We’re entering publishing’s top season, when they bring out literature’s notable and best-selling authorial names. This fall, we’ve got Irish mystery writer Tana French, British author of Atonement fame Ian McEwan, American crime novelist James Ellroy, popular historical fiction writer Sarah Waters and the incomparable British novelist Martin Amis releasing new novels. There are others, but these few particularly caught my attention. Below are brief summaries of their books. Also included, a sneak peek at Colm Tóibín’s new novel coming out early October.
The Secret Place by Tana French
Tana French’s new detective novel is set for release this coming Tuesday, Sept. 2, and already getting rave reviews. It’s a boarding school mystery ignited by a note posted to the school’s anonymous tell-all bulletin board (called the Secret Place) that says someone knows the identity of a boy’s killer. French is known to use characters from previous novels and in this one brings back Detective Stephen Moran and the Mackay family from Faithful Place. Publisher’s Weekly said, “French stealthily spins a web of teenage secrets with a very adult crime at the center.”
The Children Act by Ian McEwan
Set for release on Sept. 9, Ian McEwan’s new novel takes on the issue of religious belief preventing medical care for a 17-year-old boy who could die without it. The British judge hearing the difficult case is simultaneously struggling with her husband’s marital infidelity. This promises to be another one of McEwan’s best. For book collectors: A special limited signed first edition of The Children Act is available. All full leather copies are now sold out, but quarter leathers are still available. Scroll down the page on Mr. McEwan’s website to get details.
Perfidia by James Ellroy
Also set for release Sept. 9, this novel begins a new crime series by James Ellroy, well-known for his L.A. Quartet that includes Black Dahlia and L.A. Confidential. Perfidia is the first novel in what will now be a Second L.A. Quartet series. Characters from Ellroy’s previous novels will appear here in their younger years, as this is a prequel to the L.A. Quartet #1. Perfidia begins the day before the attack on Pearl Harbor and unfolds through the following days in December 1941. Rival investigators bump up against one another trying to solve the death of four members of a Japanese family, who may have had foreknowledge of the attack on Pearl Harbor. Previews and James Ellroy’s letter on his literary agency’s website point to a complex, involving crime novel. Note that its page count is just north of 700 pages.
The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Planned for release Sept. 16, this 560-page historical novel takes place in London, 1922, with a debt-ridden mother and daughter forced to rent rooms in their large, genteel home. Forbidden romance plus a shocking act of violence drive the novel’s tension. The Paying Guests is described as one of those novels that keeps you guessing until the end regarding narrative outcome. Sarah Waters is a three-time Man Booker prize short-listed author for her previous novels Fingersmith, The Night Watch and The Little Stranger.
The Zone of Interest by Martin Amis
Publisher’s Weekly begins its forecast for this new novel by describing it as “an absolute soul-crusher of a book.” I wouldn’t let that deter you, though. They also gave the book a starred review — as it’s received from every other forecast I’ve come across — and say it’s “the brilliant latest from Amis.” Just be prepared for a devastating love story. Amis draws again on a World War II theme that provided the narrative fulcrum for his earlier novel, Time’s Arrow. The setting is a German concentration camp, and the primary narrator is the camp’s commandant. Two other narrators also help tell the story, a Jewish inmate and the fictional nephew of the real-life Nazi official Martin Bowman, Hitler’s private secretary.
Nora Webster by Colm Tóibín
This is an October release (10/7) I can’t help but mention here among the September books by acclaimed Irish author Colm Tóibín. The story focuses on a young Irish woman, recently widowed, having lost the love of her life. She lives in a small village in Ireland, and she’s overwhelmed with everyone’s condolences and her grief, let alone the needs of her children. She yearns to find her way back into the world. Previews for Nora Webster portend a powerful character study.