“Under a Dark Sky” by Lori Rader-Day. William Morrow, 416 pages.
A new novel from Lori Rader-Day always floats to the top of my to-be-read pile.
A widow who developed a fear of the dark after losing her philandering husband finds that, ironically, he had booked a secret vacation on their anniversary at a “Dark Park” where tourists stargaze outside light-polluted areas. She shows up at the waterfront rental only to find that she’s sharing the house with a college friends’ reunion, and the 20-somethings are annoyingly oblivious to her desire to be alone with her grief.
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When one of them dies on the first night, she’s stuck in town until the police are satisfied. As she learns more about the complicated relationships among the friends and starts wondering who’s next, her phobia rules her every move.
“The Drama Teacher” by Koren Zailckas. Crown, 400 pages.
This is my favorite August entry in the “unreliable narrator” genre, with a main character who learned the art of the con at her father’s knee and, now a mother herself, uses those skills to try and make a good life for her two children.
It stands out in this crowded genre for good storytelling and for achieving the “talented Mr. Ripley” effect, with a nogoodnik narrator gradually becoming one we can’t help pulling for. One of the tricks up her sleeve: serious tech skills. Nothing like a fake website to help you pose as a rock star drama teacher.
Unfortunately, after reinventing herself to get her kids into an exclusive New York City private school, she runs into people who might connect her with an accidental death.
“Bone on Bone” by Julia Keller. Minotaur, 304 pages.
Julia Keller’s Bell Elkins novels are set in rural West Virginia, one of the hardest-hit areas in the opioid epidemic.
Her previous book covered a 24-hour period when deaths from a bad batch of heroin overwhelmed local law enforcement. Here she shifts focus to the epidemic’s effects on even the best neighborhoods; kids with every advantage using, dealing, stealing, eating up their parents’ retirement savings in revolving-door rehab.
Former county prosecutor Elkins has a new mission: To go after the pharmaceutical companies for promoting the deadly drugs. But before she can get far, a prominent citizen is murdered and she finds herself a “consultant” to her successor.