David Haglund of Slate reports for NY1 on newly released book titles and the world of publishing in "The Book Reader."
The Spanish writer Javier Marias is often mentioned as a possible future Nobel Prize winner, and his books have sold millions of copies around the world. But here in the United States, he remains fairly obscure. Perhaps that will change with "The Infatuations," his latest novel to be translated into English by the very talented Margaret Jull Costa.
Like many Marias novels, "The Infatuations" begins with a crime, the seemingly random murder of a well-to-do businessman named Miguel by a stranger who wrongly believed that Miguel had sold his daughters into prostitution.
Our narrator is a young woman named Maria, who admired Miguel and his wife, Louisa, from afar. After the murder, she gets to know Luisa and through her, Miguel's closest friend, Javier. She and Javier begin an affair, and then she stumbles on a troubling secret that changes everything.
Marias pulls us in with this pulpy plot, scattering cliffhangers and clues throughout. But the book is really a meditation on love, sex, secrets, and murder, and the ways that ordinary people end up doing terrible things, and how the rest of us often look the other way.
That’s also, in a sense, the subject of Robert Kolker's new nonfiction book, "Lost Girls: An Unsolved American Mystery," about the victims of a Long Island serial killer who may have murdered at least 10 people and dumped their bodies along the Atlantic Ocean beachfront. The killer’s victims were not well-to-do businessmen. They were prostitutes, mostly, women who had, in one way or another, gotten lost well before they met their brutal and tragic ends.
"When they disappeared," Kolker writes, "only their families were left to ask what became of them." But Kolker spent the last two years talking with friends and family of several victims, and he gives us portraits of these individuals and the lives they led.
He also considers how the police and the media handled the case. "What’s clear," he writes, "is that no good can come from pretending that the people who participate in prostitution don't exist. That," he adds, "is what the killer was counting on."
His book is a powerful reminder that the lives of these women mattered, and they may have ended in part because so many people had decided that they did not.