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.
Eileen is the ultimate mid-century feminist noir. Ottessa Moshfegh exposes the self-induced shame and repressive sexuality of the early sixties in all its disgusting, ramshackle glory. Eileen, living with her drunk father, and working at a juvenile lock-up, finds herself drawn to a new female coworker at the prison. Through their dynamic friendship, Eileen finds a path to self-determination and freedom.
4. Dragonfish by Vu Tran
Vu Tran’s debut follows a a middle-aged white man obsessed with his Vietnamese wife’s mysterious disappearance as he traces her steps across America – from California, to Vegas, and beyond. In the character of the wife, nicknamed Suzy by her American husband, Vu Tran takes the stereotype of the silent, unknowable Asian woman and turns it on its head; a series of letters interspersed amidst action open up her rich interior life, painful personal history, and longing for human connection.
Kareem Abdul Jabar and his coauthor, in their first foray into the mystery genre, take Mycroft Holmes out of his armchair and to the Caribbean to solve a series of mysterious disappearances, disguised as zombie kidnappings. The novel is set in Mycroft’s youth, and makes an appealing contrast to the Mycroft we know from other incarnations.
Written by an author whose previous credentials range from editing a Canadian magazine for Muslim girls to working for international human rights, The Unquiet Dead follows a community-oriented policing team as they work to solve the murder of a man who may have deserved his untimely death.
I like a little theory in my fiction, so this musical exploration of The Society of the Spectacle was right up my ally. The biggest pop star in the world has gone missing, and it is up to her obsessed fans to locate her, using clues hidden within her lyrics and personal effects. Those who enjoy public transit, mid-century philosophers, Lady Gaga, and the sexual appeal of architectural molding are in for a treat!
You can find copies of the above mentioned volumes on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.