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Cataract City

Craig Davidson (Graywolf)

This literary crime novel from the author of Rust and Bone is set on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls and follows two childhood friends. After they get abducted and spend a hellish week in the woods, their lives take drastically different courses: one becomes a cop, the other gets involved in shady dealings. Dogfighting, smuggling, and murder make this a gristly summer book.

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The Antiquarian

Gustavo Faverón Patriau, trans. from the Spanish by Joseph Mulligan (Grove/Black Cat)

The best literary puzzle of the summer finds psycholinguist Gustavo piecing together clues fed to him by his old friend Daniel, who’s currently locked up in a mental institution for murdering his fiancée. This perfect blend of page-turning narrative and knockout prose is as good as it gets—Patriau’s book is pure pitch-black fun.

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Bellweather Rhapsody

Kate Racculia (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)

Pitched as The Shining meets Agatha Christie meets Glee, Racculia’s (This Must Be the Place) novel takes place at the mysterious Bellweather Hotel, the site of a murder-suicide in the early 1980s. Twenty years later, a high school music festival finds the hotel full of young musicians, but things take a dark turn when a girl goes missing.

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In the Wolf’s Mouth

Adam Foulds (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)

Booker finalist Foulds (The Quickening Maze) captures the Allied campaigns in Italy and North Africa in prose that matches the rough experiences of his characters. Set against the historical background, Foulds lets his violent cast of soldiers and criminals play out more personal conflicts.

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The Stories of Jane Gardam

Jane Gardam (Europa (Penguin, dist.))

This magnificent selection of 28 short stories from Gardam dates from 1977 to 2007, and spans the length of her career. With such a broad spectrum of stories, ranging from wistful to surreal—one story finds a homeless man sneaking into a nice house for a bath, another begins by focusing on the diamond in the back of a character’s neck—readers will be thankful to have so much good writing in one place.

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The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

Susan Jane Gilman (Grand Central)

Nonfiction writer Gilman (Undress Me in the Temple of Heaven) parlays her craft into an outstanding fiction debut, which follows an abrasive, unscrupulous protagonist from the 1910s to the early 1980s, and will tell you more about the American ice cream industry than you could ever imagine.

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Summer House with Swimming Pool

Herman Koch, trans. from the Dutch by Sam Garrett (Random/Hogarth)

Base human instincts come out in Koch’s equally devious follow-up to The Dinner. This time, two families that don’t really like each other end up at a vacation home together. Throughout, Koch keeps ratcheting up the tension, and very few real-world events will distract readers from finishing this addictive book in one or two sittings.

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The Hundred-Year House

Rebecca Makkai (Viking)

Makkai’s intricate novel winds through the twisty history of a huge estate outside Chicago named Laurelfield. At the center are husband and wife Doug and Zee, who have schemes of their own until they stumble upon more than they bargained for within Laurelfield’s walls. Keeping track of family secrets, cover-ups, and changing alliances has never been more fun.

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Three Bargains

Tania Malik (Norton)

This rags to riches epic follows the Indian boy Madan and his journey from an impoverished childhood to successful adulthood. Malik paints an unforgettable picture of the small town of Gorapur, and with astounding language cuts to the core vitality of her characters.

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Mad Honey Symposium

Sally Wen Mao (Alice James)

Sonically dexterous, formally inventive, and overflowing with a disorienting array of wild imagery, Mao’s linguistically textured debut not only strikes every chord one would expect from a strong poetry collection, but does so in ways most readers wouldn’t—or couldn’t—anticipate, never mind find wild pleasure in.

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This Is the Water

Yannick Murphy (Harper Perennial)

In this obscenely suspenseful novel, written in second-person and spread out over 48 short chapters, a serial killer is scoping out potential victims from a girls high school swim team. But Murphy, no stranger to stylistic experimentation, inverts this story from a whodunit to a “whogotit” by revealing the identity of the killer early, and drawing dramatic tension from the question of which character will solve the crime.

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