Author

Nikki Amdur

Paule Marshall’s haunting novel about the Brooklyn family of a black jazz musician who left home to find fame in Paris, The Fisher King, sneaks up on you like a deceptively simple tune that’s impossible to forget. It’s actually a complicated story of ambition, disappointment, love, and betrayal — one that moves easily back and forth in time, and all the more astonishing for being seen through the eyes of an 8-year-old Parisian boy, the grandson and namesake of pianist Sonny-Rett Payne.

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The quirky Gallic mystery The Murdered House takes place long before Peter Mayle made a cottage industry out of Provence, back when you could still hear ”the truffle-oaks on the Lurs hillside soughing in the hot wind.” A Provencal road worker, Seraphin Monge, is determined to discover the identity of the men who slaughtered his family when he was a baby, inexplicably sparing only him. Magnan unfurls his story deliberately, almost hypnotically. House contains many pleasures, especially for those with a weakness for the customs of southern France.

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When a distinguished London judge turns his back on his wife of 40 years — a gardener who’s traded her emotional landscape for ”precise rows of carrot and parsnip and beetroot” — to take up with his young mistress, an entire family threatens to unravel. But in Joanna Trollope’s expert hands, the scandal becomes an opportunity to explore the various frailties of her characters, who come across as deftly painted miniatures.

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Just because Indian brides allow themselves to be ”mummified in red and gold silk” on their wedding day doesn’t mean they’re ready to be buried in tradition for the rest of their lives. That’s the message of Meera Syal’s Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee, a sharply amusing novel about three second-generation friends in London who support each other through struggles of marriage and career until an unexpected betrayal throws their lives into disarray.

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Joanna Trollope, Marrying The Mistress

In Marrying the Mistress, when a distinguished London judge turns his back on his wife of 40 years – a gardener who’s traded her emotional landscape for ”precise rows of carrot and parsnip and beetroot” – to take up with his young mistress, an entire family threatens to unravel. But in Trollope’s expert hands, the scandal becomes an opportunity to explore the various frailties of her characters, who come across as deftly painted miniatures.

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Meera Syal, Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee

Just because Indian brides allow themselves to be ”mummified in red and gold silk” on their wedding day doesn’t mean they’re ready to be buried in tradition for the rest of their lives. That’s the message in Life Isn’t All Ha Ha Hee Hee – a sharply amusing novel about three second-generation friends in London who support each other through struggles of marriage and career until an unexpected betrayal throws their lives into disarray. Studded with cultural tidbits, this exotic take on the gal-pal novel is as spicy as the biryanis the trio whip up for family dinners.

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David Knowles’ constantly escalating thriller The Third Eye probes the jagged reaches of a complex and creepy personality. Jefferson — think Norman Bates with a Harvard degree — passes himself off as a peripatetic wildlife photographer when he sublets his extra Manhattan apartment (yeah, right) to a series of unsuspecting women who are his real photographic prey. When his newest tenant engages him in the same cat-and-mouse game he’s so artfully played with his previous victims, Jefferson’s flimsy grip on reality disintegrates.

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The winters in Blue Deer, Mont., are long, with a sinister snowy blanket capable of hiding a body or two. In Blue Deer Thaw, the latest episode of Jamie Harrison’s quirky series, Sheriff Jules Clement — is after the killer of a woman found frozen in the snow. Harrison knows how to build tension without sacrificing depth. Yet she’s funny, too. Her nicely layered story is peppered with wit and bizarre characters like the rich eccentric who stores a priceless art collection in an old wreck of a hotel.

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