Feature

Also of interest ... in shadows and monsters

Ghost, The Ghost, Identical Strangers, Frankenstein, The Dead Travel Fast.

Ghost
by Alan Lightman
(Pantheon, $23)
The media goes wild in Alan Lightman’s “elegantly provocative” new novel when a mortuary apprentice sees something spirit-like escaping an embalmed body, said Tim Rutten in the Los Angeles Times. The witness himself never jumps to conclusions, though, and his “fumbling pursuit” of answers leads to a rewarding reconsideration of the important relationships in his life.

The Ghost
by Robert Harris
(Simon & Schuster, $26)
Ghostwriting is the ostensible subject of Robert Harris’ new political thriller, said Anthony Holden in the London Guardian. But Harris does little to disguise his old friend Tony Blair or the disgust he now feels for the former British prime minister. Only a reader who already believes the worst about Blair could enjoy the plot twists without being left with a “sour aftertaste.”

Identical Strangers
by Paula Bernstein and Elyse Schein
(Random House, $26)
You would expect a joint memoir by two identical twins who were separated at birth to dwell on their mystical bonds, said Emily Nussbaum in New York. Learning at age 35 of each other’s existence wasn’t easy, however, for either Paula Bernstein or Elyse Schein. “Real intimacy grew” only when they united to explore their shared, troubled origins.

Frankenstein
by Susan Tyler Hitchcock
(Norton, $26)
This cultural history of Mary Shelley’s monster is “so lively that at first you may decide it lacks scholarly ballast,” said Michael Sims in the Los Angeles Times. But Shelley’s creation has served so many entertainment purposes since 1818 that Susan Tyler Hitchcock’s terse style becomes a virtue. From Lord Byron to Herman Munster, she leaves no inspiration or interpretation unexamined.

The Dead Travel Fast
by Eric Nuzum
(Thomas Dunne, $25)
Eric Nuzum’s study of the vampire legend also wears its learning lightly, said Chris Schonberger in Entertainment Weekly. Nuzum tours Transylvania, attends a topless vampire revue in Las Vegas, and even drinks his own blood in his quest to understand Dracula’s hold on our imagination. He “shifts effortlessly between history and anecdote,” and never forgets that his most important task is to untangle facts from myth.

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