MYSTERY: Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton. “This is not your typical mystery,” says Ben McNally. If you only read mysteries because you can figure out the whodunit by page 7, this book is not for you. Here’s how it goes: The narrator has seven attempts to stop the death of Evelyn, which occurs at a weekend ball. Every Saturday, the narrator wakes in the body of a different guest, collecting clues as he goes along. McNally says, “On logistics alone, it’s triumphant.”
LOVE STORY: Never Anyone But You by Rupert Thomson. Two young French girls meet during Europe’s war years, eventually reinvent themselves as men, move to Jersey to escape Paris’ war rumblings, and end up forming a resistance against Hitler. Doesn’t sound very romantic, but McNally says, “This is the best love story I’ve read all year. It’s fascinating.” Bonus points: It’s based on a true story.
SUSPENSE: His Favorites by Kate Walbert. This book is “brilliant,” says McNally. “In fact, I read it twice and liked it better the second time.” The story is told through the eyes of a girl who was involved in a teenaged joyride that ended with the death of her best friend. Compelling story to be sure, but what makes it such a good read is the voice the author creates. You think the narrator is talking to you but partway through you realize she’s telling someone else the story. You don’t find out who that is until the end. “The voice in this book is spectacular,” McNally says.
CANLIT: Women Talking by Miriam Toews. “I don’t know how this book didn’t make the Giller list,” says McNally. “It’s an extraordinary book by one of our most accomplished young authors.” The story about a group of Mennonite women who discover their men are drugging and raping them, is so pertinent to the world today, and offers a fascinating look at both victims and perpetrators.