The Singer’s Gun (Unbridled Books, $14.95) opens with two questions: how well do we really know our colleagues? And more specifically, why is Anton Waker alone on his honeymoon? Through meticulously layered flashbacks that reveal passport fraud, Kafka-esque bureaucracies, and an international crime ring, the talented Emily St. John Mandel does, eventually, give us answers. Moving from the grimy streets of Brooklyn to shiny Manhattan office towers to an idyllic Italian island, The Singer’s Gun happily subverts the conventions of both literary novel and genre thriller. Like Mandel’s wandering, amoral characters, this unique book resides in a netherworld of its own creation.
Claire Dewitt And The City Of The Dead (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $24), by Sara Gran, is more than just a mystery story, it is a story about mysteries. Set in ravaged, post-Katrina New Orleans, Claire Dewitt (imagine Nancy Drew as a grown-up, pot-smoking, liquor-slugging, tattooed PI) is on the case of a missing DA. Following in the footsteps of her eccentric mentor and using the enigmatic Detection, the only book of famed French detective Jaquest Sillette, as a guide, Claire searches for clues in the Big Easy. But “searches for clues” is too pedestrian to describe Claire’s procedures. She analyzes her dreams, throws dice, consults the I Ching, interviews suspects and witnesses (sometimes at gunpoint), goes undercover—and makes brilliant connections. While trying to locate the missing DA, Claire also nears the truth about the disappearance of her best friend in 1980s Brooklyn, the biggest mystery of all. This is the first installment of what promises to be an engrossing new series.
A deceptively straightforward account of a platoon’s fifteen-month deployment in a remote outpost in the Korangal Valley of Eastern Afghanistan, War (Twelve, $15.99), by Sebastian Junger, is a brave attempt at documenting the lives of men in constant danger, the incongruities of combat, the boredom and the fear, and the fine line between the living and the dead. The stories of what happens to these men are interspersed with explanations of the science behind fear, courage, and the bonds that develop among men who trust each other with their lives.