Summer Pageturners

Five books coming out in the next few months might help you tolerate the oppressive heat

Newspaper people are capable of debating almost anything to death, and one great topic of debate around these parts has been this: Do people still read fiction?

I can't speak for all people, but the folks I run with still read fiction with great zeal. My BFF, for example, spent one recent summer reading what she liked to call "plague fiction," or stories of medieval diseases and death. Another friend, a busy elementary school vice-principal, chews through roughly a book every two days during his summer vacations. I alternate between buying books on my iPad (an easy but not cheap addiction), the library (I'm horrible about returning things) and racks at the local coffeehouse.

It's not a comprehensive list that follows, but it is a list of my five must-reads for the coming summer.

5. Set in separate decades yet connected times, and with Florence as its stunning backdrop, Chris Bohjalian's The Light in the Ruins follows the Rosatis, a family of nobility hiding out in their ancient villa and trying to stay out of the sights of the Nazis in war-torn Italy. The Nazis find them, of course, and the family castle becomes the family prison. A decade later, a Florence police investigator is tasked with finding the serial killer who appears to be targeting the Rosatis, one-by-one. Bohjalian specializes in the suspense created when people are cut off, physically and emotionally, from society (as he did in his best-selling Midwives). Here he goes back in time to create that suspense, with a compelling female detective running from demons of her own as his heroine.

(The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian, Doubleday, coming July 2013.)

4.  As pure and pulpy as any crime fiction out there, Lisa Jackson returns with reporter Nikki Gillette and Det. Pierce Reed in Tell Me, as Gillette investigates the reopened case of the murder of a childhood friend. The friend's mother—also known as the most hated woman in Savannah, Georgia, has served two decades for her daughter's murder, and the attempted murders of her two other children. But when her son recants and the case falls apart, all of those juicy Southern Gothic secrets are brought back to the surface at a well paced simmer. Jackson's written 75 novels and has a penchant for writing serial killers. A month after Tell Me hits, look for her next book, Ready to Die, to hit too.

(Tell Me and Ready to Die by Lisa Jackson, Zebra Books, coming July and August 2013.)

3. The website describes Marisha Pessl's second novel, Night Film, as what might happen if Lewis Carroll chatted with Raymond Chandler and then brought director David Lynch in to film it. Woosh—what a description. Pessl brings in a great touch of noir-meets-gothic in Night Film, which follows a journalist investigating the death of a young beauty, only to find himself enmeshed with the woman's father, a reclusive maker of horror films who hasn't been seen in public in 30 years. Creepy good fun, as expected from the writer of the quirky 2006 novel Special Topics in Calamity Physics.

(Night Film by Marisha Pessl, Random House, coming August 2013.)

2. Paul Harding took home a Pulitzer for his debut novel Tinkers, the story of a dying old man who becomes unable to separate memories from reality as he recalls the lives of his own father and grandfather. In Enon, that dead old man's grandson traverses New England and the depths of personal tragedy as he seeks answers to the great questions of his life and possibly find some inner peace. The strength of Harding's debut has been compared to that of To Kill a Mockingbird, while critics say his writing conjures a New England-based Faulkner. Enon stands to set Harding's literary fame soaring even higher.

(Enon by Paul Harding, Random House, coming September 2013.)

1. "Redrum! Redrum!" If you're of a certain age, those words should send a chill up your spine. They were spoken by Danny Torrance, the young hero with the spineless mother, the psychotically murderous father and a haunted hotel as home in Stephen King's The Shining. Danny is all grown up in King's much-awaited Doctor Sleep, and he's battled his demons with a small measure of success. But then he meets a 12-year-old girl tied to a traveling cult called The True Knot, and it's a cult that lives off of the energy created by torturing children to death. Feel that chill going up your spine again? Yeah, thought so. What a way to end the summer.

(Doctor Sleep by Stephen King, Scribner, coming September 2013.)

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