The best books set in Long Island

2 authors have picked their favorite books about Long Island and why they recommend each book.

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A Distant Grave

By Sarah Stewart Taylor,

Book cover of A Distant Grave

This is an evocative mystery with not one but two atmospheric settings: Long Island’s Suffolk County, and Ireland’s County Clare. When an Irish national is found dead on a Long Island beach, Detective Maggie D’arcy’s planned vacation to Ireland becomes a tense investigation into the mysterious victim’s death, and a fight to keep her young daughter safe both abroad and back at home. I found A Distant Grave to be deeply chilling and impossible to put down. 


Who am I?

Atmosphere can play a critical role in crime fiction, and I always find the most satisfying and memorable stories convey a strong sense of place. My own mysteries are set in the Thousand Islands, where many residents live in island homes built by gilded age titans of industry, and this setting is integral to Death in the Family and the entire Shana Merchant series. For twenty years I’ve been a regular visitor to the area, which extends from Upstate New York to Ontario, Canada. The human dangers in my books may be imagined, but the remote and rugged nature of the region always contributes to my contemporary, Agatha Christie-style plots. 


I wrote...

Death in the Family

By Tessa Wegert,

Book cover of Death in the Family

What is my book about?

Thirteen months ago, former NYPD detective Shana Merchant barely survived being abducted by a serial killer. Now hoping to leave grisly murder cases behind, she's taken a job in her fiancé's sleepy hometown in the Thousand Islands region of Upstate New York.

But as a nor'easter bears down on her new territory, Shana and fellow New York State investigator Tim Wellington receive a call about a man missing on a private island. Shana and Tim travel to the isolated island owned by the wealthy Sinclair family to question the witnesses, and discover that murder is a family affair.

Leave the World Behind

By Rumaan Alam,

Book cover of Leave the World Behind

A surprising choice, perhaps, for a book list framed around comedy, as the lingering feeling this book leaves you with is closer to a deep dread. But the family at the center of this book—who are on vacation during what very much seems to be the beginning of the end of the world—exhibit such a specific and well-observed type of wealth and whiteness. The book’s social satire adds some levity amid really dire circumstances. And the language in this novel is just delicious.


Who am I?

As a writer and editor, I spend a lot of time thinking about what prose—especially first-person nonfiction, which is mostly what I edit—does, and how it sets out to accomplish its project. Across forms, I tend to think humor is largely underused! No matter how serious the subject, there’s always a place for it to sharpen the critique. My book engages with topics like systemic discrimination and inequity, but throughout, I always stay attuned to the comic absurdity of my subject—both as a way to give more pleasure to the reader, and as a way to cut to the heart of what I want to express.


I wrote...

Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service

By Tajja Isen,

Book cover of Some of My Best Friends: Essays on Lip Service

What is my book about?

Some of My Best Friends is a darkly comic essay collection that braids personal narrative and cultural criticism, exploring the absurdity of living in a world that has grown fluent in the language of social justice but doesn’t always follow through.

The book’s nine essays explore the sometimes troubling and often awkward nature of that discord. Some of My Best Friends takes on subjects that include the cartoon industry’s pivot away from colorblind casting, the pursuit of diverse representation in the literary world, the law’s refusal to see inequality, and the cozy fictions of nationalism. Throughout, Tajja Isen deftly examines the quick, cosmetic fixes society makes to address systemic problems and reveals the unexpected ways they can misfire.

Good Neighbors

By Sarah Langan,

Book cover of Good Neighbors

Quite honestly one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year. There’s a literal sinkhole at the center of the story, but the novel itself serves as its own metaphorical quicksand. Once I ambled into its narrative, I could not crawl back out. I just had to keep reading and reading… A perfect example of modern-day witch hunts, and how we are only one rumor away from a full-on suburban lynch mob. 


Who am I?

Neighbors. We’ve all got ‘em, right? We believe we’re the good ones, and we pray we don’t live next door to the bad ones… but sometimes it’s inevitable that we share our property lines with those ill-suited for neighborly behavior. Horror books about bad neighbors are the perfect window into our own communities. We can peer into the lives of others without worry of getting caught. We can tiptoe through their rooms and rummage through their drawers… Who knows what we might find. Are they witches? Serial killers? Devil worshippers? Only their dirty laundry will tell. 


I wrote...

Whisper Down the Lane

By Clay McLeod Chapman,

Book cover of Whisper Down the Lane

What is my book about?

Richard doesn’t have a past. For him, there is only the present: a new marriage, a first chance at fatherhood, and a quiet life as an art teacher in Virginia. Then the body of a ritualistically murdered rabbit appears on his school’s playground, along with a birthday card for him. But Richard hasn’t celebrated his birthday since he was known as Sean . . .In the 1980s, Sean was five years old when his mother unwittingly led him to tell a lie about his teacher. When school administrators, cops, and therapists questioned him, he told another. And another. And another. Each was more outlandish than the last—and fueled a moral panic that engulfed the nation and destroyed the lives of everyone around him.

Now, thirty years later, someone is here to tell Richard that they know what Sean did. Whisper Down the Lane is a tense and compulsively readable exploration of a world primed by paranoia to believe the unbelievable.

The Wednesday Wars

By Gary D. Schmidt,

Book cover of The Wednesday Wars

Shakespeare, cream puffs, escaped rats, cross-country track, soggy camping trips, family strife, and the historic events of the late 1960s are expertly woven into a boy-finds-his-inner-hero tale as Holling Hoodhood (yes, that’s his name) navigates the tribulations of seventh grade at his Long Island school. Another Newbery honoree, this clever story is filled with sly wit and tons of heart; it draws you in and won’t let go. For my money, Gary Schmidt is the Bard of adolescent boyhood. Once you’re a fan (and you will be after reading this), check out his other superb chronicles of impending adulthood: Lizzie Bright and the Buckminster Boy, Okay for Now, Orbiting Jupiter.


Who am I?

Who indeed? I ask myself that question often. Metaphysical issues aside, I guess you could say I’m a jack-of-many-trades in the writing department. I’ve been known to author stage plays (The Potman Spoke Sooth), write and direct feature films (Night Visitors, The Road to Flin Flon), compile and edit baseball anthologies (The Cubs Reader, A Blue Jays Companion), and do a bunch of contract writing and editing for a variety of publishers. And oh, yes: I wrote a middle-grade novel, Raising Rufus, about a boy who discovers his inner hero while raising...well, a very unusual pet.


I wrote...

Raising Rufus

By David Fulk,

Book cover of Raising Rufus

What is my book about?

In the unremarkable town of Menominee Springs, Wisconsin, lives an eleven-year-old explorer named Martin, who one day stumbles across something remarkable. It's an egg. But not just any egg—a dinosaur egg. And a week later, Martin becomes the proud parent of... a Tyrannosaurus rex!
 
Can Martin save Rufus from his parents, his neighbors, and most importantly, the owner of the town carnival? With the help of his best friend, Audrey, and his science teacher, Mr. Eckhart, Martin must uncover his inner hero and find Rufus a home, even if it means losing the one thing he's come to really care about.

The Gate House

By Nelson DeMille,

Book cover of The Gate House

The Gate House is a sequel to DeMille’s successful novel The Gold Coast, which I really enjoyed. Who wouldn’t like a tale of seduction, betrayal, and violence set about a Mafia don moving into a wealthy WASP enclave on Long Island’s North Shore.

I found The Gate House to be even better. The narrating hero of The Gold Coast returns ten years later. He’s older, wiser, but no less sly, cynical, and funny. His ex-wife is also back, and despite his thinking that she is more than a little crazy (and maybe a bit homicidal), he’s still attracted to her. To top things off, the Mafia don’s son, now himself the don, is looking for vengeance. The Gate House is full of sex, humor, and ultimately, violence. 


Who am I?

As a thriller writer, I have a simple goal: I want to entertain. I'm not the kind of writer whose name is coupled with the Pulitzer Prize or the National Book Award. I write the kind of stories people read to divert themselves on a rainy afternoon or on the beach or on airplanes. My hope is that I can divert and delight my readers. Help them forget the real world for a while. Give them an enjoyable reading break. If people have fun while reading my thrillers, I've done my job.


I wrote...

Murderous Spirit

By Geoff Loftus,

Book cover of Murderous Spirit

What is my book about?

Jack Tyrrell was a burnout. A former Green Beret and U.S. Marshal, he’s become a drunken loser who accepted a bribe and was shot by the people who bribed him. Tyrrell survived. His wife, Maggie, did not. Five years after her death, Maggie appears to him as a ghost and offers him a chance to make things right. She introduces Tyrrell to Harry, who may literally be heaven-sent. Working with Harry, Tyrrell sets out to help a veteran who’s suffering from PTSD and has assassinated a pair of Wall Street CEOs. Action, murdered Wall Street titans, the Russian mafia, and a beautiful woman mix with questions regarding free will and moral behavior to give this thriller a spiritual edge. 

Bellewether

By Susanna Kearsley,

Book cover of Bellewether

I love a good story told well—where the plot has me eager to flip the page, but the writing is so gorgeous I want to linger. Bellewether entwines the story of present-day Charley with Lydia, a woman living in the midst of war between the British and French American colonies in 1759. It’s a story of ghosts, figurative and real, of love, forbidden and lost, and it’s about discovering the truths that matter the most. 


Who am I?

Even as an overachieving student, I struggled with true/false tests, always writing short essays explaining why the answer wasn’t quite clear cut. Some teachers loved my need to blur the lines. Others not so much. But this aversion to boundaries—the idea that something (or someone) must be this or that—it’s part of my blood. I read everything in the library, nonfiction, fiction, all genres. I like books that cross from real to fantasy, history to fiction. I love characters who refuse to be told who and what they can (or can’t) be. I want love to break boundaries, too. That’s what this list is all about.


I wrote...

Bohemian Gospel: A Novel

By Dana Chamblee Carpenter,

Book cover of Bohemian Gospel: A Novel

What is my book about?

Thirteenth-century Bohemia is a dangerous place for a girl, especially one as odd as Mouse. Some call her a witch. Some call her angel. Mouse doesn’t know who—or what—she is, but she means to find out.

Caught in the undertow of court politics at Prague, Mouse relentlessly searches for a place to belong. But as she begins to dream of a life with the young king, Ottakar, secrets of her past emerge and force her to make heartbreaking choices. Set against the glorious reign of the Golden and Iron King in medieval Prague, Bohemian Gospel follows Mouse’s journey to discover her past and to define her destiny. But is she prepared for the dark truth she unearths and the future that awaits her?

J R

By William Gaddis,

Book cover of J R

I read J R the first time in college, and it was the ideal combination of challenging, cynical, illuminating – and hilarious. The novel is a cult classic among well-read Wall Street types, but be warned: it’s 726 pages of almost entirely dialogue, with not much to guide you about who is speaking or where. Once you figure out what Gaddis is up to, the writing becomes immersive and you join a wild ride with the eponymous sixth-grader, who uses the school’s payphone between classes to trade surplus picnic forks, free catalog samples, and eventually controlling stakes in major companies. J R is one of those books you’ll be proud to finish, and never forget.


Who am I?

Frank Partnoy is the Adrian A. Kragen Professor of Law at UC Berkeley, where he co-runs an annual conference on financial fraud and teaches business law. He has written four trade press books (WAITThe Match KingInfectious Greed, and F.I.A.S.C.O.), dozens of scholarly publications, and multiple articles each for The AtlanticThe New York Review of BooksHarvard Business Review, and The Wall Street Journal, as well as more than fifty opinion pieces for The New York Times and the Financial Times. Partnoy has appeared on 60 Minutes and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and has testified as an expert before both houses of Congress. He is a member of the Financial Economists Roundtable and has been an international research fellow at Oxford University since 2010.


I wrote...

The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

By Frank Partnoy,

Book cover of The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, the Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals

What is my book about?

At the height of the roaring '20s, Swedish emigre Ivar Kreuger made a fortune raising money in America and loaning it to Europe in exchange for matchstick monopolies. His enterprise was a rare success story throughout the Great Depression. Yet after his suicide in 1932, it became clear that Kreuger was not all he seemed: evidence surfaced of fudged accounting figures, off-balance-sheet accounting, even forgery. He created a raft of innovative financial products-- many of them precursors to instruments wreaking havoc in today's markets. In this gripping financial biography, Frank Partnoy recasts the life story of a remarkable yet forgotten genius in ways that force us to re-think our ideas about the wisdom of crowds, the invisible hand, and the free and unfettered market.

The Inheritance

By Tom Savage,

Book cover of The Inheritance: A Novel

I recall when Blockbuster Video had a books section they discontinued. I went and merrily bought anything I could get my bookwormy hands on. I found Tom Savage and was never the same. He is one of those authors that everybody should read, but few have. A master thriller writer, he uses so many twists, you never know where the story goes next. In this book, Holly is about to collect on an inheritance from the mysterious Randall family. Set in a spooky mansion, high above Long Island Sound, she discovers that fortune comes at a terrifying price. Wrought iron gates, moonlit nights, a shadowy mansion—this novel hits all the correct notes in an October symphony.


Who am I?

I’m a novelist who has primarily written in the dark fantasy and horror genre, which often embraces all things autumn. My first novel Black & Orange, its sequel, Nomads, and supplemental short story collection, Reaping October, all take place in autumn and focus on an encroaching dimension of darkness that would change life as we know it. Halloween isn’t just a holiday, it’s a different existence altogether. Having a love for the season and being its steadfast student, I’ve explored these atmospheric themes for decades. I have a solid opinion on what stories take you there.


I wrote...

Black & Orange

By Benjamin Kane Ethridge,

Book cover of Black & Orange

What is my book about?

My first novel, Black & Orange, roots itself in Halloween, but doesn’t adhere to its known origins. What if there’s an even darker truth about things like Jack O’ Lanterns, witches, and ghosts? What if those things exist in an evil dimension full of sacrifice and sorcery? What kind of people could save us if those things took over our world?

This novel won the Bram Stoker award. While different from other Halloween novels, the force of autumn is present. I adore the season. Coils of windblown leaves bring more hope in my heart than the anemic budding of spring flowers, a beach burnt by a summer sun, or the icy demands of winter. Black & Orange is an autumn feast prepared in another world.

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