Chill this month with a new mys­tery or two or three

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Pastimes - BY SALEM MACKNEE smack­[email protected]

“Un­der a Dark Sky” by Lori Rader-Day. Wil­liam Morrow, 416 pages.

A new novel from Lori Rader-Day al­ways floats to the top of my to-beread pile.

A widow who de­vel­oped a fear of the dark after los­ing her phi­lan­der­ing hus­band finds that, iron­i­cally, he had booked a se­cret va­ca­tion on their an­niver­sary at a “Dark Park” where tourists stargaze out­side light­pol­luted ar­eas. She shows up at the wa­ter­front rental only to find that she’s shar­ing the house with a col­lege friends’ re­union, and the 20-some­things are an­noy­ingly obliv­i­ous to her de­sire to be alone with her grief.

When one of them dies on the first night, she’s stuck in town un­til the po­lice are sat­is­fied. As she learns more about the com­pli­cated re­la­tion­ships among the friends and starts won­der­ing who’s next, her pho­bia rules her ev­ery move.

“The Drama Teacher” by Koren Zail­ckas. Crown, 400 pages.

This is my fa­vorite Au­gust en­try in the “un­re­li­able nar­ra­tor” genre, with a main char­ac­ter who learned the art of the con at her fa­ther’s knee and, now a mother her­self, uses those skills to try and make a good life for her two chil­dren.

It stands out in this crowded genre for good sto­ry­telling and for achiev­ing the “tal­ented Mr. Ri­p­ley” ef­fect, with a no­good­nik nar­ra­tor grad­u­ally be­com­ing one we can’t help pulling for. One of the tricks up her sleeve: se­ri­ous tech skills. Noth­ing like a fake web­site to help you pose as a rock star drama teacher.

Un­for­tu­nately, after rein­vent­ing her­self to get her kids into an ex­clu­sive New York City pri­vate school, she runs into peo­ple who might con­nect her with an accidental death.

“Bone on Bone” by Ju­lia Keller. Mino­taur, 304 pages.

Ju­lia Keller’s Bell Elkins nov­els are set in ru­ral West Vir­ginia, one of the hard­est-hit ar­eas in the opi­oid epi­demic.

Her pre­vi­ous book cov­ered a 24-hour pe­riod when deaths from a bad batch of heroin over­whelmed lo­cal law en­force­ment. Here she shifts fo­cus to the epi­demic’s ef­fects on even the best neigh­bor­hoods; kids with ev­ery ad­van­tage us­ing, deal­ing, steal­ing, eat­ing up their par­ents’ re­tire­ment sav­ings in re­volv­ing-door re­hab.

For­mer county prose­cu­tor Elkins has a new mis­sion: To go after the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pa­nies for pro­mot­ing the deadly drugs. But be­fore she can get far, a prom­i­nent ci­ti­zen is mur­dered and she finds her­self a “con­sul­tant” to her suc­ces­sor.

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