Six new paperbacks to check out this week.
KING ZENO, by Nathaniel Rich. (Picador, $19.) In 1918 New Orleans, a new style of music takes hold as the Spanish flu, the mafia and a serial killer ravage the city. Rich’s sprawling, unruly novel focuses on three characters — a Creole jazz musician, a detective recovering from World War I and the matriarch of an organized-crime family — whose lives are tossed into chaos by an ax-wielding killer on the loose.
THE MONK OF MOKHA, by Dave Eggers. (Knopf, $16.95.) Mokhtar Alkhanshali, the Yemeni-American at the center of Eggers’s book, became captivated by the history of coffee in his family’s country and set out to encourage farmers there to revive the trade. Eggers tells his story, though the book is built less on a history of Yemen or coffee than on a more familiar theme: the American dream.
THE AFTERLIVES, by Thomas Pierce. (Riverhead, $16.) At the opening of this debut novel, Jim Byrd is waking up after a heart attack, which left him dead for several minutes. But the world he finds after his revival seems strange and impossible (free-range holograms, disease-detecting condoms). As he encounters more and more supernatural elements, the sense that life is off-kilter nags at him, and at us.
FUTUREFACE: A FAMILY MYSTERY, AN EPIC QUEST, AND THE SECRET TO BELONGING, by Alex Wagner. (One World, $18.) The only child of a Burmese mother and a white American father, Wagner grew up hearing stories of “escapes, settlement, assimilation.” She set out to understand her heritage, traveling across the world and turning to DNA tests. Our reviewer, Maud Newton, praised the book, writing, “It’s the concreteness of Wagner’s own search, in all its messy detail and lingering uncertainties, that underscores our interconnectedness.”