When Detective Gabriella Versado discovers a half-human, half-animal corpse, she immediately knows there’s a sick killer on the loose she has to catch. But in Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters , everyone has a dark side to feed, starve or harness.
The avant garde art scene of Detroit provides the backdrop for this fast-paced thriller in which a psychopath transforms into a supernatural artist bent on embodying people’s unspoken desires. As he takes more victims, Versado’s teenage daughter accidentally gets involved when she discovers the counterpart to the first hybrid corpse.
Meanwhile, a homeless man who helps others get acquainted with the shelter watches out for evil in all its forms and is surprised when chairs seem to obey him. Finally, there’s Jonno, a video blogger who wants to give the supernatural killer his 15 minutes of fame. But Jonno might be the last piece of the puzzle the killer needs to become the glorious hybrid he envisions.
In Station Eleven , by Emily St. John Mandel, the Georgia Flu becomes airborne the night Arthur Leander dies during his performance as King Lear. Within months, all airplanes are grounded, cars run out of gas and electricity flickers out as most of the world’s population dies. The details of Arthur’s life before the flu and what happens afterward to his friends, wives and lovers create a surprisingly beautiful story of human relationships amid such devastation. Among the survivors are Kirsten, a child actor at the time of Arthur’s death who lives with no memory of what happened to her the first year after the flu. Now in her 20s, she performs Shakespeare with the Traveling Symphony, a makeshift family of musicians and actors. Their band is threatened when they accidentally wander into territory now controlled by the Prophet, who believes his group was spared from the pandemic because he was one of the Chosen. One by one, members of the Traveling Symphony disappear as the Prophet pursues them through the desolate countryside, mimicking the narrative in “Dr. Eleven,” a comic book created by one of Arthur’s ex-wives. A gorgeous retelling of Lear unfolds through Arthur’s flashbacks and Kirsten’s attempt to stay alive.
Robert Jackson Bennett’s City of Stairs is a delightful urban fantasy that travels through a city full of Escher-like staircases and alternate realities. Bulikov was once the seat of a brutal, religious empire that eventually was toppled by the people it oppressed. Now, its inhabitants are forbidden to learn about their history or their religion. When a professor from the ruling country, Saypur, is murdered during his visit to Bulikov, Shara Thivani, a Saypuri diplomat, must investigate. Soon it’s revealed that Shara is not who she claims to be, and her interest in finding the murderer will win her enemies from all sides. As the young diplomat comes closer to solving the crime, the very structure of Bulikov begins to unravel, but are they ready to accept the ancient myths they had so passionately defended in centuries past? A diverse and entertaining cast of old gods fleshes out the ruins of this mysterious city, and Shara’s hit-man secretary delivers nonstop action.
Hightower is the author of “Elementari Rising.”
by Emily St. John Mandel
City of Stairs
Robert Jackson Bennett
Broadway; paperback, $15