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Meet the authors behind this round of FicPicks
Meet the authors behind this round of FicPicks 01:27

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#ClubCalvi, it is time to make your choice

Truth, lies, and consequences during the Holocaust. Ulysses S. Grant reflects on his life and complicated legacy. Criminalist Lincoln Rhyme battles a new threat and old nemesis. These are snapshots of the CBS New York Book Club's latest "Top 3 FicPicks."  

They are "The Little Liar" by Mitch Albom, "The General and Julia" by Jon Clinch, and "The Watchmaker's Hand" by Jeffery Deaver. Which book should the club read next? 

We focus on fiction with plots and/or authors based in New York, New Jersey, or Connecticut. Read the excerpts below and cast your vote!  These books may have adult themes. 

Voting closed Sunday, Nov. 26, at 6 p.m. We will reveal the Readers' Choice on Tuesday, Nov. 28.

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"The Little Liar" by Mitch Albom 


From the publisher:  Eleven-year-old Nico Krispis never told a lie. When the Nazi's invade his home in Salonika, Greece, the trustworthy boy is discovered by a German officer, who offers him a chance to save his family. All Nico has to do is convince his fellow Jewish residents to board trains heading to "new homes" where they are promised jobs and safety. Unaware that this is all a cruel ruse, the innocent boy goes to the station platform every day and reassures the passengers that the journey is safe. But when the final train is at the station, Nico sees his family being loaded into a large boxcar crowded with other neighbors. Only after it is too late does Nico discover that he helped send the people he loved—and all the others—to their doom at Auschwitz. 

Nico never tells the truth again.

Mitch Albom was born in Passaic, NJ and lived in Buffalo, NY until his family settled in Oaklyn, NJ.

"The Little Liar" by Mitch Albom (Hardcover) $19

"The Little Liar" by Mitch Albom (Kindle) $15

"The General and Julia" by Jon Clinch

Atria Books


From the publisher: Barely able to walk and rendered mute by the cancer metastasizing in his throat, Ulysses S. Grant is scratching out words, hour after hour, day after day. Desperate to complete his memoirs before his death so his family might have some financial security and he some redemption, Grant journeys back in time, moving from blood-stained battlefields to Gilded Age New York.

Grant had once been the savior of the Union, the general to whom Lee surrendered at Appomattox, a twice-elected president who fought for the civil rights of Black Americans and against the rising Ku Klux Klan, a plain farmer-turned-business magnate who lost everything to a Wall Street swindler, a devoted husband to his wife Julia, and a loving father to four children

Jon Clinch is a native of upstate New York, and lives in Vermont. 

"The General and Julia" by Jon Clinch (Hardcover) $27

"The General and Julia" by Jon Clinch (Kindle) $13

"The Watchmaker's Hand" by Jeffery Deaver  

From the publisher: When a New York City construction crane mysteriously collapses, causing mass destruction and injury, forensic criminalist Lincoln Rhyme and detective Amelia Sachs are on the case. A political group claims responsibility for the sabotage and threatens another attack in twenty-four hours, unless its demands are met. The clock is ticking.

Then a clue reveals to Rhyme that his nemesis, known as the Watchmaker, has come to town to fulfill his promise of murdering the criminalist. Now Rhyme and Sachs have to dodge his brilliant scheme to destroy them both, while racing against time to stop the construction site terrorists.

Jeffery Deaver has a law degree from Fordham University.

G.P. Putnam's Sons

"The Watchmaker's Hand" by Jeffery Deaver (Hardcover) $26

"The Watchmaker's Hand" by Jeffery Deaver (Kindle) $15

Excerpt: "The Little Liar" by Mitch Albom


"It's a lie."

The large man's voice was deep and hoarse. "What's a lie?" someone whispered. "Where we're going."

"They're taking us north." "They're taking us to die." 

"Not true!"

"It is true," the large man said. "They'll kill us once we get there."

"No! We're being resettled! To new homes! You heard the boy on the platform!"

"To new homes!" another voice added.

"There are no new homes," the large man said.

A shriek of train wheels silenced the conversation. The large man studied the metal grate that covered the only window in this lightless wagon, which was intended to carry cows, not humans. There were no seats. No food or water. Nearly a hundred others were crammed inside, a solid block of human beings. Old men in suits. Children in their sleeping clothes. A young mother cupping an infant to her chest. Only one person was sitting, a teenaged girl with her dress hiked up over a tin bucket the passengers were given to relieve themselves. She hid her face in her hands.

The large man had seen enough. He wiped sweat from his forehead then pushed through the bodies toward the window.


"Watch it!"

"Where are you going!"

He reached the grate and jammed his thick fingers through the holes. He grunted loudly. With his face contorting, he began to pull.

Everyone in the cattle car went silent. What is he doing? What if the guards come? In the corner, a lanky boy named Sebastian stood against the wall, watching all this unfold. Next to him was most of his family, his mother, his father, his grandparents, his two younger sisters. But when he saw the man pulling at the window grate, his focus turned to a thin dark-haired girl a few feet away.

Her name was Fannie. Before all the trouble began, before the tanks and the soldiers and the barking dogs and the midnight door-pounding and the rounding up of all the Jewish people in his home city of Salonika, Sebastian believed that he loved this girl, if there is such a thing as love when you are fourteen years old.

He had never shared this feeling, not with her or anyone else. But now, for some reason, he felt swollen with it, and he focused on her as the large man wiggled the grate until it loosened from the wall. With a last mighty pull, he ripped it free and let it drop. Air rushed through the open rectangle, and a springtime sky was visible for all to see.

The large man wasted no time. He pulled himself up, but the opening was too small. His thick midsection could not fit through.

He dropped down, cursing. A murmur went through the train car.

"Someone smaller," a voice said.

Parents clutched their children. For a moment, nobody moved. Sebastian squeezed his eyes shut, took a deep breath, then grabbed Fannie by the shoulders and pushed her forward.

"She can fit."

"Sebastian, no!" Fannie yelled.

"Where are her parents?" someone asked. 

"Dead," someone answered.

"Come, child." 

"Hurry, child!"

The passengers shuffled Fannie through the scrum of bodies, touching her back as if sealing wishes upon it. She reached the large man, who hoisted her to the window.

"Legs first," he instructed. "When you land, curl up and roll."


"We can't wait! You must go now!"

Fannie spun toward Sebastian. Tears filled his eyes. I will see you again, he said, but he said it to himself. A bearded man who had been mumbling prayers edged forward to whisper in Fannie's ear.

 "Be a good person," he said. "Tell the world what happened here."

Her mouth went to form a question, but before she could, the large man pushed her through the opening, and she was gone.

Wind whooshed through the window. For a moment, the passengers seemed paralyzed, as if waiting for Fannie to come crawling back. When that didn't happen, they began pushing forward. Ripples of hope spread through the boxcar. We can get out! We can leave! They crushed up against one another.

And then.

BANG! A gunshot. Then several more. As the train screeched its brakes, passengers scrambled to put the grate back over the window. No luck. It wouldn't hold. When the car stopped moving, the doors yanked open, and a short German officer stood in blinding sunlight, his pistol held high.

"HALT!" he screamed.

Sebastian watched the hands fall away from the window like dead leaves dropping from a shaken branch. He looked at the officer, looked at the passengers, looked at the teenage girl crying on the waste bucket, and he knew their last hope had just been extinguished. At that moment, he cursed the one missing member of his family, his younger brother, Nico, and he swore he would find him one day, make him pay for all this, and never, ever, forgive him.

Excerpted from The Little Liar by Mitch Albom. Copyright © 2023 by Mitch Albom. Excerpted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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Excerpt: "The General and Julia " by Jon Clinch

He says his farewells to Julia and the children and he goes by steamboat from St. Louis to Cairo, and once in Cairo he boards a train for the two-day journey to Chattanooga. Everyone knows him but no one recognizes him, for he travels as always in his natural anonymous state. If he weren't a general he could be a spy, so unremarkable is his native condition.

For one thing, he is smaller than his reputation. Smaller and less ornamented and easier to miss. Slouched in his seat and barreling toward Nashville in the gathering twilight, he is clad as unprepossessingly as any rough-knuckled tradesmen. He wears cotton trousers of faded blue and a pale gray checked shirt minus a collar. His featureless blue overcoat is folded carefully and stowed on the seat to his right. His feet are posted square on the floorboards against the irregular rocking of the train, and upon them he wears black workboots, thorn-scarred and battered. Atop his head is a cap of white wool, knitted for him by Nellie as a Christmas present, drawn down close to his eyebrows.

He bears, in other words, no indication of his line of work, much less his rank. Only the grim set of his jaw might indicate that there is reason to pay him particular mind. The set of his jaw and the sparkle of his flashing eyes. Eyes as blue as the skies of his native Ohio, as blue as his lonesome traveling heart, as blue as the brightest hopes of the Union.

He awakens from a nightmare. A moonlit army is in panicked retreat, tumbling down a wooded ravine in massed and plummeting chaos, flags and the fallen crushed underfoot, bullets incoming from God knows what rifles set God knows where, men and horses dropping from prior wounds or falling wounded anew. Along the way they have set fire to wagons and armory carriages and precious stores, and their silhouettes leap up against the flames like devils. He cannot tell if the men are his or someone else's, and therefore he does not know whether he should encourage them with shouts or rout them with gunfire. What he does know—even here in this smoky and tumultuous dream—is that they are men, and they have lost something close to their hearts, and some of them are dying.

Shouts rouse him up. Shouts and a shuddering of the train as it slows.

He opens his eyes and straightens his back. As the train enters a long bend, he sees through the window a line of bonfires set like gemstones along the track. The sun has nearly set and the stars are coming out. The fires reflect in the glossy black sides of the passenger cars, doubling themselves again and again as the train flickers past. He sees men tending the fires, and he wonders what has brought them here. Where they have come from and what their intentions might be.

A porter comes through to light the lamps, and by the low bloom of their glow he catches sight of his ghost in the windowpane, white cap and wrinkled shirt and all. He snatches off the cap and rakes his fingers through his hair, making himself at least a shade more presentable. The act brings his face closer to the window, and the firelight illuminates his features from without, and a roar goes up from beyond the glass.

The men along the tracks are soldiers. He sees that now. Some are in uniform and some are in partial uniform and some are not in uniform at all, but they are soldiers every one. Union soldiers. His soldiers. They wave their hats and they shout his name and they bellow into the night like the hog-callers that some of them would still be, were it not for this damned war.

Such cheering and hallooing you have never witnessed, for moments like this are reserved for very particular individuals. They are not meant for the common run. And whether you are the one being cheered or a member of the cheering throng, you will never forget it as long as you live. Eighty years into the future, men now barely past the age of consent will be telling stories of this night to their great-grandchildren. How word got out that General Grant would be on this train. How every available man came from all over Tennessee. How they not only saw the general with their own eyes, but were actually seen by him in return.

Grant smiles down on them in spite of himself and they respond in kind, their upturned faces agleam in the light. Some of them snap to attention and offer a salute, which the general returns despite his dishevelment. To do less would be an act of disrespect. The train moves on and Grant draws his cheek up against the window and peers into the distance ahead.

By God, he thinks, they've lighted the tracks all the way to Nashville.

Excerpted from "The General and Julia" by Jon Clinch. Copyright © 2023 by the author and reprinted by permission of  Atria Books. 

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Excerpt: "The Watchmaker's Hand" by Jeffery Deaver

His gaze over the majestic panorama of Manhattan, 218 feet below, was interrupted by the alarm.

He had never before heard the urgent electronic pulsing on the job.

He was familiar with the sound from training, while getting his Fall Protection Certificate, but never on shift. His level of skill and the sophistication of the million‑dollar contraption beneath him were such that there had never been a reason for the high‑pitched sound to fill the cab in which he sat.

Scanning the ten‑by‑eight‑inch monitors in front of him . . . yes, a red light was now flashing.

But at the same time, apart from the urgency of the electronics, Garry Helprin knew that this was a mistake. A sensor problem.

And, yes, seconds later the light went away. The sound went away.

He nudged the control to raise the eighteen‑ton load aloft, and his thoughts returned to where they had been just a moment ago. The baby's name. While his father hoped for William, and his wife's mother for Natalia, neither of those was going to happen. Perfectly fine names. But not for Peggy and him, not for their son or daughter. He'd suggested they have some fun with their parents. What they'd decided at last: Kierkegaard if a boy. Bashilda if a girl.

When she first told him these, Garry had said, "Bathsheba, you mean. From the Bible."

"No. Bashilda. My imaginary pony when I was ten."

Kierkegaard and Bashilda, they would tell the parents, and then move on to another topic—quickly. What a reaction they'd—

The alarm began to blare again, the light to flash. They were joined by another excited box on the monitor: the load moment indicator. The needle was tilting to the left above the words: Moment Imbalance.


The computer had calculated the weight of the jib in front of him—extending the length of a Boeing 777—and the weight on the jib behind. It then factored into the balance game the weight of the load in front and the weight of the concrete counterweights behind. Finally, it measured their distance from the center, where he sat in the cab of the crane.

"Come on, Big Blue. Really?"

Garry tended to talk to the machines he was operating. Some seemed to respond. This particular Baylor HT‑4200 was the most talkative of them all.

Today, though, she was silent, other than the warning sound.

If the alarm was blaring for him, it was blaring in the supervisor's trailer too.

The radio clattered, and he heard in his headset: "Garry, what?"

He replied into the stalk mike, "Gotta be an LMI sensor problem. If there was moment five minutes ago, there's moment now. Nothing's changed."


"None. Sensor, I'm . . ." He fell silent. Feeling the tilt.

"Hell," he said quickly. "It is a moment fault. Forward jib is point three nine degrees down. Wait, now point four."

Was the load creeping toward the end of the blue latticed jib on its own? Had the trolley become detached from the drive cables?

Garry had never heard of that happening. He looked forward. Saw nothing irregular.

Now: –.5

Nothing is more regulated and inspected on a construction site than the stability of a tower crane, especially one that soars this high into the sky and has within its perimeter a half‑dozen structures—and hundreds, perhaps thousands, of human souls. Meticulous calculations are made of the load—in this case, 36,000 pounds of six‑by‑four‑inch flange beams—and the counterweights, the rectangular blocks of cement, to make sure this particular crane can lift and swing the payload. Once that's signed off on, the info goes into the computer and the magic balance is maintained—moving the counterweights behind him back and forth ever so slightly to keep the needle at zero.

Moment . . .


He looked back at the counterweights. This was instinctive; he didn't know what he might see.

Nothing was visible.


The blaring continued.


He shut the alarm switch off. The accompanying indicator flashed Warning and the Moment Imbalance messages continued.


The super said, "We've hit diagnostics and don't see a sensor issue."

"Forget sensors," Garry said. "We're tilting." –.58

"I'm going to manual." He shut off the controller. He'd been riding tower cranes for the past fifteen years, since he signed up with Moynahan Construction, after his stint as an engineer in the army. Digital controls made the job easier and safer, but he'd cut his teeth operating towers by hand, using charts and graphs and a pad attached to his thigh for calculations—and, of course, a needle balance indicator to get the moment just right. He now tugged on the joystick to draw the load trolley closer to center.

Then, switching to the counterweight control, he moved those away from the tower.

His eyes were fixed on the LMI, which still indicated moment imbalance forward.

He moved the weights, totaling a hundred tons, farther back. This had to achieve moment.

It was impossible for it not to. 

But it did not.

Back to the front jib.

He cranked the trolley closer to him. The flanges swung. He'd moved more quickly than he'd meant to.

He was looking at his coffee cup.

The chair—padded, comfortable—did not come factory‑ equipped with a cup holder. But Garry, an afficionado of any and all brews, had mounted one on the wall—far away from the electronics, of course.

The brown liquid was level; the cup was not. Another glance at the LMI indicator.

A full –2 percent down in the front.

He worked the trolley control and brought the load of flanges closer yet.

Ah, yes, that did it.

The alarm light went out as the balance indicator now moved slowly back to –.5 and then 0, then 1, and kept rising. This was because the counterweights were so far back. Garry now reeled them in until they were as far forward as they could go.

Excerpted from The Watchmaker's Hand by Jeffery Deaver. Copyright © 2023 by Jeffery Deaver. Excerpted by permission of G.P. Putnam's Sons, an imprint of Penguin Random House.

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