Finch, the eponymous detective hero of Jeff Vandermeer's hallucinatory new novel, has the unenviable task of investigating a double murder where only one victim is human.  The other is a "gray cap," member of a race of sentient fungal beings who are the occupying forces of the city of Ambergris (also the setting for two of Vandermeer's previous books, City of Saints & Madmen  and Shriek: An Afterword).  "Occupying" is the mot juste here. Not only are humans second-class citizens of Ambergris; they're also susceptible to colonization by the gray caps, whose infectious spores kill or, in some cases, create human-fungal hybrids. 


Escalating tensions and distrust between the the city's factions make for an interzone that's equal parts Casablanca and Carcosa. Vandermeer's acclaimed dark fantasies owe as much to 19th-century decadents as they do to Michael Moorcock; with this book, he expands his territory to encompass classic noir, albeit filtered through his unique visionary sensibility.  Finch trudges through Ambergris' dank byways and criminal underground like Charles Baudelaire turned gumshoe, exposing conspiracy and treachery to the city's fungal mist.  The mashup of dreamscape and hard-boiled narrative makes for a sublime reading experience, The Big Sleep as fever dream.  "It took a long time and a lot of patience to kill a gray cap," Finch muses early on.  Fortunately, it takes only one mostly sleepless night for a reader to make the subterranean journey to Ambergris and back --  with absinthe and magic mushrooms optional.

April 16: ""Blue pottery vases and bowls for flowers are most attractive, and certain blue books...will repeat and emphasize color."

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch is the winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. James Parker calls this Dickensian coming-of-age novel "an enveloping…

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The Good Inn

Frank Black, frontman for the Pixies, has written a transgressive historical fiction with shades of Thomas Pynchon (focused as it is on the history of explosives and cinematic pornography), all set in a hallucinatory Edwardian Europe.

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Amara Lakhous delivers a mystery novel with its finger on the hot-button issues of today's Europe.  Immigration and multicultural conflicts erupt in the Italian city of Turin, as journalist Enzo Laganà looks to restore peace to his native burg.

Papers in the Wind

In this insightful novel by Eduardo Sacheri, a young girl left destitute by the death of her soccer-playing father is uplifted by the bold schemes of her uncle, his pals, and one newbie player to the professional leagues.