Jan. 1—OK. Don't moan, but it's time to move aside that fall TBR pile because late winter/early spring books are arriving and the earliest ones give a hint of a great season in fiction. There are second books in series by P.J. Tracy and Ben Percy, a new spinoff by John Sandford, a couple of debuts, the last in Larry Millett's series featuring Sherlock Holmes in the Midwest, and Garrison Keillor returns to Lake Wobegon. Brian Farrey and Kelly Barnhill, award-winning middle-grade authors, spin fantasies.
These are the first titles of the new season but there will be more to come as we live through this odd COVID winter.
"Desolation Canyon" by P.J. Tracy (Minotaur Books)
P.J. Tracy, pen name for Traci Lambrecht, became a bestselling author when she and her late mother, P.J. Lambrecht, wrote the Monkeewrench mysteries about a group of computer whizzes who worked and lived in St. Paul.
Last year, Tracy launched a new series with "Deep Into the Dark." Set in Los Angeles, where she lived for 10 years, the series features LAPD Detective Margaret "Maggie" Nolan, who doesn't like most people. Among Tracy's carefully-drawn characters is Sam Easton, a combat vet whose face was disfigured in a car bombing. The novel received praise from critics.
Now, Maggie and Sam are back in "Desolation Canyon." Maggie's struggling to move forward after the death of her brother in Afghanistan and having to take a life in the line of duty. When the body of a successful international attorney is found beneath the surface of Swan Lake at the luxurious Hotel Bel-Air, Maggie and Sam work to find the perp, facing a sinister cabal that might destroy Maggie and everyone she loves.
"Geographies of the Heart" by Caitlin Hamilton Summie (Fomite)
Caitlin Summie won awards for her story collection "To Lay to Rest Our Ghosts." Her debut novel, "Geographies of the Heart," was inspired by three stories in that collection.
In the new novel, Sarah Macmillan is lonely for her career-minded, inattentive younger sister, Glennie, even though the women have a tumultuous relationship. Sarah is married to a man whose compassion and humor she admires. Then, one decision forces them to decide what family means.
The author writes on Facebook that the novel will launch Jan. 20, but details are still being worked out.
"How High We Go In the Dark" by Sequoia Nagamatsu (Morrow)
Nagamatsu is a Japanese-American writer who teaches creative writing at St. Olaf College in Northfield. He's the author of the award-winning story collection "Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone."
His new novel is speculative fiction inspired by personal loss that Nagamatsu has been working on for more than a decade. it spans lifetimes and centuries, concentrating on emotional responses to a world in crises, loss and what makes us human.
"Sh*t Cassandra Saw" by Gwen E. Kirby (Penguin Books)
From a "proud graduate" of Carleton College in Northfield comes a debut short story collection that is creating buzz among booksellers. Her humorous stories combine the uncanny and comedic: An adulterer is haunted by the ghost of a Great Awakening preacher, a seafood restaurant gets a bad Yelp review, and women undergo transformations to take revenge on their harassers.
"The Unfamiliar Garden" by Benjamin Percy (Mariner)
Percy introduces the second in his new series with "The Unfamiliar Garden," part of his sci-fi series The Comet Cycle in which a comet called Cain left debris the Earth spun through, causing meteors to plummet into the atmosphere, destroying swaths of electrical grids and leaving shores of beaches filled with deceased sea life.
In the new novel, Mia Abernathy vanishes in the woods amidst this destruction of the Earth. Her disappearance breaks the already fragile marriage of her parents, Jack and Nora. Jack, once a rising star in biology, is broken and Nora has lost herself in her work as a homicide detective.
Five years later, the rains have returned to Seattle and Jack uncovers evidence of a new parasitic fungus while Nora investigates several brutal, ritualistic murders. Soon they will be drawn together by a horrifying connection between their discoveries.
(Percy will launch his book at 7 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 4, at Content Bookstore in Northfield. He writes on Facebook that this novel, a 10-issue Wolverine event and his first movie are all coming out in January: "I doubt I'll ever have another month where so many things that are creatively important to me line up." (Wolverine refers to his series for Marvel comics.)
"Men in My Situation" by Per Petterson (Graywolf Press)
From the author of the prize-winning "Out Stealing Horses" comes the story of Arvid Jansen, unable to process the grief of losing his parents and brothers in a ferry accident and, soon after, the end of his marriage. When his ex-wife calls for a ride home from the train station, he has to face the life she and their kids have made without him. Then his favorite daughter has a crisis of her own and reaches out. Translated from the Norwegian by Ingvild Burkey.
"Boom Town" by Garrison Keillor (Prairie Home Productions)
Keillor, former host of the public radio show "A Prairie Home Companion," continues to write. He describes this latest jaunt to the little town that time forgot this way: "in which the writer returns to his hometown of Lake Wobegon for a funeral, finds the town booming, recalls an old love affair, sits at the bedside of an old friend dying with humor and grace, and in the process rediscovers the goodness of his long-standing marriage to the mysterious Giselle."
Keillor wrote this novel during the pandemic lockdown in New York, reading drafts to his wife, Jenny, and did parts of the book in monologues for audiences in several states.
"The Temps" by Andrew Deyoung (Keylight Books)
St. Paulite Deyoung won a Minnesota Book Award for his debut novel, "The Exo Project." His new thriller centers on Jacob Elliott, who doesn't want a temporary job in the mailroom at Delphi Enterprises, but after two post-college unpaid internships and living in his parents' basement, he needs the work. On his first day on the job the unthinkable happens; toxic gas kills all the regular employees, leaving Jacob stranded inside the vast office complex with other survivors. They band together to create a culture until something happens that drives them to uncover the truth about the mysterious corporation that employed them and the apocalypse that brought their world to an end.
"The Investigator: A Letty Davenport Novel" by John Sandford (Putnam)
Bestselling author John Camp, who writes as John Sandford, has written 31 books in the Prey series featuring U.S. Marshal Lucas Davenport, and 12 in the spin-off focusing on Virgil Flowers. Now he's started another spin-off about Davenport's brilliant and tenacious adopted daughter Letty, first introduced in 2003 in the Davenport thriller "Naked Prey.".
Letty, who's 24, should appeal to a new generation of Davenport fans. She's been poised to follow in her father's footsteps and has seen more action and uncovered more secrets than many law enforcement professionals.
A recent Stanford grad with a master's in economics, she's working for a U.S. senator who offers her investigative work in conjunction with the Department of Homeland Security. She's tasked with discovering who is stealing crude oil from big companies in Texas. Where is the oil being sold, and what are the thieves doing with the profits? Could it be a militia group led by a woman known only as Lorelai who have set in motion an explosive and deadly plan?
"If an Egyptian Cannot Speak English" by Noor Naga (Graywolf Press)
Award-winning Noor Naga is an Alexandrian writer who teaches at the American University in Cairo. In her debut novel, published by a Minneapolis-based literary press, an Egyptian-American woman and a man from the village of Shobrakheit meet at a cafe in Cairo. He was a photographer during the Arab Spring revolution, she is the daughter of immigrants "returning" to a country she's never been to before. In this dark romance they fall in love and he moves into her flat. But soon their desire — for one another, for the selves they want to become through the other — takes a violent turn.
"Rafferty's Last Case" by Larry Millett (University of Minnesota Press)
In Larry Millett's ninth-and-final Shadwell Rafferty mystery, part of a series by Millett featuring Sherlock Holmes in the Midwest, Detective Rafferty is killed, bringing Holmes and Watson to Minnesota from Chicago to hunt for their friend's killer.
Set in St. Paul in 1928, Holmes closes in on Rafferty's last fatal investigation and on the man's killer. This double mystery takes readers to every corner of St. Paul, from a notorious speakeasy to a home for unwed mothers to mansions on Summit Avenue.
Millett, a former reporter and architectural writer for the Pioneer Press, is the author of 20 books. Among his architectural books are "Lost Twin Cities" and "Minnesota Modern," winner of a Minnesota Book Award.
FOR MIDDLE-GRADE READERS
"The Counterclockwise Heart" by Brian Farrey (Algonquin Young Readers, February)
Farrey, two-time Minnesota Book Award winner and a Stonewall Honor author, is focused on time in his new novel. Time is running out in the Empire of Rheinvelt, where the sudden appearance of a strange and frightening statue foretells darkness. Users of magic have fled the land and shadowy beasts of nearby territories are gathering near the borders, preparing for an attack. Young Prince Alphonsus is sent by his Empress mother to reassure the people while she works to quell the threat of war. But the prince has a secret of his own; he has a clock in his chest where his heart should be, and it's begun to run backward, counting down to his unknown fate.
"The Ogress and the Orphans" by Kelly Barnhill (Algonquin Young Readers, March)
Newbery award-winner Barnhill ("The Girl Who Drank the Moon") gives us a story about an Ogress, a family of orphans, a Dragon, and a once-lovely, once-beloved town, Stone-in-the-Glen. The Mayor, a flashy self-proclaimed dragon-slayer, believes he alone can solve the town's problems and lays the blame for its woes on a kindly Ogress who lives on its outskirts. When one of the children from the Orphan House goes missing, the mayor calls attention to the Ogress, but the orphans know she cannot be the villain.
The author says this book, which began as a short fairytale, grew out of the chaos, rage and bafflement that she, like many of us, has felt in recent times in our country. How, she wondered, could we become so unkind to one another? Was all hope for collaboration and cooperation forever lost?
Next week: Nonfiction