This is the sort of book you just want to hang out in for a while. The story centers on Maia, a jaded mid-twenties dropout, and Gloria, the naive and spoiled teenage influencer who hires her as an image consultant. In the span of 200 pages, Graziosi delivers a narrative that is minimal and nuanced, and kind to its characters, who are familiar and unexpectedly likeable.
While it's hard not to read this novel without a bit of disdain for the landed gentry, Hal is nevertheless a sympathetic protagonist. He's a Roman Roy type--traumatized, sociopathic, gay, entitled, and charismatic, inserted into the Austenian landscape of a wilting nobility. Bratton expertly displays hypocrisy and contradiction from all angles: a cash poor upper class, a pious abuser, a reluctant heir who feels the world is his birthright. This book is so funny and disturbing and enthralling, I want to shout my recommendation from the rooftops (but not without at least a dozen content warnings).
Spufford's genius for navigating the what-if crossroads of alternate history is on full display in his take on Cahokia. At once a city of secrets, a roiling mixture of Jazz Age corruption, booming Mississippi industry, and rich Indigenous tradition, the city-state features a complex political tapestry--of which the gruesome and possibly ritualistic murder that precipitates the plot is only one thread. Amid an ensemble of pitch-perfect noir characters, the protagonist, Joe Barrow, brings a fresh note of honesty as he uproots a tangled web of conspiracy and questions his own troubled loyalties along the way.