Aoife Clifford’s Second Sight is a gripping, gut-wrenching thriller. Set in Kinsale, Australia, the novel moves at a tantalizing pace. Eliza discovers Kinsale’s blackened heart, with new horrors revealed at every turn.
After a lethal bushfire devours Eliza Carmody’s hometown, the budding corporate lawyer is plunged into a gripping drama. Starting with a seemingly unrelated incident—an old schoolmate going berserk in traffic—Eliza is led into a sickening morass of old grudges, gossip, and rivalries.
The whole town is traumatized from its losses. One man recounts finding a burned flock on his property: “great black carcasses all on their sides, fleeces reduced to charcoal, little legs all up in the air.” But the fire’s impact is more than psychological, and although Eliza is supposed to be representing the company accused of starting the fire, her loyalty is called into question. Eventually, Eliza’s father, a former detective, and her sister are implicated, and Eliza has to take a hard look at her own role as well.
Chapters alternate between Eliza’s present and her flashbacks to 1996, just before she left Kinsale for college. This device gives her depth, revealing a flawed and sometimes insecure individual. That she’s no golden girl raises the mystery’s stakes: Eliza’s memory of herself has to be reappraised. Characters from the past recur in the present, adding dimension and subtext to the tale. A deft authorial touch brings tension to a head with speed. One explosive fight between Eliza and her sister shows how unspoken resentment festers, blowing reality out of proportion.
Second Sight is an excellent, tense, slick mystery that investigates a small town’s evil secrets.
CLAIRE FOSTER (June 27, 2019)
In the aftermath of World War II, as the Russian army rolled through East Prussia, many German citizens were displaced. Women were raped and children starved, their army husbands nowhere to be found, presumably dead or prisoners of war. In an effort to survive, children crossed the border into Lithuania to beg and work for food. Alvydas Šlepikas’s In the Shadow of Wolves breaks the long silence over these wolf children via a heartbreaking blend of historical facts and literary prose.
Eva and her children are among those pushed out of their family homes. They are forced to live in their woodshed. Amid the constant threats of the Russian soldiers, they wait for the return of Eva’s son, Heinz, who has gone to Lithuania for bread and fatback.
When Heinz returns and regales them with wonderful tales from across the border, one of Eva’s daughters, Renate, longs to make the next journey with him. Soon, though, the family is separated, with Heinz and Renate following different paths into Lithuania and Eva and her remaining children relocated by the Russians.
The bulk of the narrative follows Renate as she encounters friendly and unfriendly faces. Her quest to survive and regain her family is rendered in writing that is by turns brutally straightforward and soul stirring. Christian imagery tinges the pages with glimmers of hope, culminating in a beautiful episode with a Lithuanian couple who is on their way to Easter services. Each step along Renate’s way builds empathy for her plight and for the plights of so many Germans who had no direct involvement in Hitler’s march across Europe.
In the Shadow of Wolves opens the curtain on obscure history and curbs reader tendencies toward sweeping dehumanization.
MEAGAN LOGSDON (June 27, 2019)
Teri Terry’s Contagion is a riveting, paranormal start to a new science fiction trilogy.
When sixteen-year-old Shay, who’s hooked on quantum physics, realizes that she was the last person to see missing eleven-year-old Callie, she offers to help Callie’s caring older brother, Kai, find her. The two bond instantly, though the search for Callie is soon overshadowed by a lethal pandemic. Though Callie is no longer alive, her strong, vibrant spirit joins Shay and Kai, making them aware of her presence.
This richly imagined story is narrated by Shay and Callie in short, alternating chapters that illuminate each girl’s character. Shay’s growing attachment to Kai plays well against her adolescent insecurity, while Callie copes with jealousy over Shay and Kai’s more and more exclusive relationship. Kai is developed through each girl’s perspective.
The pace is swift, propelled by the teens’ flight from the spreading pandemic, a deepening plot, and fresh revelations about characters’ hidden connections to each other and to the plague itself. The writing is assured and skillful, and the northern Scotland and Shetland Islands settings are used to maximum effect. When Shay and Kai escape by rowboat across a misty, twilit loch, the scene is Druidian in its sense of timelessness. When lines of communication with Callie open, the paranormal elements are naturally incorporated.
This first installment ends with a theory about the origin and vector of the contagion that comes with a shattering realization. There are enough twists to provide a promising foundation for the second book.
Exciting, thoughtfully plotted, and featuring accomplished writing, Contagion is a page-turning science fiction treat.
SUSAN WAGGONER (June 27, 2019)
A Parisian Metro ticket puncher follows a butterfly and his heart, searches for beauty, and loses his job in this beloved French classic. Thought-provoking and made relevant for a new generation, the enchanting artwork of the original is retained alongside a fresh English translation. The winding tale leads Seraphin and his friends along an imaginative path of magical realism, where dolls come to life and heads really might end up in the clouds.
PALLAS GATES MCCORQUODALE (June 27, 2019)
Michelle Gish’s bizarre and beautiful webcomic comes to the printed page in We Are Here Forever, a collection of interlocking stories about her adorable alien characters, the Puramus.
We Are Here Forever is ominously preceded on the book’s cover by the words “After You Are Gone.” The story follows the Puramus, a roundish, four-legged species living on Earth after some unrevealed event wiped away humanity. The Puramus are cute and a bit naïve, at least when it comes to exploring the remnants of human society, but that gives Gish a potent weapon for commentary. The Puramus utter statements like “I love weapons!” and “Why did humans have so many things???” Later, they discover war—and its antidote.
The book’s tone is leavened with plenty of humor, as Puramus “invent” a shelf using an old instruction manual—“Use something sticky! Like jelly!” one builder suggests—and read poetry at an open mic night. Spanning hundreds and possibly thousands of years, the book arrives at a distant future with stories that tease and tantalize, showing Puramus venturing into space to explore their origins. These tales reveal clues, but provide no definitive answers.
Gish’s writing takes a minimalist approach, using words sparingly but effectively. Her cartoon-inspired art is equally direct, aesthetically pleasing but never showing more than what’s needed. Sure to be a hit with fans, We Are Here Forever is also a splendid introduction to Gish’s rich, deceptively complex, post-human world.
PETER DABBENE (June 27, 2019)