The Ballad of Tom Dooley
By Sharyn McCrumb
In the late 1860s, former Confederate soldier Tom Dula was executed for the murder of fiancee Lucy Foster. He steadfastly denied his guilt, and there is evidence that Ann Melton, Dula’s former lover, who had married, was either an accomplice or the actual killer. The story has become a legend, a song (performed memorably by the Kingston Trio, with a name change), and now a work of fiction. Author of the ballad novels, which celebrate Appalachian culture, McCrumb has ongoing appeal.
By Joseph Finder
#2 in Nick Heller series
Following the acclaimed Vanished, Nick Heller is back in Boston to help an old friend, hedge fund millionaire Marshall Marcus, rescue his rebellious teenage daughter, Alexa, who is being held captive in an underground crypt, linked via satellite to both her kidnapper and her father. But as Nick begins the search for Alexa, he discovers an array of lies involving Marshall, a former female escort posing as Marshall’s adoring wife and Alexa’s mother, a U.S. senator, a scheming lawyer, and various government agents and Russian spies. Nick’s expertise in Russian studies and international espionage together with the digital forensics skills of his former lover Diana help to locate Alexa-the buried brat who’s, like, totally cool.
I Gave My Heart to Know This
By Ellen Baker
Baker (Keeping the House) mixes past and present, love and loss, forgiveness and renewal in this sensitive cross-generational story of the lingering effects of WWII. As part of the war effort, Grace Anderson works as a welder in a Wisconsin shipyard along with her friend Lena Maki, and Lena’s mother, Violet. But a woman’s role also means writing letters to the boys overseas, boosting their morale and making promises for the future. Grace gets entangled in multiple love-letter affairs when Lena is desperate to give her twin brother, Derrick, hope, and Grace cooperates even though she is already committed to her high school sweetheart, Alex. Adding to her confusion is Joe, a railroad worker sent home with rheumatic fever, who is conveniently present and available. As the war grimly drags on, Grace’s choice is sadly made for her. Fast forward to modern-day Wisconsin, when Lena’s granddaughter, Julia, living at the family farm, distracts herself from her own recent loss by tracking Grace and Lena through old letters and photographs. As Julia tries to piece together their scattered history and repair her relationship with her own brother, Danny, WWII looms large as a character.
By William Kent Krueger
#11 Cork O ‘Connor
Krueger takes the catastrophic storm system known as a derecho, which swept hurricane-strength winds through northern Minnesota on July 3, 1999, as his catalyst. With O’Connor and his family still reeling from the disappearance and death of his wife two years before, he decides to make a stab at reuniting them and staunching some of the pain by orchestrating a houseboat vacation on a lake that borders Canada. The derecho hits, the family is scattered, and O’Connor and teen daughter Jenny find themselves on an uninhabited small island—uninhabited, that is, except for a lone infant. The infant’s mother is nearby, not killed by the storm but bound, tortured, and bludgeoned to death. O’Connor and Jenny soon learn that the killer is now stalking them.
Salvage the Bones
By Jesmyn Ward
Ward’s poetic second novel (after Where the Line Bleeds) covers the 12 days leading up to Hurricane Katrina via the rich, mournful voice of Esch Batiste, a pregnant 14-year-old black girl living with her three brothers and father in dire poverty on the edge of Bois Sauvage, Miss. Stricken with morning sickness and dogged by hunger, Esch helps her drunken father prepare their home for the gathering storm. She also looks after seven-year-old Junior while her oldest brother, Randall, trains to win a scholarship to basketball camp, and middle son Skeet devotes himself to delivering and raising his fighting bitch China’s pit bull puppies. All the while, Esch ponders whether she will have the baby and yearns for its father to love her “once he learns [her] secret.” Esch traces in the minutiae of every moment of every scene of her life the thin lines between passion and violence, love and hate, life and death, and though her voice threatens to overpower the story, it does a far greater service to the book by giving its cast of small lives a huge resonance.