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10 noteworthy books for March

A celebrated Spanish thriller gets an English translation, and a cult survivor documents her upbringing

5 min

March winds blow in something for everyone: fiction that drops you in the trenches of World War I, mysteries that will make you laugh, and even some fascinating but accessible science journalism.

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‘In Memoriam,’ by Alice Winn (Knopf, March 7)

Winn’s accomplished debut presents two indelible characters: athletic Henry Gaunt and lyrical Sidney Ellwood, English boarding school chums who both believe that their love for each other is unrequited. Whether they’re posturing schoolboys on the cusp of World War I or enduring the visceral shock and horrifying randomness of death in the trenches, Gaunt and Ellwood are unceasingly drawn to each other, each afraid to risk following his heart until it may be too late.

‘The World and All That It Holds’ lives up to its sweeping title

‘Now You See Us,’ by Balli Kaur Jaswal (William Morrow, March 7)

When one of Singapore’s elite is found bludgeoned to death, the news that her Filipina maid is charged with the murder shocks the community. While some are quick to condemn an immigrant, three domestic workers band together to bring unsavory secrets to light and unmask the real killer. Jaswal’s entertaining mystery with a message challenges misplaced assumptions about marginalized workers and recognizes everyone’s shared humanity.

‘Forager: Field Notes for Surviving a Family Cult,’ by Michelle Dowd (Algonquin, March 7)

For members of “The Field,” a Southern California fundamentalist community ruled by Dowd’s grandfather, adversity and deprivation were commonplace, so her mother taught her foraging skills as a means to survive. Subjugated within her community based on her gender, Dowd’s inquisitive intellect was validated by the outside world, giving her the strength to leave her family at 17. Her memoir unearths buried childhood memories of abuse and neglect while celebrating what she carried with her: an abiding connection with nature.

A love letter to the land — and the bounty it offers

‘Rootless,’ by Krystle Zara Appiah (Ballantine, March 7)

When teenage Efe, a newly arrived student in the United Kingdom from Ghana, met Sam, he seemed to check all her boxes, giving her the stability and security she craved after leaving her homeland. But 10 years of marriage and the realities of parenting have shown them they want different things. An unwanted pregnancy jolts Efe into action, and she disappears, leaving Sam with their toddler and plenty of unanswered questions. Appiah examines the expectations of both mothers and fathers in this empathetic portrait that shows the dissolution of a marriage from both partners’ perspectives.

More book reviews and recommendations

‘The Devil’s Element: Phosphorus and a World Out of Balance,’ by Dan Egan (W.W. Norton, March 7)

Phosphorus’s paradox — that the same chemical element playing a critical role in life can also bring about death and destruction — is the focus of environmental journalist Egan’s engrossing narrative. Essential to plant growth and a component of bones, teeth and even our DNA, phosphorus is also a finite resource and a caustic pollutant that simultaneously fertilizes our food and destroys our waterways. In clear language, Egan explains the darker side of the 15th element’s history and its importance in Earth’s ecological balance.

‘The Dance Tree,’ by Kiran Millwood Hargrave (HarperVia, March 14)

Inspired by a true event in Strasbourg’s history, Hargrave skillfully transports readers to the early 16th century, when a mania afflicted hundreds of women who danced nonstop for days. Lisbet, a beekeeper’s wife, witnesses the frenzy but is also concerned about the arrival of her sister-in-law, who is returning from the woods after serving a seven-year penance for an unspoken crime. As Lisbet seeks to uncover family secrets, she finds herself caught in a risky tangle of religious hypocrisy and forbidden passion.

In Kiran Millwood Hargrave's ‘The Mercies,’ a deadly storm isn’t the only danger

‘Brother & Sister Enter the Forest,’ by Richard Mirabella (Catapult, March 14)

Willa and her brother, Justin, have grown apart after sharing a tumultuous childhood with a judgmental mother who never accepted Justin’s sexuality. Desperate to escape, Willa retreated into her hobby of making dioramas, while Justin, a frequent target of bullies, fell into a relationship with an older man whose aggressive protection was both charming and dangerous. When the adult siblings reconnect, both must come to terms with a traumatic past to discover how to be there for each other in the present.

‘Vera Wong’s Unsolicited Advice for Murderers,’ by Jesse Q. Sutanto (Berkley, March 14)

Following the success of “Dial A for Aunties,” Sutanto is back with another charmer, this time following the exploits of orthopedic-sneaker-wearing Vera Wong Zhuzhu, who finds a dead body in her Chinatown tea shop. When the police investigation isn’t thorough enough for her liking, she concocts a plan to find the murderer, aided by a locked flash drive she found on the body and stashed away for safekeeping. Sutanto excels at skewering with affection, and an earnest hilarity shines through in this entertaining whodunit.

‘Red Queen,’ by Juan Gómez-Jurado (Minotaur, March 14)

Fans of Scandinavian crime thrillers might want to broaden their horizons with the first book in a Spanish trilogy featuring a mismatched duo, troubled forensic genius Antonia Scott and Basque police inspector Jon Gutierrez, whose career is in jeopardy unless he can persuade her to help solve a sensitive, high-profile case. Already an international hit, Gómez-Jurado’s smart page-turner has been made into a Prime Video series that will debut later in 2023. (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

The best thrillers of 2022

‘The Great Reclamation,’ by Rachel Heng (Riverhead, March 28)

In the wake of British colonialism, Singapore’s government had plans for a modern future, and the land holding many of the country’s 20th-century fishing villages was reclaimed in the name of progress. Heng’s sweeping tale encompasses this transformation through the eyes of a small boy, Ah Boon, who grows into a man as the ground shifts, sometimes literally, beneath his feet.

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