12 New Books We Recommend This Week

LOST IN THE VALLEY OF DEATH: A Story of Obsession and Danger in the Himalayas, by Harley Rustad. (Harper/HarperCollins, $29.99.) In August 2016, an experienced American trekker named Justin Alexander Shetler embarked on an expedition in the Parvati Valley of northern India, never to be heard from again. Rustad’s tense, fascinating book about his life asks what draws people to danger. “By patient accumulation of anecdote and detail, Rustad evolves Shetler’s story into something much more human, and humanly tragic, into a layered inquisition and a reportorial force,” Michael Paterniti writes in his review of him. “Suffice it to say Rustad has done what the best storytellers do: he tried to track the story to its last twig and then stepped aside.”

OTHER PEOPLE’S CLOTHES, by Calla Henkel. (Double day, $28.) In Henkel’s exciting and visceral debut novel, two New York art students spend a year in Berlin, where they get caught up in a swirl of seedy nightclubs and cut-rate booze. Their toxic entanglement is the true star here, but there are plenty of wild revelations to keep a reader turning the pages. “Henkel deploys a spectacular range of senses from the gaudy sight of costumes at a theater sale to the sweaty, orgiastic tangle on the dance floor of a sex club, the damp chill of everything to the grinding headache in the aftermath of too much cut- rate booze,” Ivy Pochoda writes in her review. “The grungy student life feels all too real: the dinner parties that fall flat, the attempts at profound conversation that don’t lift off, the scramble to become someone and something.”

PHENOTYPES, by Paul Scott. Translated by Daniel Hahn. (And Other Stories, paper, $16.95.) The narrator of this propulsive novel is a light-skinned Black researcher of race and colorism in Brazil. But his own identity comes to the fore when his niece is arrested, further complicating questions he has spent his career trying to resolve. The novel “underscores how difficult antiracist projects can be at any scale,” Omari Weekes writes in his review of it. “Standardizing race via computer programs and blood quantum only opens up new questions, while individual negotiations of race seethe and fester unresolved. As these matters mesh with socioeconomic inequality, police brutality, interpersonal violence and state surveillance, Scott’s characters quickly abandon the possibility of a comprehensive solution in favor of stopgap measures that may or may not work.”

THE SWIMMERS, by Julie Otsuka. (Knopf, $23.) Narrated partly from the first-person-plural perspective of the avid swimmers who frequent an underground community pool, Otsuka’s third novel moves onto dry land to explore the world of an aging woman named Alice, who suffers from dementia, and her daughter. “Otsuka’s prose is powerfully subdued,” Rachel Khong writes in her review: “She builds lists and litanies that appear unassuming, even quoted, until the paragraph comes to an end, and you find yourself stunned by what she has managed, your throat tight with the beautiful detail that Alice, among all the things she forgets, still ‘remembers to turn her wedding ring around whenever she pulls on her silk stockings.’”

THE MATCHMAKER: A Spy in Berlin, by Paul Vidich. (PegasusCrime, $25.95.) In this artful spy novel, an American translator living and working in West Berlin shortly before the wall comes down finds the CIA and West German intelligence on her doorstep one day. Her East German husband of her, it seems, has been keeping secrets — lots of them. “There is a casual elegance to Vidich’s spy fiction,” Sarah Weinman writes in her latest crime column, “a seeming effortlessness that belies his superior craftsmanship. Every plot point, character motivation and turn of phrase veers toward the understated, but they are never underwritten. ‘The Matchmaker’ is an ideal entrance into Vidich’s work by him.”

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