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This Week's Hot Reads

This week: the definitive account of the Gulf oil disaster, a mesmerizing novel by Carol Edgarian, a roaring new thriller from Linda Fairstein, Kim Barker’s hilarious, sharp journey through Taliban country, and Peter Stamm’s novel of adulterous love.

03.10.11 5:04 PM ET

Fire On The Horizon: The Untold Story of the Gulf Oil Disaster
By John Konrad and Tom Shroder

Oil rig captain John Konrad and Washington Post journalist Tom Shroder team up to deliver a compellingly gripping account of the disastrous Gulf oil spill.

Fire On The Horizon is a true-life tale of the history and events leading up to the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig on April 10, 2010, and its devastating aftermath. Konrad and Shroder illustrate a harrowing portrait of the destruction caused by the explosion, including the 11 people who died and the leak of over 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The book also narrates the lives of those on board the Deepwater Horizon—from its construction in South Korea in 2000 to its explosion 10 years later—as well as the history and mechanics of the rig itself. Together Konrad and Shroder deliver the best account yet of what went wrong as workers from different backgrounds clashed on the rig and corporate greed kept the drill going despite safety concerns.

Three Stages of Amazement By Carol Edgarian 304 pages. Scribner. $25.

Three Stages of Amazement by Carol Edgarian
By Carol Edgarian

Carol Edgarian’s second novel is a keenly observed story about one family losing their hold on the American dream.

Both an epic love story and a reflection of social anthropology in America today, Three Stages of Amazement is a gracefully rendered narrative of the inevitable joys and heartaches we face in adulthood. Lena Rusch and Charlie Pepper married young thinking they were a perfect match and could raise the ideal American family. And they did for some time, until middle age ensued and life dealt the happy couple a few heavy blows—a stillborn twin, a demanding career that keeps Charlie at the office until all hours, a tempting lover from Lena’s past, and financial woes amidst an economic recession. Edgarian’s sharp, beautiful prose captures the essence of the human condition in all its pain and glory, making Three Stages of Amazement an enlightening and ultimately fulfilling read.

Silent Mercy By Linda Fairstein 384 pages. Dutton. $26.95.

Silent Mercy by Linda Fairstein
By Linda Fairstein

In her 13th novel, New York Times bestselling author Linda Fairstein gives us a gripping read about a serial killer and New York City’s tangled religious history.

Fairstein returns to her internationally celebrated crime series with Prosecutor Alexandra Cooper and Detective Mike Chapman investigating brutal murders in New York City. But Silent Mercy delves deeper into the city’s history—which plays a starring role—than any of her previous novels. One mutilated female corpse on the steps of a church in Harlem leads Cooper to another dead woman’s body at a cathedral in Little Italy, revealing that the killer’s M.O. might be more complex than simple sexual assault. Fairstein, the former chief of the Manhattan DA’s Sex Crimes Unit and an equally talented novelist, has created a page-turner that delivers all the thrills of her previous books.

The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan By Kim Barker 320 pages. Doubleday. $25.95.

The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan
by Kim Barker

Reporter Kim Barker immersed herself in Afghanistan and Pakistan for nine years and returned with stories that poignantly reflect her deep love for both countries—and important insights into what went wrong.

Kim Barker was a 29-year-old journalist with a fairly ordinary, predictable life—until her bosses at the Chicago Tribune sent her to the Middle East to report on the growing “War on Terror.” The Taliban Shuffle gives us an insider’s perspective of Afghanistan and Pakistan—their fascinating cultures, unstable governments, and burgeoning terrorist groups—after the United States military decamped for Iraq having made little headway against the Taliban. With dark, self-deprecating humor and shrewd insight, Barker chronicles her experiences as a rookie foreign reporter and the critical years when the Taliban resurged amidst the collapse of the Afghan and Pakistani governments. Barker sheds light on American personnel’s inability to connect with and respect the Afghan people during these years. And yet she recognizes that the U.S. is not entirely responsible for its tensions with these two countries—that America’s sincere hope to mediate their “whiplash between secularism and extremism” is largely in vain.

Seven Years By Peter Stamm. Translated by Michael Hofmann. 264 pages. Other Press. $15.95

Seven Years
by Peter Stamm

The Swiss author Peter Stamm’s powerful new novel about the nature of love in marriage—and outside wedlock.

Peter Stamm’s third novel introduces us to its narrator Alex, who met his wife Sonia in architecture school before marrying and establishing a successful firm together. But when the seven-year-itch sets in and Alex finds himself unable to satisfy his wife’s expectations and his own, he reaches out to an old lover from college named Ivona. Where Sonia is as smart and motivated as she is beautiful, Ivona is a Polish immigrant who is subservient, simple, and ordinary looking. Not even Alex can justify his lust for Ivona, yet his lack of explanation and understanding of his own feelings elicits sympathy from the reader for a character who is nonetheless selfish and deplorable. Seven years is a powerful, enlightening novel about the eternal search for contentment in life, the often fickle nature of love, and the knowledge that in reality, happiness is rarely how we dreamed it would be.