Two Australian memoirs, a collection of searing short stories by a Miles Franklin winner, top-notch crime fiction and the latest from a trio of master-storytellers are among our top-10 essential books for your beach bag this summer.
The Promised Land
Barry Maitland, Allen & Unwin, $29.99
When Kolla, newly promoted to detective chief inspector, arrests local publisher John Pettigrew, the suspect’s lawyer calls in the recently retired Brock – pitting the two cops, former colleagues, against one another.
An unearthed manuscript by a literary great may hold the key to the mystery – but how?
The Wych Elm
Tana French, Viking, $32.99
In her seventh novel, French breaks away from her Dublin Murder Squad series to tell the standalone story of Toby Hennessy, who retreats to his uncle’s mansion after an attack leaves him traumatised and questioning everything about himself.
But rambling Ivy House, where Toby spent many summers with his cousins as a youth, might not be the shelter he remembered. Soon after he arrives, a skull is discovered inside a wych elm in the garden, dragging the past, with all its family secrets, into the glaring light of day.
Suitcase of Dreams
Tania Blanchard, Simon & Schuster, $29.99
She returns with another historical saga grounded in true events. Suitcase of Dreams tells of Lotte Drescher, who’s trying to put the horrors of Nazi Germany behind her as she forges a new life for herself and her family in Australia.
Just as the new Australians’ sacrifices seem to be paying off, Lotte’s husband Erich is linked to communism, and a surprise visitor forces Lotte to make a life-changing decision.
A.S. Patric, Transit Lounge, $29.99
Melbourne bookseller and creative-writing teacher Patric won the Miles Franklin Award in 2016 for his debut novel Black Rock White Clay, and these evocative yarns exploring death, hope, loneliness, belief and love principally return to that Australian terrain.
A Letter from Paris
Louisa Deasey, Scribe, $32.99
Deasey’s father, Denison, died when she was six. The sick and elderly man she barely remembered faded into the background as a new picture began to emerge of him as a dashing artist on the trail of romance and adventure in postwar Europe – all set into motion by a Frenchwoman’s revelation about a passionate affair between her grandmother and Deasey’s father.
It sounds like the stuff of novels, but it’s all true, as revealed by Deasey’s testament to the power of stories to heal across the divide of time.
The Next Person You Meet in Heaven
Mitch Albom, Sphere, $32.99
While the latter was his memoir about a grandfatherly mentor dispensing spiritual lessons, Albom went on to carve a stellar career in afterlife-centric fiction – his latest being the sequel to his 2004 hit, The Five People You Meet in Heaven.
An entertaining, emotionally charged tale of love, loss and how every life matters.
A Well-Behaved Woman: A Novel of the Vanderbilts
Therese Anne Fowler, Two Roads, $32.99
This time, Fowler tells the true story of destitute Southern belle, Alva Smith, who married into the Vanderbilts of New York. While the city’s old-money families sniffed at them, stubborn Alva set about earning their respect, building estates and masterminding advantageous marriages, but simultaneously blazing a trail as a suffragette and convention-defying woman of her time.
Enthralling time travel into a glittering world, long gone.
Stephen King, Hachette Australia, $29.99
Castle Rock resident Scott Carey has a mysterious affliction: he’s losing weight, but not getting thinner. At first Scott confides only in his friend, a retired doctor, but word soon spreads and Scott’s unusual condition eventually helps draw together the people in his small town.
Moving, joyful and (of course) eerie, King’s latest is a bite-sized treat about how we can find common ground with each other, despite our differences.
Barbara Kingsolver, Faber & Faber, $32.99
Speaking of master storytellers, the author of the modern American classic, The Poisonwood Bible, is back with a compelling novel about two families anchored by one house, in two centuries, facing the same challenges of a world in upheaval.
Willa Knox is at a crossroads: the magazine where she worked is no more and her husband too is out of work. All that’s left is an inherited old house in New Jersey, seemingly dilapidated beyond repair, that’s also home to Willa’s cranky father-in-law, her two adult children and a surprise grandchild.
In search of money to save the home, Willa begins to research its history, and discovers a kindred spirit from the past: an 1880s science teacher under siege for telling the truth. Unsheltered is a celebration of the human spirit and the bonds of family.
Kate Atkinson, Doubleday, $32.99
Atkinson is the queen of creating literary, yet addictively readable, works of fiction, always populating her funny, tragic stories with characters as alive as the person sitting next to you on public transport (or moreso).
Having been preoccupied recently with World War II, the British novelist doesn’t deviate in her latest book. As with her previous offerings, she straddles eras to tell the story of Juliet Butler, an 18-year-old MI5 recruit in 1940, whom we meet in the opening pages in the days before Prince Charles’ and Lady Di’s wedding.
Twists and thrills ensue, rendered in Atkinson’s inimitable way.