A Spine-Tingler Set in Salem

THE LACE READER
by Brunonia Barry

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People PICK

REVIEWED BY SUE CORBETT

NOVEL
Towner Whitney, the thirtysomething heroine of Barry's absorbing debut, warns on page one: "I lie all the time." The last in a long line of women who can read the future by looking at the patterns in lace, she fled Salem, Mass., 15 years earlier. Estranged from her mother and haunted by the death of her twin and the abuse of her aunt Emma at the hands of ex-husband Cal Boynton, Towner is home now only because her beloved great-aunt Eva is missing. Police suspect foul play. Towner suspects Boynton, who has reinvented himself as a hellfire-and-brimstone preacher focused on driving out the "witches" who read lace in a popular local tearoom.

There are two novels' worth of plot stuffed into this genre-bending narrative and—as with lace—holes abound. But Barry's mystery has an irresistible pull and an ending that rattles your understanding of everything that's come before. (There was that page-one warning....) Lace is tailor-made for a boisterous night at the book club.

Fractured
by Karin Slaughter

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REVIEWED BY BOB MEADOWS

THRILLER
Slaughter's eighth novel kicks off like a standard thriller: Heiress Abigail Campano comes home to find a stranger brandishing a bloody knife over her daughter's dead body. But then come two startling twists (no hints here) that send Fractured to a higher level of mystery. Navigating the clues is Special Agent Will Trent, whom Slaughter introduced in her bestselling Triptych and whose success despite his flaws (he's illiterate) puts him in a league with bumbler savants like Monk or Columbo. This time Trent is teamed with an Atlanta cop, Faith Mitchell, who has a legitimate reason to hate him. Will's work ethic and investigative prowess eventually win Faith's respect, and their quirky relationship—as much as the increasingly intriguing investigation—fuels this fun read.

Thrumpton Hall
by Miranda Seymour

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REVIEWED BY MICHELLE GREEN

MEMOIR
From childhood, the author knew that her "entertaining, malicious" father, George FitzRoy Seymour, was a snob and a man obsessed. He loved his stately home so much, she writes, that he would "sacrifice everything and everybody for it." Seymour (The Bugatti Queen) delved into letters and cross-examined intimates to produce a memoir that reads like a mystery. Thrumpton Hall is a daughter's eloquent attempt to parse her damaged father and the insular world that he loved.