Someone dies unexpectedly and reality shifts for everyone within range, whether they knew the deceased or not. María, protagonist and narrator of Javier Marías mesmerizing fourteenth novel, The Infatuations (Knopf, $26.95), is familiar with the dead man and his wife only from seeing them at a café. Her account starts as a meditation on how chance, fate, and the many unknowns that make us who we are—philosophical observations drawn from the shock of the killing, which seemed like bad luck and which, falling on the victim’s birthday, “doesn’t make any sense, precisely because it seems to.” María gets to know the widow and falls in love with a friend of the couple’s—a man she wouldn’t have met without the death—and her musings extend to thoughts on love, romance, and whether one person can really know another. The novel gains further depth as these existential mysteries segue into those of a murder mystery. The accidental death perhaps wasn’t an accident, and María plunges into a chilling world of passions so powerful they turn decent people into evildoers.

The Infatuations Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307960726
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Knopf Publishing Group - August 13th, 2013

The Infatuations (Vintage International) Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307950734
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Vintage - April 22nd, 2014

Based on the true story of the last woman to be executed in Iceland, Hannah Kent’s Burial Rites (Little, Brown, $26) is set in the rugged landscape of 19th-century Iceland. With two others, Agnes Magnusdottir is convicted of a brutal murder, but because there is no place to hold her while she awaits execution, she takes residence with the family of a town official. There, she’s ministered to by a young local priest and works alongside the women of the family. The bonds that form are, of course, complicated by the fact that Agnes is condemned to be put to death. This is a story rich in complications, love, and the possibility of redemption. Kent recounts the events in a spare, straightforward style, befitting the setting and situation.

Burial Rites Cover Image
ISBN: 9780316243926
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Back Bay Books - April 1st, 2014

With its play-within-the-story, its assumed and/or mistaken identities, and the denouement’s eruption of violence, Daniel Alarcón’s second novel, At Night We Walk in Circles (Riverhead, $27.95), has the motifs and rhythms of a Shakespearean tragedy. It also has wit, romance, and sharp observations about life and politics in an unnamed Andean nation recovering from civil war, where a U.S. passport is “a magic carpet.” Maintaining a dual focus on the personal and the social, the novel follows the remnants of a radical (at least to the state) theater company. Diciembre goes on tour with its masterpiece, The Idiot President, a play that’s as much a statement about family as it is a political satire. Performing in rural venues that lack both stage and backstage, the players are always in character, and this is especially true for Nelson, the youngest of the troupe, who is compelled by a drug kingpin to impersonate the thug’s dead brother full-time, indefinitely, so the boy’s aging mother won’t know his fate. But Nelson panics as he loses sight of his own life, and when at last he breaks character, he finds he may have absorbed too much of his extended role ever to be himself again.

At Night We Walk in Circles Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594631719
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Riverhead Books - October 31st, 2013

At Night We Walk in Circles: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9781594632839
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Riverhead Books - September 2nd, 2014