The Song Is You

From its absolutely gorgeous, period-perfect cover to its evocative portrait of the 1940s Hollywood studio system in action, Megan Abbott's new novel is a sensual feast. "Hop was rarely surprised these days," Abbott says of Gil Hopkins, a once-promising journalist, now a studio flack who knows where all the bodies are buried because he buried most of them himself. Her other main player is a young starlet who really existed: Jean Spangler, a sexy-longlegs who disappeared one night and was never seen again. The papers called her "Daughter of Black Dahlia," connecting Spangler to another notorious disappearance. Abbott makes this single mother of a five-year-old girl a deeply touching and fully understandable young woman: knowing the dangers of having little talent other than her looks but still thinking she can survive in a very twisted world. Hopkins has some damaging knowledge of his own about that world: he was probably responsible for bringing about Spangler's fate. It's only when a friend of Jean's appears from the past does his own guilt begin to percolate, and when that girl also disappears he is forced into action almost against his will. A famed song-and-dance team who specialize in rough sex are among the culprits, as are Gil's ex-wife and a blackmail ring that takes advantage of the creepy mileu to make their own failed Hollywood dreams come true.

July 24: On this day in 1725 John Newton, the slave trader-preacher who wrote the hymn "Amazing Grace," was born.

Crime fiction legends Dennis Lehane and Michael Connelly discuss the new book that unites their beloved sleuths Patrick Kenzie and Harry Bosch.

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Books, CDs, DVDs to know about now
Paradise and Elsewhere

Canadian short story marvel Kathy Page emerges as the Alice Munro of the supernatural from these heartfelt tales of shapeshifting swimmers, mild-mannered cannibals, and personality-shifting viruses transmitted through kisses.

Pastoral

When a persuasive pastor arrives in a sleepy farm town, his sage influence has otherworldly results (talking sheep, a mayor who walks on water). But can he pull off the miracle of finding kindly local Liz Denny the love of her life?  Small wonder looms large in this charmer from Andre Alexis.

The Hundred-Year House

When a poetry scholar goes digging through the decrepit estate of his wife's family to uncover a bygone arts colony's strange mysteries, he awakens a tenacious monster: his mother-in-law. A wickedly funny take on aging aristocracies from author Rebecca Makkai (The Borrower).