What to read

March fiction takes a walk on the dark side with new novels about crime, punishment and the Cuban Missile Crisis from Ian McEwan, Edna O'Brien and more.

Published March 21, 2002 5:25PM (EST)

Spring may be in the air, but breezy isn't quite the word to describe our selection of the month's best fiction. Our favorite March novels dig deep into the darker layers of human nature and tackle some of the most elemental and fascinating literary themes: crime, punishment, impending apocalypse, corporate law and the snooty behavior of Upper East Side matrons. Well, OK, maybe a satire of the subcontracted child-rearing mores of Manhattan's wealthiest residents isn't exactly Euripides, but when you're talking about how those folks treat the hired help, things can get pretty ugly.

Two masters from across the Atlantic -- Ian McEwan and Edna O'Brien -- deliver riveting novels this month, as do some lesser-known American writers who are well worth discovering. Newcomers update the classic hard-boiled detective story and inject some heart into the modern saga of urban guy angst. And then there's that pair of pen-wielding former nannies, who demonstrate that when it comes to bosses from hell, writing well is the best revenge. This is a collection of fiction with an edge, just the thing for readers on the verge of a whole new season.

Our first pick: The devastating consequences of a young girl's lie

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