- Post by bookseller and blogger Molly Odintz
1. 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.
2. 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!
3. 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.
4. 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.
5. & 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).
Judenstaat 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 Black
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.
The 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.
9. & 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.
11. 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.
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.