Through four prior thrillers all set along the salty shores of the Texas Gulf Coast, co-authors John T. Davis, James R. Dennis and Brent Douglass — known collectively as mystery writer Miles Arceneaux — have created a powerful and at times poignant family saga chronicling conflicts unique to that region and its colorful history.
In “Hidden Sea” (Brent Doughlass, Publisher, $11.99), the fifth novel, Arceneaux takes the saga south to Mexico and out into uncharted waters of the Gulf. In doing so, he delivers some of his best writing yet.
The youngest member of the Sweetwater clan finds himself literally cast adrift, far from family and friends — as a slave on a clandestine fishing boat controlled by a Mexican crime syndicate.
Arceneaux’s talent for crafting clever plots peopled by colorful characters is informed by a willingness to put a human face on both those who knowingly engage in the slave trade, which draws its lifeblood from the flood of refugees from Central America, and those who enable them. Read the full review here.
As Muhammad Ali emerged as an icon of black nationalism and anti-war disobedience, he became a favorite subject of the groundbreaking writers who incorporated literary flair into nonfiction.
From Norman Mailer to James Baldwin to Gay Talese to Hunter S. Thompson, these journalists painted a character out of myth, overflowing with charisma and contradictions, capable of tragic hubris and astonishing resilience.
Remarkably, though, Jonathan Eig’s “Ali: A Life” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $30) is the first comprehensive biography worthy of this titanic figure.
The author of acclaimed books on Lou Gehrig and Jackie Robinson, Eig weaves together Ali’s athletic feats, cultural significance and personal journey. Read the full review here.
Amy Tan’s new memoir is called “Where the Past Begins” (Ecco, $28.99).
It looks candidly at the experiences that have shaped her fiction: her difficult relationship with her mother, the deaths of her father and brother when Tan was a teen, the haunting tales of her grandmother, who died of an opium overdose — and more. There’s enough here for another Amy Tan novel.
Before “The Joy Luck Club,” Tan did not think of herself as a writer. Her parents had told her at age 6 that she was destined to be a neurosurgeon. For years, Tan tried — and failed — to fulfill this destiny. Instead, she studied linguistics and used her language skills to help disabled children before turning to business writing, including a stint drafting direct-mail marketing materials.
In the late ’80s, she attended the Squaw Valley Writers workshop as a way of dealing with her workaholism (therapy had failed to help) and out poured the memories that would form the basis of “The Joy Luck Club.” Even after the book became a best-seller, Tan waited six months to quit her day job. Later came five more novels, two children’s books and several works of nonfiction.
“Where the Past Begins” is perhaps her most unvarnished book. Here she invites readers into the tumult of her inner life. Read the full interview here.
In the past few years, forgotten women of science, from the genteel astronomers who classified the stars at the Harvard Observatory in the 1890s to the African-American mathematicians who staffed NASA in the 1960s, have been rescued and celebrated.
If you cheered the recovery of these remarkable pioneers, you will love reading about the women recruited by the Army and the Navy during World War II and trained in secret programs to break Japanese and German military codes.
In “Code Girls” (Hachette, $28), journalist Liza Mundy tells the irresistible tale of the female cryptographers who learned to crack these diabolically difficult systems.
Being chosen for this mission changed the lives of more than 10,000 young American women, took them out of their familiar surroundings and prescribed destinies, and offered them a thrilling opportunity to do urgent war work at the nation’s center.
But they took vows of secrecy, and this vast enterprise has been hidden for almost 70 years. Read the full review here.
For many lovers of thrillers, John Sandford means one thing: Virgil Flowers.
Sure, Lucas Davenport, the maverick Minneapolis detective, has chased more crime in Sanford’s “Prey” series, but there’s just something about the charismatic Flowers, a state detective for Minnesota, that draws readers to him.
Sandford, a former reporter, editor and columnist for the Miami Herald and the St. Paul Pioneer Press, returns with “Deep Freeze” (Putnam, $29), the 10th Virgil Flowers novel. Flowers is as unconventional and as thorough an investigator as ever, loose in his approach, but effective. Read the full review here.