Illustration by James Yang, Special to the Star Tribune

Glide into these novels for a relaxing summer

You might stay home one more summer. You might head to the cabin. You might even mask up and fly somewhere exotic. But wherever you go, be sure to take a book. Our summer fiction section offers more than 30 suggestions for ’tweens, teens and adults, lovers of mysteries, novels or any good story well told.

  • All Books (33)
  • Fiction (11)
  • Mystery (11)
  • Young Adult (11)
  • List (33)

The Guide

By Peter Heller

Peter Heller’s riveting thriller is set in the American wilderness, but the threats gathering around Jack, the young fishing guide of the title, come from man, not nature. Jack has been hired by a fishing club in Colorado that caters to wealthy clients. His job: Carry gear, find trout, chat up guests and do whatever he can to make them happy. But after he arrives at the luxurious Kingfisher Lodge, Jack can’t help but notice unsettling signs. Employees need a key to enter the gate surrounding the lodge, but they also need a key to leave. There’s an abandoned wading boot half-hidden in the brush near the river. And why, exactly, is there a camera placed under the bridge where guests might fish? “The Guide” is a sequel of sorts to Heller’s 2019 novel “The River,” but only in the sense that Jack is a central character in both books. The books are probably best read in order, but familiarity with “The River” isn’t necessary to enjoy this fast-paced adventure. Jack, a Dartmouth graduate, has taken a course with writer Marilynne Robinson, and he takes a certain poetic view of the world. As more unnerving signs reveal themselves, Jack finds an ally in his client Alison, a singer. As they draw closer to discovering the lodge’s secrets, Heller increases the growing sense of danger by reminding us that outside the gates there’s another menace looming. A new virus has landed in the country, and the maskless crowds swilling beer at Crested Butte just down the road could prove to be an even more deadly problem. It’s a chilling reminder of the dangers that might lie in wait for us all. (Alfred A. Knopf, $27, Aug. 24)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

Open Water

By Caleb Azumah Nelson

The fierce beauty of Caleb Azumah Nelson’s “Open Water” lands with the force of a wave, rushing over the reader with truth and insight. Astonishingly, this powerful work about love, art and masculine vulnerability is the British-Ghanian author’s first novel. Its premise is simple, its target the destructive force of racism. Two young Black artists — he’s a photographer, she’s a dancer — meet in a bar in London. They are immediately drawn to each other. But sustaining intimacy is harder weighed against a barrage of trauma. How do you nurture what nourishes your soul when all anyone sees is the color of your skin? Nelson’s prose is poetic and perceptive, and he captures the profound effect that art — literary, visual, musical — can have on young hearts and minds. (Black Cat, $16)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

Malibu Rising

By Taylor Jenkins Reid

The annual end-of-summer party at model Nina Riva’s house in Malibu, Calif., is always epic. There are no invitations: If you know, you know. The famous and infamous mingle; booze and drugs flow. Maybe Rob Lowe and Emilio Estevez once sang a duet of “Jack and Diane” (nobody is entirely sure). But the party of 1983 will forever change the lives of the four Riva siblings even as it signals the end of an era. Reid re-creates a gritty Malibu, where stars rubbed elbows with surf rats, and she brings depth to characters — in particular models and surfers — we’re used to seeing as two-dimensional. “Malibu Rising” isn’t merely a window into fame and wealth. Reid is exploring how strong family bonds can overcome tragedy, financial hardship and sibling rivalry. Sometimes, they can even set you free. (Ballantine, $28, June 1)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

Lizzie & Dante

By Mary Bly

The sun-drenched Italian island of Elba is the gorgeous setting for Bly’s entertaining, romantic novel about a Summer That Changed Everything, in this case the life of Shakespeare scholar Lizzie Delford. Lizzie has come to Elba with her friend Grey and his movie-star boyfriend. The vacation could be her last: Lizzie has cancer, and she plans to skip surgery that could give her a few more years. Then she meets Dante, a chef, and his 12-year-old daughter. Is it fair to fall in love if you can’t promise forever? The premise might sound maudlin, but this novel is not: It’s smart, sexy and funny, full of joy in simple pleasures. Bly, who is the daughter of writers Robert Bly and Carol Bly, reminds us in the best possible way to make the most of our time, however short it may be. (Dial Press, $27, June 1)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

Skye Falling

By Mia McKenzie

Skye Ellison knows she’s not the maternal type. At 26, she sold her eggs to a friend, and she doesn’t plan to have kids. Now, pushing 40 and single, she’s running a business for Black tourists, constantly traveling. On a trip to Philadelphia, a precocious tween named Vicky appears, introduces herself and informs Skye: “I used to be your egg.” How Skye learns to stop running and put her faith in relationships — with Vicky, her family and friends and Vicky’s attractive Aunt Faye, whom Skye has unsuccessfully tried to hit on — forms the heart of this hilarious, engaging and delightfully ribald novel. As Skye learns the importance of community, McKenzie brings a changing Philadelphia to life and highlights the perils of gentrification in a close-knit Black neighborhood. (Random House, $27, June 22)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

The Startup Wife

By Tahmima Anam

Can an app replace organized religion? In our tech-besotted world, maybe. Enter coder Asha Ray, who has created an algorithm her startup can use to introduce the disillusioned to rituals that will rekindle their spirituality. With help from her husband, Cyrus, their partner Jules and the offbeat tech incubator Utopia, which specializes in preparing for the end of the world, Asha seems poised for success. There’s just one problem: Users are starting to worship Cyrus, and he seems perfectly willing to take the credit. Anam has a wicked sense of humor, taking aim at startup culture and doomsday preppers while pointing out the lack of feminism and women of color in the tech industry. But is success worth becoming a secondary character in her own story? (Scribner, $26, July 13)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

Embassy Wife

By Katie Crouch

Crouch casts a satirical eye on the foreign diplomatic corps in this terrific comic novel about three women — two American, one Namibian. Amanda, a success in Silicon Valley, has come to Africa unwillingly because her husband, Mark, accepted a Fulbright, but his increasingly odd behavior is unsettling her. At their daughter’s school she meets Persephone, the perfect Embassy Wife, who knows how to handle anything, including what to do when the meat for the barbecue shows up alive. Persephone’s husband might be a CIA agent, and her nemesis is cool, remote Mila, whose life has been more complicated than the Americans could imagine. Crouch, who lived in Namibia, paints a funny portrait of American privilege, and her depiction of Namibia is colorful and affectionate. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27, July 13)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

Godspeed

By Nickolas Butler

The three builders working on the magnificent home outside Jackson, Wyo., have different reasons for taking on the project. Cole sees it as his legacy. Teddy hopes to provide security for his family. For Bart, it’s an escape from the poverty and addiction that has dogged his past. But the mysterious owner who hired them wants the showpiece completed in an impossibly short time, and the threat of winter could ruin their chances of collecting the bonuses she has promised. Wisconsin author Butler (“Shotgun Lovesongs”) uses this framework to examine questions about class and capitalism in America while delivering a thriller-style ride. The bad and bloody decisions could be made by any of us desperate enough to chase the real American dream. (Putnam, $27, July 27)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

A Song Everlasting

By Ha Jin

Fans of serious fiction can immerse themselves in Ha Jin’s latest novel about Yao Tian, a singer who finds himself at odds with the Chinese government after he stays in the U.S. a few days after his state-sanctioned tour. Tian returns to his wife and daughter in China, but when he’s ordered to turn over his passport, he returns to New York, determined to make a living there. “A Song Everlasting” follows his complicated new life as a man with no real home, drifting from his family and haunted by a question he can’t answer: “If a country has betrayed a citizen, isn’t the citizen entitled to betray the country?” Adjusting to new customs proves difficult, but Tian’s perseverance and courage is moving and ultimately uplifting, a tribute to the price so many pay to be here. (Pantheon, $28, July 27)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

So We Meet Again

By Suzanne Park

In this lighthearted romantic comedy, investment banker Jess Kim loses her corporate job and is forced to move back to her parents’ house in Nashville. There, she reconnects with childhood nemesis Daniel Choi, whose charmed life continues to be a sore spot. Daniel is an attorney and video game streamer, and you don’t need to be a market analyst to know where these two frenemies will end up. Jess is dazed when her YouTube cooking channel takes off after her mother wanders onto the set and starts arguing about the best way to prepare Korean food (pour Coke in the meat marinade and don’t forget the ginger). Park’s breezy style fits perfectly with the material, and the jokes don’t detract from her message about staying true to your culture. (Avon, $15.99, Aug. 3)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

We Are the Brennans

By Tracey Lange

There was a time when the Irish-American Brennan family was the envy of the neighborhood. But everything is different now. A DWI accident in Los Angeles has sent daughter Sunday slinking home; her abrupt departure five years earlier broke the heart of her fiancé Kale, who has since married. Kale runs a pub with Sunday’s brother Denny, whose own marriage is falling apart. Denny is on the verge of losing the business, while brother Jackie quietly shoulders the weight of the heaviest family secret. The truth is that life as a Brennan wasn’t always the easy existence outsiders thought. Lange skillfully contrasts the solace of family ties with the paralyzing burden of carrying secrets for too long. Her flawed but big-hearted Brennans will sneak under your skin. (Celadon, $26.99, Aug. 3)

Reviewed by Connie Ogle

Ahmed Aziz’s Epic Year

By Nina Hamza

When 12-year-old Ahmed and his family move from Hawaii to his father’s Minnesota hometown, he is immediately on guard, aware that he has to explain the color of his skin and an Indian American heritage he only knows secondhand. He isn’t swayed by his dad’s warm memories of growing up in Farthing and the yearly box of Pearson’s Nut Goodies, maple syrup and autumn leaves sent by a childhood friend. A welcome letter from his sixth-grade English teacher, Mrs. Gaarder, along with a reading list, also put Ahmed on guard. “For starters, it’s wrong to call an assignment a favor. You’re not fooling anyone when you do,” he snaps. As the new kid, Ahmed’s plan is to blend in. But he’s targeted on his first day of school by a neighborhood bully, Jack. Ahmed also meets Carl, an unapologetic class overachiever. And he finds himself in a group with Ari, who uses a wheelchair, and sharp-tongued Jessica, who are determined to get the most points in a yearlong class read-a-thon that culminates in a game of “Are you Smarter than Mrs. Gaarder?” Ahmed’s group pushes him to work harder than he planned in class, while his dad’s health takes a turn for the worse. When Jack’s bullying implicates Ahmed in a schoolwide threat, Ahmed finds unexpected allies even as he faces police and school administrators without his family by his side. Minnesota author Nina Hamza has a big heart for kids struggling to fit in, and an understanding of the casual cruelties of the school system and the ways kids and some adults find to push back. Her debut is a warmhearted book full of honesty, loss and love. (Quill Tree Books, $16.99, June 22)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Sunshine

By Marion Dane Bauer

Ben’s mother abandoned the family when he was 3 years old, leaving him with his dad and his imaginary dog, Sunshine. Ben barely remembers her, but the ache of missing her runs through every part of his life. Now he’s come up with a plan — he’ll spend a week with her on the island where she lives and writes near the Canadian border, and that will persuade her to move back “home” to St. Paul. From the moment he arrives at his mom’s cabin, Ben, a nervous “what-if kid” at home, is challenged to face his fears and follow his mother into places of terrifying and unexpected beauty. St. Paul author Marion Dane Bauer tells a pared-down story full of hard truths, flawed adults and the solace of the North Woods. (Candlewick Press, $16.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

When We Were Infinite

By Kelly Loy Gilbert

“I often thought of the five of us as our own self-contained universe,” says Beth at the beginning of this beautifully calibrated coming-of-age story. Moving through high school with her friends — Grace Nakamura, Brandon Lin, Sunny Chen and Jason Tsou — offers Beth her first sense of belonging since her parents’ divorce. She imagines their protective bubble continuing into college, even as Grace begins to date an outsider, Sunny comes out as pansexual, and an act of family violence sends Jason into a tailspin, leading Beth to reveal her feelings for him. Kelly Loy Gilbert’s dialogue is razor sharp, and she honors the nuances of teens navigating painful choices as her characters move toward tentative self-knowledge. (Simon & Schuster, $19.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Chaos on CatNet

By Naomi Kritzer

In a Minneapolis in the not-too-distant future, police have been replaced by a public safety department, a street and plaza are named for George Floyd, and a sentient AI is stirring up algorithmically enhanced trouble. Steph and her mother, no longer on the run from her violent father, have settled into a quiet neighborhood. At her new school, Steph meets Nell, who has been sent from a rural cult after the disappearance of her mother, to her dad’s Minneapolis polyamorous household. Both teens are drawn to an app, Mischief Elves, that steers them into tasks ranging from odd to illegal and parallels one used to control members of Nell’s cult. The manipulation and gamification of social networks are eerily prescient in this sequel to Naomi Kritzer’s “Catfishing on CatNet.” (Tor Teen, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Home Is Not a Country

By Safia Elhillo

Sudanese American writer Safia Elhillo traces the cost of war, dislocation and immigration in this aching novel in verse. Nima is growing up in suburban America, an outsider to her classmates, but also cut off from a land and culture that could ground her. Her mother works long hours and zones out to soap operas when she’s home. Nima goes to “halfhearted Arabic classes,” where she laughs with her best friend Haitham, “we never ask why our mothers had come here & could not let it go.” When Nima and Haitham have a falling out, Nima sinks into stories of her dream double, the beautiful and beloved Yasmeen, and she slowly comes to understand the terrible calculus that forced her parents to seek an escape from their lush homeland. (Make Me a World, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

On the Hook

By Francisco X. Stork

Hector Robles is a chess grandmaster in the making. He’s always thinking a move ahead as he tries to find a path out of the El Paso projects, where his family landed after the death of his father. But then he catches the eye of the local drug dealer and his brother Joey, who targets Hector just as Hector’s older brother is helping the family move toward a new life. A confrontation erupts between the two sets of brothers with deadly consequences, landing Joey and Hector in the same reform school. Hector finds himself consumed with anger and revenge — threatening to pull him deeper into the prison system. A series of encounters forces him to rethink what he knows of courage in this story of facing harshness with heart. (Scholastic, $17.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

It Goes Like This

By Miel Moreland

The dialogue is snappy and the romance at a slow burn in this story of teen stardom and its cost. The four members of Moonlight Overthrow filled stadiums before the band imploded, leaving a trail of hurt feelings and a rabid fandom clamoring for a reunion. For Eva, now a songwriter, that’s unlikely. Singer-guitarist Celeste broke her heart before their last show. Gina, the band’s sole member of color, wanted out to pursue acting. And Steph, who now identifies as nonbinary, has returned home to Duluth, escaping a band that could be “Sapphic, but only in skirts.” An encounter at a party and a devastating Duluth storm pull the members together to see if their friendship, and their onstage rhythm, have survived the time apart. (Feiwel and Friends, $18.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Long Lost

By Jacqueline West

A mysterious book and a ghostly sibling rivalry are the center of this spooky summer tale by Red Wing author Jacqueline West. When 11-year-old Fiona Crane’s family moves across Massachusetts to follow her sister Arden’s figure-skating career, she loses her friends, her home and her bearings. She finds solace at the local library, housed in a mansion donated by the town heiress, where she stumbles across a book called “The Lost One,” and a boy who has more questions than answers. As she’s drawn deeper into the tale of sisters Hazel and Pearl, who explored the woods until one met an untimely death, Fiona’s disagreements with Arden escalate, hurtling them both toward a ghost-filled and stormy conclusion. A summer read that will induce shivers. (Greenwillow, $16.99)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Sisters of the Neversea

By Cynthia Leitich Smith

“What are you? Lost or Indian,” Peter Pan demands early in this inventive retelling of J.M. Barrie’s classic. And in that moment, Cynthia Leitich Smith unfreezes a world caught in amber and lets readers rethink an island run by a boy who refuses to grow up. In present-day Tulsa, Okla., Lily, Wendy and Michael are members of a blended British-Muscogee Creek family that is about to split apart. Into the fray sails Peter, chasing his shadow, and his fairy sidekick Belle. He lures Wendy and Michael to Neverland, leaving Lily to attempt a rescue on an island full of hungry crocodiles, a queendom of fairies, angry merfolk and wily pirates. “Like any other kind of magic, stories can offer harm and hope,” Leitich Smith writes. Here, she offers pushback and a path forward. (Heartdrum, $16.99, June 1)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Rea and the Blood of the Nectar

By Payal Doshi

Rea Chettri is overshadowed by her popular twin Rohan, who gets a free pass on chores and leaves her out of midnight cricket games. But when Rohan disappears on their 12th birthday, Rea is determined to get to the bottom of the curse that has paralyzed her family. She discovers a portal into the magical kingdom of Astranthia, which is ruled by an evil queen who extracts good harvests and loyalty from her subjects by wielding shadow magic. With the help of her best friend Leela, and Astranthians willing to break the rules, Rea faces her fears as she tries to rescue Rohan and the kingdom from a dark fate. Minneapolis author Payal Doshi has created a spunky and self-honest heroine in the first installment of this middle-grade series. (Mango and Marigold Press, $19.95, June 15)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

Redemptor

By Jordan Ifueko

In this sequel to “Raybearer,” Tarisai has ascended to the throne as the first Empress Redemptor. No longer a girl full of untested powers, she now rules with her male peer Dayo and a council of advisers. She’s determined to untangle Aristar’s inequalities, despite pushback from the gentry and a spate of unexplained assassinations. But spirit children haunt her steps, reminding her to “do more, do more” even as she sees more clearly the cost of the kingdom’s wealth. To save her world and people she loves, Tarisai must journey alone to the Underworld to unravel the dark bargain underpinning Aristar. This conclusion to Jordan Ifueko’s richly imagined fantasy saga is full of complex characters, rich language and conflicts that will resonate. (Amulet Books, $18.99, Aug. 17)

Reviewed by Trisha Collopy, Star Tribune

The Other Passenger

By Louise Candlish

Every day, a group of commuters booze at the bar on a Thames ferry as they shuttle back and forth to their jobs in London. This little group is connected “by [their] childlessness” and their “freedom to put [themselves] before everyone else.” They’re self-indulgent and narcissistic. They’re Chandler, Monica, Phoebe, Ross and Rachel if Gillian Flynn or Patricia Highsmith had scripted them. In a terrifically fiendish way, Candlish gives voice to Jamie, who narrates the story before and after the day one of the friends goes missing. On the surface, all appears calm. Jamie and Clare have it all: a comfortable marriage, a big house in a gated suburb. Kit and Melia are an attractive couple. They are hip, witty, exceptionally attractive and “aspirational.” Beneath the surface, though, things are murky. Jamie’s broke and has no desire to move beyond his job as a barista. Clare controls their marriage, their finances, their future and Jamie with a calculating bourgeois grip. Kit and Melia have crippling student debt and they’re living far beyond their means. By the time Kit’s been missing for six days, “the stress has become corrosive” and Jamie is surrounded with suspicion and suspicions. With Jamie, Candlish has created a self-deprecating and insistent narrator. His growing apprehension at what may have happened to Kit keeps the suspense taut. As everyone’s motives get murkier, the tide takes a shockingly believable turn (two or three, in fact). Candlish’s story is a stiletto take on desire and ambition and the power of possession, and one of the most entertaining and seductive thrillers coming this summer. (Atria, $17, July 20)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

The Bombay Prince

By Sujata Massey

In an attempt to solidify England’s colonial rule, Prince Edward VIII visits Bombay in 1921. During a parade, a student, Freny Cuttingmaster, the daughter of a tailor, is murdered. Massey’s indomitable main character, lawyer Perveen Mistry, investigates. In strict Parsis culture where a family’s reputation is everything and a daughter’s perceived flaws can destroy that standing, Cuttingmaster’s death becomes embroiled in Bombay’s increasingly violent independence movement. The prince’s visit has also returned someone to Mistry’s life that she’d decided never to see again. Mistry charges into both matters with her usual pointed but restrained anger toward India’s patriarchy and colonial rule. Massey’s lush descriptions and rich historical details are transporting. (Soho Crime, $27.95, June 1)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

The Ninth Metal

By Benjamin Percy

In Percy’s immersive and imaginative sci-fi thriller, Minnesota is at the epicenter of a phenomenon that’s created a “geopolitical crisis” for the world and “existential quandary” for humanity. Does Minnesota rise to the occasion? Hmm … yes and no. Northfall, Percy’s fictional town in the Manitou Range, is “making bank” from omnimetal. It’s an alien matter, a powerful energy source like nothing in the known universe, but it’s infected more than the land. Mother Gunderson once was a cashier at Farm and Fleet. Now, she’s a “drug lord or a pope or an amulet” sitting on incalculable wealth. Percy’s novel is a clever amalgamation of speculative fiction and family drama, of supercharged characters and regular folk, encompassing various viewpoints in a highly cinematic narrative. (HMH, $25, June 1)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

Dead by Dawn

By Paul Doiron

Over the years, “dangerous people have tried and failed to murder me,” says Maine game warden Mike Bowditch. But this investigation “may be the way it ends.” In a breathtaking opening scene, Bowditch’s jeep is snared by spikes deliberately set on a treacherous cliff road. The jeep plummets into the frozen Androscoggin River. The story cuts between Bowditch trying to survive the night while getting chased through the wilderness (“an obstacle course” of deadwood, ice jams and glacial boulders), and the events that may have set up his death by dawn. Did his ambush have anything to do with his investigation into the death of a professor who had been fishing on the same river? This novel is a tour de force of energy, plotting and pulse-racing suspense. (Minotaur, $27.99, June 29)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

Walking Through Needles

By Heather Levy

Eric Walker doesn’t want to relive the day in 1994 when he walked “deep into the woods” in Oklahoma wielding a knife. Yet the memory comes in “white flashes of fear.” He hears Sam, his stepsister, sobbing, sees the “gushing blood.” Many of their wounds have healed, but scars remain. Until 2009, when the police find Sam’s stepfather’s white Chevy pickup submerged in a pond. Eric and Sam’s shared secrets and their dark childhoods are slowly laid bare. Eric “fit the narrative of the troubled son” and Sam wants to save him. “Walking Through Needles” is an astonishing debut that openly explores sexual violence and its legacies on a woman’s body and her mind. Levy’s novel is a gripping, disturbing read, and, perhaps for some, triggering, but I couldn’t turn away. (Polis Books, $26, June 29)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

The Hollywood Spy

By Susan Elia MacNeal

“One way or another,” World War II British spy extraordinaire Maggie Hope is going to discover who murdered Gloria Hutton, the ex-wife of one of Los Angeles’ wealthiest men and the fiancée of Maggie’s beloved John Sterling. It’s July 1943 and Maggie is in Hollywood, staying at the Châteaux Marmont with her friend Sarah, who’s choreographing a movie with George Ballanchine. Suspended between fantasy and reality, Los Angeles is “an idea, not a real city.” And that’s what I loved most about this stellar novel. Elia MacNeal expertly braids the glitz and glamour of Hollywood with the chilling reality of the rise of American Nazis and the blatant racism against Blacks, Japanese, Germans and Italians. Maggie notes that “it’s the same war, different country,” and, sadly, one we’re still fighting. (Bantam, $27, July 6)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

Razorblade Tears

By S.A. Cosby

This heartbreaking, hard-punching stunner of a novel is about grief and loss wrapped in some serious “Rolling Thunder John Wick” action. Cosby has created two unforgettable characters, Ike Randolph and Buddy Lee Jenkins, one Black, one white, both fathers of gay sons married to each other. Their sons have been “shot multiple times in front of a fancy wine store.” Ike regrets he never “walked across the goddamn glacier” that was his relationship with his son “instead of waiting for it to melt.” Buddy Lee believes his son was ashamed of him because he could sound like “a cracker in an old hillbilly movie.” The two fathers come together to seek revenge for their sons. Maybe redemption for themselves, too. Either way, they’re going to make things right. (Flatiron, $26.99, July 6)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

For Your Own Good

By Samantha Downing

More than once, I winced at something the seemingly guileless main character, Ted Crutcher, spouts in Downing’s sly, smart thriller. Crutcher is Teacher of the Year at a private high school in the Northeast, one built on entitlement and wealth (Crutcher has little of either), where parents are not helicopters, but diabolical drones. Crutcher feels obligated, even driven, to “fiddle” with his students’ lives, to cajole, crusade, even murder on their unsuspecting behalf. Everything Crutcher does is for his students’ good. He’s a Dickens-loving Dexter, a psychopath with literary tendencies. When the consequences of one of his “fiddles” spirals out of control, Crutcher is caught in a battle of wits with three students out to uncover his demented machinations with a few of their own. (Berkley, $27, July 20)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

Clark and Division

By Naomi Hirahara

Hirahara’s beautifully written and deeply moving mystery set in 1943 is about the lives of two sisters, Rose and Aki Ito (Nisei, first generation Japanese born in America) after their release from Manzanar, a concentration camp in California. Rose is relocated first and heads to Chicago. If Rose “insisted on something, the whole family went along with it.” They follow Rose to Chicago. But on the day they arrive, they learn Rose was run over at the corner of Clark and Division. Aki doesn’t want to be “that tragic girl,” the “surviving sister.” With Rose’s diary in hand and a deep commitment to her sister’s memory in her heart, Aki investigates. Hirahara’s novel is an accomplished and important story about a time in American history that I felt privileged bearing witness to. (Soho Crime, $27.95, Aug. 3)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

Mrs. March

By Virginia Feito

Like Virginia Wolf’s Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. March is planning a party (her first name isn’t revealed until the book’s last line). Mrs. March is the wife of a famous novelist. They live in an expensive brownstone in New York. Like Mrs. Dalloway, Mrs. March’s perception of herself is thrown into dangerous relief when a shopkeeper suggests the main character in her husband’s latest novel is based on her. In that barbed moment, paranoia seizes her, her identity dissolves. She wonders if she “was ever there at all.” Feito’s fiendish narrator presents Mrs. March to readers like a specimen under glass. The narrator zooms in and out of Mrs. March’s thoughts with sometimes scathing, sometimes sympathetic precision as her psyche unravels. I delighted in every moment of this stellar debut. (Liveright, $26, Aug. 10)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman

Lightning Strike

By William Kent Krueger

Cork O’Connor’s father, Liam, was “a good man in a hard job.” The latest novel in Krueger’s accomplished series set in the North Woods of Minnesota returns to 1963 and an investigation when Cork was 12 and his father was sheriff of Tamarack County. The reminiscing is the older Cork’s attempt “to unravel the mystery that had been his father.” The case involves Big John, a “handsome and sad and solitary” man who the young Cork discovers hanging from “the burned remains of a large log construction” that was once a sacred site for the Ojibwe. It’s during this first time working with his father that Cork learns “a tremendous sense of responsibility for finding the truth.” This expertly crafted mystery has the North Woods, its people and their legacies at its tender heart. (Atria, $27, Aug. 24)

Reviewed by Carole E. Barrowman