Novels: Editor’s pick

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    Perfect Little World: A Novel by Kevin Wilson, Ecco (HarperCollins Publishers), US $26.99,     Pp 352, January 2017, ISBN 978-0062450326

Little Deaths: A Novel by Emma Flint, Hachette Books, US $26.00, Pp 320, January 2017, ISBN 978-0316272476

Little Heaven: A Novel by Nick Cutter, Gallery Books (Simon & Schuster), US $26.00, Pp 498, January 2017, ISBN 978-1501104213

On Turpentine Lane by Elinor Lipman, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, US $24.00, Pp 320, February 2017, ISBN 978-0544808249

The Clairvoyants: A Novel by Karen Brown, Henry Holt and Company, US $27.00, Pp 352, February 2017, ISBN 978-1627797054

Dr. Grind, a charming child psychologist, has spent his life studying family. He is running The Infinite Family Project he calls ‘perfect little world’ to study what would happen if ten children are raised collectively, without knowing who their biological parents are. This is when he meets Isabelle Poole, who is fresh out of high school, pregnant with her art teacher’s baby, and totally on her own. Izzy wants to be a good mother, but without any money or relatives to help, she’s left searching. Dr. Grind wants Izzy and her son to join. This utopian ideal looks promising in the beginning, but soon the gentle equilibrium among the families breaks down. Couples begin developing unspoken resentments. The project’s funding becomes tenuous, and Izzy’s growing feelings for Dr. Grind make her question her participation in this strange experiment. If you liked The Family Fang, you will like this one more. Kevin Wilson shows us how we can build the best families out of our own families. It is a follow-up to the family Fang. It is a story of young women taking control of her life and body. This eminently readable novel is unforgettable.

Kevin Wilson is the author of the New York Times best-selling novel The Family Fang, and the collection, Tunneling to the Center of the Earth, which received an Alex Award from the American Library Association and the Shirley Jackson Award. He is an Associate Professor in the English Department at the University of the South.

*****

Little Deaths is set in the tight-knit working class neighborhood of Queens, New York, in 1965. Single mother Ruth Malone, exhausted from juggling the responsibilities of motherhood with long hours as a cocktail waitress, looks for escape in bourbon, sex, and fantasies of a rich lover. One morning she wakes up to discover that both her children, Frankie and Cindy have gone missing. Cindy’s body is found in a derelict lot half a mile away from her home, strangled. Ten days later, Frankie’s decomposing body is also found. Police, tabloid press, and gossipy neighbors suspect Ruth. Empty bourbon bottles, provocative clothing, and piles of letters from several men and her little black phone number book make her a drunk, loose woman – and a bad mother. This is when Pete Wonicke, a rookie tabloid reporter resolves to find truth. He begins digging into the case. Pete develops an obsession with Ruth and comes to believe there’s something more to the woman whom prosecutors, the press, and the public have painted as the killer of her own children. He finally uncovers if Ruth Malone violently killed her children or if there is something more sinister at play. Not many debut novelists can capture your attention the way Emma Flint does. Flint explores the good and evil in humans and psychology of a woman. It is a one sitting crime thriller that exposes sexual hypocrisy.

Born in Newcastle upon Tyne in northeast England, Emma Flint studied English and History at the University of St. Andrews and is a graduate of the Faber Academy writing program in London. Flints works as a technical writer in London, where she lives.

*****

In Little Heaven, the epic tale of terror and redemption is set in the hinterlands of mid-century New Mexico from the horror author Nick Cutter. In this haunting novel, a young woman hires a trio of mismatched mercenaries for a simple but deceptive task of checking on her nephew who may have been taken against his will to a remote New Mexico backwoods settlement known as Little Heaven. Things are going ominously when the trio arrives in Little Heaven. There are stirrings in woods and over the treetops. The settlement is under the grip of paranoia and distrust and escape routes start getting cut off madness reaches new heights. It resembles what can be called Hell. The remaining occupants take a stand and fight back. But who is marshalling its powers and what does it want from them all? If you love horror novels, you will find Little Heaven the best for this season. It is a story of unrelenting terror and horror.

Nick Cutter is a pseudonym for an acclaimed author of novels and short stories including The Troop, The Deep, and The Acolyte. He lives in Toronto, Canada.

*****

Faith Frankel returns to her claustro-suburban hometown and starts working as Director of Stewardship for her Alma Mater where her job consists of writing institutional thank-you notes. She is leading a peaceful life and seems to have really and surely settled with her recent purchase of a sweet bungalow with a past on Turpentine Lane. Her fiancé is off on a crowdfunded cross-country walk. He has no time to return her texts but finds enough time to take and post photos of himself with a different woman in every state. She finds some mysterious artifacts in the attic of her new home. They include a photo album containing images of what may be dead twin babies. She freaks out and offers her second bedroom to her handsome, newly single officemate Nick Franconi. Police rip up her basement in search of murder evidence. Things will start getting better after they get a lot worse. What good fortune, then, that Faith has found a friend in affable, collegial Nick Franconi, officemate par excellence. Elinor Lipman has written the best romantic comedy for the season, and she is at her sharpest and best. On Turpentine Lane is an attention-grabber from the beloved best-selling author of The Family Man and The View from Penthouse B.

Elinor Lipman is the author of ten novels, including celebrated The View from Penthouse B and The Inn at Lake Devine as well as several other books. She is the winner of the Paterson Fiction Prize.

*****

Martha Mary and her sister Del endured their parents’ divorce and survived a tragedy that robbed them of innocence. As they played séance, mimicking the mediums at the nearby Spiritualists by the sea encampment, and charged the neighborhood kids to contact their dead relatives, it was all a little real for Martha. Martha decides to escape to an inland gorgeous college town to study photography in order to leave her troubled sister alone. There she falls into her first passionate love affair with one of her photography professor. She shows no interest in the flyers around town seeking information about a young woman who has disappeared until the missing woman appears beneath Martha’s apartment window, wearing a down coat, her hair flecked with ice. Del also shows up on Martha’s doorstep. As the events unfold during the harsh winter, the events bring to the forefront a crime from their past and a relationship haunted by rivalry and resentment and they discover a connection between the professor and the missing girl. The Clairvoyants is a story of a complex knot of allegiance and betrayal. It is a modern evocative ghost story which grips your attention from the very beginning. It will have a hypnotic effect on you if you love ghost stories.

Karen Brown is the author of two award-winning short-story collections and a novel, The longing of Wayward Girls. One of her short story collection won, Pins and Needles: Stories, won AWP’s Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction. Reviewed by TWBR team