River Readers

  • The Trial of Lizzie Borden

    *Starred Review* Was Lizzie Borden really an ax murderer? Robertson brings her expertise as a lawyer and legal adviser to her 20 years of research on the Borden case in her first book. Using transcripts from the trial, newspaper articles, unpublished local reports, and Borden's recently discovered letters, Robertson analyzes not only the trial, but also nineteenth-century attitudes about women and crime. She points out how the police bungled the investigation, how the prosecution miscalculated its case, and how the defense attorney's brilliant strategy helped Lizzie.

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  • My Lovely Wife

    Downing's debut thriller offers a chilling look into the marriage of two psychopaths. Our unnamed narrator (known mostly by an alias, Quentin) likes to pick up women in bars while pretending to be deaf. His wife, Millicent, is perfectly fine with this because he brings them home for her to torture and murder. When the freshly killed body of a young woman is found, nearly a full year after Millicent was supposed to have dumped her, Quentin realizes that Millicent is apparently playing a different game than he thought.

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  • Hellhound On His Trail

    *Starred Review* In 1967, an escaped prisoner, drifter, and racist, while voluntarily working on the presidential campaign for George Wallace in California, got the idea of stalking and killing Martin Luther King Jr. Using the alias Eric Galt, he traveled to his native South and kept track of King as the civil rights leader marched in Memphis for the striking garbage collectors. Galt, whose real name was James Earl Ray, methodically planned and executed the assassination then fled to Canada and Europe, hoping eventually to immigrate to South Africa.

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  • Normal People

    When Connell picks his mom up from her job as his classmate Marianne's family's housekeeper, he and Marianne discover an unusual connection. Though Connell is a well-liked athlete and Marianne is seen as an antisocial outsider, they're both known as their high school's brightest: their first, and lasting, bond. The secrecy of their relationship creates a shelter in which to explore their intense chemistry, both intellectual and sexual, before Connell blithely betrays Marianne, and they both leave their small town for Dublin's Trinity College.

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  • The Queen: the Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth

    Levin, the national editor of Slate, writes a stunning account of Linda Taylor, the woman famously tagged as a welfare queen in the 1970s. His powerful work of narrative nonfiction shows how Taylor victimized a slew of vulnerable people, was a victim herself, and was the cause of Black welfare recipients being stereotyped as welfare cheats.

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  • The Silent Patient

    Alicia Berenson is a famous painter, living a life that many envy with her handsome fashion-photographer husband, Gabriel. With a gorgeous house, complete with a painting studio, and that perfect marriage, Alicia couldn't be happier. Until one day Gabriel comes home late from work, and Alicia shoots him in the face. In the brutal aftermath that leads to an indefinite stay in a psychiatric hospital, Alicia mutely accepts her punishment. Forensic psychotherapist Theo Faber is put in charge of her therapy; however, since the night of the shooting, she hasn't spoken a word.

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  • Where the Crawdads Sing

    Owens (The Eye of the Elephant: An Epic Adventure in the African Wilderness), an experienced nature writer, puts her background to good use in her debut novel. Her descriptions of the Carolina coastal marsh add vibrancy to this story of Kya Clark, known as the Marsh Girl, who has survived alone there for years. Kya's story is intertwined with a 1969 murder mystery in which Kya is the chief suspect. The nature writing is lyrical, and narrator Cassandra Campbell does it justice.

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  • The Last Year of the War

    Elise Sontag is American, but when WWII breaks out, the fact that her parents are German immigrants trumps that. Soon Elise and her family are sent to Crystal City, an internment camp in the Texas desert. Though there are unspoken divisions between prisoners of German and Japanese descent, Elise befriends Mariko, a fellow first-generation American with a vivid imagination. The two lose touch when their families are repatriated, and the focus shifts to Elise struggling to adjust to life in Germany, where she faces a language barrier and bombings in equal measures.

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  • Parkland

    We all know about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL, the movement it sparked, and the teens who continue to speak truth to power. But do we really know the young people behind the tweets and interviews? Journalist Cullen (Columbine) tries to answer that question, documenting the impact of the tragedy and pain that swept through the community, as well as the movement that served as a lifeline for all involved.

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  • The Lost Girls of Paris

    Inspired by actual historical events, internationally best-selling Jenoff (The Orphan's Tale , 2017) reaches back in time to craft another gripping WWII-era tale. In 1946, still grieving from the tragic loss of her husband, Grace Healey stumbles across an abandoned suitcase in Manhattan's Grand Central Terminal. Overwhelmed by curiosity, she opens the suitcase, discovering a cache of photographic portraits of 12 women.

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  • The Lost Man

    New York Times best-selling Harper's two earlier novels were both constructed around the harsher extremes of the Australian outback, and in this one we experience the isolated and inhospitable desert in Queensland. It is a brutal existence for the ranchers who live and work there, in relentless heat, hours away from any vestige of civilization. When the sun-baked body of Cam Bright, experienced at desert survival, is found by his brothers adjacent to a lone headstone in the middle of nowhere, marking the stockman's grave, they are hard pressed to find an explanation.

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  • The Au Pair

    Twins born on the Summerbourne estate never survive, at least according to local lore, until the births of Seraphine Mayes and her twin brother, Danny. However, just a few hours after giving birth to the twins, their mother, Ruth, commits suicide by throwing herself from the estate's high cliffs and perishing amidst the rocks and ocean spray below. Twenty-five years later, Seraphine begins searching for the truth of that mysterious day, beginning with the family's au pair, Laura, who fled Summerbourne on the same day of Seraphine and Danny's birth and their mother's death.

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  • The Book of Essie


    "Both timelessly beautiful and unbelievably timely."--Chris Bohjalian, New York Times bestselling author of Midwives and The Flight Attendant

    A captivating novel of family, fame, and religion that tells the story of the seventeen-year-old daughter of an evangelical preacher, star of the family's hit reality show, and the secret pregnancy that threatens to blow their entire world apart.

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  • The Current

    Tim Johnston, whose breakout debut Descent was called "astonishing," "dazzling," and "unforgettable" by critics, returns with The Current, a tour de force about the indelible impact of a crime on the lives of innocent people.

    In the dead of winter, outside a small Minnesota town, state troopers pull two young women and their car from the icy Black Root River. One is found downriver, drowned, while the other is found at the scene--half frozen but alive.

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  • The Water Cure

    Aptly named patriarch King repairs to an island with his wife and daughters to escape an unnamed cataclysm. Even though for a time they welcomed castaway women, the daughters are taught to fear strangers, especially men, who are considered toxic. This insular, hothouse environment, though meant to protect the girls, also sequesters them from being able to adjudge their parents' stringent "exercises" as little more than torture. When King disappears, the daughters' carefully crafted world begins to crumble, and emotions (which the exercises were meant to curb) bubble up.

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