Ok, so these books were actually published in February, but so close to the end of that month that we're including them in our picks for the best books of March. You'll find a fascinating blend of true crime and history, proof that unreliable narrator thrillers are not passé, and an especially epic fantasy (at 848 pages, that you'll breeze through).
Learn more about these and all of our picks for the Best Books of the Month.
Many a writer has attempted to parse the 400 years of colonial/sectarian violence that preceded the Troubles in Northern Ireland. But Say Nothing shows young paramilitaries compelled by more recent, deeply personal history: an aunt who lost her eyes and hands while setting a bomb, peaceful marchers ambushed and stoned on a bridge. With no dog in the race, an outsider such as Keefe can recount with stark, rousing clarity the story of an IRA gunman trying not to scream as a doctor sews up his severed artery in the front room of a safe house while a British armored tank rumbles outside. Or describe how Jean McConville, a widowed mother of ten, came to be suspected of being an informer, a charge which led to her being taken from her home by the IRA one night in 1972, her young ones clinging to her legs. Hastened to her grave by a bullet to the back of her head, her bones lay buried on a remote beach for thirty years, years during which her children were left to live and work alongside neighbors they suspected, yet dared not accuse, of being responsible for her death. With the pacing of a thriller, and an intricate, yet compulsively readable storytelling structure, Keefe’s exhaustive reportage brings home the terror, the waste, and the heartbreaking futility of a guerilla war fought in peoples’ homes as well as in the streets. And he captures the devastation of veterans on both sides, uneasily enjoying the peace that finally came while wondering if they had fought the good fight or been complicit in murder all along. --Vannessa Cronin
So many unreliable narrators headline thrillers these days, you'd think human beings have an innate problem with telling the difference between truth and lies, even to ourselves. (Oh, wait. Maybe we do.) But Lindsay Bach, the main narrator of Andrea Bartz's hypnotic The Lost Night, is cut from a different cloth. She's never doubted she was at a concert the night her best friend, Edie, committed suicide ten years ago—at least until another friend states just as unequivocally that Lindsay never arrived. Now Edie's "suicide" is questionable as well, as Lindsay unearths a rats' nest of secrets but finds just as many holes in her own memory. As Lindsay assembles old Facebook photos, conversations with former friends, shaky memories, and an equally shaky handheld video recording, the truth of that night draws closer, even as Lindsay wonders if she can handle knowing what really happened. Bartz drops enough hints that some readers will pat themselves on the backs for spotting the big reveal, while others will gasp. As Brooklyn's drug-fueled hipster scene transmutes between glorious and grimy, nostalgic and toxic, Bartz's debut thriller achieves a complex, murky depth perfectly designed to hide the facts Lindsay so desperately desires and fears. —Adrian Liang
Samantha Shannon’s latest, The Priory of the Orange Tree, is a compelling high fantasy novel, filled to the brim with dragons, dueling religions, magic, and political intrigue. Shannon’s strength is breathing new life into the genre with a cadre of richly-imagined, powerful women at the center of this unforgettable fantasy world. The three civilizations at the heart of Shannon’s book have all been shaped and honed by their relationship to dragons. In the matriarchal Virtudom, dragons are seen as entirely evil, while in the East they are worshipped and ridden by dragon riders. In the South, a group of female mages live to keep the evil, draconic leader, the Nameless One, and his ilk in check. It soon becomes clear the Nameless One will return and that civilizations will rise and fall in the process. It is in these moments—when societies collide and a richly-detailed world emerges—that Shannon is at her very best. --Alison Walker
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