Molly’s Top Ten of the Year, So Far

  • Post by Molly

innocence or murder on steep street1. Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street by Heda Margolius-Kovaly

Heda Margolius-Kovaly lost her family to the Holocaust, her first husband to Soviet purges, and the right to visit her native land to her defection to the United States. She also translated Raymond Chandler’s work into Czech, and his style, combined with her experiences, are the inspiration for Innocence, a bleak and hard-boiled noir about a woman who engages in increasingly desperate acts to secure her husband’s release from political imprisonment. You can find copies of Innocence, or Murder on Steep Street on our shelves and via bookpeople.com
The Meursault Investigation may not be shelved in the mystery section, but if The Stranger is considered “Mediterranean noir,” then I dub this post-modern redo of The Stranger, told from the perspective of the Arab victim’s family, “De-Colonial Noir.” The Meursault Investigation reads like Said’s Orientalism as a mystery novel, which to me is the best thing in the universe. Spoiler alert: Meursault did it. You can find copies of The Meursault Investigation on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

curse on dostoevskyA Curse on Dostoevsky is, again, not technically a detective novel. But hey, Crime and Punishment is basically a murder mystery, so this Afghani version of Crime and Punishment should count as well. Rahimi’s protagonist starts out just like Raskolnikov – he murders his landlady to steal her jewels and thus support himself and win the affection of his ladylove. However, the Taliban reacts a bit differently than the Russian Imperial Police to such a crime, and Rahimi turns Dostoevsky’s heavy 19th century morality into the absurdism, indifference and hopelessness of Afghanistan over the past half-century. You can find copies of A Curse on Dostoevsky on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

french concession


3. French Concession by Xiao Bai

Fans of Lust, Caution will enjoy this cinematic thriller set in 1930s Shanghai, and involving a rotation cast of assassins, revolutionaries, spies, informers, arms dealers, and any and all combinations of the above. This is one of the best espionage novels I’ve ever read, with one of the most cheerfully duplicitous heroes ever written. You can find copies of French Concession on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

zagreb cowboy


4. Zagreb Cowboy by Alen Mattich

Zagreb Cowboy was our August Pick of the Month, and for those looking to immerse themselves in the oh-so-complicated world of Balkan politics just before the collapse of Yugoslavia, this is the novel for you. When an Istrian lawyer living in Zagreb gets caught by his gangster boss in a corrupt scheme to sell information, he must go on the run from corrupt police, brutal mafiosi, and the scathing judgement of his ex-wife. He hopes to stay safe long enough for an independent Croatia to emerge, but a malfunctioning Yugo, a crowded London hidey-hole, and the ramp-up to ethnic conflict all stand in his way. Action, atmosphere, setting, style, pacing, and plot – Zagreb Cowboy has it all. You can find copies of Zagreb Cowboy on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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5. The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

Let Mette Ivie Harrison guide you into the darkest depths and most profound revelations of a Mormon community missing one of its own. The wife of a bishop, her children grown, takes an interest in her neighbor’s small daughter after the child’s mother goes missing. She suspects the woman’s husband of wrongdoing, although her suspicion widens to include much of the community. In this taut domestic thriller, Harrison explores the dangers, contradictions, lures, and satisfactions of a woman’s place in a Mormon household. You can find copies of The Bishop’s Wife on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

monday's lie


6. Monday’s Lie by Jamie Mason

Monday’s Lie follows the story of Dee, a woman raised by her CIA-agent mother to notice the most minute of details, yet unwilling to acknowledge the increasing warning signs in her own home. Jamie Mason mixes the espionage tale with the domestic suspense novel for a unique and gripping thriller. Perfect for the fan of Girl on The Train or Gone Girl! You can find copies of Monday’s Lie on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

those we left behind


7. Those We Left Behind by Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville has distinguished himself for some time as a leading writer in the new wave of Northern Irish crime novelists taking the world by storm. His early work is firmly grounded in his Northern Irish context – previous novels have explored the legacy of the troubles and the hidden stories of WWII-era collaberation. His latest novel, however, explores a modern, post-Troubles North,  where internal turmoil has replaced external as a driving concern. Those We Left Behind reads almost like a Henning Mankell novel in its use of the mystery genre to explore human psychology, troubled families, and the limits and strengths of the welfare state. Those We Left Behind hits the shelves Tuesday, September 22. Pre-order now! Stuart Neville joins us for Noir at the Bar at Opal Divine’s on Tuesday, October 6, along with many of our favorite mystery writers.

This was my first foray into a non-Easy Rawlins Mosley novel, and I can say that Mosley’s knack for character, context, style and flow all translate in this third installment of his Leonid McGill series. The strong yet diminutive Leonid McGill compares himself to a honey badger, notes the height of every man he meets, and uses a wide array of high tech equipment and down-and-dirty street fighting to solve all his demi-monde clients’ woes. Like most Mosley protagonists, he also has a non-traditional family that provides him equal amounts of stress and satisfaction. You can find copies of And Sometimes I Wonder About You on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

leaving berlin


9. Leaving Berlin by Joseph Kanon

Joseph Kanon’s standalone spy novel is an epic tale of betrayal, manipulation, double-crossing and strange bedfellows, set against the backdrop of Berlin amidst the post-war ramping up of hostilities. Kanon’s protagonist is German Jewish Marxist who begins the novel headed to East Berlin, his Dutch passport not enough to keep him in the US when he refuses to bow down to McCarthyism. He soon realizes that his new Soviet masters want just as much control over him as his previous places of residence, and he must play each side off against the other to get himself and his former mistress out of the Eastern Bloc. You can find copies of Leaving Berlin on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

little pretty things10. Little Pretty Things by Lori Rader Day
Lori Rader Day’s Little Pretty Things is a perfectly feminist mystery novel – when Juliet, bored of her small town existance, runs into her high school rival, she feels nothing but jealousy. When her rival turns up dead the next day, however,  Juliet must band together with a female police officer to solve the crime and prove her own innocence. Bechdel test passed with flying colors. You can find copies of Little Pretty Things on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

International Crime Fiction Friday, Late Night Edition: DIRTY SNOW by Georges Simenon

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– Post by Molly

As the night falls, the weekend begins, and the tourists, techies and students take to the streets, we bring you a late-night edition of Crime Fiction Friday. Each week in June, we bring you crime fiction from a different international author.

Tonight, from the archives of NPR, we bring you a review and excerpt from Georges Simenon’s noir take on occupied Paris, Dirty SnowI first read this novel in high school, when my sister brought it home from college. The novel follows a despicable pimp and gangster wandering about occupied Paris seeking either an escalation of crimes and pleasures or the redemption of resistance.

Dirty Snow was reissued by New York Review of Books in the early aughts in an excellent translation by Marc Romano. After I read the novel in English, I later read it in French. Aside from The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, Dirty Snow is the only crime novel I have read cover-to-cover in French and English. I’m not quite sure what that says about me, but for anyone who enjoys bleak storylines and revisionist WWII narratives, Dirty Snow is the book for you!

Excerpt: Dirty Snow

“It was years since he had been here, but it was impossible for his feet not to follow in his old footsteps. The watchmaker Vilmos and his watches, and his famous garden, these were perhaps his most vivid childhood memories.

Even before reaching the door, he seemed to recognize the smell of the house, which had always had old people in it, since as far as he was concerned the watchmaker Vilmos and his sister had never been young.

Frank took a dark handkerchief out of his pocket and tied it around his face below his eyes. Stan was about to protest.

“You don’t need one. They don’t know you. But if you like . . .”

Click here for the rest of the excerpt. 

Shotgun Blast From The Past: GBH by Ted Lewis

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Along with Derek Raymond, Ted Lewis brought British crime fiction to its gritty modern glory. Best known for his London enforcer, Jack Carter, he instilled working class anger and attitude in his books, before dying at forty. Along with the Carter books, Syndicate Books has republished his last and what many consider his best book, GBH.

The title refers to the acronym for grievous bodily harm, which there is plenty. The book moves between alternating chapters, entitled The Sea and The Smoke. We begin with The Sea, with our anti-hero George Fowler hiding out at an off season resort town, under an assumed name. He’s licking some wounds, possibly waiting for a confrontation, trying to piece together what happened.

We next explore The Smoke chapters, which take place earlier in London. They start out with Fowler in his previous role as head of a porn syndicate. He has the finest clothes, tons of cash, a smart, sexy wife (it’s hard not to be reminded of Helen Mirren in The Long Good Friday when reading her), and someone embezzling from him. The first time we see him in this period, he is trying to ferret out information on who it is, involving electrical wire and a tub of water. It gets more bleak and rough from there as Fowler alienates those around him.

It is best to read GBH in as few sittings as possible. The chapters are so brief it, can be difficult to keep track of the characters at times, if you just read one or two of them. When you hit that last hundred, you’ll want to push right through.

Lewis is a master at handling violence on the page. At the beginning of the book, he rarely shows it, though it is often strongly suggested. Brutality hangs over the story, ready to destroy someone at a moments notice. As The Sea and The Smoke chapters dovetail and interlock, violence does drop in graphically and often with as much emotion as shock. It reflects Fowler’s paranoia, focusing to full dread.

GBH is one of the best pieces of Brit crime fiction ever written. Syndicate deserves a medal for finally getting it over here to The States. It is sad to think of as his last book, making one wonder what he could have accomplished if he didn’t die so young.

You can find copies of Ted Lewis’ last novel, GBH, on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Guest Post: Peter Bowen on Du Pre and Montana

bitter creek

Peter Bowen has just published his 14th Du Pré novel, Bitter Creek, where Gabriel Du Pré helps a wounded vet with a spiritual quest seek answers to a historical mystery involving General Pershing and a missing tribe of Métis. Peter Bowen has generously contributed a piece on the place that has most influenced his writing – Montana, where much of his writing takes place, and where Bowen has deep roots.

Post by Peter Bowen

The Du Pré mysteries come of living in Montana and wanting to write. Writers begin with wanting to write and then they have to find something to write about and it’s best to write about something you know about.  I grew up here in Montana and I live here now, and I was never happy anywhere else, so…….

Du Pré is a fictional Métis and he sort of went from shadow to substance in my mind over many years.  Since I was interested in Montana’s history from childhood, when Du Pré did become clear enough to speak I thought I would tell the story of the Métis as well, and a great, romantic, and often heartbreaking one it is.

“An editor I worked with for many years said once that the Du Pré books were good novels about Montana that had a mystery on top, like the peanuts on a Tin Roof Sundae.”

The Métis are the Children of the Fur Trade, French and Cree-Chippewa or Plains People, and there are over thirty million descendants of them in North America.  In the 19th century they occupied Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and twice rebelled against the British who wanted their lands for white settlement.  The Métis lost and many fled down to Montana and the Dakotas for more abuse.  A very old story……which Du Pré tells a bit at a time.

An editor I worked with for many years said once that the Du Pré books were good novels about Montana that had a mystery on top, like the peanuts on a Tin Roof Sundae.

The Montana that I knew as a kid and loved so well is gone, pretty much, now, as rural life dies out on the High Plains, victim of economic changes as water becomes more and more valuable. The small towns are going or gone already, the people having left as their livelihoods did.

In the fourteen Du Pré novels I have written about corporations poisoning the land and water, greedy “environmentalists” who want to make the state some sort of theme park, and all of the ructions a changing place stirs up — boomtowns with drugs and murders, and the odd crazies who pop up everywhere.

That’s what’s on top, but more important to me are Du Pré and the people around him, the byplay of a small town’s folks, and my memories of a Montana I knew a long time ago. Some of that still exists, and some will remain, of course, but it does need to be remembered for its lessons, and what those might be are up to those folks who read these books.

So there is Du Pré, who doesn’t say much and doesn’t miss much, with his fiddle and bandsmen, family and friends, in Montana, which is actually a real place.

America is running out of them.


You can find copies of Bitter Creek on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. May is Texas Writer’s Month – look out later in May for posts by Texas mystery writers about how their sense of place and plot intertwine.

Crime Fiction Friday: A TWIST OF NOIR by Steve Weddle

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72Steve Weddle has gotten a lot of notice from his crime fiction peers with his short fiction and debut novel, Country Hardball, published in 2013. In this chilling story, he shows how a lottery winner uses his money for revenge.

“A Twist of Noir” by Steve Weddle

“I’d carried the list around for years, every so often adding a name, moving it to a new scrap of paper in my wallet. I read it like some kind of mantra. Calming myself. Focusing.

Jake Martin. Junior year of high school. He punched me in the nose on a dare.

Mike Gibson. First job out of college. Weaseled his way into my spot and got me fired.

Chad Michaels. At the Tire Factory. Sold me three used tires, claiming they were new.

I guess they don’t seem like that big a deal to you. But that’s because they didn’t happen to you. This isn’t about you. This is about me. And the seventeen people on the list.”

Read the rest of the story.

Crime Fiction Friday: A WARM RECEPTION by Kelly Whitley

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Kelly Whitley is a great practitioner of crime flash fiction. In this story published in A Twist Of Noir, she shows how to set up a seemingly mundane opening that promises something more dangerous and delivers in spades.

“A Warm Reception” by Kelly Whitley

Bart and Lana walked into the Four Seasons Hotel. In the Aspen Room, the reception for the new Mr. and Mrs. Blake Potowski was well underway. Guests packed the ballroom, laughing, talking, and dancing. A long table against one wall held a cornucopia of wedding gifts ranging from large boxes festooned with ribbons to demure envelopes containing monetary gifts.

Lana froze in the doorway and gripped Bart’s sleeve. “I think we might be underdressed. Everyone here is decked out for black tie. We look like we don’t belong.”

Click here for the full story.