Molly’s Top Ten (actually, 11) of the Year (So Far)

  • Post by bookseller and blogger Molly Odintz

97816162056211. Security by Gina Wohlsdorf

Gina Wohlsdorf’s debut thriller, Security, is a perfect mixture of romance, action, and surveillance, told from the multiple perspectives of a hotel’s security cameras just before its grand opening. The hotel, named Manderley Luxury Resort, is the modern-day mixture of many of fiction’s creepiest mansions and resorts.  Security follows two men, the Killer and the Thinker, as they carve their way through the hotel’s staff. Are they psychotic serial killers? Are they trained mercenaries? Is it personal? All these questions may not even matter to the reader once they become fully immersed in the queasy voyeurism of narration-by-camera and watch the novel’s two heroes, hotel manager Tessa and her foster brother Brian, rekindle their childhood romance as they fight for their lives. The novel concludes with a stunning chase sequence and a host of shocking reveals, and the end is strangely emotionally affecting.


97816121950012. The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

 This one is part fairy tale, part abduction narrative. When a young girl in a red coat goes missing from a fairground, her mother suspects the worst, worried her fey-like child might never return. Hammer continues the tale from the dual perspectives of mother and daughter as they face their own challenges in their quest to reunite. Unexpected and haunting, with gorgeous prose and fascinating characters!


97816814461413. Arab Jazz by Karim Miské

A diverse cast of characters on both sides of the law abound for this idiosyncratic counter-culture mystery that spans from Paris to New York, and from kebab joints to kosher sushi restaurants. When a young woman, formerly a Jehovah’s Witness, is found murdered, police suspect religious motivation, and her shy Muslim neighbor comes under suspicion. When Godzwill, a mysterious new drug similar to Ectasy, comes into the equation, police begin to suspect more to the crime than any petty internecine conflict. This book is as multicultural, fun, and boozy as that time you went backpacking after college. Plus, there’s a playlist on the back page with a Patti Smith song, which is how you know it’s cool.


97815942064054. Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

If loving this book makes me a terrible feminist, than so be it! Early on in the novel, Montes name drops the film director Michael Haeneke and Stephen King’s Misery, which should give readers somewhat of an idea of what to expect. A medical student, bored with dissecting his corpse-girlfriend, goes in search of a live woman to share in his twisted obsessions. He finds a potential mate in Clarice, a beautiful, independent young woman who styles herself as a writer. After she rebuffs his advances, he kidnaps her, packs her in a suitcase, and takes her on a road trip, where among other things, he attempts to force her to finish her screenplay. I recommend Perfect Days to all who enjoy the disturbing narrative perspective of a cheerful psychopath.

 


97816121950495. & 6. A Man Lies Dreaming by Lavie Tidhar & Judenstaat by Simone Zelitch

 I placed these books together because they are both a bizarre, erudite and elegant mixture of crime fiction and alternative history. A Man Lies Dreaming merges the private detective genre with an alternative history of the lead-up to WWII, wherein Germany turns Communist in 1933 and Fascism takes hold, instead, in Britain (an eerily prescient vision, given recent events, although certainly part of a long line of dystopian visions of Britain).

9780765382962Judenstaat takes the post-war settlement as its departure from history, drawing inspiration from the history of East Germany and the Soviet Autonomous Jewish State, Birobidjan. The tale is set during the 50th Anniversary celebrations of a Soviet Jewish state located in former German Saxony, where a historian and her Secret Service lover attempt to solve the mystery behind her Saxon composer husband’s murder. It’s been a great year for disturbing artistic visions of alternate realities, so turn off that TV adaptation of The Man in the High Castle and read these books instead!


7. & 8. The Murder of Mary Russell by Laurie R. King & Murder on the Quai by Cara Black9780804177900

I decided to put these two together because they each represent to me how a long-running series can continue to surprise and thrill. King’s latest Mary Russell novel and Black’s latest Aimée Leduc novel each contain a fresh take on old favorites.

9781616956783The Murder of Mary Russell combines an edge-of-your-seat Russell plot-line with longer forays into the 19th century life of a young Mrs. Hudson, playing a Thackeray-esque social climber in a Dickensian underworld.

Murder on the Quai takes the reader back to 1989 and the end of Aimée’s med-school days, as she takes on a case against her father’s orders, hoping to learn the reason behind her mother’s dissapearance. Aimée’s grandfather, a bon vivant who loves cigars and small dogs, makes a memorable cameo, as does Aimee’s bichon frise as a tiny puppy.


978014310857397800624297049. & 10. Under the Harrow by Flynn Berry and Sunset City by Melissa Ginsburg

I placed these two together because they both feature female leads investigating the murders of close friends and family. They feature intimate violence and intimate vengeance for perfect feminist crime fiction. In Under the Harrow, set in England, the protagonist goes on vacation only to find her sister murdered. She plunges into small town secrets and a long ago assault to try and locate the culprit. Sunset City, set in Houston, features a barista out to solve the murder of her sex worker friend while intersperses her investigation with a heady amount of hedonism.


978163388130311. Rain Dogs by Adrian McKinty

 Adrian McKinty continues to infuse his Sean Duffy series with all the complexities of modern Northern Ireland, setting his latest at the cusp of the Celtic Tiger’s meteoric rise as a member of the EU. Duffy takes on the British establishment once again as he gets caught between Finnish diplomats, UK entertainers, cranky castle caretakers, murdered journalists, and the secretive proprietors of a model borstal.

 


9781590208984

Honorable mention: 

The Dove’s Necklace by Raja Alem

Winner of the International Prize for Arabic Fiction, The Dove’s Necklace probably only vaguely counts as a mystery, although it does contain a murder plotline, which is why I’ve placed it as an honorable mention.  This complex and atmospheric novel takes place during the last days of a neighborhood in Mecca, soon to be torn down to make room for luxury hotel developments to house wealthy pilgrims. Part of the tale is told from the perspective of a back alleyway, known as they “Alley of Severed Heads,” where we first learn of the murder of one of the alley’s beauties, and the disappearance of another. Who has died, and who has fled? The novel explores freedom, obsession, smell and taste for a narrative that vacillates between the grotesque and the sublime.

All of the books listed above can be found either on our shelves or via bookpeople.com. 

 

 

 

 

Scott’s Top Ten Mysteries of 2016 (So Far)

97803991730351. Where It Hurts by Reed Farrel Coleman

Coleman gives us a new character, ex-cop Gus Murphy, in a mystery involving old school mobsters, questionable cops, and a confrontation with loss and despair. After this hard-boiled story with heart, I can’t wait to see where this wounded hero is going. Signed copies available!

 


2. The Second Life Of Nick Mason by Steve Hamilton9780399574320

One of the best crafted crime novels I’ve read in some time, featuring a small time hood whose early prison release has him forced to do the bidding of criminal kingpin. Everything Hamilton sets up with his sharp premise falls perfectly into place by the end.


97800623698573. What Remains Of Me by Allison Gaylin

A layered Hollywood thriller with the murder of a movie star tied to the woman found guilty for shooting his director buddy when she was a teenager. Gaylin dives into celebrity crime, tapping into dark social psychology.


97801431287174. Speakers Of The Dead by J. Aaron Sanders

A great historical yarn with a young Walt Whitman and his new editor/old lover trying to crack open a murder case that a freind was hanged for. With grave robbers, dark alleys of 1840s New York, and appearance by Edgar Allen Poe, sanders creates one hell of a yarn.


97803162641745. The Second Girl by David Swinson

The first in what will hopefully be many books featuring Frank Marr, PI and junkie. A mistaken deed of heroics puts him on the mean D.C. streets looking for an abducted girl as well as a fix. A believably flawed character you can’t help but root for.


97816338808496. A Thousand Falling Crows by Larry D. Sweazy

A Texas ranger who lost his arm chasing after Bonnie and Clyde looks for a man’s missing daughter tied to some boys with Dillinger dream and a killer who leaves the bodies og young women in the fields for the birds to feast on. Sweazy puts you in a fast Ford coupe on a dirt road with the bullets flying.


97803163294087. Honky-Tonk Samurai by Joe R. Lansdale

Lansdale brings back his boys Hap and Leonard as newly minted private eyes and drops them in a case involving a used car/prostitute ring, a transgender pimp, and inbred cannibal assassins. Pure Texas pulp pleasure. Signed copies available!


8. Night Work by David C. Taylor9780765374851

Taylor’s fifties New York cop, Michael Cassidy gets the duty of guarding Castro when the mob, Cuban loyalists, and our government want him dead. A well paced historical-police-political thriller that wonderfully evokes place and time. Signed copies available!


97812500099689. Murder At The 42nd Street Library by Con Lehane

This one introduces another new hero, Raymond Ambler, crime fiction curator for the New York public library, who, along with his friends, delves into the literary world’s sordid secrets to solve a murder in their workplace. A strong plot, vivid characters, and a working person’s view of new York make for an engaging mystery.


978031626794610. Close Your Eyes by Michael Robotham

Psychologist Joe Loughlin is pulled into a case after a former student-turned-competitor botches it. One of the most fully realized characters in contemporary thrillers.

 

MysteryPeople Review: THE SECOND GIRL by David Swinson

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780316264174The wounded private eye has become a way for writers to give emotional weight to their crime fiction. Since Lawrence Block introduced us to Matt Scudder, detectives have been chasing their own own demons as well as their suspects. In his debut The Second Girl David Swinson gives us Frank Marr, junkie detective.

Marr feeds his habit by robbing drug dens. When he busts into one, he finds an abducted girl. Becoming a local hero with a secret, he is hired to find another girl who may have been taken by the same criminals. Marr hits the D.C. streets, searching for the girl and a fix.

Swinson portrays Marr as a anti-hero on a heroes’ quest. He works to manage his habit, instead of kicking it, resigned to being a junkie. Swinson avoids giving Marr a tragic background to manufacture sympathy. Sympathy is developed through the fight of who he is.

The Second Girl gives us a gritty streetwise detective story with a believably flawed detective. I’m looking forward to more books in the series and to seeing how Frank continues to deal with his addiction. The Second Girl already has me caring about him.

You can find copies of The Second Girl on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Translator Alison Anderson

Back in January, I enjoyed Alison Anderson’s excellent literary translation of French author Hélène Grémillon’s psychological thriller  The Case of Lisandra P.a stirring exploration of Argentina in the 1980s. The novel is told from the perspective of a therapist and his patients, many of whom grapple with the traumatic legacy of Argentina’s CIA-backed dictatorship. Gremillon uses an inventive mixture of recorded therapy sessions, police interrogations, and first person perspective, layering multiple perspectives to slowly round out the murder plot. The therapist, accused of murder after his wife’s fatal plunge from a high window, enlists one of his patients to assist in his own investigation into the murder.

Alison Anderson has translated numerous works of literary fiction, including the bestselling novel Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barberry. She has also written her own works of fiction, including most recently  The Summer Guesta historical re imagining of a young Chekhov, the novel he might have written, and the work’s unintended consequences. In honor of International Crime Fiction Month, and as part of our blog’s support for fiction in translation and the professionals who make that happen, I asked  Alison if I could send along a few questions. She was kind enough to let us interview her on about her work on The Case of Lisandra P. and about translation in general. 

 

Interview with a Translator: Alison Anderson on Hélène Grémillon’s The Case of Lisandra P. 

Molly Odintz: The Case of Lisandra P. has an Argentinean setting, yet a French author – does it feel different to translate a book that takes place where the author lives, versus a setting somewhat foreign to the author?

Alison Anderson: This did feel somewhat unusual; I couldn’t say that I could “hear the Spanish” behind the French – I don’t even know if Hélène speaks Spanish (and I don’t) – but I do remember one passage where I had to contact a French-speaking Argentinian friend to untangle what might be the best translation in English for a tricky cultural issue.

What is great about translating mysteries and crime novels is the suspense: I don’t read the whole book first anymore, as I used to, before translating; this keeps the language fresh, and above all the suspense keeps me going and I look forward to my daily “installment” of work. So certainly work-wise mysteries may be my favorite genre!

MO: How did you come to translate The Case of Lisandra P.?

AA: I had translated Hélène’s previous book, The Confidant, for the same publisher, and they contacted me regarding this new one.

MO: The Case of Lisandra P. has a number of character perspectives with unique voices – did any pose a challenge to translate? Which character’s perspective most interested you?

AA: I would say they were each challenging in their own way—to keep their specific voices, to convey their character just through dialogue and the briefest of descriptions (Hélène uses very little description). I felt the most sympathy for Eva Maria, and tended to get quite impatient with Vittorio and even Lisandra herself, but I suspect this is somewhat intentional on the author’s part.

MO: The Case of Lisandra P. mixes all the domestic problems of a wealthy, dysfunctional couple with the more politicized problems of their clients and cohort. Did translating the novel change how you think about Argentinian history?

AA: To some degree. I remember the period; I had friends from Argentina who were political exiles in Europe. However what Hélène’s novel shows is the aftermath and just how entangled people’s relationships with politics became, how you never knew if the person you were dealing with was guilty of some horrible crime or mute collaboration, or how much, on the other hand, they had suffered from the regime. She shows all the moral ambiguity and cowardice—and courage—both on very personal and more general, social levels.

MO: You have an incredible translation resume including a wide variety of genres. Do you have a preferred genre to translate?

AA: Not really a genre, but I always prefer translating women, both because I usually find it easier to slip into the voice, and also because women are underrepresented in terms of works translated, just as in other areas. Only a quarter, roughly, of the translated books of fiction published in English in a given year are by women. So I try to let publishers know this preference of mine, and there have been periods when I was able to translate almost exclusively women, but I won’t turn down an interesting book by a man for all that. What is great about translating mysteries and crime novels is the suspense: I don’t read the whole book first anymore, as I used to, before translating; this keeps the language fresh, and above all the suspense keeps me going and I look forward to my daily “installment” of work. So certainly work-wise mysteries may be my favorite genre!

MO: As a writer and a translator, do you draw inspiration in your writing from the linguistic quirks of the languages you translate? How those two professions strengthen and compliment each other?

AA: I’m sure I do, but on a subconscious level. Particularly as I am surrounded by French speakers where I live, French is always in the background, in the rhythm of the language, in certain turns of phrase, and this may well influence not only translation but also my own writing. It has also made me see English more sharply, as if from a certain distance, which can be helpful.

I always prefer translating women, both because I usually find it easier to slip into the voice, and also because women are underrepresented in terms of works translated, just as in other areas…There have been periods when I was able to translate almost exclusively women, but I won’t turn down an interesting book by a man for all that.

MO: Since this is a mystery blog, I should ask you about the French obsession with mysteries. What do you think their abiding interest in crime fiction comes from?

AA: Inspecteur Maigret…? To be honest, I don’t really know; do the French love their “polar” (crime novel) more than the Brits or the Scandinavians do? I know they do credit the “grandes dames” of British crime fiction (PD James, Ruth Rendell, Agatha Christie) with arousing their own interest but I get the feeling this huge love of mysteries has come in the last twenty years or so with authors like Fred Vargas. I remember being surprised, when I moved here 8 years ago, to see the local bookstore in Lausanne with its huge section devoted just to crime novels and thrillers, in the past there wouldn’t have been a whole section, just a few shelves…I think it’s a global phenomenon, really; you’ve got these great crime novels coming from places like Iceland and South Africa, so France of course is bound to have some good crime writers and plenty of atmospheric settings.

I think it’s a global phenomenon, really; you’ve got these great crime novels coming from places like Iceland and South Africa, so France of course is bound to have some good crime writers and plenty of atmospheric settings.

MO: Have you done new translations of previously translated works? How is the experience similar/different than translating a work for a new audience for the first time?

AA: Actually that is something I have never done, although I would like to. I was approached once for a Maupassant novel, but the pay was so dismal I couldn’t afford the time to do it… some publishers seem to think translating the classics need not be paid on the same scale as a contemporary thriller! although the text is often much more difficult. If some day someone makes me a good offer… or if I have the time to do a favorite book on my own initiative, as a labor of love, then yes, I’d love to try some Flaubert or Madame de La Fayette…

MO: You’ve translated a number of books – do you also translate other forms of media?

AA: I once translated intertitles for the San Francisco Silent Film Festival! That was a lot of fun.

You can find copies of Hélène Grémillon’s The Case of Lisandra P., translated by Alison Anderson, on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

You can find copies of Anderson’s latest novel, The Summer Guest, on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Crime Fiction Friday: ‘The Life Saver’ by Lina Zeldovich

 

 

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  • Introduced by Scott M.

Our latest link to a story from Akashic’s ‘Mondays Are Murder’ Series in honor of International Crime Fiction Month takes us to Russia with a Muslim cleric as the lead. It is a great piece of suspense as well as a quirky meditation on religion.


“The Life Saver” by Lina Zeldovich

‘A knock on the door interrupted Imam Galim’s late night tea. Resting in his apartment attached to the Qolşärif mosque—the largest mosque not only in Tatarstan’s capital, but all of Russia—he was watching the moon rise over the Kazanka River and the nearby Blagoveshchensk Cathedral.

The stranger at his door had the pale face of a fugitive. “The Russian goons are after me, Imam,” he blurted out, clutching a large duffel bag to his chest, as if holding his most precious possessions thrown together minutes before he left home. “Please hide me!”’

Read the rest of the story.

MysteryPeople Double Feature: THE GLASS KEY

The MysteryPeople Noir Double Feature Series, where we screen a film adaptation of a classic roman noir and discuss the film and book, continues this upcoming Monday, June 27th, at 7 PM on BookPeople’s 3rd floor. The screening is free and open to the public! You can find more information about the film series here. 

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

The Glass Key is often cited as Dashiell Hammett’s most personal novel. It is a complex mystery with men trying to retain their honor in a dishonorable life. The themes are layered and the morality ambiguous. Even its faithful film adaptation, starring Alan Ladd, still never quite captures the book.

The story’s backdrop is the world of city politics. The protagonist, Ned Beaumont, serves as the right hand man for Paul Madvig, a political fixer who is little more than a glorified thug, but an honest thug. Madvig decides to throw his weight behind Senator Ralph Bancroft Henry, mainly to marry his daughter, Janet. This puts him at the wrong end of an already growing feud he has with mobster Shad O’Rory (Can you have more of an Irish gangster name?). When Heny’s son is murdered, mysterious letters hint at Madvig as the cuplrit, weakening his political muscle. Ned goes into action, switching alliances in a complex game to ferret out the killer, falling for Janet as well. It is story about the value of friendship since nothing else in the world is worth a damn. All institutions are shown as corrupt.

Paramount’s second adaptation of The Glass Key has proven to be its most successful. The screenplay by Jonathan Latimer, a hard boiled crime fiction writer himself, deftly lays out the novel’s plot and keeps much of Hammett’s dialogue. Tone and theme are a different matter. Designed at the last minute as a vehicle for rising stars Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake, the focus moves more to Ned’s (now called Ed) relationship to Janet than the one he has with Paul. Also being a patriotic production during wartime, the institutional corruption is played down. In many ways the Coen Brothers’ Hammett-influenced film Miller’s Crossing is truer to The Glass Key in spirit.

While an entertaining movie filled with sharp performances, The Glass Key is an example of how a filmmaker can faithfully follow the book’s plot, yet not fully capture the essence of a story. The idea of friendship’s value in a society that is bereft of values becomes muddled. You do get to look a Veronica Lake and her luminous eyes, so not a bad trade off.

Double Feature Stats

Adherence To Book

3.5 out 5 (Amazing how theme and tone make a difference)

Adherence to Quality Of Book

3

Further Reading

Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett, Pop. 1280 by Jim Thompson, Hard Cold Winter by Glen Erik Hamilton

Further Viewing

Yojimbo directed by Akira Kurasowa, Bob le Flambeur (Bob The Gambler) directed by Jean Pierre Melville, Miller’s Crossing directed by The Coen Brothers

MysteryPeople Q&A with Laura Lippman

  • Interview and Introduction by MysteryPeople Contributor Scott Butki

 

With her latest, Wilde LakeLaura Lippman has written another fascinating stand-alone novel that, as usual, has a higher level of quality and character examination then most writers. What others in her field can pull off from time to time, Lippman does consistently.

Wilde Lake recounts the story of a family in suburban Maryland with more skeletons than even a walk-in closet could fit. Lippman’s latest is narrated from the perspective of a recently widowed prosecutor who returns to her home town. As she works to prosecute the suspected murderer of a local woman, she begins to suspect more to the story. Flashbacks to her childhood intermingle with her new case for an intense look at power, privilege, and pain.

Lippman crossed my radar early, during my time as a mystery-book-loving newspaper reporter in Hagerstown, Md., not less than 90 minutes from Baltimore. Lippman had been a reporter at the Baltimore Sun but had left to start a detective series about Tess Monaghan, a former reporter for a newspaper that sounded suspiciously like the Sun, but was instead called the Beacon-Light. Lippman was also a reporter, earlier in her career, at the now-defunct San Antonio Light, which she speaks about in the interview.

“I really love Texas. ..I wasn’t made to live there permanently — I really don’t like hot weather — and I’m not a Texan. But I get Texas and I like it and I get very impatient with people who buy into lazy stereotypes about it.”

As she wrote great book after great book I became an increasingly admiring fan of Lippman and her series. While her Tess Monaghan series is great, it’s her stand-alone novels that are more popular – she’s been on the New York Times Bestseller Lists with them – and have received, deservedly, even more critical acclaim.

While Lippman was living in Baltimore and writing about a former reporter living in Baltimore, her future husband, David Simon, also a former Baltimore Sun reporter, captured Baltmore in another way, in The Wire, one of the best television series ever made. My interviews with her would occasionally include me asking questions about which television series better captured the city: The Wire or Homicide (of which Simon was also a significant part.) It’s not unusual for interviewers to ask Lippman questions about Simon. I mention this partly to explain her last answer in the interview, which puts an interesting spin on folks like me asking her questions about his work.

While her Tess Monaghan series is great, it’s her stand-alone novels that are more popular – she’s been on the New York Times Bestseller Lists with them – and have received, deservedly, even more critical acclaim.

Her new book, Wilde Lake, is no different – she takes a clever plot, adds fascinating characters and comes up with a great book that will leave you thinking about it well after you have finished reading it.

It’s hard to know where collections begin. The first robot wasn’t technically a robot, but a found-art assemblage called “Little Red Riding Hood.” Then I just kept finding robots. I’m trying to keep it under control and succeeding, more or less.”


Scott Butki: Did this novel start with an idea or question? If so, what was it?

Laura Lippman: It started with an idea — how would the events of To Kill a Mockingbird change if they played out in a self-consciously progressive suburb in the 1970s.

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