The novel Triple Crossing opens at the San Ysidro crossing from San Diego to Mexico, where a new Border Patrol officer named Valentine Pescatore is on duty. After Pescatore chases down a family of three trying to cross the border, he does something unusual: "He slips them money," author Sebastian Rotella tells NPR's Guy Raz. "And that's actually based on reality." Rotella is an investigative reporter who covered South America for the Los Angeles Times for 15 years and now writes for ProPublica. When Rotella's protagonist gets in trouble, investigators recruit him to infiltrate a powerful Mexican mafia family. As part of the assignment, Pescatore travels with the gang to Ciudad del Este, Paraguay, which is known as the "triple border" because it's where Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay meet.
The Good Muslim, by Tahmima Anam, follows a Bangladeshi family struggling with both its new country's identity and its own after that country's war of independence. As the brother Sohail turns more to traditional Islamist teachings, his sister Maya becomes a progressive social activist, creating an escalating conflict between the two a decade later. Anam's book explores the tension between practicing Muslims and political Muslims that still exists in Bangladesh today. "The title is meant to ask a question," Anam tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer. "And as you read the book, you can ask yourself which of the characters is the good Muslim."
In the 1960s, five brothers formed a music group in Gary, Ind. They gained world stardom with songs like "ABC," "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing" and "I'll Be There." They were The Jackson 5: Jackie, Tito, Jermaine, Marlon and Michael Jackson. Michael, the group's youngest member and lead vocalist, ruled the pop and rhythm and blues charts throughout the 1980s with his own work, including Thriller, the album that earned him smashing success. But in the 1990s, the King of Pop's career took a downturn as he was accused of child abuse. In the 2000s, he was charged with and arrested for child molestation; he was later acquitted. On June 25, 2009, he died from an overdose of the powerful anesthetic propofol. In You Are Not Alone, released while the criminal trial to ascertain how he died was still under way, Michael's older brother Jermaine tries to come to terms with the loss.
In the summer of 1867, when Mark Twain stepped ashore in the Black Sea port city of Odessa, then part of the Russian Empire, he found a cosmopolitan crossroads teeming with people from all over the empire and beyond. The city's melting-pot nature reminded Twain of the U.S. In Odessa, Charles King writes that while the city was only a few years younger than Washington, D.C. — it was founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great — it already had a rich history. Still, the city's dark side boiled to the surface in a series of pogroms beginning in the 1860s, when the city's economy faltered in the wake of the Crimean War and czarist authorities began to pursue Jews as possible subversives. There had been thousands of Jews in Odessa before World War II, but by 1945, there were only 48. King tellsNPR's Guy Raz, "Odessa [lost], after 1945, the thing that in many ways made it most distinctive, and that was its Jewish community."
Charlotte Abbott edits "New in Paperback." A contributing editor for Publishers Weekly, she also leads a weekly chat on books and reading in the digital age every Friday from 4-5 p.m. ET on Twitter. Follow her at @charabbott or check out the #followreader hashtag.