Out of Darkness, Shining Light by Petina GappahWhat it's about: The harrowing 1,500-mile, nine-month journey undertaken by the African servants of Scottish missionary Dr. David Livingstone as they transport his body to the coast of Tanzania.
Narrated by: cynical Halima, the band's cook, and loyal Jacob Wainwright, educated by missionaries following his manumission.
What sets it apart: Livingstone is a minor character in Zimbabwean author Petina Gappah's novel, which "captures the diverse cultural milieu of colonial Africa with compelling detail" (Kirkus Reviews).
The Golden Wolf by Linnea HartsuykerWhat it is: the much-anticipated conclusion to the Golden Wolf trilogy, which began with The Half-Drowned King and The Sea Queen.
The Next Generation: While Ragnvald of Sogn and his sister, "Sea Queen" Svanhild, still play significant roles, Svanhild's daughter and Ragnvald's sons take center stage in this intricately plotted novel.
You might also like: Cecilia Holland's Corban Loosestrife novels, Robert Low's Oathsworn series, and other Viking-era historical sagas.
The Shadow King: A Novel by Maaza MengisteEthiopia, 1935: Orphaned Hirut joins the fight against Italy's invading army by serving as bodyguard to the "Shadow King," a stand-in for exiled Emperor Haile Selassie.
What sets it apart: Not only does this lyrical novel by the author of Beneath the Lion's Gaze depict a lesser-known conflict, Hirut's journey from servant to soldier offers a change from war stories that portray women exclusively as casualties or refugees.
The Secrets We Kept by Lara PrescottWhat it's about: The CIA's plan to smuggle copies of Boris Pasternak’s banned novel Dr. Zhivago into Moscow as anti-Soviet propaganda.
Starring: Russian-born secretary-turned-spy Irina; her handler Sally, with whom she begins an affair; and Pasternak's mistress, Olga, who refuses to incriminate her lover and lands in the gulag.
Want a taste? "Some of us spoke Mandarin. Some could fly planes. Some of us could handle a Colt 1873 better than John Wayne. But all we were asked when interviewed was, 'Can you type?'"
The Sweetest Fruits by Monique TruongWhat it's about: The peripatetic life of writer Lafcadio Hearn, the son of a Greek mother and an Irish father, who works as a journalist in the United States and Martinique before settling in Japan.
Why you might like it: Four women -- Hearn's mother, his wives, and his biographer -- reveal different aspects of a protean man as he reinvents himself.
For fans of: iconoclastic biographical novels with multiple narrators who describe their relationships with charismatic men, such as T.C. Boyle's The Women or Louisa Hall's Trinity.
Focus on: Creepy Historical Fiction
The Hunger by Alma KatsuWhat it is: a chilling, often visceral retelling of the Donner Party's ill-fated overland journey, in which supernatural forces stalk the wagon train.
Is it for you? While this well-researched novel adheres closely to the known facts, the introduction of elements such as lycanthropy and ghosts may not be everyone's cup of tea.
For fans of: menacing historical horror à la Dan Simmons' The Terror or F.R. Tallis' The Passenger.
The Owl Killers by Karen MaitlandWhat it's about: escalating tensions between the members of a beguinage -- a self-supporting community of lay religious women -- and a group of powerful men known as the Owl Masters in the 14th-century English village of Ulewic.
Why you might like it: Human nature may be the most frightening part of this eerie novel by Karen Maitland (Company of Liars), which immerses readers in a bleak medieval world of disease and famine, religion and superstition.
The Taxidermist's Daughter by Kate MosseIntroducing: taxidermist's daughter Constantia "Connie" Gifford, whose missing memories, the result of a childhood accident, are slowly returning -- much to her dismay.
Is it for you? Set in 1912 Sussex, England, this atmospheric novel incorporates detailed, often gruesome descriptions of the taxidermist's trade into a Gothic story of murder and secrets.
Want a taste? "It is a tale that begins, as it will end, in a graveyard where the bones and the spiders and the worms inhabit the cold earth."
The Silent Companions by Laura PurcellWhat happens: Pregnant Elsie Bainbridge travels to her late husband's ancestral home in the English countryside, where she encounters suspicious villagers, frightened servants, and life-sized, eerily lifelike 17th-century painted wooden figures.
Why you might like it: This haunting novel unfolds in parallel narratives that shift back and forth between the 1630s and the 1860s.
For fans of: the Gothic atmosphere of Susan Hill's The Woman in Black.
The Little Stranger by Sarah WatersWhat it's about: Upon arriving at Hundreds Hall in 1948, Dr. Faraday is alarmed to learn that the aristocratic Ayres family -- widowed Mrs. Ayres; her troubled son, former RAF pilot Roderick; and her "spinster" daughter, Caroline -- believe they're being menaced by supernatural forces.
For fans of: Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House
Reviewers say: readers will enjoy this "eerie ghost story mixed with piercing class commentary" (Booklist).
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