French Concession, by Xiao Bai
Chinese writer Bai is making his English language debut with this thrilling literary noir set in 1930s Shanghai. Hseuh, a photographer, becomes caught up in finding the gorgeous missing wife of an assassinated National Party official. But before he can solve the mystery, he is arrested for unknown reasons and forced to become a police collaborator. His investigations reveal crimes close to his front door and take him through the underground criminal scene of Shanghai.
Crooked, by Austin Grossman
I am a huge fan of Grossman’s “Soon I Will Be Invincible,” a superhero novel narrated by the evil villain. He’s extremely funny and clever, and his new book, “Crooked,” is equally fun. His stuff is very imaginative and wacky. And it doesn’t get much wackier than Tricky Dick fighting the occult. Yes, Richard Nixon takes on horrors of Lovecraftian proportions in this zany alternate history that casts the 37th president as America’s unsung hero, fighting spies, nuclear threats, and the unknown. Trust me when I tell you it is as awesome as it sounds.
Speak, by Louisa Hall
For fans of David Mitchell and Margaret Atwood, “Speak” is a literary science-fiction novel about communication and artificial intelligence that spans several centuries. Following the lives of five characters, including renowned code breaker Alan Turing, “Speak” explores what it means to communicate. A man tries to reconnect with his estranged wife; a Puritan woman travels to America following her unwanted wedding, and a traumatized girl has a conversation with a software program. Each story is about reaching out and bridging gaps between people. This is an audacious, thoughtful, brilliant novel, and I hope it takes Hall far.
The Last Pilot, by Benjamin Johncock
In one of the summer’s greatest debut novels, Johncock begins the story at the end of World War II with Jim Harrison, an Air Force test pilot who gives up his dream of becoming an astronaut in favor of becoming a father. Parenthood agrees with Jim and his wife, and they sail along smoothly until the family is faced with a horrible tragedy. Set amidst some of the most important times of the 20th century, “The Last Pilot” is a lovely, poignant look at joy and grief told through the eyes of a man who dreamed of floating among the stars, but instead became untethered back on Earth.
The Watchmaker of Filigree Street, by Natasha Pulley
Paging fans of Sherlock Holmes, “The Golden Compass,” and just fun in general: “The Watchmaker of Filigree Street” is going to scratch all your Victorian England/supernatural itches. Thaniel Steepleton, a telegraphist in London’s Home Office, mysteriously receives a watch at his home. Six months later, when the watch saves his life in a bombing that destroys Scotland Yard, he hunts down its maker. His search leads him to Keita Mori, a Japanese immigrant who remembers the future, and who begins to turn the tides all in Thaniel’s favor. Meddling with the future goes about as well as can be expected, and Pulley takes readers on a fantastical ride through destiny and time. They don’t get much more fun than this!