore of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. When twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor stumbles upon the hanging body of a respected community member, his sheriff father launches an investigation into what appears to be a suicide. But Cork suspects otherwise. As you delve into the mystery, you’ll fall in love with these characters while they grow and change in the aftermath of tragedy.
An instant New York Times bestseller, this prequel to the acclaimed Cork O’Connor series is “a pitch perfect, richly imagined story that is both an edge-of-your-seat thriller and an evocative, emotionally charged coming-of-age tale” (Kristin Hannah, #1 New York Times bestselling author) about fathers and sons, small-town conflicts, and the events that shape our lives forever.
Aurora is a small town nestled in the ancient forest alongside the shores of Minnesota’s Iron Lake. In the summer of 1963, it is the whole world to twelve-year-old Cork O’Connor, its rhythms as familiar as his own heartbeat. But when Cork stumbles upon the body of a man he revered hanging from a tree in an abandoned logging camp, it is the first in a series of events that will cause him to question everything he took for granted about his hometown, his family, and himself.
Cork’s father, Liam O’Connor, is Aurora’s sheriff and it is his job to confirm that the man’s death was the result of suicide, as all the evidence suggests. In the shadow of his father’s official investigation, Cork begins to look for answers on his own. Together, father and son face the ultimate test of choosing between what their heads tell them is true and what their hearts know is right.
In this “brilliant achievement, and one every crime reader and writer needs to celebrate” (Louise Penny, #1 New York Times bestselling author), beloved novelist William Kent Krueger shows that some mysteries can be solved even as others surpass our understanding.
Published posthumously in 1952, THE SINGING SANDS is Josephine Tey’s final mystery featuring her beloved character Alan Grant. In it, the Scotland Yard inspector is dealing with burnout after a recent spell of overworking in which he’s suffered more than one debilitating anxiety attack. As a means of coping, Grant has taken a sick leave, deciding to take the night train to the Scottish Highlands to rest at the peaceful home of his cousin Laura. But it isn’t long before trouble finds the inspector with the discovery of a dead body aboard the train. In the newspaper that the recently deceased was reading, Grant finds an elusive poem, handwritten, about a paradise guarded by “singing sand.” And what begins as a casual inquiry—as he hopes to adhere to his doctor’s orders—soon turns into a full-blown investigation to not only unlock the key to the poem but uncover the truth about a grisly murder. Like a midnight train accelerating to its final destination, THE SINGING SANDS is the quintessential mystery that pumps the adrenaline as a legendary character gets closer to answers.
Read more of 6 Cleverly Plotted Mysteries That Build in Intensity
Bestselling author Josephine Tey’s classic final mystery featuring her best-loved character, Inspector Alan Grant, filled with “all the Tey magic and delight” and now featuring a new introduction by Robert Barnard.
On sick leave from Scotland Yard, Inspector Alan Grant is planning a quiet holiday with an old school chum to recover from overwork and mental fatigue. Traveling on the night train to Scotland, however, Grant stumbles upon a dead man and a cryptic poem about “the stones that walk” and “the singing sand,” which send him off on a fascinating search into the verse’s meaning and the identity of the deceased. Grant needs just this sort of casual inquiry to quiet his jangling nerves, despite his doctor’s orders. But what begins as a leisurely pastime eventually turns into a full-blown investigation that leads Grant to discover not only the key to the poem but the truth about a most diabolical murder.
I finished THE NIGHT TRAVELERS a few days ago. Having read his two previous novels, I already was a fan of Armando Lucas Correa. This latest novel allows my admiration for him to grow even more. Correa has masterfully combined a story of love and heroic family survival within a painfully harsh historical context. His deft writing skills allow him to successfully blend backdrops featuring the “Evils” of WWII, the rise of communism, and the revolution and government overthrow in Cuba. THE NIGHT TRAVELERS features a multitude of characters who are important to the story. Correa makes a point of delving deep into the lives of four women who are connected to one another by blood and history. At first, I thought to myself, another WWII story. But as I read further about Ally and Marcus, I realized there had to be something more. Before I knew it, I wanted to just keep on reading late each night. Together with Lilith, Nadine, and Luna, I traveled to new cities across continents while decades passed. Correa saves the best for the last with his magnificent strength of surprise that puts the reader’s emotions in the position of an upside down roller coaster. I can really say wow! So much more than I expected.
Four generations of women experience love, loss, war, and hope from the rise of Nazism to the Cuban Revolution and finally, the fall of the Berlin Wall in this sweeping novel from the bestselling author of the “timely must-read” (People) The German Girl.
Berlin, 1931: Ally Keller, a talented young poet, is alone and scared when she gives birth to a mixed-race daughter she names Lilith. As the Nazis rise to power, Ally knows she must keep her baby in the shadows to protect her against Hitler’s deadly ideology of Aryan purity. But as she grows, it becomes more and more difficult to keep Lilith hidden so Ally sets in motion a dangerous and desperate plan to send her daughter across the ocean to safety.
Havana, 1958: Now an adult, Lilith has few memories of her mother or her childhood in Germany. Besides, she’s too excited for her future with her beloved Martin, a Cuban pilot with strong ties to the Batista government. But as the flames of revolution ignite, Lilith and her newborn daughter, Nadine, find themselves at a terrifying crossroads.
Berlin, 1988: As a scientist in Berlin, Nadine is dedicated to ensuring the dignity of the remains of all those who were murdered by the Nazis. Yet she has spent her entire lifetime avoiding the truth about her own family’s history. It takes her daughter, Luna, to encourage Nadine to uncover the truth about the choices her mother and grandmother made to ensure the survival of their children. And it will fall to Luna to come to terms with a shocking betrayal that changes everything she thought she knew about her family’s past.
Separated by time but united by sacrifice, four women embark on journeys of self-discovery and find themselves to be living testaments to the power of motherly love.
Alex’s dream of becoming a famous author has never gotten off the ground, which is why she’s shocked and thrilled to receive an invitation to join a monthlong writing retreat at the isolated estate of horror author Roza Vallo. Once there, though, Alex encounters both her ex–best friend turned rival, Wren, and a bizarre challenge from Roza: whoever writes the best novel while at the retreat will get a seven-figure book deal. But as Alex is trying to focus on her writing, Wren is becoming increasingly vindictive, Roza increasingly odd, and the retreat’s atmosphere increasingly haunted . . .
The Plot meets Please Join Us in this psychological suspense debut about a young author at an exclusive writer’s retreat that descends into a nightmare.
Alex has all but given up on her dreams of becoming a published author when she receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: attend an exclusive, month-long writing retreat at the estate of feminist horror writer Roza Vallo. Even the knowledge that Wren, her former best friend and current rival, is attending doesn’t dampen her excitement.
But when the attendees arrive, Roza drops a bombshell—they must all complete an entire novel from scratch during the next month, and the author of the best one will receive a life-changing seven-figure publishing deal. Determined to win this seemingly impossible contest, Alex buckles down and tries to ignore the strange happenings at the estate, including Roza’s erratic behavior, Wren’s cruel mind games, and the alleged haunting of the mansion itself. But when one of the writers vanishes during a snowstorm, Alex realizes that something very sinister is afoot. With the clock running out, she’s desperate to discover the truth and save herself.
A claustrophobic and propulsive thriller exploring the dark side of female friendships and fame, The Writing Retreat is the unputdownable debut novel from a compelling new talent.
“A masterful debut about motherhood and choices, the things we keep, the things we lose, and the things that stay with us and change us at our core forever . . . A searing, important, beautifully written novel about the choices we all make and where they lead us—as well as a wise and timely reminder of the difficult road women had to walk not so long ago.” —Kristin Harmel
#1 INTERNATIONAL BESTSELLER
This “powerful debut” (Hello! Canada) for fans of Kristin Hannah and Jennifer Chiaverini about three women whose lives are bound together by a long-lost letter, a mother’s love, and a secret network of women fighting for the right to choose—inspired by true stories.
2017: When Angela Creighton discovers a mysterious letter containing a life-shattering confession, she is determined to find the intended recipient. Her search takes her back to the 1970s when a group of daring women operated an illegal underground abortion network in Toronto known only by its whispered code name: Jane.
1971: As a teenager, Dr. Evelyn Taylor was sent to a home for “fallen” women where she was forced to give up her baby for adoption—a trauma she has never recovered from. Despite harrowing police raids and the constant threat of arrest, she joins the Jane Network as an abortion provider, determined to give other women the choice she never had.
1980: After discovering a shocking secret about her family, twenty-year-old Nancy Mitchell begins to question everything she has ever known. When she unexpectedly becomes pregnant, she feels like she has no one to turn to for help. Grappling with her decision, she locates “Jane” and finds a place of her own alongside Dr. Taylor within the network’s ranks, but she can never escape the lies that haunt her.
Looking for Jane is “a searing, important, beautifully written novel about the choices we all make and where they lead us—as well as a wise and timely reminder of the difficult road women had to walk not so long ago” (Kristin Harmel, New York Times bestselling author).
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