This year showed the true importance of reissues. By bringing books that haven’t seen new publication in decades or giving a book its first US printing, many of these books got people talking about how they had to look at the history of the genre and what was truly influential. Below you’ll find a mix of books we’d been dying to see back in print, and made us rethink which classic crime writers may have deserved more credit than they got.
Scott’s Top Reissues of 2015
1. GBH by Ted Lewis
Through time shifts between past and present we watch a blue movie king lose his empire and piece together the plot that betrayed him. Hard boiled to the core with imminent violence dangling like a guillotine above the story, Syndicate Books stateside release of this novel should send this into the classic pantheon.
2. Women Crime Writers Of The 40s And 50s edited by Sarah Weinman
By showcasing lesser known authors like Margaret Millar and the almost forgotten names of Charlotte Armstrong, Dolores Hitchens, and Helen Eustis, this two volume collection of eight domestic suspense novels makes us completely reevaluate the history of postwar crime fiction. If that’s not enough, there also damn entertaining.
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- Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Denise Mina’s latest Alex Morrow novel, intriguingly titled Blood, Salt, Water, is more of a ‘why done it’ than a ‘who done it.’ The detective inspector looks into what she initially suspects to be a mob killing, but the case proves both knottier in resolution and in morality when her investigation leads her to Helensburg, a small tourist town. Denise was kind enough to take enough to take some questions from us across the pond.
“It was a strange year, when I was writing this book. We had a referendum about whether Scotland wanted to leave the UK and become an independent country so EVERYTHING became about identity politics. It was like we all became teenagers again, the way teens are working out their identity obsessively and see everything as a statement about themselves. Even now, the Syrian War is discussed in terms of ‘what does this say about us’?”
MysteryPeople Scott: Many of your novels are based on a true crime. Was this one?
Denise Mina: It was. Helensburgh is a beautiful town on the west coast of Scotland but there was a horrible house fire there and it turned out it was arson. The story that came out was that there had been a series of fires out there, caused by a gang of drugs dealers in the area. The town seemed to be waiting for permission to name the arsonist. Then there was a TV appeal featuring a reconstruction of the setting of the fire. A policeman played the part of the arsonist and the public were informed that CCTV was available. A lot of people called from the town, naming the same guy responsible, saying they recognised the guy in the film. I went to the court case when the guys were finally charged. It was bizarre.
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When perusing my year’s end list of favorite novels, I noticed more than a few debuts within the mystery genre on the list (some of the writers mentioned below have previously been published within other genres). Those that made the greatest impression, I’ve collected for you below. Seven may be a bit of a weird number – think of this list as my top five, plus two!
This may be the most startling novel of 2015. There isn’t much I can say about this book without giving something away. Luckiest Girl Alive functions as a primer in the vicious nature of social competition in all stages of life, while simultaneously remaining sympathetic to the experience of trauma.
Mette Ivie Harrison writes ‘Mormon Noir,’ which I had
never heard of nor conceptualized till picking up this book on the strong recommendation of Scott Montgomery. The Bishop’s Wife,
Harrison’s debut in the mystery genre, follows Linda Wallheim
as she helps her husband Kurt, just appointed bishop, in aiding their community. Linda grows attached to a neighborhood child, and through her investigation of the child’s mother’s disappearance, draws attention to both the vulnerability of Mormon women and the attraction of Mormonism to women.
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- Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
If there was a common thread through the best books of 2015, it was ambition. Authors stretched themselves by taking on large subjects or writing something much different, or taking their series characters down a different path. All of these authors raised the bar for themselves and leaped over it.
1. Hollow Man by Mark Pryor
Pryor’s smart use of point of view puts us in the head of Dominic – Austin prosecutor, musician, and sociopath – who gets involved with a robbery and to continue to tap into his darker nature when things go bad. One of the freshest and best neo-noirs to come down the pike.
2. The Cartel by Don Winslow
Winslow’s sequel to The Power Of The Dog reignites the blood feud between DEA agent Art Keller and cartel head Adán Barrera in epic fashion to show the disastrous effect of the war on drugs in Mexico. A book that both enrages and entertains.Read More »
Last year, I posted a list of my top international crime novels, and a list of my top novels of the year, foreign and domestic. This year, as part of my life-long attempt to destroy all hierarchies and question all assumptions, I have decided to include my top international crime fiction as one list, and my top domestic crime picks as another.
Below, you’ll find an eclectic group of novels, united only by the scattered and distant nature of their geography. Next week, I’ll be posting my list of top picks for US-based fiction – more concentrated geographically, but just as diverse in subject matter
1. Innocence, or, Murder on Steep Street by Heda Margolius-Kovály, Translated by Alex Zucker
Explore the world of 1950s Prague, where the men are either Russian occupiers or in the gulag, and the women who try hardest to do the right thing are the ones most morally compromised by the Soviet system. This darkly atmospheric novel was written by a woman who had worked to translate Raymond Chandler into Czech, and functions as a perfect Soviet noir. Available in English for the first time!Read More »
- Recommendations from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
One of the biggest books this year was Don Winslow’s The Cartel, a dark, violent, yet human look at the drug war and its effect on Mexico. For more crime fiction covering Mexico, past and present, I suggest these books.
Federales by Chris Irvin
This novella about a former Mexican agent protecting a mayor who has taken on the cartels is the solemn and moving chamber piece to The Cartel‘s symphony. Both use the actual politician, Maria Gorriesta Santos, as a template for a major character. You can find copies of Federales on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
Quick by Billy Kring
If The Cartel didn’t give you enough grim violence on the border this one will. The Quick has one of the scariest villains I’ve read in the past few years and I read a lot of books with scary dudes. You can find copies of Quick on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The Return by Michael Gruber
When a book editor gets a mysterious diagnosis, he fills a van full of guns, grabs his loose canon buddy from Vietnam, and heads south of the border to settle some scores. A rich prose style and engaging characters give us a look at life and death in Old Mexico. You can find copies of The Return on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
- Recommendations from bookseller and mystery blogger Molly Odintz
I’ve always enjoyed tales of espionage, whether they be the glamorous exploits of international men of mystery, the paranoid ramblings of an everyman caught as a pawn between spies, or the delicate and devastating critiques of washed-up bureaucrats tired of destroying nations from their armchairs.
The latter two categories, in particular, drew me to the work of John le Carré. Along with Graham Greene, in such classic works as The Quiet American and Our Man in Havana, le Carré’s clear analysis of the Cold War, bitter condemnation of corrupt and uncaring nations, and compassionate insight into its unwilling victims have hugely influenced portrayals of the Cold War since the early 1960s.
Le Carré’s work since the fall of the Berlin Wall has shifted to a critique of unregulated capitalism and its devastating environmental and health effects. Meanwhile, declassified documents on both sides of the pond and access to Soviet sources have led to a flowering of historical scholarship covering topics which, at the start of le Carré’s time, found a home only fiction. Below, you’ll find recommendations (both fiction and non-fiction) for the fan of le Carré’s work.
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– List compiled by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
Usually I only pick five novels in this category, but this was such a great year for new voices, the list needed to be expanded. I even had to cheat a little and allowed two to tie for the top.
Both these authors proved there is still a lot of life in rural noir. Writing with the skill and emotion of seasoned pros, they bring the mountains of South Carolina and Georgia to vivid, poignant, and painful life with their tales of fate, family, and violence.
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You can always count on crime fiction website Beat To A Pulp to deliver a great tale each month. For December, it’s this hard-boiled noir: “Fundamental Breach” takes the story of a man hiring a killer to off his wife and spins it on its head several times.
“How will I know you’ve actually done it?” Ted Kilburn asked when he realized they had never discussed the practical aspects of the job.
Bob Timmons, the man Kilburn had hired, took a swig from his Budweiser long neck. “I’ll bring you a trophy.”
“What do you mean?” Kilburn said with a frown.
Timmons smiled. “How about Diana’s ring finger with the wedding band still on it?” he finally said.
The color drained from Kilburn’s face. He looked like he might throw up.
Read the rest of the story.
– Recommendations from Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery
This book follows the crimes and misdemeanors of a mother and daughter, centered around when mom talks her thirteen year old in taking a murder rap for her. This debut does for mother-daughter relationships what Gone Girl
did for marriage. You can find copies of Concrete Angel on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
With the help of her psychiatrist, a woman tries to find her missing child, even though she has no proof or memory of when her child was taken. Burt mixes vivid characters,
a strong sense of pace, and the perfect amount of biting satire to make this a one of a kind. You can find signed copies of Remember Mia on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.
The roots of Flynn and her contemporaries. This book gives us eight authors who truly deserve their due in helping create the domestic suspense sub genre. An entertaining eye-opener. Accompanying essays online
allow the crime writing enthusiast to explore the history and themes of suspense writing through the decades. You can find copies of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s: A Library of America Boxed Set on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.