Amazon's best books of August: Today's releases

Erin Kodicek on August 06, 2019

Today's releases include the story of the "King of the Bootleggers"; the latest from (perhaps) the new Queen of Crime; and Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo returns with a novel that mines the complexities of friendship. 

Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.   

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The Ghosts of Eden Park: The Bootleg King, the Women Who Pursued Him, and the Murder That Shocked Jazz-Age America by Karen Abbott

One of the most deliciously disturbing things about BBC America’s hit TV dramedy Killing Eve is that you just can’t help but like psychopathic serial killer, Villanelle. Sure, she’s ruthless, but charismatically so, and she’s a snappy dresser to boot. The same could be said for real-life “King of the Bootleggers,” George Remus. Karen Abbott’s compulsively readable The Ghosts of Eden Park provides a riveting portrait of this eccentric and teetotaling whiskey trafficker who, shamelessly flouting Prohibition laws, once amassed an alcohol arsenal that was 35 percent of the U.S.’s total supply. The unlawful sale of that booze brought Remus enormous wealth, and he, along with his wife, Imogen, enjoyed a lifestyle that would make Jay Gatsby jealous. But a pioneering female prosecutor—only the second woman appointed to Assistant Attorney General—would put a cork in the fun, landing Remus in prison (where he whiled away his sentence in private quarters and secured the services of a maid and cook). During this time his beloved Imogen, in cahoots with a crooked Department of Justice agent, absconded with his spoils, causing the already tightly wound trafficker to snap. The Ghosts of Eden Park is a rollicking read, and a different kind of guilty pleasure: you might find yourself rooting for Remus at times, until you remember his very real brutality and the different set of rules that benefited him (and others) as a person of means, and stature, and a certain celebrity. It’s also what makes this almost century-old true crime tale seem quite current. —Erin Kodicek

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The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

Imagine landing an interview for the dream job of being a nanny at an architect’s estate in the Scottish Highlands for an excellent salary. Then imagine that one of the children sobs at you at the interview, “It’s not safe…. The ghosts wouldn’t like it.” Needing the money, Rowan isn’t deterred by the tearful warning or the fact that four nannies have quit in the last year, but more unsettling experiences are in store. A strangely unfinished note left by a former nanny, the omniscient smart home system named Happy, and dragging footsteps above her bedroom—even though she’s on the top floor—begin to burrow under Rowan’s skin. Ruth Ware cleverly blends superstitious dread with high-tech surveillance into an intoxicating cocktail of a thriller that goes down smooth and then creeps up on you before you realize what’s happening. The Turn of the Key reminds readers why Ware is often compared to the Queen of Crime, Agatha Christie, and is simply one of Ware’s best novels yet. —Adrian Liang

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Chances Are… by Richard Russo

In Richard Russo's Chances Are... three men in their sixties have arrived on Martha's Vineyard for a Memorial Day weekend. They attended college together, and while the men haven't seen each other recently, they reconnect naturally, as old friends often do. Lincoln, who lives out west, is the owner of the Chilmark cottage where they are staying; Teddy is a small press publisher from Syracuse; Mickey is a musician who lives on Cape Cod. Not present, but always present in their minds, is Jacy, another college friend, and the girl they were all not-so-secretly in love with who disappeared from the island on Memorial Day weekend in 1971. The time before she disappeared holds an important place in each man's identity and memory, and she stands as a reference point to many of their conversations and thoughts. What would Jacy think if she saw them now? one of them wonders. Three goddamn old men. But what starts off as a story about three aging baby boomers begins to open up into a mystery, as the men, especially Lincoln, try to uncover the events that led to Jacy's disappearance so long ago. This is not a full-fledged mystery novel, mind you, rather it's a thoughtful book on aging, memory, friendship, and expectation. But there is a mystery within it, and the payoff is genuinely unexpected. And Russo's observations on life are worth the ticket all by themselves. Chances Are... is a really enjoyable summer read. --Chris Schluep

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