Travel through time and geography in the new historical fiction coming to our shelves on September 1, from early 20th century New Jersey to 1880’s New York City, all the way to 18th century China and Tibet, and become absorbed in other worlds and other dangers.
Based on the true story of one of the first female deputy sheriffs in the country, Girl Waits with Gun, by Amy Stewart (author of the very entertaining nonfiction book, The Drunken Botanist), is a rip-roaring adventure story that should be great fun to read. Set in 1914 in Hackensack, New Jersey (of all places!), the book focuses on the Kopp sisters, particularly Constance Kopp. Taller than most men of her time, uninterested in marriage or domesticity, Constance is hiding out with her sisters due to a family secret when a rich owner of a silk factory runs down her buggy and then refuses to pay damages. The indomitable Constance stands up for herself and her sisters even when the industrialist sends his gang of toughs to intimidate, threaten and even attack them. The local sheriff enlists her help in convicting the miscreants and Constance faces not only the powerful evildoers but her own family past as well. Fans of historical fiction and particularly fans of Rhys Bowen’s Molly Maguire series should have a great time with this novel.
Going back a little earlier in New York history, House of Thieves, by Charles Belfoure, puts an innocent man in the grip of a notorious gang of thieves and killers who run the city’s underworld in the 1880’s. The protagonist, John Cross, is a respectable architect, the last man anyone would expect to be helping criminals burgle the houses of wealthy New Yorkers, but John’s son has amassed impossible gambling debts and the only way John could possibly get his son out of trouble is by using his knowledge to help the gang. Though he turns out to have a rare skill for picking out the most vulnerable people with the most valuable items, John is walking a very fine line, and with each succeeding job, he runs increasing risks of exposure and the destruction of himself and his family. For a riveting look at the interconnected world of high society rich and organized criminals in turn of the century New York City, this is a must read.
A murder is the fulcrum turning the book Jade Dragon Mountain, by Elsa Hart, which is set in the borderlands between Tibet and China in 1708, so right away you know you’re not in a time or place that’s familiar to most readers. A librarian, Li Du, has been exiled from the kingdom of China, and passes through Dayan, the last town inside China on his way to Tibet. There he encounters a multitude of travelers, merchants and soldiers, all gathering here to witness a solar eclipse commanded by the Emperor himself. In the midst of this chaos, a Jesuit missionary is murdered. The officials of the town want to declare the murder the work of Tibetan bandits, but Li Du is unconvinced. There are a lot of people with a lot of secrets, a lot of things going on under the surface of this seemingly ordinary town. Will he stay, violating the terms of his exile, and seek out the truth, and if he does, what will be the cost to Li Du? Between the unusual setting and the decidedly different sleuth, Jade Dragon Mountain should be an intriguing and absorbing novel.