When a teenage girl is accused of murder in “A Nearly Normal Family,” her pastor father and lawyer mother flesh out three seesawing perspectives in a courtroom drama redolent of Scott Turow’s “Presumed Innocent.” Core strengths of the book are a jigsaw puzzle plot, the immersive in-your-thoughts style, and a certain Swedish sensibility. Grab it if you’re in need of propulsion. All that said, I found all three of the characters to be uninvolving, as if viewed through cotton wool. Pleasant but not transporting.
Tamsyn Muir’s science-fiction debut, “Gideon the Ninth,” is rollicking space adventure such as I’ve never read before, pure Gonzo madness that mixes space and swords and magic and fantasy and queer rebellion. It was recommended to me as lockdown escapism and it is exactly that, a caroming hoot of a novel written with verve and courage. In a world of spaceships, the Emperor invites all nine houses to send their necromancers, accompanied by their warrior cavaliers, to compete for the prize of immortality. The grungiest house of them all, the Ninth, fields Harrowhawk, a Goth-like bone-wielding magician, who reluctantly conscripts young sword tyro, Gideon Nav, whose blade skills are matched only by her foul mouth. The novel commences with beguiling stage-setting, then, once on the Emperor’s ship, accelerates into intricate, bloodthirsty (but never gratuitous) battles that escalate and escalate. Read the first page and be prepared to be sucked into a consuming bookish adventure. Definitely recommended and Book 2 is due soon!