One of the year’s best mysteries has nothing to do with detectives, courtrooms, or spies. Instead, Rosamund Lupton offers a searing portrait of the bond between a young woman and her Sister (Crown, $24). When Beatrice, a corporate designer living in New York, learns that her artsy, quirky, beloved younger sister, Tess, has disappeared, she flies to their native London and moves into Tess’s Notting Hill flat to launch her own ad hoc investigation. The novel takes the form of Beatrice’s dual testimonies—the story unfolds through Beatrice’s sessions with a psychiatrist and in her confessional, diary-like letter to Tess—a structure that is elegant, ingenious, and utterly gripping. Lupton is a rising literary star to watch.
Pirate King (Bantam, $25) is Laurie R. King’s eleventh mystery deploying the team of Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and King’s own invention, Mary Russell. In this episode, Russell recalls the case that put her on the movie set of a remake of The Pirates of Penzance—and which featured real pirates. Russell spars with Holmes, busy with his own doings, from afar, and King uses her trademark whimsy and wit to tease the filmmaking and theatrical worlds. Pirate King will not only lift you out of winter doldrums and onto the open seas of mayhem, it will make you smile as you reach for more of King’s work.
Fans of experimental literary thrillers will devour S.J. Watson’s chilling debut Before I Go to Sleep (HarperCollins, $25.99). Narrator Christine suffers from a debilitating form of amnesia: she can retain new memories during the day, but everything vanishes while she sleeps. Totally dependent on her husband to fill in the gaps, she must relearn her identity each time she wakes. Recovery seems hopeless—until an energetic young doctor urges Christine to keep a secret daily journal and phones her every morning to remind her where she’s hidden it. Watson, an audiologist, penned the novel (told through Christine’s journal entries) between all-night shifts at a London hospital, and the result is a heady combination of cutting-edge memory theory and breathless, old-fashioned suspense.