Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québec embarks on his thirteenth case in Glass Houses (Minotaur, $28.99). The latest installment of Louise Penny’s award-winning mystery series is a wonderful example of a book that not only builds on and extends an established character but also stands alone as a satisfying narrative in itself. In the Montreal suburb of Three Pines, a mysterious, hooded figure dressed in black suddenly appears one day on the town commons. Motionless and silent, watching carefully, he seems like a dark conscience passing judgment on an unknown crime. When a murder soon follows, Inspector Gamache and his team of detectives must solve the crime while also concealing certain details in order to lure in bigger drug kingpins. Glass Houses is told from Gamache’s perspective nearly a year after the murder, and the truth is slowly revealed during a court case as pieces of the mystery come to light and the tension builds to a thrilling climax. Beautifully written, with smart and likable characters, and grounded in snowy and scenic Quebec, this is a mystery that even non-mystery readers will love.
Kurt Vonnegut: Complete Stories (Seven Stories, $45) gathers in one volume all the short fiction written by one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. This beautiful tome holds nearly 1,000 pages’ worth of short stories Vonnegut wrote from the 1940s to his death a decade ago, including five previously unpublished works. Featuring a foreword by Dave Eggers and section introductions by Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield, editors and long-time friends of Vonnegut, the book is organized thematically along the lines of Romance, War, Future, Science, and other broad topics. Vonnegut was prolific in many genres, and his work has inspired several generations of new writers, such as myself. His stories stand up through troubled times, and his morality and clear prose continue to resonate.
Rollicking, poignant, and unforgettable, the short stories of James McBride’s Five-Carat Soul (Riverhead, $27) treat us to subjects ranging from Lincoln and Civil War soldiers to World War II, antique toy collectors, a boxer fighting for his judgment in the afterlife, and animals able to telecommunicate in a zoo, to a group of boys growing up and playing in a band in a poor neighborhood in Pennsylvania. You’ll want to read this book for the sheer breadth of characters and humanity. The voices are each unique, hilarious, heartwarming, and heartbreaking, and the plots are woven together along themes of racial history and cross-cultural contact. Like the National Book Award-winning The Good Lord Bird, McBride’s stories are imaginative and unpredictable, bursting with soul and a dark but playful humor. The title piece is a series of vignettes about the members of the Five-Carat Soul Bottom Bone Band. The lives of these musicians, and the lives of the other residents of the Bottom, are tragic, messy, and often hilarious. Five-Carat Soul is a delightful and quick read that you won’t want to end.