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.
by Leila Meacham
At the height of WWII, five idealistic young Americans receive a mysterious letter from the OSS, asking them if they are willing to fight for their country. The men and women from very different backgrounds; a Texan athlete with German roots, an upper-crust son of a French mother and a wealthy businessman, a dirt-poor Midwestern fly fisherman, an orphaned fashion designer, and a ravishingly beautiful female fencer, all answer the call of duty, but each for a secret reason of his or her own. They bond immediately, in a group code-named Dragonfly. Thus begins a dramatic cat-and-mouse game, as the group seeks to stay under the radar until a fatal misstep leads to the capture and the firing-squad execution of one of their team. But is everything as it seems, or is this one more elaborate act of spycraft?
The summer queen: A novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine
by Elizabeth Chadwick
At the behest of her dying father, 13-year-old Eleanor, daughter of Duke William of Aquitaine, weds Louis, Crown Prince of France, in order to ensure the duchy's safety. When their union proves disastrous, Eleanor negotiates an annulment and wins her freedom - just in time to meet the dashing Henry, Duke of Normandy and future King of England. Inspired by Eleanor of Aquitaine, Sharon Kay Penman's Time and Chance examines her tumultuous marriage to Henry II, and Alison Weir's Captive Queen recounts her later life, including her long imprisonment.
The Tubman command
by Elizabeth Cobbs Hoffman
What it's about: iconic abolitionist Harriet Tubman and her role in the 1863 Raid on Combahee Ferry, in which black soldiers from the 2nd South Carolina Infantry raided lowcountry plantations, destroying Confederate supplies and liberating 750 enslaved men and women.
What sets it apart: This well-researched novel by the author of The Hamilton Affair focuses on Tubman's lesser-known deeds as a scout and spy for the Union Army during the American Civil War.
Further reading: Catherine Clinton's biography Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.
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 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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