The Museum of Extraordinary Things
by Alice Hoffman (Scribner, $28)
Alice Hoffman’s latest novel offers “a brilliant portrait” of the splendors and miseries of 1911 New York City, said Wendy Smith in Newsday. A romance develops slowly here between a Coney Island sideshow mermaid and a cynical young crime photographer. But this “action-packed” book also weaves together a “tightly plotted” mystery and two catastrophic real-life fires that transformed the urban landscape. For the gifted Hoffman, the work marks “a return to top form.”
Little Demon in the City of Light
by Steven Levingston (Doubleday, $27)
This true-crime story “is not a whodunit but a will-they-get-away-with-it,” said Maureen McCarthy in the Minneapolis Star Tribune. In 1889 Paris, a prosperous court official went missing, and only the most dogged detective work connected the disappearance to a con man and his pretty consort. The characters “could have come from fiction,” but the whole scandalous tale is true, including the young woman’s claim that she participated in the murder while under hypnosis.
The Swan Gondola
by Timothy Schaffert (Riverhead, $28)
Timothy Schaffert’s new book is “one of the best novels you’ll read all year,” said Laura Albritton in The Miami Herald. As the 1898 World’s Fair kicks off in Omaha, a likable rogue who arrives in a stolen hot air balloon sweeps a burlesque actress off her feet before a wealthier rival intervenes. A kidnapping, a murder, and a ghost add to the excitement, but The Swan Gondola stands as proof that even the kookiest story elements “can become the stuff of moving fiction.”
After I’m Gone
by Laura Lippman (Morrow, $27)
“Like everything else Laura Lippman has written, After I’m Gone transcends the limits of genre,” said Jonathan Yardley in The Washington Post. Her story about a bookmaker who went into hiding contains elements of a standard mystery. But mainly she’s concerned with the five women he left behind—his wife, his mistress, and his three daughters. When a cold-case detective gets each of the surviving women talking, the plot twists continue to the final pages.