1. Murder in the Adirondacks by Craig Brandon. This 100th anniversary edition includes a new introduction, in which the author presents the theories that he has developed since Murder in the Adirondacks was published nearly 20 years ago. The Gillette-Brown murder case from which Dreiser drew his An American Tragedy was a sensation in its day. Newsman Craig Brandon has done a remarkable job of researching the case and the family backgrounds of the two principals and, is probably more familiar with the complete story than Dreiser ever was. Yet with all this information, this new treatment reads like a novel. Accompanied with over 100 photos, Murder in the Adirondacks sheds new light on what was a yellow journalist's delight in 1906. A must read for all Dreiser students.
2. Cut to the Quick by Kate Ross. In 1820s London, Mark Craddock, formerly a stable hand for the ancient, respectable Fontclair family, blackmails Hugh Fontclair into asking for the hand of his only daughter. During a prenuptial house party at the Fontclair estate, gadabout dandy Julian Kestel discovers a murdered woman in his bed, then joins in the subsequent investigation. Likely suspects include Hugh's rakish cousin, evasive uncle, penniless poor relation, and so forth. Period atmosphere, polished dialog, ever-present class distinctions, and sprinklings of Regency romance make this a nice series opener with an unusual "hero."
3. The Boundries of her Body by Debran Rowland. In this masterful treatise, legal journalist Rowland analyzes how women's rights have, and have not, evolved since the signing of the Mayflower Compact in 1620 (though the bulk of the book covers just the 20th century). From time immemorial, women were perceived as having the singular mission of bearing and raising children, says Rowland, who documents the consequences of this view: until the late 19th century, women's rights derived from husbands, fathers and sons. It was believed that their biology made women incapable of thinking rationally—hence they could not own property, vote or work as many hours or for as much pay as men. Nor could they have sex not aimed at procreation without social and legal opprobrium. Rowland documents how a legal "zone of privacy" granted men as far back as the 1620s didn't accrue to women until 1965, when the Supreme Court legalized contraception. Drawing on legal and historical sources as well as the Bible, the journals of Meriwether Lewis and Lolita, Rowland covers every imaginable aspect of women's legal lives, up to the present day. This massive and remarkable history is well written in smart yet accessible language and is thus the perfect book for the classroom as well as the family room.
4. The Private World of Georgette Heyer by Jane Aiken Hodge. The classic biography of Georgette Heyer is, finally, back in print and will delight Heyer fans everywhere. Lavishly illustrated, and with extracts from her correspondence and references to her work, The Private World reveals a formidable and energetic woman with an impeccable sense of style and above all, a love for all things Regency.