Review: 'Mr. Splitfoot' by Samantha Hunt

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"Mr. Splitfoot" by Samantha Hunt; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (318 pages, $24)

"All stories are ghost stories," says Cora, the narrator of part of Samantha Hunt's unsettling third novel "Mr. Splitfoot." Maybe she's right: Our pasts inevitably haunt us, whoever and wherever we are.

But that title conjures up something more frightening than a ...Read more

'The Yid' sticks it to Stalin with sarcastic aplomb

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"The Yid: A Novel" by Paul Goldberg; Picador (320 pages, $26)

In a discussion about the Holocaust, or Pol Pot's atrocities, or some other systematic attempt by humans in power to exterminate other groups of humans, members of younger generations will ask: Why didn't they fight back?

Some did, in spirit if not always so ably in body. And some, ...Read more

Review: 'While the City Slept,' by Eli Sanders

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"While The City Slept" by Eli Sanders; Viking (336 pages $28)

In "The Bravest Woman in Seattle," the newspaper story that won alt-weekly reporter Eli Sanders a Pulitzer Prize, the brave woman at the center of a devastating crime went without a name, at her request.

Now, as Sanders expands the woman's story into a moving and unsettling book ...Read more

In 'Black Deutschland,' a man tries to escape America's racial fetters

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"Black Deutschland: A Novel" by Darryl Pinckney; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (304 pages, $26)

Having immediately conjured the ghost of Christopher Isherwood, Darryl Pinckney's protagonist concludes the first paragraph of "Black Deutschland" -- Pinckney's novel about being a gay black expatriate in 1980s Berlin -- by copping to a vision of Berlin ...Read more

Review: 'The Past' by Tessa Hadley

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"The Past" by Tessa Hadley; Harper (311 pages, $26.99)

The domestic drama is a shapeshifter that takes many forms, but one of its most popular literary incarnations is the family-reunion story. Often the story takes a humorous tone: Think Maggie Shipstead's comic rendition of a wedding in "Seating Arrangements" or the journey of Emma Straub's ...Read more

'The Short Drop' features strong shades of political thriller

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"The Short Drop" by Matthew FitzSimmons; Thomas & Mercer (395 pages, $24.95)

Unbridled power and relentless revenge converge in the exciting, tightly plotted "The Short Drop," which launches a new series about former computer hacker Gibson Vaughn.

Matthew FitzSimmons delivers an assured, action-packed debut that features strong shades of the ...Read more

'The Vatican Prophecies': How the Vatican separates faith from fiction

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"The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural Signs, Apparitions and Miracles in the Modern Age" by John Thavis; Viking (276 pages, $27.95)

For legions of Catholics, and not a few church bureaucrats, the supernatural is as real and present as it was for their medieval forebears.

In "The Vatican Prophecies: Investigating Supernatural ...Read more

Three Hong Kong expats and their intersecting stories

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"The Expatriates" by Janice Y.K. Lee; Viking (336 pages, $27.95)

Foreigners who move to exotic Hong Kong might expect to find reprieve from their lives back home and anonymity among the bustling metropolis.

But in "The Expatriates," New York author Janice Y.K. Lee's latest novel (Viking, 336 pp., $27.95), three American women find that no ...Read more

Suspense is superior in 'The Bitter Season'

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"The Bitter Season" by Tami Hoag; Dutton (368 pages, $28)

In Minneapolis, it is the bitter season that permeates everyone and everything with it "raw cold and gray skies, knifing winds." It's also a bitter season for crime detection as best-selling author Tami Hoag proves in her highly entertaining "The Bitter Season."

In this fifth novel ...Read more

Helen Ellis' 'American Housewife' a dark, funny voice to remember

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"American Housewife: Stories" by Helen Ellis; Doubleday (208 pages, $24)

Don't play poker with Helen Ellis, unless you plan on borrowing bus fare to get home: She's a successful high-stakesplayer. But do read "American Housewife," her new collection of stories featuring or told by wives: funny, biting, frequently dark, and deeper than they ...Read more

'Splinter the Silence' is gripping, powerful crime novel

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"Splinter the Silence" by Val McDermid; Atlantic Monthly (416 pages, $25)

British author Val McDermid's thrilling novels about detective chief constable Carol Jordan and clinical psychologist Tony Hill continue to richly delve into the vagaries of modern crime and the psychological motives that propel people to do the unthinkable.

McDermid ...Read more

Debut novel questions whether soldiers ever truly come home

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"A Hard and Heavy Thing" by Matthew J. Hefti; Tyrus Books (368 pages, $24.99)

Late in "A Hard and Heavy Thing," University of Wisconsin-Madison law student Matthew J. Hefti's debut novel, Levi Hartwig is drinking with his dad in a bar, more than a year after returning from stints as a soldier in both Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We're all trying to ...Read more

'Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park' gives graphic form to dying

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"Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park ... When You're 29 and Unemployed" by Aneurin Wright; Pennsylvania State University Press (320 pages, $32.95)

Aneurin Wright's debut graphic novel, "Things to Do in a Retirement Home Trailer Park ... When You're 29 and Unemployed," is a shape-shifting chimera stuffed between book covers; a comic ...Read more

'Beloved Dog' by Maira Kalman pays tribute to the dogs of life

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"Beloved Dog" by Maira Kalman; Penguin (160 pages, $29.95)

Noted illustrator and author Maira Kalman's thesis statement couldn't be clearer:

"You, reading this book, most likely have, or had, a dog, You certainly know that your dog is, or was, the dearest, funniest, lovingest, loyalest friend you ever had."

Oddly enough, Kalman grew up in a ...Read more

'Once They Were Hats': the saga of the resilient beaver

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"Once They Were Hats: In Search of the Mighty Beaver" by Frances Backhouse; ECW Press (261 pages, $16.95)

Reading natural history is fraught with a particular kind of peril. The typical progression from "here are amazing facts" to "there used to be 1/8X3/8 million of these majestic creatures, until humans wiped them out" is a disappointing road...Read more

Devising death: 'Design and Violence' portrays real tools of violence and they are chilling

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"Design and Violence" by Paola Antonelli, Jamer Hunt, with Michelle Millar Fisher; MoMA Publications (232 pages, $45)

When Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik killed 14 people at a holiday office party in San Bernardino on Dec. 2, 2015, they were armed with a veritable arsenal: a Smith & Wesson M&P 15 assault rifle, a DPMS Panther Arms ...Read more

Dadaab refugee camp, detailed in 'City of Thorns,' is a world ripped from the world

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"City of Thorns: Nine Lives in the World's Largest Refugee Camp" by Ben Rawlence; Picador (400 pages, $26)

The residents of the sprawling Dadaab camp in northern Kenya are living paradoxes: nationals of no nation, refugees who in many cases are also natives -- born and raised in a state of anguished waiting.

This wasn't supposed to happen. ...Read more

Review: 'The Guest Room' by Chris Bohjalian

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"The Guest Room" by Chris Bohjalian; Doubleday (336 pages, $26.95)

A well-heeled Wall Streeter, generally considered a good guy, agrees to throw a bachelor party at his suburban Westchester house for his slightly sleazy younger brother. With his wife and daughter in the city for the night, he allows -- despite his own uneasiness -- strippers at...Read more

Harrowing memoir examines childhood in Haiti

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"A Sky the Color of Chaos," by M. J. Fievre; Beating Windward (170 pages. $17.95)

The sense of menace that hovers over M.J. Fievre's childhood in Haiti, which she documents in her harrowing memoir, "A Sky the Color of Chaos," is as inescapable as the heat in Port au Prince. It follows her through the streets, lurks in her family's apartment on ...Read more

'Shady Hollow' a cheeky 'Murder, She Wrote,' with animals

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"Shady Hollow: A Murder Mystery" by Juneau Black; Hammer & Birch (176 pages, $12.95)

The heroine of "Shady Hollow" (Hammer & Birch) is a foxy, hardworking reporter whose best friend owns a bookstore. She drinks strong coffee, sticks her nose into rich folks' business and finds clues the police overlooked.

Only a toad could dislike that setup. ...Read more

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