Also published on this date: Thursday, October 15, 2020: YA Maximum Shelf: The Black Friend

Shelf Awareness for Thursday, October 15, 2020


Atria Books: Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford

Berkley Books: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

Walker Books Us: Welcome to Your Period! by Yumi Stynes and Melissa Kang, illustrated by Jenny Latham

Scholastic Press: Ground Zero by Alan Gratz

Flatiron Books: Ariadne by Jennifer Saint

News

B&N Hacked

Barnes & Noble's "corporate systems" have been hacked, the company wrote in a message to customers, and while there has been "no compromise of payment card or other such financial data," customer data, particularly customers' e-mail addresses, billing and shipping addresses and phone numbers may have been accessed. "We currently have no evidence of the exposure of any of this data, but we cannot at this stage rule out the possibility," the company said.

The company added that customers' "transaction history, meaning purchase information related to the books and other products that you have bought from us," might have been hacked. B&N warned that hacked e-mail addresses might result in customers receiving more spam and phishing e-mails.

The hack, which B&N said it was made aware of last Saturday, October 10, apparently has affected the company's Nook operations. According to the Register, many Nook customers complained this past weekend of problems accessing e-books they had purchased or wanted to purchase--and for a brief period some cash registers in B&N's bricks-and-mortar stores weren't operating. The company has acknowledged that it is "continuing to experience a systems failure that is interrupting Nook content" and expects Nook to be working fully again "shortly."


Berkley Books: Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q Sutanto


ABA's #BoxedOut Rolls Out

More indies are highlighting the American Booksellers Association's "Boxed Out" campaign, announced Tuesday, with "Boxed Out" messaging on social media, in stores, and most dramatically outside stores (see below!). National media is picking up the story. Besides an AP feature, the campaign was the lead for a long story in the New York Times about the challenges indies face this holiday season.

Clockwise from top left: Greenlight Books and Cafe con Libros in Brooklyn, N.Y.; Raven Book Store, Lawrence, Kan.; McNally Jackson, New York City.


GLOW: Beacon Press: Boyz n the Void: a mixtape to my brother by G'Ra Asim


California's Branches Books & Gifts Closes

Branches Books & Gifts, Oakhurst, Calif., has closed. Founded in 2013, the store had been for sale for the last year and a half but couldn't find a buyer. "I had truly hoped to find a buyer for the shop, but unfortunately it wasn't in the cards," owner Anne Driscoll said in an announcement about the store's closing. "I've loved being a store owner and it will forever be one of my personal best accomplishments."

For its first three years, Branches Books & Gifts was located in a 750-square-foot space in the Junction Plaza. It then moved to a larger spot at the Old Mill Shopping Center. Over the years, the store hosted hundreds of events, including book club meet-ups, local author book launches and signings, poetry readings and children's story time, bubble shows, Reptile Ron animal presentations, princess parties, superhero days and holiday parties.

The store also promoted arts and education in the community, served on the Oakhurst Area Chamber of Commerce board and chaired the 2017 Oakhurst Fall Festival event. Branches Books & Gifts was honored throughout the years with the Sierra Art Trails "Keeper of the Flame" award, the Madera Compact Community Investment Award, the Oakhurt Area Chamber of Commerce (OACC) 2018 President's Award and the OACC Business of the Year award in 2019.

"We've had an amazing time serving the Oakhurst area and neighboring communities, getting to know so many loyal customers, watching babies grow into young readers and young readers transform into young adults," Driscoll added. "I will always look at this experience of owning a book store as a complete gift."


Book Industry Charitable Foundation: Double your donation!


M. Judson Booksellers Adds Camilla Kitchen

Camilla Kitchen has opened inside M. Judson Booksellers, Greenville, S.C., replacing the Chocolate Moose, which had closed in August because of the coronavirus pandemic. Greenville News reported that the new venture "is the brainchild of M. Judson owners and is designed to complement not just the bookshop but the roots and the why of the shop's origins. Deep within both is a love of and for food. Not just the way food tastes, but the way food brings people together," according to book buyer Ashley Warlick, who is overseeing the menu and food production for Camilla Kitchen.

"It was always part of the original dream of the bookstore that we would carry our love of cookbooks and of home cooking forward into something that was actually demonstrable," Warlick said. "So you could come in and taste test what you were reading."

Plans also call for using the space as a setting for M. Judson's literary dinners, "which weave writing and literature and food, and for using the kitchen to host cookbook authors," Greenville News wrote.

For now, Warlick said, the creators are taking it slowly, focusing on flavor, food and stories, and the feelings all bring, and getting back to what she called "a fuller food picture that we think goes so very well with books and stories."


Beaming Books: Inspiring New Nonfiction from Broadleaf Books


How Bookstores Are Coping: Getting Back to Normal; New Location; Record Month

In Redmond, Wash., Brick & Mortar Books is now "mostly back to normal," reported store owner Dan Ullom. Ullom and his team have implemented a number of safety precautions, including limiting occupancy and closing an hour earlier each day. Masks are given out to customers who haven't brought their own and bottles of hand sanitizer are available throughout the store. The team has installed plexiglass sneeze guards and they've moved the credit card swipers.

Prior to shutting down in the spring, the store was not selling books online at all. The philosophy at the time was to focus all of the staff's energy on the in-store shopping experience. In the weeks after the shutdown, the store set up a Bookshop.org page and "learned to sell books over e-mail and over the phone through Ingram Direct." Seeing the "amazing" initiative and adaptability of his employees, Ullom added, was one of the bright spots. 

There was also a large B2B order that "helped significantly," and the store's customers went "above and beyond" in supporting Brick & Mortar Books. The special-order shelves have overflowed to the point where the team had to add more space, and customers have done things like buy gift cards and donate them back to the store, which the staff have then used to get books to families in need.

When asked about the holiday season, Ullom said that from a buying perspective, the store is approaching the holidays like normal, because "we can't have a successful holiday season if we don't have books and gifts to sell." He and his team have been encouraging customers to shop early, and if projections hold, this month should be the store's most successful October to date.

On the subject of the protests that began around the country in late May and early June in response to the murder of George Floyd, Ullom said that individually, there was "marching, sign-holding, chanting and singing," and as a store, the team curated a Black Lives Matter section, along with an activism section. He noted that interest in BLM and activism resources in his community was at "an all-time high," and the team was "delighted to support our community."

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Tamara Shiloh

Tamara Shiloh, owner of The Multicultural Children's Bookstore in Richmond, Calif., reported that she has been online-only since June, when the mall that housed her bookstore closed down. Most customer orders are being delivered, though she's been doing a limited amount of curbside pick-up.

Shiloh added that she's found a new place, and will be sharing a location with the Bay Area Girls Club. She noted that there is still some "sprucing up" to do before the store can reopen, and while she had hoped to reopen in time for Christmas, that now seems less likely.

When asked about ordering for the holiday season, Shiloh said she's approaching it much as she has in year's past, even though she will be mainly selling titles online. As usual, she plans to "carry the appropriate holiday books for the various cultures." She also intends to encourage customers to shop early, and is generating correspondence for that now.

Beginning this summer, Shiloh's store has appeared on a number of lists featuring Black-owned bookstores to support. She said the support has been great, though things have "died down considerably" over the past few weeks. She's enjoyed seeing folks support the store from all around the country, and she's hopeful that the holidays will result in a nice bump in sales.

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This July, Beach Books in Seaside, Ore., saw its best month of sales in the store's history, and owner Karen Emmerling said sales have continued to be strong since. Prior to the pandemic, there was usually only one bookseller on the floor at a time, but with all of the shipping going on and the need to keep track of occupancy, at least two people are on the floor at all times. In the spring the store "ramped up" its social media, which Emmerling and her team have continued.

Emmerling recently sent out an e-mail to customers about the importance of shopping early for the holidays, though she has yet to see results for that. Ordering for the holidays has been difficult, given the uncertainty about reprinting and shipping delays. In that regard she's been fairly conservative, except for some of the bigger titles in the holiday catalogue. Normally, the store inserts the catalogue in local papers on Thanksgiving weekend, but this year Beach Books will be doing two insertions, one in early November and another in early December. --Alex Mutter


Suspect Arrested in Utah Bookseller's 2010 Murder

An arrest has been made in the stabbing death 10 years ago of bookseller Sherry Black, owner of B&W Billiards & Books in South Salt Lake City, Utah. On November 30, 2010, Black, was found murdered in the store, where she had been working alone. Deseret News reported that Adam Antonio Spencer Durborow was arrested Saturday for investigation of aggravated murder and aggravated burglary, but Unified police "have released few other details about what led them to Durborow or how they were able to crack the high-profile, decade-old cold case."

DNA had been collected from the suspect last Wednesday and a match confirmed Thursday, according to a police affidavit filed when Durborow was booked into the Salt Lake County Jail on Saturday. Detectives were scheduled to meet with the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office this week to discuss whether formal criminal charges will be filed in the case.


Notes

Image of the Day: Sausalito Books by the Bay Celebrates

Sausalito Books by the Bay, Sausalito, Calif., opened a year ago amid raging wildfires and power outages. "It wasn't easy," said owner Cheryl Popp. "Pandemics, power outages, wildfires, mandated closures, masks and quarantines, smoke-clogged air, social distancing, presidential politics, social unrest and a shortage of toilet paper…. (What more could someone want their first year in business?) But we made it. Thanks to our incredible local community. We thought we had something to celebrate so we did." This past weekend, the bookstore celebrated with festivities that included music and art, and a 20% off sale. Pictured: booksellers (l.-r.) Matthew Kline, Cheryl Popp, Jeff Battis, Angela King.


'Hut's Place': Eight Years, 400 Issues, Countless Books

Hut Landon

Congratulations to Hut Landon, who marked a milestone recently: the 400th issue of his weekly newsletter, Hut's Place: Weekly Words About New Books in Independent Bookstores, was published.

Landon began the column eight years ago, when he was still executive director of the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, and primarily highlights new releases popular in indie bookstores for book readers. "It has always been geared as a marketing piece to independent bookstore customers," he says.

In each edition he focuses on several titles, purposely keeping it short enough to be read in five minutes. "I'm not a critic and have no interest in being one," he explains. "I'm obviously drawing attention to titles by choosing to feature them, but more as an informed cheerleader than book reviewer." He also occasionally writes about news from the book world and touts independent bookselling.

The approach has worked well. Hut's Place has 700 subscribers, and the newsletter has a 50% open rate, which is extraordinary for e-mail.

Landon continued the column after he left NCIBA in 2015 and began working as a bookseller at Mrs. Dalloway's bookstore in Berkeley. He knows it works well there, saying, "It's selling a few more books for Mrs. Dalloway's, and customers mention the column favorably often enough to satisfy."

He says, too, "I get e-mails every month or so from a subscriber thanking me for turning them on to a book, which is nice."

To see some representative columns, click here or here. To subscribe either contact Landon via e-mail or go here.


Mitchell Kaplan Named One of 'Miami's 30 Most Influential People'

Mitchell Kaplan

Mitchell Kaplan, owner of Books & Books, with stores in South Florida and the Cayman Islands, was named one of "Miami's 30 Most Influential People" by Miami magazine.

"In a time when brick-and-mortar bookstores are disappearing, Kaplan's Books & Books locations continue to thrive," the magazine noted. "That's because they’re not just stores, but gathering spots for lovers of the written word, thanks to its owner's on-point programming of author visits. Kaplan also gave us the Miami Book Fair, the annual November gathering for literature fanatics that offers events all year round and has recently pivoted to an online platform in the savviest of ways."


International Booksellers: Celebrating Black Francophone Writers, Holiday Planning

What's happening among booksellers in other corners of the planet? Here's a sampling:

Shakespeare and Company in Paris, France, posted on Facebook: "In the latest edition of S&Co's Le Blog, our booksellers recommend Black francophone writers available in English translation, including Marie NDiaye, @mabanckou, and @gaelfaye Faye (pictured here at the bookshop)."

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At a recent meeting for the staff at Munro's Books in Victoria, B.C., Canada, "the subject was Christmas--more precisely, how to plan for holiday shoppers in the midst of a pandemic that precludes a busy sales floor. As a few of us sat, masked, around two long tables that would have fit a dozen Munroids last fall, we listened to the wind buffet our creaky windows, rain pelting the rippled glass so fiercely it sounded like hail. The sky, somehow, was bright blue. Beauty and chaos. Calm, storm. But that's 2020 for you.... Be kind, be calm, be safe--and be dry!"

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(image: Kate McGuinness)

Sarah Rennie, book buyer at Vic Books, an independent bookshop that is part of the University of Victoria, Wellington, New Zealand, told us about a pair of recent events at the bookstore that offered a "double reason to celebrate--the first in-person events held at our Kelburn bookshop since lockdown and government restriction guidelines in place earlier this year.... We feel very lucky here in New Zealand to be able to continue with normal things at the moment."

Featuring readings from MA Creative Writing students at the International Institute of Modern Letters, The Next Page showcased "some amazing talent from the wide variety of readings--the future of New Zealand writing looks bright!" Rennie noted. "The IIML is convened by published New Zealand authors Tina Makereti, Emily Perkins and Anahera Gildea."

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"Bookstores represent the immune system of a country," Italian bookseller Ex Libris cafè Gentile in Teggiano, Campania, posted on Facebook.

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In Singapore, the "BooksActually Online Bookstore 24/7 is up and ready. We are back! Better than before to feed your book habit. Get clicking." BooksActually's owner Kenny Leck, who has achieved a measure of international renown during his nearly 15 years in business, was compelled to transform to an online model due to the Covid-19 pandemic's impact on his physical bookshop.


Personnel Changes at Astra House; HarperCollins Children's Books

Rachael Small is joining Astra House as director of publicity, effective November 2. She has been director of publicity at Europa Editions, where she led campaigns for Elena Ferrante, Muriel Barbery, and Mieko Kawakami, among others, and edited books in translation. She is also a published translator.

Astra House is the recently formed imprint dedicated to publishing authors across genres and from around the world. It's headed by Ben Schrank, who said Small's "deep experience and understanding of how to promote global voices and stories is exactly why she is the right person to help get our authors and books the attention they deserve."

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Ebony LaDelle has been promoted to director of marketing at HarperCollins Children's Books and continues to lead the teen marketing team while also managing the EpicReads brand extension into merchandising and paid advertising. She is also the third-party partnership lead across the department. She was formerly associate director of marketing and earlier was a marketing manager at Simon & Schuster.

LaDelle is a 2020 recipient of the Children's Book Council Diversity Outstanding Achievement award and the cohost of Why Not YA?, a monthly video series where she interviews authors in the young adult world with Belletrist.


Media and Movies

Media Heat: Alex Guarnaschelli on the Today Show

Tomorrow:
Today Show: Alex Guarnaschelli, author of Cook with Me: 150 Recipes for the Home Cook (Clarkson Potter, $35, 9780593135082).

Drew Barrymore Show: Hoda Kotb, author of This Just Speaks to Me: Words to Live By Every Day (Putnam, $24, 9780593191088).

Seth Meyers repeat: Miranda July, author of Miranda July (Prestel, $50, 9783791385211).


This Weekend on Book TV: Matthew Yglesias

Book TV airs on C-Span 2 this weekend from 8 a.m. Saturday to 8 a.m. Monday and focuses on political and historical books as well as the book industry. The following are highlights for this coming weekend. For more information, go to Book TV's website.

Saturday, October 17
1:20 p.m. Claudio Saunt, author of Unworthy Republic: The Dispossession of Native Americans and the Road to Indian Territory (Norton, $26.95, 9780393609844). (Re-airs Sunday at 11:05 p.m.)

5 p.m. Jennifer Taub, author of Big Dirty Money: The Shocking Injustice and Unseen Cost of White Collar Crime (Viking, $28, 9781984879974). (Re-airs Sunday at 7:55 p.m.)

7 p.m. Jamie McCallum, author of Worked Over: How Round-the-Clock Work Is Killing the American Dream (Basic Books, $28, 9781541618343), at Literati Bookstore in Ann Arbor, Mich.

9 p.m. Carol Hay, author of Think Like a Feminist: The Philosophy Behind the Revolution (Norton, $25.95, 9781324003090), at Porter Square Books in Cambridge, Mass.

11 p.m. Jared Yates Sexton, author of American Rule: How a Nation Conquered the World but Failed Its People (Dutton, $29, 9781524745714), at Midtown Scholar Bookstore in Harrisburg, Pa.

11:55 p.m. Chris Whipple, author of The Spymasters: How the CIA Directors Shape History and the Future (Scribner, $30, 9781982106409). (Re-airs Sunday at 11 a.m.)

Sunday, October 18
5 p.m. Peter Laufer, author of Up Against the Wall: The Case for Opening the Mexican-American Border (Anthem Press, $38, 9781785275241).

6:55 p.m. Geraldo Cadava, author of The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump (Ecco, $29.99, 9780062946348), at Harvard Book Store in Cambridge, Mass.

10 p.m. Matthew Yglesias, author of One Billion Americans: The Case for Thinking Bigger (Portfolio, $28, 9780593190210).



Books & Authors

Award: German Book Prize Winner; Goldsmiths Shortlist

Anne Weber has won the €25,000 (about $29,315) 2020 Deutscher Buchpreis (the German Book Prize) for her novel Annette, ein Heldinnenepos (Annette, a Heroines' Epic), Börsenblatt reported. The ceremony for the prize, sponsored by the Börsenverein des Deutschen Buchandels (the German book trade association), was held in Frankfurt at the Römer before a small crowd and livestreamed.

The jury wrote: "The power of Anne Weber's story can be measured by the power of her heroine: it is breathtaking how fresh the old form of the epic is here, and the lightness with which Weber tells the life story of the French Resistance fighter Anne Beaumanoir in a novel about courage, the power of resistance and the fight for freedom. Annette, ein Heldinnenepos is a story full of hardship, which Weber tells with a masterful restraint and fine irony. It concerns nothing less than German-French history as the foundation of today's Europe. We're thankful that Anne Weber discovered Annette for us and tells her story."

Weber is a German author and translator who has lived in Paris since 1983 and writes in German and French.

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The shortlist for the £10,000 (about $13,000) 2020 Goldsmiths Prize, honoring a book that "breaks the mold or extends the possibilities of the novel form," has been selected. The winner will be announced November 11. The shortlist:

Mr. Beethoven by Paul Griffiths
A Lover's Discourse by Xiaolu Guo
The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again by M. John Harrison
Meanwhile in Dopamine City by DBC Pierre
The Mermaid of Black Conch by Monique Roffey
Bina by Anakana Schofield


Attainment: New Titles Out Next Week

Selected new titles appearing next Tuesday, October 20:

The Silence: A Novel by Don DeLillo (Scribner, $22, 9781982164553) follows five people in a New York City apartment during a digital disaster.

Cary Grant: A Brilliant Disguise by Scott Eyman (Simon & Schuster, $35, 9781501192111) is the biography of the legendary actor.

The Best Presidential Writing: From 1789 to the Present, edited by Craig Fehrman (Avid Reader Press/Simon & Schuster, $30, 9781476788531) collects presidential writing from George Washington to Barack Obama.

The Girl in the Mirror: A Novel by Rose Carlyle (Morrow, $27.99, 9780063030145) is a psychological thriller about an identical twin impersonating her missing sister.

Death and the Maiden by Samantha Norman and Ariana Franklin (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062562388) is book five in the Mistress of the Art of Death medieval mystery series.

Nose Dive: A Field Guide to the World's Smells by Harold McGee (Penguin Press, $35, 9781594203954) sniffs out the science behind smells.

Natalie Portman's Fables by Natalie Portman, illus. by Janna Mattia (Feiwel and Friends, $19.99, 9781250246868) features the retelling for young readers of three classic fables.

The Blue Table by Chris Raschka (Greenwillow, $17.99, 9780062937766) is a picture book that takes place entirely around a blue table.

Paperback:
Snapped by Alexa Martin (Berkley, $16, 9780593102503).


IndieBound: Other Indie Favorites

From last week's Indie bestseller lists, available at IndieBound.org, here are the recommended titles, which are also Indie Next Great Reads:

Hardcover
Hench: A Novel by Natalie Zina Walschots (Morrow, $27.99, 9780062978578). "Hench is absolutely terrific! Walschots has found a fresh, original, feminist angle on the tropes of superheroes and supervillains in this smart, lively novel. Anna is barely subsisting from temp job to temp job--even supervillains need someone to do their data entry--when she becomes collateral damage in a superhero's intervention. Injured and jobless, she fights back by collecting data on the negative effects caused by superheroes. As Anna's research goes viral, she's tapped for a new job with the supervillain, giving her an opportunity to use her skills to fight back against the so-called forces of good. Very highly recommended!" --Carol Schneck Varner, Schuler Books, Okemos, Mich.

Hardcover: An Indies Introduce Title
Dancing With the Octopus: A Memoir of a Crime by Debora Harding (Bloomsbury, $27, 9781635576122). "Debora Harding pulls off a new kind of memoir here and keeps you continually on the hook. Written in short chapters, Harding describes growing up in the 1970s with a tough-love mother and a father she absolutely adores. Come along as the author sorts out her mother's abuse and her father's willful compliance, centering it all around a horrific random crime perpetrated against her at the age of 14. Seriously thought-provoking, beautifully written, and redemptive. If you like memoirs, this one is fantastic." --Peggy Mulqueen, Quail Ridge Books, Raleigh, N.C.

Paperback
Things in Jars: A Novel by Jess Kidd (Washington Square Press, $17, 9781982121297). "Set in Victorian England, Things in Jars feels like a Sherlock Holmes story, if Holmes had been a woman. You can't help but love Bridie Devine, a strong-willed, chain-smoking woman who has clawed her way from life as an orphaned thief to a highly sought-after detective often consulted by Scotland Yard. Bridie's newest case, though, is proving difficult and incredibly strange. Not only will it force her to confront someone from her past who she thought was dead, she'll also team up with an actual ghost as she solves a fantastical crime. Highly imaginative, Things in Jars is a fun and immersive read." --Jamie Southern, Bookmarks, Winston-Salem, N.C.

For Ages 4 to 8
The Blue House by Phoebe Wahl (Knopf, $17.99, 9781984893369). "What makes a home? In this beautiful picture book, Wahl explores the emotional arc of moving. But her story goes beyond the simple act of packing and leaving: A child and father are pushed out of their home due to gentrification, and their family is just the two of them. Small details, such as the records the child and father rock out to when they need to dance and scream out their emotions, will captivate readers. Though a subject many authors have dealt with, The Blue House offers a creative, alternative way of looking at moving, one with clear Pacific Northwest details and a family we don't often see on the page. Warm, welcoming, and lovely!" --Marika McCoola, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, Mass.

For Ages 9 to 12
Fighting Words by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley (Dial Books, $17.99, 9781984815682). "Wow, wow, WOW. This book handles so many intense, difficult topics--addiction, sexual abuse, foster care, mental health, consent, poverty--in a sensitive, age-appropriate way. I can't express how perfectly Kimberly Brubaker Bradley walks the line of telling the truth about these situations without ever getting explicit or unnecessarily graphic. I am astounded at how gracefully and carefully this story is laid out. Everyone everywhere should read Fighting Words." --Tory Hall, Chapters Books & Gifts, Seward, Neb.

For Teen Readers
Bookish and the Beast by Ashley Poston (Quirk Books, $18.99, 9781683691938). "I devoured this book in one perfect sitting. I relished every bit of Rosie and Vance's hard-won romance, every cozy moment in the library, and the Howl's Moving Castle references. There's just nothing out there quite like the Once Upon a Con series; it's geeky, witty, and genuinely comforting." --Anna Bright, One More Page Books, Arlington, Va.

[Many thanks to IndieBound and the ABA!]


Book Review

Review: Prefecture D: Four Novellas

Prefecture D: Four Novellas by Hideo Yokoyama, trans. by Jonathan Lloyd-Davies (MCD x FSG Originals, $17 paperback, 288p., 9780374237042, November 10, 2020)

Hideo Yokoyama (Seventeen) might not yet have a following in the U.S. like some of his compatriot mystery writers--Keigo Higashino and Natsuo Kirino, for example--but the acclaim he's earned in his native Japan will likely spread to English-language readers. With Jonathan Lloyd-Davies, a Welsh expat who lives in Tokyo and agilely translated the internationally bestselling Six Four, Yokoyama returns with Prefecture D, comprised of four compelling, loosely interlinked novellas. Six Four and Prefecture D are companion titles: Prefecture D, originally published in Japan in 1998, introduces the setting, with a few key players reprised 14 years later in Six Four, which appeared in Japan in 2012. Both titles easily stand alone, but to read both offers enhancing insights.

Shinji Futawatari, known among his peers as "the ace" for holding "the record for being the youngest officer to make superintendent in Prefecture D," is the single character who appears in all four sections; his enviable reputation looms throughout. He has the rather dreaded annual task of personnel management--redistributing problem officers, staggering retirements, balancing departments. In "Season of Shadows," he's just about solved the latest pending employment puzzle when he's called in by his superiors and told that one of the pieces won't budge: senior executive Michio Osakabe will not be retiring as originally expected. Racing against the clock, Futawatari diligently chases the elusive and enigmatic Osakabe to discover that his refusal to step down involves dump-site inspections, a daughter about to be wed, cold-case violent crimes, a dead officer, a taxi-driver-turned-chauffeur and a single hair.  

Each novella presents a mystery that exposes the labyrinthine relationships within Prefecture D's sprawling police department. In "Cry of the Earth," Internal Affairs Officer Takayoshi Shindo is assigned to investigate an anonymous missive that accuses a division chief of improprieties. In "Black Lines"--the quartet's strongest--Section Chief Tomoko Nanao (the highest-ranking woman) grows increasingly alarmed when one of her younger charges, Sergeant Mizuho Hirano of Mobile Forensics, goes missing. In "Briefcase," Masaki Tsuge, who manages relations between the police and local government, is ordered to protect Prefectural HQ's reputation in an upcoming election debate.

Yokoyama's dozen years' experience as an investigative journalist undoubtedly enhances his already sharp fiction with unexpected minutiae that proves essential. Beyond cleverly solving mysteries, he adroitly exposes gender inequity, career climbing, personal sacrifice, dysfunctional relationships, power imbalances and abuses. Who needs actual criminals when Prefecture D is already abuzz with lawbreakers? --Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon

Shelf Talker: Solving the mysteries contained in these four loosely interlinked novellas exposes the dysfunctions of Prefecture D's multi-layered, multi-leveled police department.


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