There's much to be said for good, old-fashioned thrillers, in which the protagonist is up against a tangled web of villains who have the president of the United States on speed dial. In the sequel to Le Crime (originally published as A French Country Murder), New Yorker cartoonist Peter Steiner revisits his character Louis Morgon, a retired CIA operative living in the sleepy French village of Saint-Léon sur Dême. Morgon continues to be persecuted by his deranged former boss, Secretary of State Hugh Bowes, who sets off a string of murders with a robbery of Morgon's house that at first seemed "noteworthy only for its ineptitude." The real crime is much more complicated, as Morgon is framed as a terrorist working with al Qaeda. Allegedly, this partnership helps him channel his hatred for America, an incendiary claim that fuels Morgon, along with a local police detective, Renard, to investigate matters, traveling to Afghanistan and the U.S., where he reconnects with his estranged grown children. Steiner's prose, as that of Dan Brown and John Grisham, won't win him fans, but his story, and Morgon especially, make for the literary equivalent of a mystery starring James Stewart: here is a man in the middle of a maelstrom who must stop a murderer and simultaneously sort out, with bumbling charm, his imperfect personal life.

April 18: "[W]ould it be too bold to imagine that all warm-blooded animals have arisen from one living filament…?"

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…

Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Poems That Make Grown Men Cry

And women too.  Luminaries from Colin Firth to Nick Cave and Jonathan Franzen chose the poems that bring them to tears, and the result is a stunning collection of poignant verse from writers like Auden, Whitman, Bishop, Larkin, Neruda and many others.  Warning: choking-up hazard.

The King of Pain

Trapped beneath his entertainment system, reality TV mastermind Rick Salter reflects on his life and tries to piece together the events of the previous evening. Seth Kaufman’s romp is an outrageous meditation on pain and entertainment in a deranged world in which the two are often interchangeable.

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.