Last of the Blue and Gray
by Richard A. Serrano (Smithsonian, $28)
The Civil War left behind all kinds of ghosts, said Scott Martelle in the Los Angeles Times. In this “short, entertaining” study of various men who claimed to be the conflict’s last surviving veterans, Times reporter Richard Serrano accepts that the phonies had many motivations. His account “suffers a bit” from redundancy, but reveals war wounds that 1950s America still carried. If the imposters look familiar, they should. “What’s more American than the desire for a little reinvention?”
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by Jayne Anne Phillips (Scribner, $28)
Jayne Anne Phillips has “thoroughly reimagined” a real-life 1930s murder story immortalized by the novel and film The Night of the Hunter, said Ron Charles in The Washington Post. Phillips’s novel turns oddly melodramatic in its second half, but when a widowed mother of three daughters strikes up a correspondence with the man we know will kill her whole family, our foreknowledge makes watching this developing long-distance romance “all the more terrifying.”
The October List
by Jeffrey Deaver (Grand Central, $26)
By starting his latest novel on chapter 36 and working backward, Jeffrey Deaver has pulled off “a truly unnerving exercise in deception,” said Marilyn Stasio in The New York Times. At first, readers know only that a girl has been kidnapped, and that her mother became a target of ruthless criminals because of a document called the October List. But fun as it is to watch the clock turn back, “the best part of the trick” is that Deaver keeps us making false inferences right to the last page.
Zen Predator of the Upper East Side
by Mark Oppenheimer (The Atlantic Books, $3)
For 30 years, one of New York City’s most prominent Zen masters “wove a web of deceit around him,” said Jay Michaelson in TheDailyBeast.com. In this e-book written by The New York Times’ religion columnist, Eido Shimano takes more of a scolding for sleeping with female followers than he might deserve, but his deceitfulness is indisputable. Here, the scandal that rocked Manhattan’s Zen circles “reads like a soap opera, complete with lurid emails, shady financial dealings, and betrayal.”
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