2015 has been an eclectic year for crime novels. Below, you’ll find historical fiction, reissues, domestic suspense, sophisticated city thrillers, and coincidentally, several books detailing the nightmarish and inescapable legacy of high school. Whether you are looking for dark and dense or light and playful, there’s a book on this list guaranteed to tickle your fancy.
1. In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes
Hughes’ tale of an homme fatale turns the sexualized imagery of crime novels on its head, and like much of the genre, once again reminds us how to find the eroticism in death, and the violence in sex. In a Lonely Place, after decades out of print, is now available as part of the Library of America’s collection Women Crime Writers of the 40s & 50s.
2. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
In Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh takes us on the tour of small town life in mid-century America. Eileen, a repressed juvenile prison administrator stuck taking care of her drunk father in their filthy house, is fearful and disgusted by virtually every bodily function or urge. When a glamorous new coworker joins the prison staff as the new juvenile therapist, the two form an intense bond, liberating each from the confines of their historical context.
Mette Ivie Harrison, previously the author of numerous young adult novels, is now two books into her Linda Wallheim series. The Bishop’s Wife, Harrison’s first in the series, tackles relationship violence in the Mormon community while exploring the lure of a traditional Mormon lifestyle. His Right Hand, her second Wallheim novel, takes on the negative consequences of too-strict gender roles as Wallheim seeks the murderer of a transgender Mormon man. Through the internal world of Linda, Harrison’s kindness, intelligence, and empathy show throughout both novels. I can’t wait to see where the series takes us next!
4. And Sometimes I Wonder About You by Walter Mosley
I’ve been a fan of Mosley’s historically-set Easy Rawlins novels for some time, and this year, it was time to branch out to his other work. And Sometimes I Wonder About You takes place in a contemporary setting, starring detective Leonid McGill, raised on the mean streets, as compact and deadly as a honey badger, and with a heart big enough to love a cheerfully dysfunctional family. As McGill takes on several cases, including the search for a lost heiress, his family appears throughout the novel, both as helpers and distractions.
These two novels combined made me wonder how I, or anyone else, ever survived high school. Luckiest Girl Alive and Little Pretty Things both put forth a similar message: deal with the past, or you will end up forever traumatized. Each novel also explores the nature of female community and how the patriarchy warps women’s interactions, creating competition where there was once community, jealousy where there was mutual admiration, and judgement rather than empathy.
6. Shetani’s Sister by Iceberg Slim
Iceberg Slim, best known for his autobiography detailing his life as a pimp, wrote a number of fictional works that helped create and forever influenced the genre of street literature. Shetani’s Sister, published for the first time this year in conjunction with a new biography of Slim, takes the reader to the streets of LA. Shetani, a master pimp, collides with a corrupt cop while discord rages in his stable. His latest acquisition looks just like his dead baby sister, and he wants her out of the business and onto a better life, preferably with him alongside.
7. Woman with a Blue Pencil by Gordon McAlpine
This brilliant meta-novel tells three interwoven stories. A Japanese-American author corresponds with an editor while crafting a mystery novel from an internment camp during WWII. Interspersed between their correspondence are scenes from the first draft of the novel, sympathetically portraying a Japanese academic’s search for his wife’s murderer, and an edited version of his novel, transformed into a propagandist spy novel full of anti-Japanese sentiment.
8. Hollow Man by Mark Pryor
Mark Pryor, previously the author of the Hugo Marston series, has written his first standalone, and boy, is it creepy. Pryor takes us on a tour of Austin from the perspective of a sociopath prosecutor with a complicated plan to get a little something extra out of his work. Pryor has created a tight plot, believable characters, and a stunning resolution.
9. Monday’s Lie by Jamie Mason
Mason, in Monday’s Lie, has created the perfect mixture of espionage thriller and domestic suspense. Mason’s protagonist has learned the art of observation from her secret agent mother from a young age, rebelling through self-imposed oblivion. When her marriage goes south and a mysterious stranger begins tailing her, she and must tap into her spy skills to find a resolution.
Veronica Mars, my favorite high school detective, is now the lead character of two novels coauthored by Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham. The novels take place just after the events of the Veronica Mars film and, I must say, are just as fun as the TV show. Get ready for the cynical, jaded, and violent 20-something that we always knew Veronica Mars could be!
You can find copies of the above listed volumes on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.