Little by Edward CareyIntroducing: Anne Marie Grosholtz, the Swiss orphan who grows up to become famous wax sculptor Madame Tussaud.
Why you might like it: Narrated with wit and verve by Marie, Little is a picaresque story of personal reinvention that unfolds against the backdrop of the French Revolution.
Illustration alert: Complementing the text are pen-and-ink spot drawings that are simultaneously whimsical and macabre.
The Splendor Before the Dark: A Novel of the Emperor Nero by Margaret GeorgeWhat it is: the highly anticipated sequel to The Confessions of Young Nero, whose intimate portrayal of the infamous Roman emperor reveals him to be more misunderstood than monstrous.
What to expect: Rome burns and Nero wrestles with assassination plots, betrayals, conspiracies, rebellions, and shifting public opinion.
Want a taste? "Emperors did not retire into private life, like philosophers. There was only one retirement for an emperor -- the grave. And if he is lucky, a natural descent into it at an advanced age."
Trinity by Louisa HallWhat it is: a mosaic novel about physicist and Manhattan Project director J. Robert Oppenheimer, told from the perspectives of seven different characters.
About the author: Louisa Hall's previous novel, Speak, also employed interconnected narratives to explore humanity's conflicted relationship with world-altering technologies.
Reviewers say: "Its genius is not to explain but to embody the science and politics that shaped Oppenheimer’s life" (The New York Times).
Wolves of Eden by Kevin McCarthyWhat it's about: Unable to adjust to civilian life after the American Civil War, brothers Michael and Thomas O’Driscoll reenlist in the U.S. Army and are dispatched to the Dakota territory to construct a fort. Predictably, the Lakota are not pleased about this development.
Why you might like it: Wolves of Eden offers a bleak and visceral account of frontier life during the era of American Westward Expansion.
You might also like: Robert Olmstead's Savage Country.
House of Thieves by Charles BelfoureWhat it's about: Architect John Cross attempts to save his family from financial and social ruin by joining the crime syndicate known as "Kent's Gents" and using his insider knowledge of Manhattan's buildings to plan and execute daring robberies.
Why you might like it: This fast-paced, suspenseful story by the author of The Paris Architect depicts both the high society and the criminal underworld of 1886 New York City.
You might also like: Carson Morton's historical caper novel Stealing Mona Lisa. Or, for a true account of a Gilded Age architect who turns to a life of crime, try J. North Conway's King of Heists.
The Devil's Half Mile by Paddy HirschThe setting: New York City in 1799.
Starring: attorney Justice "Justy" Flanagan, whose investigation into his father's death draws him into a web of conspiracy and threatens to ignite a financial panic.
For fans of: the atmosphere and rich historical detail of Lyndsay Faye's Gods of Gotham; the financial and political intrigue of David Liss' The Whiskey Rebels.
The Long Drop by Denise MinaGlasgow, 1958: two men embark on an all-night pub crawl: William Watt, who stands accused of murdering his entire family, and criminal Peter Manuel, who hints that he has evidence that will lead to the real killer.
Read it for: a strong sense of place, a subtle subversion of crime fiction tropes, and a penetrating look at class and gender roles.
About the author: Best known for her gritty mysteries set in modern-day Glasgow, Denise Mina takes the plunge into historical crime fiction with this novel based on real events.
Sutton by J.R. MoehringerWhat happens: Released in 1969 after a 17-year stretch behind bars, charismatic bank robber Willie Sutton tours New York City with a reporter and a photographer in tow, reminiscing about the good old days.
About the author: Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist J.R. Moehringer is also the author of a memoir, The Tender Bar.
Did you know? The real Willie Sutton penned two memoirs, I, Willie Sutton, and Where the Money Was, in which he recounts the highlights of his criminal career.
See What I Have Done by Sarah SchmidtWhat it's about: Lizzie Borden took an axe...and, well, we all know what happened next. Or do we?
Why you might like it: This unsettling debut tells the story from the (conflicting) perspectives of Lizzie, her elder sister, a maid in the Borden household, and a stranger whose surprising connection to the crime is gradually revealed.
For fans of: Margaret Atwood's Alias Grace.
The Paying Guests by Sarah WatersThe situation: To maintain their upper-middle-class lifestyle in 1920s London, 27-year-old "spinster" Frances Wray and her widowed mother must take in lodgers.
What happens next: Their first "paying guests" arrive, working-class married couple Leonard and Lillian Barber. Frances soon begins an affair with lovely Lillian, setting off a tragic chain of events.
About the author: Sarah Waters specializes in suspenseful and sensual historical novels steeped in atmosphere and rich in period detail.
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