Today's releases include a debut thriller for fans of Tana French, an exploration of the growing gap between the haves and the have nots in India, and an endearing novel about an advice columnist, set during the London Blitz. Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Dervla McTiernan is an author whose star is on the rise. Her debut, The Ruin, reminded me of Tana French’s novels, and I think others will find the comparison apt. The Ruin begins with a young policeman responding to a call at a dilapidated house in Ireland. Two children are living in squalor and he finds their mother dead from an apparent overdose. Twenty years later a reported suicide leads Detective Cormac Reilly back to that same crime scene, and the children he’s never quite been able to forget. The Ruin is filled with questionable recollections, red herrings, and characters that get under your skin. As the case goes on, the mysteries surrounding the two deaths become enmeshed with the claustrophobia of small town history and corruption. There are many threads to McTiernan’s tale, and that can sometimes get in the way of a satisfying conclusion, but in the end, when McTiernan pulls those threads taut, it becomes clear that she had a master plan all along. A gritty, tense, and calculated mystery, The Ruin left me eager for Cormac Reilly’s next case.—Seira Wilson
India is the world’s fastest growing democracy, with an economy that is rapidly expanding, making a handful of Indians fantastically wealthy. At the same time, millions of Indians live in poverty, sometimes subsisting just feet from the fancy, almost unimaginable urban homes of the super-rich. James Crabtree uses the home of the reclusive billionaire Mukesh Ambani (that is his home on the cover) as a symbol of an Indian system that Crabtree likens—quite convincingly—to our own Gilded Age. Like in other places around the world, fair government appears to be no match against the vast sums of private capital that the “Bollygarchs” employ to cement their interests. Crabtree uses interviews and riveting reporting to give us a fascinating look into the sudden, sometimes shocking, and seemingly insurmountable rise of the Indian super-elite, as they surf the wave of globalism. –Chris Schluep
In this funny, uplifting novel set during the London Blitz, first-time author AJ Pearce shows herself to be a master of wartime vernacular speech and period charm. Though Emmeline Lake, Pearce’s outspoken narrator, dreams of becoming a serious journalist, she rashly accepts a job as junior secretary to “Mrs. Bird,” a women’s advice columnist whose views on behavior are as outmoded as her tweeds. Mrs. Bird won’t deign to reply to readers with real-world problems, but Emmeline can’t resist offering them the support she knows they need. Before long, she’s writing back on her employer’s stationary, and her well-intentioned counsel begins to threaten her relationships at work and at home. Nighttime bombing raids bring danger and pathos to this otherwise giddy, delectable story. If you enjoyed Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand or Chris Cleave’s Everyone Brave is Forgiven, Dear Mrs. Bird might be your favorite book of the summer. —Sarah Harrison