I’ve highlighted my top picks from September’s best new fiction. These reads include intense historical fiction, character-driven fantasy, a tale of complex relationships, noir mystery and a fun British mystery. With this much variety in September’s Fiction 5, you’ll find at least one new book to fit your reading mood.
1. The Paper Daughters of Chinatown by Heather B. Moore
This is a powerful story about young Chinese women who were lured to America with the promise a new life and rich husbands in the late 19th century. These women were actually brought here to be slaves and prostitutes. The women were called “paper daughters,” because fake documents were used to gain them entry to America. These fake documents left the women without a legal identity and no recourse.
The novel is based on real-life human trafficking and the work of Donaldina “Dolly” Cameron to rescue women at the Occidental Mission Home for Girls in San Francisco.
“Moore focuses her extensively researched historical novel on Dolly’s first 13 years at the home as she evolves from an ambivalent outsider to a passionate advocate leading dangerous raids, testifying in court and rescuing more than 3,000 trafficked women. Dolly’s story unfolds alongside, and ultimately merges with, that of Mei Lien, a paper daughter who leaves her impoverished mother for what she believes is an arranged marriage in America, but upon arrival is enslaved. Recommend to fans of compelling, character-driven historical fiction inspired by true events, such as Lisa Wingate’s Before We Were Yours.” –Booklist (Starred Review)
2. Master of Poisons by Andrea Hairston
The world is changing. Poison desert eats good farmland. Once-sweet water turns foul. The wind blows sand and sadness across the Empire. To get caught in a storm is death. To live and do nothing is death. There is magic in the world, but good conjure is hard to find.
Djola, righthand man and spymaster of the lord of the Arkhysian Empire, is desperately trying to save his adopted homeland, even in exile.
Awa, a young woman training to be a powerful griot, tests the limits of her knowledge and comes into her own in a world of sorcery, floating cities, kindly beasts and uncertain men.
“Andrea Hairston’s writing is not to be missed. Her fantasy is rich with evocative detail, stunning and original, and her characters deeply humane and engaging. This is the kind of fantasy that expands your mind and warms your heart.” ―Martha Wells, New York Times bestselling author of the Murderbot Diaries series
3. What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez
“A woman describes a series of encounters she has with various people in the ordinary course of her life: an ex she runs into by chance at a public forum, an Airbnb owner unsure how to interact with her guests, a stranger who seeks help comforting his elderly mother, a friend of her youth now hospitalized with terminal cancer.
“In each of these people the woman finds a common need: the urge to talk about themselves and to have an audience to their experiences. The narrator orchestrates this chorus of voices for the most part as a passive listener, until one of them makes an extraordinary request, drawing her into an intense and transformative experience of her own. In What Are You Going Through, Nunez brings wisdom, humor, and insight to a novel about human connection and the changing nature of relationships in our times. A surprising story about empathy and the unusual ways one person can help another through hardship, her book offers a moving and provocative portrait of the way we live now.” –Provided by publisher
“… the narrator is a conduit and sounding board for the stories of others… Deeply empathetic without being sentimental, this novel explores women’s lives, their choices, and how they support one another….Highly recommended for readers who favor emotional resonance over escapism during difficult times.” – Library Journal (Starred Review)
4. Tie Die by Max Tomlinson
Steve Cook’s time as a teen idol in London during the 1960s stopped abruptly when a 16-year-old girl was found dead in his hotel room. In 1978 he’s working construction in San Francisco and dreaming of a comeback.
Steve’s world is turned upside down again when his 11-year-old daughter is kidnapped. He asks former fan, Colleen Hayes to help. She knows what it’s like to be on the wrong side of the law. Colleen quickly realizes something strange is going on with this kidnapping.
Her search for Melanie Cook takes Colleen through the corrupt music industry, San Francisco’s underbelly and London. Colleen finds a thread connecting this kidnapping to that fateful death in Steve’s hotel room.
“[In Tie Die, Tomlinson] deepens the character of his multi-layered lead, Colleen Hayes, an unlicensed PI and ex-con who’s still on parole. Readers will want to learn more about this surprising and pragmatic woman.” —Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
5. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
In a peaceful retirement village, four unlikely friends meet weekly in the Jigsaw Room to discuss unsolved crimes. They call themselves The Thursday Murder Club.
When a local developer is found dead with a mysterious photograph left next to the body, the Thursday Murder Club find themselves in the middle of their first live case.
As the bodies begin to pile up, can the unorthodox but brilliant gang catch the killer, before it’s too late?
“What a joy! Full of brilliantly observed humor, spot-on dialogue, and twists and turns aplenty. Joyce and the gang are now my favorite crime-solving team.” —Nina Stibbe, author of Reasons to be Cheerful