Bradley, Benjamin, Finn, Johnson, Joyce | Barbara’s Picks, Jan. 2018

Benjamin, Chloe. The Immortalists. Putnam. Jan. 2018. 352p. ISBN 9780735213180. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780735213197. Downloadable: Penguin Audio. LITERARY FICTION
Having won the Edna Ferber Prize for The Anatomy of Dreams, Benjamin came up with a second novel that caught fire at BookExpo—it was, in fact, a BE Buzz Book—and has already been bought by the Fox TV Group for a planned series. It opens in 1969 New York with four children daringly visiting a fortune teller said to be able to predict the date of one’s death. Elder siblings Daniel and Varya become an army doctor and a scientist, respectively, while younger, rebellious Klara works as a magician in Las Vegas, and the insouciant youngest, Simon, finds love and dance in San Francisco. Did the fortune teller’s predictions really determine their fate? With a national tour.

Bradley, Alan. The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place: A Flavia de Luce Novel. Delacorte. Jan. 2018. 384p. ISBN 9780345539991. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780345540010. CD/downloadable: Random Audio. MYSTERY
Acerbically smart young sleuth Flavia de Luce is back, ready to take another crack at the LibraryReads Top Ten list and perhaps grab more honors to add to the  Debut Dagger, Barry, Agatha, Macavity, Dilys, and Arthur Ellis awards that Bradley has collected on her behalf. Here, Flavia is punting lazily along the river with her family when she discovers a corpse dressed in blue silk and wearing a single red ballet slipper. How the victim is connected to the death of three local gossips, the son of an executed killer, a traveling circus, and a publican’s talented wife is for Flavia—and readers everywhere—to find out. The Flavia mysteries keep rising on the New York Times best sellers list.

Finn, A.J. The Woman in the Window. Morrow. Jan. 2018. 448p. ISBN 9780062678416. $26.99; ebk. ISBN 9780062678447. THRILLER
A much-bruited Frankfort title, buzzing even before BookExpo opened, sold to 35 countries and in development as a Fox film, with Oscar winner Scott Rudin producing and Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Letts delivering the script, Finn’s white knuckler defines the term hot debut. Its heroine, the reclusive Anna Fox, hides away in her New York apartment tippling wine, watching old movies, and looking out the window, mostly recently at the husband, wife, and teenage son who just moved in across the way. Then she sees—or thinks she sees—something shocking, and what follows has wracked nerves enough to merit Gone Girl/Girl on the Train comparisons, not to mention the obvious Hitchcock nod. With a 200,000-copy first printing.

Johnson, Denis. The Largesse of the Sea Maiden: Stories. Random. Jan. 2018. 224p. ISBN 9780812988635. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812988642. Downloadable: Random Audio. SHORT STORIES
A National Book Award winner and two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist claiming the respect of both critics and dedicated readers, Johnson died in May 2017, and we are fortunate that this collection was already in the works. It comes a quarter century after Jesus’ Son, among his best-known titles, and not unexpectedly explores issues of aging, mortality, and the search for meaning. Take a look at the title story, published in The New Yorker’s March 3, 2014, issue. Then get the books for all smart readers.

Joyce, Rachel. The Music Shop. Random. Jan. 2018. 320p. ISBN 9780812996685. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780812996692. LITERARY FICTION
Best-selling author Joyce first boomed big with the Man Booker long-listed The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, which was swiftly followed by the LibraryReads pick The Love Song of Miss Queenie Hennessy. Set in 1988, her new title features record store owner Frank, who can find exactly the record each customer needs among vinyl-only merchandise ranging from classical to punk. Quiet and questing, Ilse Brauchmann is a different sort of customer altogether; she wants Frank to tell her about music itself. And that opens up his painful, unavoidable past.

Barbara Hoffert About Barbara Hoffert

Barbara Hoffert (, @BarbaraHoffert on Twitter) is Editor, LJ Prepub Alert; past chair of the Materials Selection Committee of the RUSA (Reference and User Services Assn.) division of the American Library Association; and past president, treasurer, and awards chair of the National Book Critics Circle.


  1. Rick says:

    It’s not likely Scott Rudin will be directing The Woman in the Window…he’a a Hollywood producer, not a director.

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