March may go in like a lion and out like a lamb, but the novels debuting this month reverse that course, beginning gently and ending fiercely. From the great Irish novelist Edna O’Brien comes The Little Red Chairs (Little, Brown), a tale set in a sleepy provincial town that welcomes a fugitive disguised as a New Age doctor, who is ultimately tried at the Hague for mass genocide. (Philip Roth calls it O’Brien’s “masterpiece.”) Dana Spiotta’s whip-smart Innocents and Others (Scribner) maps the unexpected confluence of two rising feminist filmmakers and a blind movie buff who, posing as a film student, seduces Hollywood men over the phone, simply by listening to them. In Elizabeth Poliner’s As Close to Us As Breathing (Lee Boudreaux Books), set in 1948, a tragedy incites a generation of strife for a Jewish family summering at the Connecticut shore. And in Catherine Lowell’s winking romp, The Madwoman Upstairs (Touchstone), the last remaining Brontë heir sets off on a modern-day literary treasure hunt to find the family’s rumored secret estate, an adventure that vividly hurtles toward the final page.