As temperatures cool down and the leaves begin to turn, curl up with these mysteries, thrillers, new releases & love stories from down South.
The only daughter of a Pentecostal preacher in Florida, main character Jolie Hoyt is aware of her family’s closet full of secrets and distrust of outsiders. Nevertheless, she throws caution to the wind when she meets Sam Lense, a Jewish anthropology student from Miami, who is in town to study the ethnic makeup of the region. Their affair abruptly ends when Sam becomes the latest victim in a long tradition of small-town violence. Twelve years later, the pair are reunited when an issue related to area’s dark racial history resurfaces, and Jolie must finally come to terms with the realities of her hometown.
“Auraria” is the debut novel from Atlantan Tim Westover. Filled with water spirits, moon maidens, haunted pianos and tales of gold, Westover’s story is a fantastical read rooted in the history and origins of North Georgia’s mountain towns. Main character James Holtzclaw is tasked with turning the fading gold rush town of Auraria into a first-class resort., but when the town’s peculiar people and problematic ghosts collide with his own rival ambitions, Holtzclaw must decide what he will save and what will be washed away.
Back to Blood (available October 23)
by Tom Wolfe
published by Little, Brown and Company
The latest from the author of “Bonfire of the Vanities” and a native of Richmond, Virginia, “Back to Blood” is set in Miami and includes a Cuban mayor, black police chief, muckraking young journalist, sex addiction psychiatrist and a bunch of shady Russians among its cast of characters. And that’s just for starters. Wolfe’s take on immigration, crime, class and corruption in the melting pot of Miami, Kirkus calls the book “a welcome pleasure from an old master.”
The Cutting Season
by Attica Locke
published by Harper Collins
Caren Gray manages Belle Vie, a sprawling Louisiana plantation whose owners have turned the place into an eerie tourist attraction. When the dead body of a migrant worker is found on the grounds, Caren begins uncovering things she wishes she didn’t know. As she’s drawn into the dead girl’s story, she unearths new facts about a very old mystery that has ties to the current murder and discovers that Belle Vie and its beauty are not to be trusted.
This new biography, written with a younger audience in mind, tells Mississippi author Eudora Welty’s life story, starting with her parents and leading readers through her education, career and popularity in the 1980s. Photos of Welty throughout the years and an appendix of her artwork in the back of the book only add to the experience. This book was named the Mississippi pick for “52 Great Reads” at the National Book Festival earlier this month!
Set in a small town in Tennessee, “The Poisonwood Bible” author’s latest book is about a young woman who hikes up a mountain road behind her house for a secret tryst and encounters a lake of fire. She can only understand it as a cautionary miracle, but it sparks a number of other explanations from scientists, religious leaders and the media. As the community lines up to judge the woman and her miracle, she’s thrown into a spiraling confrontation with her family, her church, her town, her continent and finally the world at large.
“Nellie Clay married Hobbs Pritchard without even noticing he was a spell conjured into a man, a walking, talking ghost story. But her mama knew. She saw it in her tea leaves: death. Folks told Nellie to get off the mountain while she could, to go back home before it was too late.” Told in the voices of five women whose lives are inextricably bound when a murder takes place in rural Depression-era North Carolina, Ann Hite’s debut spans generations and conjures the best of Southern folklore — mystery, spirits, hoodoo and the incomparable beauty of the Appalachian landscape.
When Percy Harding, Goliath’s most important citizen, is discovered dead by the railroad tracks one autumn afternoon, no one can quite believe what’s happened. Only Rosamond Rogers, Percy’s secretary, may have the answer. The town itself has been Rosamond’s anchor, but it is beginning to quiver with the possibility of change: High school girls are writing suicide poetry, a troubled teenaged boy plans to burn down Main Street. In the wake of the town’s undoing, Rosamond seeks to reunite the community in this second novel by a North Carolina, native whose style is being compared to that of Sherwood Anderson in “Winesburg, Ohio.”
McAfee’s followup to her e-book hit “Diary of a Mad Fat Girl” finds the lovable Ace Jones leaving Bugtussle, Mississippi, for Pelican Cove, Florida, and finally opening her art gallery and kickstarting her life with longtime beau Mason McKenzie. Ace has vowed to leave her sassy ways behind until she becomes the No. 1 enemy of a pack of snippy old ladies. Thankfully, Ace has got friends of her own, not to mention her ever-faithful chiweenie Buster Loo by her side.
Maryland native Erika Robuck‘s second novel is a fictional account of Ernest Hemingway’s life in Key West. Set during the Depression, “Hemingway’s Girl” tells the story of 19-year-old Mariella Bennet and her relationship with the Hemingway family, from Papa to his second wife, Pauline, their sons and cast of friends. Mariella becomes caught in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, especially as a massive hurricane approaches and puts everyone in harm’s way. Read our interview with Erika Robuck here.
“A Place Called Wiregrass” author Michael Morris’s latest is the story of struggling mother Ella Wallace, who goes to pick up a clock at the boat docks only to find a mysterious man instead. He convinces her he can help her avoid foreclosure on her family’s land in Florida, but as Ella fights to hold onto what is hers, it becomes evident that things are not as they appear. Hypocrisy and murder soon shake the coastal town of Apalachicola and jeopardize Ella’s family in what author Pat Conroy called “one of the best portraits of a small Southern town I’ve ever encountered.”
Fans of Erika Marks’ debut novel “Little Gale Gumbo,” which made our list last year, will want to read her latest work set in coastal Maine. More than a century ago, lighthouse keeper Linus Harris left his beloved wife and waded into the ocean with three other men to reunite with their mermaid lovers. The mysterious Mermaid Mutiny of 1888 has become legend for the residents of Cradle Harbor and proof of life’s magic for young resident Tess Patterson. When Tess is hired to carve the commemorative sculpture for the town’s upcoming Mermaid Festival, a chance meeting looks like it might finally bring her the love she’s been longing for, along with a long-buried secret.
This January selection of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club is about a wife transplanted from Boston to Florida in the 1960s who shakes things up in Naples by starting a literary salon and radio show. Calling herself “Miss Dreamsville,” Jackie Hart welcomes everyone into her book club, even the woman who allegedly killed her husband, a black woman and a young divorcee.
The Racketeer (available October 23)
by John Grisham
published by Doubleday
“Given the importance of what they do, and the controversies that often surround them, and the violent people they sometimes confront, it is remarkable that in the history of this country only four active federal judges have been murdered. Judge Raymond Fogletree just became number five.” So goes the opening description of John Grisham’s latest legal thriller about a lawyer in prison who knows who killed the judge and why.
Gillian Flynn’s “Gone Girl” was the talk of the summer, but her first two books are just as psychologically thrilling. “Sharp Objects” is her first and set in Missouri. While on the border between North and South, the story has a Southern Gothic feel, as reporter Camille Preaker returns to her hometown to investigate the murders of two young girls. Staying with her mother in a rambling Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by a childhood tragedy, yet drawn back into the troubled world she grew up in. As she works to uncover the truth about the violent crimes, much to the dismay of her well-mannered mother, she’s forced to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to find the truth.
Written while Zacharias was writer-in-residence in Fairhope, Alabama, this book is part investigation, part memoir and tells the story of a recent high-profile Oregon murder case in which a little girl is murdered by her mother’s boyfriend. The mother once lived in Zacharias’ house, and the author felt compelled to consider her own culpability in the tragedy. “Karen Zacharias, using her own reporting skills files a crime story readers won’t put down and will never forget,” says “Forrest Gump” author Winston Groom.”
Recently orphaned, 11-year-old Cathy Benson feels she has been dropped into a cultural and intellectual wasteland when she is forced to move from her academically privileged life in California to the small town of Kersey in the Texas Panhandle. There, football reigns supreme, and Cathy quickly forms a friendship and eventual love triangle with two local stars and fellow orphans. Taking the three friends through their high school graduations, when several tragic events break them apart, the novel follows their careers and futures until they reunite in Kersey at age 40.
Giveaway Details: We won’t be giving away all the books on this list, but do have a few to hand out. To enter to win, comment on this post and tell us what book you’re looking forward to reading most or what you’ve already read. A few winners will be chosen at random throughout the fall and winter to receive books.
Click here to download a pdf of the reading list that you can print out and take with you to the bookstore or library.