Top picks in new fiction full of surprises

Fiction 5

I’m recommending an interesting mix of newly released books that will immerse you in mystery, suspense, thrills and courage. The Violin Conspiracy focuses on one man’s struggle against racism to succeed in the world of classical music. You’ll stay up late following the twists on the way to finding the killer in the thriller Catch Her When She Falls. Keira and her friends will find a place in your heart as they battle cancer and reclaim their lives in The Bright Side Running Club. Tripping Arcadia is a griping modern gothic story of revenge and status. My final pick The Swimmers will take you on an emotional journey of mothers and daughters, and dementia. Read on to discover more about the new fiction I recommend you add to your holds list.

1. The Violin Conspiracy by Brendan Slocumb

book cover a man peeking through a violinGrowing up Black in rural North Carolina, Ray McMillian’s life is already mapped out. He’ll get a job in food service and if he’s lucky he’ll make more than minimum wage. However, Ray’s determined to follow his dream of being a world-class professional violinist. He won’t let his mother’s lack of support, the fact that he doesn’t have a suitable violin or the racism of the classical music world stand in his way.

Ray’s dream seems more achievable when he discovers his great-great-grandather’s beat-up old fiddle is actually a priceless Stradivarius. On the eve of the life-changing Tchaikovsky Competition someone steals his violin and leaves a ransom note for $5 million. Ray needs to follow the clues to recover his precious violin.

“Utterly original and downright gripping, The Violin Conspiracy is more than a mystery—it’s an unflinching peek into the heart and soul of a gifted Black violinist striving to pursue his passion in the face of adversity. Brendan Slocumb’s debut is an essential lesson in artistry, prejudice, and persistence.”—Zakiya Dalila Harris, New York Times bestselling author of The Other Black Girl

“I loved The Violin Conspiracy for exactly the same reasons I loved The Queen’s Gambit: a surprising, beautifully rendered underdog hero I cared about deeply and a fascinating, cutthroat world I knew nothing about—in this case, classical music. I devoured this fine novel: every page and every word. And that ending? Never saw it coming.”—Chris Bohjalian, #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Flight Attendant and Hour of the Witch


2. Catch Her When She Falls by Allison Buccola

book cover close up view of thornsTen years ago Micah Wilkes was a senior in high school when her boyfriend was convicted of killing her best friend Emily, a star ballerina. Micah now owns a coffee shop in her small hometown and she’s dating another friend from high school.

Suddenly reminders of the past start appearing in Micah’s life. Then a true crime blog and a web sleuthing forum start raising questions about the murder. Micah starts to reexamine her memories from the night Emily died. Is there another explanation for Emily’s death? The online community highlights many suspects – a stranger in the woods, an obsessive classmate, a domineering ballet instructor and Emily’s younger brother Joshua who no one has seen since her death.

“A tense and twisting debut thriller . . . After receiving ominous warnings that the wrong person might be in prison for her best friend’s murder, Micah is in a desperate race for answers, but can she uncover the truth before her own life unravels? Catch Her When She Falls probes the dark shadows of guilt, suspicion, and obsession that surround a case where nothing is as it seems.”—Laura McHugh, author of What’s Done in Darkness


3. The Bright Side Running Club by Josie Lloyd

book cover of a small group of women runningKeira is totally blind-sided when she gets a breast cancer diagnosis. She doesn’t want to tell her family or step from her work. She also doesn’t want to be part of a group of cancer patients. Cancer is not her club.

Then she finds hope in a running club of smart, funny women who also happen to be undergoing cancer treatment. Keira will not be defined by cancer. This Cancer Ladies’ Running Club cheers her on as she works to reclaim her family, her identity and her life.

“A pitch-perfect love letter to the power of friendship– honest, uplifting and straight from the heart.” —Jill Mansell, Sunday Times bestselling author of It Started with a Secret

“A touching, joyous novel about overcoming, embracing, and learning to live out loud. You’ll fall in love with these new friends. An uplifting treat of a book that is perfect for women of all ages.” —Liz Talley, author of Room to Breathe


4. Tripping Arcadia by Kit Mayquist

book cover - painting of a woman with eyes and the top of her head obscuredLena is a med school dropout desperate for a job to help her parents who are approaching bankruptcy. After a bizarre interview she accepts a job with one of Boston’s elite and secretive families, the Verdeaus. During the day she assists the family doctor who cares for Jonathan, the poetic drunken heir battling a mysterious illness.

Working overtime at the family’s lavish parties, Lena discovers the more sinister side of the family. She tries to hide their self-destructive tendencies and not to fall in love with Jonathan’s alluring sister Audrey.

When Lena accidentally discovers the Verdeaus patriarch is responsible for her family’s ruin, she begins to plot her revenge. How much and who is she willing to sacrifice for vengeance?

“A gripping, atmospheric read full of characters that will haunt your mind long after the book is finished. This novel seamlessly blends antique gothic sensibilities with burning modern questions of class, money, and status, all wrapped up in poisonously elegant prose.” —S.T. Gibson, author of A Dowry of Blood

“Gory and glittering, Tripping Arcadia is a classic in the making, effortlessly modernizing the gothic in a way that feels both fresh and timeless. Mayquist is a novelist to watch.” —Hannah Whitten, New York Times bestselling author of For the Wolf


5. The Swimmers by Julie Otsuka

book cover with picture of a poolFrom the bestselling, award-winning author of The Buddha in the Attic and When the Emperor Was Divine comes a novel about what happens to a group of obsessed recreational swimmers when a crack appears at the bottom of their local pool—a tour de force of economy, precision and emotional power.

The swimmers only know each others’ routines (slow lane, medium lane, fast lane). When they find a crack at the bottom of the pool, they are cast out into an unforgiving world.

One of these swimmers is Alice, who is slowly losing her memory. The pool was her final stand against the darkness of her encroaching dementia. Without the fellowship of other swimmers and the routine of her daily laps she is plunged into dislocation and chaos. Alice is swept into memories of her childhood and the Japanese American incarceration camp in which she spent the war. Alice’s estranged daughter, reentering her mother’s life too late, witnesses her stark and devastating decline.

Written in spellbinding, incantatory prose, The Swimmers is a searing, intimate story of mothers and daughters, and the sorrows of implacable loss: the most commanding and unforgettable work yet from a modern master.

–from the publisher Knopf

“Distinguished best-selling novelist Otsuka’s (Buddha in the Attic) latest is an introspective work that examines life’s journeys from a multitude of perspectives . . . Otsuka’s spare, dreamlike writing offers readers a deeply touching exploration of the impact on Alice’s Japanese American family (particularly her daughter) of caring for a loved one with dementia. Otsuka is noteworthy for her skilled storytelling and her ability to immerse readers in her characters’ emotional journeys. Essential reading for those already familiar with Otsuka’s work; those who haven’t read her are likely to be duly impressed.” –Shirley Quan, Library Journal [starred review]


I’m the library’s fiction selector and I’ve been suggesting new books to library and bookmobile customers for over 17 years. I keep up on all the new book reviews, and my favorite question is “What are you reading?” I love to talk about books and to read books. I like to tell library customers, “Try something new. If you don’t like it, at least the price is right!”