3 Picks for February

The Gate Keeper by Charles Todd

Inspector Rutledge is driving aimlessly when he comes across a crime scene. A man has been shot and the only witness is a woman who claims that her companion stopped for a man in the road who walked up to him, asked him a question, and then shot him through the heart. Rutledge returns in the morning to find a beautifully carved wolf at the scene. Another richly atmospheric and moving work by Charles Todd that provides enough clues to keep the most diligent reader of mysteries enraptured. This book is about deep family secrets and the  way that we cannot really know what goes on in another person’s mind. A fine chapter in one of my favorite mystery series.

Help I Am Being Held Prisoner by Donald Westlake

Compulsive practical joker Harold Kunt’s latest stunt causes a ten car pile up and embarrassment for a couple of politicians caught with their mistresses, resulting in a prison stint. However, he isn’t completely incarcerated. The prison has a tunnel system a few select prisoners use to visit the nearby town to drink at the bar, pick up women, or commit a crime or two since no one would suspect them. The only catch is that Harry has to help these prisoners rob two banks at the same time or else. Thanks to Hard Case Crime, this novel by Donald Westlake at his funniest and most inventive is back in print. It has been stuck in my memory for over three decades.

Cut You Down by Sam Wiebe

Vancouver private detective Dave Wakeland is hired by a professor and possible lover of a student who disappeared and may have taken half a million dollars worth of school funds. The trail leads to a suburban mob, a crooked cop from another case, and a trip south of the border to Washington state for a violent showdown. Wiebe delivers a fresh spin on the tough yet emotionally vulnerable private eye and populates the Canadian underworld he travels navigates with indelible characters.

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Pick of the Month: Sunburn by Laura Lippman

Each month we choose one book you absolutely can not miss. This month Meike has reviewed that pick, Laura Lippman’s Sunburn, for the blog. It’s out February 20th and you can pre-order now.

9780062389923Laura Lippman’s latest, Sunburn, just might be the perfect beach read. It takes off gradually, allowing the tension to build slowly, until the story plunges the reader into a roller coaster thrill ride with countless twists and turns before smoothly bringing him or her to a satisfying conclusion.  You can no more put this book down than you can stop the ride from hurtling forward.

But Sunburn is so much more—it’s a masterwork of modern noir, invoking the style of James M. Cain (The Postman Always Rings Twice).  Make no mistake—this is a dark tale of secrets and lies with its share of dead bodies.  It’s not the coaster at a shiny clean mega theme park; the tone reflects a slightly more frightening rickety coaster ride at a second-rate theme park that has seen better days.  Lippman masterfully evokes the shadier side of summer with this searing tale of secrets and passion.

The story begins with Polly, a mysterious redhead who is passing through a small town when she stops in at a bar and meets the equally mysterious Adam; the first thing he notices about her is her sunburned shoulders.  We soon learn that Polly has just abruptly left her husband and young daughter in the midst of a family beach vacation.  The reader also learns that Adam is a private investigator who has been hired to find Polly, but we don’t know by whom. They both realize that a relationship between them threatens the secrets they’re trying to keep, yet they succumb to their mutual attraction and a heated affair ensues.  They decide to stay in town for a bit and take jobs in the local diner.  As their relationship unfolds, each is unsure about the other’s motivations; we slowly learn just how many secrets each is keeping from the other.  There are no heroes here—both characters are deeply flawed, and we’re not really sure to what extent each is simply playing the other.  Lippman keeps the reader guessing until the very end.

Laura Lippman  was a reporter for twenty years before turning to writing full time.  She is the critically acclaimed author of the Tess Monaghan series as well as nine standalone crime novels.  Her body of work has received countless awards and Sunburn is sure to receive its share of accolades.

Guest Post: Laura Oles on Trouble in an Island Town

Thanks to Laura Oles for writing the following guest post about her new book, Daughters of Bad Men. She’ll join us February 5th at 7pm to talk about the book along with Terry Shames and James Ziskin.

Jamie Rush has been following me for years.  She lurked in the background as I worked, as I ferried my kids to school, and as I handled the ordinary demands of daily life.  I couldn’t shake her, couldn’t get her off my trail.  I worried I didn’t have the time I needed to tell her story, but it didn’t matter.  She wouldn’t go away.   I would need to give her the proper attention she deserved so she would get out of my head.

It turns out she now occupies more space than ever.

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Jamie Rush is a skip tracer in the island town of Port Alene, Texas, and is the protagonist in Daughters of Bad Men. In this first book in a new series, Jamie and her partner, Cookie Hinojosa, take on the emotional task of finding Jamie’s missing niece. Accepting Kristen’s case isn’t an easy ask.  Jamie’s relationship with her con artist family is a complicated one.  She doesn’t trust them, and for very good reason. Still, when Kristen goes silent, she agrees to take the case because…well, she’s family.  You don’t turn your back on family.

Jamie’s domestic dynamics are an important part of the story because they have shaped her into the person she is today. Trust comes slowly to her. A handful of people comprise her true family, including Cookie, a pub owner named Marty, and Erin, an underground bookie for the Winter Texans living in Port Alene until their own northern hometowns are free from the cruel confines of the season. These people are her world, and Jamie would do anything to protect them.

Although Jamie knows the dangers of searching for Kristen-emotional entanglements can cloud judgment–she has no choice.  She digs deeper into Kristen’s life and uncovers her niece’s most guarded secrets. Exposing the truth will put a target on Jamie’s back and endanger the lives of those she loves.

Port Alene, Texas, is a fictional version of Port Aransas, a place my family considers a second home.  It made perfect sense to create Jamie’s world in this town’s image, but Port Alene is a far grittier and darker place than its inspiration.  Jamie is running from her past and Port Alene has offered her a chance to start over, to finally plant roots and stay awhile.  Her business searching for small time skips who owe debts to those dependent on them being repaid is a steady one.  She has finally found where she belongs, although she still keeps a ditch bag under her bed. Even now, she has one eye on the door.

Writers often say that their characters become members of their family, and that’s the case with mine.  They are part of my tribe. I get lost in their world. I sometimes hear dialogue in my head. I can’t turn it off and wonder if I should consult a doctor. Although it’s sometimes inconvenient, it’s also welcome.  I want to know what they’re up to next, what dangers lie in wait, what will come of each of them as they grow older, grow wiser, more jaded, more hopeful.

Since I started working on Daughters of Bad Men, Hurricane Harvey roared across the coast and took a terrible toll on Port Aransas.  Writing the Jamie Rush series allows me to spend time in my favorite island town until its namesake can once again host company. I visited this past weekend and found there are only a handful of restaurants open and still fewer places to stay. The town is rebuilding but it will take time. So, I will continue to write her fictional sister Port Alene–and she will remain untouched by natural disaster. There are enough storms brewing for Jamie already.  

If you’d like to help the rebuilding efforts in Port Aransas, please find out how here. In particular, The Ellis Memorial Library lost its entire collection of books. Everything is lost and they need donations of books and money so that they may once again serve their community.   You can find out more about how to help here.

Guest Post: James Ziskin on historical novels and names

Thanks to James Ziskin for putting together this post about his crime novels, set in the early 1960s, and how that time period impacts what he does. He’ll be here Monday, February 5th, at 7pm with Terry Shames and Laura Oles to discuss his book, Cast the First Stone

I write the Ellie Stone mysteries, a series of traditional-cum-noir crime novels set in the early 1960s. Ellie is a mid-twenties reporter for an upstate New York daily. A self-described “modern girl,” she works twice as hard as any man at the paper, gets half the credit, and all the wolfish leers.

My books are sometimes categorized as historical. The time period is near past, which presents both advantages and challenges when it comes to creating a believable fictional world. The sixties were not so long ago, and the world isn’t all that different, at least not when compared to a hundred or two hundred years earlier. But the things that have changed have done so in sometimes drastic, sometimes subtle ways. Before considering names, let’s look at a few of the obvious differences.

Cars. On the left is Ellie’s 1955 Dodge Royal Lancer and, on the right, its descendant, the 2018 Dodge Lancer.

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Well, they both have four tires, and they’re both red. Of course, two-toned paint jobs and chrome were all the rage in the fifties. But under the hood and inside the brains of the cars, they might as well be a biplane and a jumbo jet for all they have in common. By the way, Ellie’s car—same colors even—was featured in a Dodge commercial just a couple of years ago. Have a look. https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=1JeNv0FoPXo

Telephones. The old black rotary phones have gone the way of the dinosaur. Today’s phones are powerful computers, great for doing research or enjoying entertainment.

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Fashion. Ellie might have dressed something like this. Today, these ladies look like a mashup of air hostesses, Don Draper’s secretaries, and the Stepford PTA.

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And what would Ellie have been listening to on the AM radio in her car? Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” topped the charts for three weeks in the summer of 1960. Tastes change. If you don’t think so, listen to this song.

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Sports. Heisman trophy winners Joe Bellino, 1960, and Baker Mayfield, 2017.

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And then there’s this…

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But wait a minute. Wasn’t this supposed to be about names?

I was just getting to that.

Take girls’ and boys’ names. There weren’t many Justins, Aidans, or Graysons running around in Ellie Stone’s 1960. You were more likely to find Davids, Michaels, and Jameses. Hmm. What do you know? James. And I was born in 1960… For girls, names were pretty tame back then. Mary, Susan, and Linda were the top three in America. And when Ellie was born in 1937, the most popular were Mary, Barbara, and Patricia. Not one of those three names cracks the top hundred in 2017. And that’s on a list that includes “Luna” at number forty-eight! Last year, neoclassical and old-time names Sophia, Olivia, and Emma topped the list. And, surprise of surprises, neither Sophia nor Olivia made the top hundred in 1937. Emma barely squeezed in under the wire at number eighty-nine.

For Cast the First Stone, I dropped Ellie into 1962 Hollywood. She’s sent to California by her editor to interview a local boy who’s landed the second male lead in a beach picture. First, to avoid lawsuits and hate mail, I decided to avoid using real Hollywood stars in my book—at least none who appear as characters. Of course people mention the odd actor or actress in the course of the story, but no actual celebrities appear in the book. Well, one does, but just for one line, and I’m not telling who it is. (Here’s a useful, hint, though. Dead people cant sue for defamation.) Second, to achieve maximum believability, I wanted to avoid inventing fictional megastars. It’s difficult—but not impossible—to win the reader’s buy-in. Cal Granite, Bart Steele, or Dirk Bogarde just aren’t believable as names. Well, okay, Dirk Bogarde was a real actor, but I almost had you, didn’t I?

So how to create believable names for the period? I lowered my sights. Instead of A-listers, I populated Cast the First Stone with end-of the-dugout directors, no-name producers, and C-list actors. The same is true for the title of the fictional film at stake in the book, Twistin’ on the Beach. It’s 1962, people were doing the twist again (like we did last summer), and teenage beach pictures were just entering their golden age. If there weren’t at least two or three films with that name that year, there should have been.

Now I needed actors for my film. No big names, remember. So I came up with boy-next-door types appropriate for the era. And white-bread white last names. Tony Eberle, Bobby Renfro, Bo Hanson. The female lead in the movie is Carol Haven, though she never makes an appearance in the book.

There’s also the question of using real places whenever possible, and fictional ones where convenient. From the outset of this series, I chose to fictionalize the town where Ellie lives and works. New Holland, New York, cannot be found on any map except the one in my upcoming A Stone’s Throw (June 5, 2018). Making up a small city is no big deal, and it frees me from researching every last detail about a real place. But once Ellie lands in Los Angeles in Cast the First Stone, real locations are necessary to create the impression of that great city. I chose to use the actual Paramount Studios as the site where Twistin’ on the Beach was being filmed. The instant name recognition helps create realism. Everyone’s heard of Paramount, so I didn’t have to labor unnecessarily to convince readers. The Godfather took a different route, probably to avoid potential lawsuits, using a fictionalized studio—Woltz International Pictures—for the famous horse-head-in-the-bed sequence. (Oh, come on. It’s not a spoiler after forty-five years.) As great as that film is, the name of the studio strikes me as less than compelling. We know it’s not real, and no magic is conjured by seeing its name or its unimpressive gate.

I used the same tactic in my upcoming A Stone’s Throw (June 5, 2018). Where possible, I used real names—e.g. Saratoga Race Course—but brought the characters down to a manageable level of fame. Thoroughbreds, jockeys, owners, and gamblers are all fictional, except for a few real horses, mentioned here and there, and Willie Shoemaker making a cameo appearance. Those recognizable names make the time period feel more authentic to the reader. The fictional characters do their job, too, entertaining us with their exploits, while never breaking the spell with their unfamiliar “household names.”

Guest Post: V.P. Chandler reviews Lone Star Lawless

From the piney woods of East Texas to the dry landscape of West Texas, the Austin Mystery Writers and friends anthology Lone Star Lawless: 14 Texas Tales of Crime has it covered. The anthology takes us across the state with various law breaking. You can meet many of the contributors February 4th at 5pm when they come to BookPeople for a reading! 

The Lone Star Lawless project was headed by the exuberant Austin Mystery Writers member Gale Albright. Albright describes the anthology perfectly in her introduction, writing, “The stories in this volume cover motel hell, medical menace, mortuary mayhem, sharp knives, kidnapping, theft, murder, assault by food, dangerous exercise, fickle fingers, and bad attitudes.” Not to mention a retelling of the fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, full of crime and a Texas twist. Now who could pass up that?

“One More Time” by V.P. Chandler, is set at the end of the Wild West era. A girl is kidnapped from a small West Texas town and the town wants the aging Texas Ranger, Ephram Babcock, to retrieve the girl before she’s taken across the border to Mexico. Babcock reluctantly agrees. As he pursues the duo across the plains, he’s haunted by a decision he made in his youth. The memory and regret become stronger as he gets closer to his quarry. It’s a race to the border, a race to save the girl, but can he run from his past?

“Wild Horses” by Alexandra Burt is the story of Brad, who is running from trouble and his temper. Once a man has served time, he has only so many options available. He takes a job at a convenience store when things take a dark turn. Will Brad stay mum or will he find a way to break free?

“The Life of the Party” by Mark Pryor is a story filled with tongue-in–cheek mortician’s humor. The reader sees the world through the eyes of mortician Andrew Banks as he prepares for a party. As the story proceeds, the tension builds in the same vein as Edgar Allan Poe or Alfred Hitchcock stories. The reader will be compelled to see the story to the end!

“Archangel Towers” by Gale Albright begins with a woman receiving a frantic phone call from her grandmother who is in the hospital. The grandmother makes crazy, nightmarish allegations about the staff and is adamant that they happened. Is the grandmother getting dementia? What is a granddaughter to do?

“Baggage Claim, Part 1: The Devil’s Luggage” was penned by Janice Hamrick. The memory of a college prank never left Tyler Fenton. Even though he failed at the prank, he always remembered the thrill of it. Itching to try it one more time, he goes to the Austin-Bergstrom airport to steal an unclaimed bag. But it isn’t a small bag that grabs his attention, it’s a large trunk. Unfortunately for him, he’s not the only one who wants that trunk.

“Baggage Claim, Part 2: Carry On Only” by Laura Oles also involves stealing a bag from the Austin-Bergstrom airport. But this story quite different from Part 1. Stealing bags from the airport is only one of the many things that Max does to supplement his income, and he’s quite adept at it. But when he gets the bag home, he and his friend Belk make a discovery. Then comes the anonymous phone call, “I saw what you did.”

“The Texas Star Motel” by Terry Shames follows the tale of an abused wife, Mona, as she’s made her recent escape from her husband. She’s shaken and has his gun, but needs to stay out of sight to complete her escape. Then she hears through the hotel’s old and thin walls a woman being beaten in the room next door. Should she intervene or lay low?

“Point Blank, Texas” by Larry Sweazy is another tale about an old Texas Ranger. This story is set in 1934. Ex-Ranger Sonny Burton has lost his arm in a shootout with Bonny and Clyde and he’s ready to retire after decades of service. Then Jonesy, the local sheriff shows up and tells Burton that his long-time nemesis, Billy Bunson, has not only escaped from prison, he has kidnapped the warden’s pregnant wife. They turn to Sonny for help since he knows Bunson better than anyone else. As Sonny investigates, he gets the nagging feeling that not everyone is telling the truth.

“The Widow Black” by Kaye George is set in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business. Marjorie lost her first husband due to an accident. Then the handsome and smooth Victor moves to town and starts schmoozing Marjorie and she feels young and sexy again. As things heat up, not everything seems to be as perfect as she thought they’d be.

“The Sandbox” by George Wier takes place around College Station. Jimmy Cook is a young real estate agent who works for the slimy Ray Milberger. One day Jimmy sees first hand how Ray has cheated his way to success. Jimmy takes a stand and Ray says Jimmy is ready for a new business venture. “You have a bright (future), kid, if you stick with me. You have to know where your bread is buttered…” As the story progresses the tension builds. Is Ray really going to include Jimmy in a business deal or does he have something else in mind as they head to a secluded area of the woods?

“Texas Toast: The Case of the Errant Loafer” by Manning Wolfe features Dr. and Mrs. Edward Littman, who are avid cyclists. As they cycle with their pack through downtown Austin, Dr. Littman is hit by a bakery van. The driver of the van, Zach Glover, swears he didn’t veer out of his lane. Kim Wan Thibodeaux, also known as the Asian Cajun, is the defense attorney for the Glover. Who is telling the truth? This story is a courtroom drama that would make Perry Mason proud.

“When Cheese Is Love”, by Kathy Waller. Love heats up between the timid librarian, Tabitha Baynes and the suave chef, Gonzalo. Tabitha has been on a stringent diet and worked hard obtain and maintain her svelte figure, but his food is so excellent! And no woman can say no to Gonzalo. At the launch of his new menu, showcasing Tabitha’s favorite foods, Gonzalo declares his love for Tabitha. Finally! What could go wrong?

“The Bird”, by Scott Montgomery is the gritty story of Jimmy Davis and Frog Lee. Frog is always getting in trouble and now is no exception. He slept with the wife of bad guy, Slick Jim (You’ve got to be stupid to sleep with the wife of someone named Slick Jim) and now Frog has a $200,000 bounty on his head. Fortunately Davis knows exactly where to find him. Frog is in Austin because he’s with Davis’ sister, Stacy. Now if only Frog and Stacy would get smart, Davis may be able to save their lives and collect the 200 grand.

“Little Red” by Gale Albright ends the anthology with a bang with Albright’s Texas rendition of Little Red Riding Hood. Complete with crazy East Texas lingo and a voodoo hairdresser named Verna Lee, “Little Red” is a quick and inventive romp that’s sure to make you laugh out loud.

And now for a bit of a personal note. We would be remiss if we didn’t also mention the editor, Ramona DeFelice Long, who has worked her magic on the book. We are grateful for her enthusiasm and her attention to detail. This anthology has a special place in our hearts because Gale Albright passed away before its completion. She infused life, humor, and drive to our group. We aren’t the same without her. So it is dedicated to her and the online proceeds will go toward the Port Aransas library that was heavily damaged in Hurricane Harvey.

What I’m looking forward to reading in 2018

What I’m looking forward to reading in 2018 by Meike Alana

2017 has been a fantastic year for crime fiction fans, but 2018 promises to be even better.  Here are just a few titles that I can’t wait to get my hands on:

JANUARY

Dominic by Mark Pryor:  Picking up where Hollow Man left off, the titular Austin attorney/musician (who happens to be a psychopath) continues his murderous ways.

A Reckoning in the Back Country by Terry Shames:  When a resident of Jarrett Creek is mauled by vicious dogs, Texas lawman Samuel Craddock suspects a dog-fighting ring may be operating in his town.

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani:  Originally published in France where it became a #1 bestseller and winner of France’s most prestigious literary prize, the Goncourt, it marks the American debut of an exciting new voice in crime fiction

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner:  Following  last year’s smash thriller Unsub, newly minted FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix investigates a series of murders around the Austin area.

FEBRUARY

Sunburn by Laura Lippman:  The New York Times bestselling author returns with a superb novel of suspense about a woman who knows how to play the long game to get what she wants.

MARCH

The Silent Companions by Laura Purcell:  A Victorian gothic tale about a young pregnant widow who is sent off to her late husband’s creepy, crumbling, and possibly haunted estate.

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin:  The award-winning Gaylin brings us an addictive story of psychological suspense told from multiple viewpoints.

APRIL

A Perfect Shot by Robin Yocum:  Yocum’s A Welcome Murder was a 2017 favorite of ours here at MysteryPeople and we can’t wait for this tale of a local basketball star in a small Ohio town who tries to remake his life but instead gets tangled up in murder.

MAY

See Also Proof by Larry Sweazy:  Sweazy’s series featuring North Dakota indexer Marjorie Trumaine is another favorite of ours.  As she’s mourning the recent death of her husband during a particularly harsh winter, she helps investigate the disappearance of a neighbor’s disabled daughter.

JUNE

A Stone’s Throw by James Ziskin:  Ziskin’s series features 1960’s news reporter Ellie Stone, who is one of my personal favorite characters in the genre.  This time the intrepid Ellie investigates a double murder set in the glamorous world of horse racing.

JULY

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott:  The queen of noir (part of the writing team behind HBO’s The Deuce) returns with a mesmerizing psychological thriller about how a secret can bind two friends together forever or ultimately tear them apart.

The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott:  Three women, all with the same name, have gone missing from idyllic Lakehaven.  Given that Abbott is one of the best thriller writers of our day, it’s pretty much a given that this is not a coincidence and that there are some sinister goings on here.

Matthew’s Top 10 of 2017

We struck gold this year when our former co-editor brought Matthew Turbeville into the MysteryPeople fold. He reads a ton of books, has excellent as well as eclectic taste, and is a talented writer. His top ten list for this year has a wide range and celebrates authors who approach the genre from a unique angle.

 

 A Book of American Martyrs by Joyce Carol Oates

This is an odd pick for best crime novel of the year, but this is, at its core, a crime novel.  Two families are interconnected by a horrific crime in which one patriarch murders the other for being an abortion provider.  The novel chronicles the lives of these two families as the children of these fathers grow and become intertwined in a dramatic and amazing fashion.  The conclusion to this novel is not to be missed, as it will somehow break your heart and put it back together—uncharacteristic for Joyce Carol Oates, but yet so fitting for this novel and for this time in our country.

 

Bluebird, Bluebird by Attica Locke

Attica Locke has always been a favorite of mine.  With classics like Black Water Rising and The Cutting Season under her belt, Locke has begun what is hopefully a new series with an excellent protagonist—one of the few black Texas rangers, a man struggling to keep his job and wife, a man who will do anything to find some answers—so much so that he is driven to investigate a double homicide, that of a white woman and black man in rural Texas.  You will be biting at the bit to finish this book, with its world-shaking conclusion.

 

The Last Ballad by Wiley Cash

I first discovered Wiley Cash with his award-winning This Dark Road to Mercy.  In The Last Ballad, Wiley Cash comes back with full force and total talent to invite his reader back into the past this time, to a young woman’s story (about her life and death)—a mother, a lover, a fighter—and a mystery that will unravel and awe you until its amazing conclusion.  

 

 

Marlena by Julie Buntin

Julie Buntin has become my favorite person, as well as writer, over the course of a year.  She has written a classic in the genre of teenaged stories about lost friendship and, frankly, loss.  Buntin writes of a young woman who looks back on her teenaged friendship with the troubled titular character, who is struggling to keep her family together until the fateful conclusion.  This is a book not to be missed, and a book that has made nearly every best-of list this year.  

 

Keep Her Safe by Sophie Hannah

I love Sophie Hannah.  All of her books are written with a sort of eloquence and candidness that envelop the reader.  This book is no different, about a married woman from Britain who escapes her family to come to America only to see a ghost—a woman who was believed to be dead, but is in fact possibly alive.  This book certainly does not disappoint, or ease up, just like Hannah’s earlier works.  

 

 

Blame by Jeff Abbott

Jeff Abbott sent me an ARC early this year—a copy of his newest book, Blame, his first novel to feature two primary female protagonists who are struggling with the aftermath of a deadly car accident and the loss of a dear loved one—and a crazed killer who will stop at nothing to cover up the truth.  Don’t miss this new classic of the genre.  It certainly was riveting and unstoppable as the events of the book.  

 

 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

Sarah Pinborough made waves with this tale of intrigue and mystery, told from multiple perspectives about the mysteriousness of a young woman having an affair with a married man, and his wife, who we know little about until the very end of the novel—and boy, is that a twist!

 

 

 

Down City by Leah Carroll

Carroll’s debut, a memoir about losing both of her parents to violence and tragedy of different sorts, is as eye-opening as it is compelling.  Carroll is certainly a talent that one should keep her eye on, as she is working on a novel currently—but don’t look over this instant classic of true crime and loss.  Down City was one of my very favorite books of the year.

 

 

Wonder Valley by Ivy Pochoda

Ivy Pochoda has had a very good year this year.  Wonder Valley was well received by most critics, acclaimed by fellow authors, and became well known through publicity on early morning television and word-of-mouth.  This book, a crime novel about how we are all interconnected, is the new LA novel, a welcome accompaniment to James Ellroy and Megan Abbott’s earlier work, and an ecstatic read at that.

 

 

Into the Water by Paula Hawkins

Paula Hawkins’ sophomore effort was a success both financially and critically.  This book, about mysterious drownings, decade old mysteries, and more, is a bit less un-put-down-able than its predecessor, a bit more literary and meticulous in its writing. Hawkins does not disappoint with Into the Water, which was a welcome addition to a year full of wonderful books in 2017.