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Book World: 10 noteworthy books for November

“The Cloisters” by Katy Hays  (Atria)
“The Cloisters” by Katy Hays (Atria)
By Becky Meloan Washington Post

November brings historical fiction, romance, tear-jerkers and books to make you laugh. Best-selling authors Michael Connelly and Anthony Horowitz both have something new to keep pulses racing this month – just the thing to fight off that tryptophan surge after Thanksgiving turkey.

“The Cloisters,” by Katy Hays (Atria, Nov. 1): The Upper Manhattan medieval museum filled with Gothic arches and stained-glass windows supplies an atmospheric setting for this erudite academic thriller. With a newly minted graduate degree in early Renaissance studies, Ann makes her first trip to New York for a summer job with the Metropolitan Museum, where her assignment delivers her into the dark and mysterious halls of the Cloisters. What starts as curiosity about divination theories evolves into a preoccupation with a 15th-century deck of tarot cards, an obsession shared by her fellow researchers who have secrets of their own.

“Meredith, Alone,” by Claire Alexander (Grand Central, Nov. 1): Three years of panic attacks have kept Meredith indoors – working remotely, grocery shopping online and exercising on her staircase. A visit from Tom, a persistent volunteer from a charity that reaches out to anyone who needs a friend, disrupts her comforting routine of cooking and jigsaw puzzles, but his presence may be enough of a push to help her understand and address the trauma that has kept her isolated. Alexander, who writes compassionately about overcoming mental challenges, started writing her debut novel before the pandemic, but a dearth of human connection after isolation is now something to which many more people can relate.

“To Fill a Yellow House,” by Sussie Anie (Mariner, Nov. 1): On Halloween night, Kwasi pounds on the door of a jumbled charity shop trying to escape schoolyard bullies, and Rupert, proprietor of the Chest of Small Wonders, welcomes him inside. The unlikely duo develop a friendship that anchors them both – Kwasi, an artistic boy, finds relief from the pressures of a new school and demanding Ghanaian immigrant parents, and Rupert soothes the ache from the loss of his wife more than a decade ago, an absence that he had been addressing using tea laced with not-quite-legal herbs. Anie’s touching debut delivers a heartfelt message about what can happen when strangers from different backgrounds connect.

“Foster,” by Claire Keegan (Grove, Nov. 1): Keegan’s enchanting novella centers on a child in Ireland whose Da leaves her with relatives who have more resources. In addition to the food and clothing they lovingly provide, the Kinsellas are generous with their time and offer their young charge warmth and respect, which were in short supply at the home of her exhausted parents. Their bond builds as summer progresses, but there are unexpressed emotions in even the most loving households that can be hard for a child to comprehend. Keegan’s unaffected narrative is a study of familial heartache and generosity.

“Desert Star,” by Michael Connelly (Little Brown, Nov. 8): The Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch series, first published in 1992, is a cultural phenomenon. Connelly has written two dozen novels starring the veteran homicide detective, and since 2014, Bosch been a mainstay on Amazon streaming (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post). At this point, Connelly could be forgiven for phoning it in, but his latest entry in the Bosch canon is as sharp as his first. Detective Renée Ballard, who has rejoined the Los Angeles Police Department as the head of the new Open-Unsolved Unit, entices the retired Bosch into volunteering on her task force with the promise of resources to devote to his “white whale.” When a DNA sample connects two cases separated by more than a decade, Bosch and Ballard join forces to track two deadly criminals.

“The Lemon,” by S.E. Boyd (Viking, Nov. 8): When bartender-turned-writer John Doe’s first book was a hit, agents made big promises for his future. His lack of interest made him all the more enticing to Hollywood and propelled him to stardom as a culinary television host. His untimely death in a Belfast hotel provides another opportunity for those in his orbit to further their own agendas. There’s his agent, whose comfortable retirement relies on Doe’s faultless legacy, and a reporter, who fabricates a connection with Doe to save her job. Doe’s friend, a world-famous chef who discovered the body, just wants to get back to cooking, but the unbalanced hotel worker with a camera seems to have other ideas. Boyd, a pseudonym for three co-authors, forcefully skewers what they refer to as the “Celebrity-Death Industrial Complex” with spit-take-level humor.

“The Twist of a Knife,” by Anthony Horowitz (Harper, Nov. 15): Horowitz, the popular metafiction writer, brings back brusque ex-detective Daniel Hawthorne to begrudgingly help his former consultant after (fictional) writer Anthony Horowitz’s fingerprints are found on the ornamental dagger used to murder a theater critic who ruthlessly panned his new West End play. Searching for the real killer takes the duo to the Vaudeville Theater’s dressing rooms, to secretive London neighborhoods and through a tunnel of beech trees leading to an estate in the English countryside, an adventure that will enchant mystery lovers, Anglophiles and theater buffs.

“The World Deserves My Children,” by Natasha Leggero (Gallery, Nov. 15): Leggero, a Hollywood triple threat (actress, writer and comedian) can add memoirist to her list of accomplishments. Here, she regales readers with tales of parenthood, from deciding to remain childless while building a career in her most fertile years (“there’s no greater status symbol for an adult actor in her forties than an adult child”) to navigating IVF and attempting to raise a child in a world that is environmentally unstable (“In Los Angeles, we now have only three seasons: awards, pilot, and wildfire”). Her essays shine with wit and warmth, turning an irreverent eye toward what the future may hold for the global warming generation.

“Astrid Parker Doesn’t Fail,” by Ashley Herring Blake (Berkley, Nov. 22): When Astrid is on her way to her first on-camera day as a decorator for a home improvement show, Jordan, the carpenter, bursts through a door without looking, splashing coffee down her ivory dress. Although Jordan tries to apologize, Astrid’s outrage erupts, and the two remain at odds – to the delight of the showrunners, who eagerly play up their animosity. Fans of enemies-to-lovers rom-coms may have an inkling about what’s to come, but Blake freshens the tropes with charming dialogue and a cast of colorful characters from Bright Falls, Ore., the setting of her previous novel, the queer romance “Delilah Green Doesn’t Care.”

“Winterland,” by Rae Meadows (Henry Holt, Nov. 29): Set in the world of Soviet-era gymnastics just after Olga Korbut backflipped her way to glory at the 1972 Olympics, this immersive novel features three female characters behind the Iron Curtain: Anya, an 8-year-old gymnast; her missing mother, Katerina; and Vera, a neighbor who spent 10 years in a Gulag. As Anya’s star rises, she is haunted by questions about her missing mother, and Vera’s torturous imprisonment in the tundra might lead to answers. A former competitive gymnast herself, Meadows authentically portrays the strenuous training and relentless dedication of an Olympic athlete striving toward her peak performance.

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