Watchman

Ian Rankin's early novel, "Watchman," followed the first of his books starring Inspector John Rebus, the whiskey-tinctured, smoke-cured misanthrope of Auld Reekie. Sunny only by comparison with Rebus, Miles Flint, another Scot, is an MI5 agent who lives in the London of the mid-1980s, the heyday of IRA bombings. Shortly after we meet him, dyspeptic with midday drink and loath to go home to his jittery marriage, he botches a job and a man is assassinated. The next thing you know, Flint's investigation into what went amiss begins to turn up inconvenient details and he is shunted off to Northern Ireland on a caper that gets fishier and fishier. Treachery is everywhere. We are in a fallen world-though one with electric suspense and a good deal of action. Rankin's righteous pleasure in scenes of urban sordidness, institutional self-preservation, and the suave hypocrisy of life's winners is gratifyingly evident in this youthful, fleet-footed offering. -

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).