Meike’s Top Ten Mysteries of 2016

Meike Alana truly became a trusted member of MysteryPeople this year. As author Josh Stallings said, “She looks normal, but she’s just as crazy as we are.” Her tastes run the gamut to traditional, to thriller, to noir, but as you can see in her top 10 for 2016, she has great taste. The listing is in no particular order.

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

97803162310771. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott 

No one plumbs the depths of teen girl depravity quite like Ms. Abbott and she’s done it again in this gripping tale of psychological suspense.  Gymnast Devon Knox is a prodigy seemingly destined for gymnastics gold, and her family will go to any lengths to help her fulfill those dreams.  When a handsome young man is violently killed, rumors begin to swirl and it becomes apparent that her dreams may be at risk.  

97814516866302. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

I’ve often thought it wouldn’t be all that hard  to adopt a new identity—cut  and color your hair, get some glasses, throw on a hat and some baggy clothes.  Tanya Dubois must do exactly that after she comes home to find her husband dead—although she knows it was an accident, she’s sure the police will suspect her so she packs a suitcase, changes her look, and heads for Texas.  There she’s taken in by bartender Blue; running from her own past, Blue soon convinces Tanya to trade identities with her and things get a little crazy.

3. Young Americans by Josh Stallings9780996948005

Throw a heist story in a blender with glitter, drugs, and disco; add characters like a stripper who learned the fine art of safe-cracking at her grandfather’s knee and a badass ex-Marine transsexual; you get a rollicking thrill ride of a mystery. Groove to the sound of David Bowie as you blow through the year’s best heist novel! 

978163388205814. The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

When a wealthy socialite is brutally murdered, suspicion immediately falls upon her husband.  Although he claims to have an alibi, a neighbor reports seeing him at the scene on the night of the murder and he’s arrested and charged with murder.  The investigating detective is convinced the police have the right man in custody; his good friend, who is counsel for the defense, is equally certain his client is innocent.  Both men will go to any lengths to prove their position, even though it threatens to destroy their friendship.  Fantastic twists in this one!

97816338817785. The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

I’ve been a fan of Pryor’s Paris-based series featuring Hugo Marston, head of security at the US Embassy, since his debut with “the Bookseller” several years ago.  In this latest, Pryor tries his hand at the classic locked room mystery when a body is discovered in the basement of the American Library in Paris and Hugo is called to investigate.  Stock up on croissants, you’ll be craving them with café au lait as you read this atmospheric European thriller.

97816338812666. See Also Deception by Larry Sweazy

Marjorie Trumaine lives on an isolated North Dakota farm with her  disabled husband Hank, where she works as an indexer to make ends meet.  When her friend Calla Eltmore, the local librarian, is found dead the police believe she committed suicide, but Marjorie is certain that’s not the case and sets out to uncover the truth.  In the process she uncovers myriad small town secrets  that put her safety in peril.

97816338818397. Heart of Stone by James Ziskin

Ziskin’s protagonist, Ellie Stone, is one of my favorite characters in the genre—a  confident 1960’s twenty-something girl reporter with a taste for strong whiskey and fast men.  While Ellie enjoys a late-summer holiday at her aunt and uncle’s Adirondacks lake property, two dead bodies are found on a nearby beach.  The local police chief believes these were victims of suicide, and asks Ellie to photograph the bodies as evidence.   But Ellie believes something more sinister may be behind the deaths and becomes determined to find out what really happened.

978163388120418. The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake by Terry Shames

This latest installment of Shames’ series, set in the fictional small Texas town of Jarrett Creek, finds police chief Samuel Craddock investigating the murder of a young  woman who has recently returned to her home town after a lengthy stay in a mental institution.  Craddock soon finds himself dealing with not only murder, but multiple layers of secrets and deception that someone is determined to keep hidden.

978161695610319. His Right Hand by Mettie Ivie Harrison

Harrison is a practicing Mormon and has written an incredibly unique  series featuring Linda Walheim, the wife of a bishop in the Mormon church.  Linda’s tight-knit LDS community is thrown into upheaval when their ward’s second counselor—one of the bishops’ right hand men—is found murdered.  But when the autopsy reveals that this devout Mormon, a loving husband and father who was a pillar of the community, was a biological female, church officials seem more concerned with covering up the murder than with solving it.  Linda must step in, and in the process Harrison explores the LDS stance on gender and sexual identity.  The series provides an unprecedented glimpse inside the secretive Mormon Church and presents multiple sides to some of the complex issues its members and leaders are grappling with today.

978194422500110. Dollar Signs by Manning Wolfe

Austin attorney Merit Bridges likes her wine chilled and her men hot (and on the younger side).  In order to protect one of her clients, she goes after a shady corporation  that’s taking property from innocent people—aided by her bad-ass office manager Betty (she of the Ann Richards hair, motherly attitude, and smart mouth) , uber-fashionable paralegal Val, and investigator Ag (who wants more than friendship from Merit).  A fantastic debut, and Austin residents will have fun identifying local landmarks.

You can find all of the books listed above on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Let Justice Be Done, Though the Heavens May Fall: MysteryPeople Q&A with Allen Eskens

  • Interview by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

 

Allen Eskens’ latest, The Heavens May Fall, features the return of Minnesota cop Max Rupert. His friendship with Boady Sanden comes to a head when the attorney takes on a client Rupert believes to be guilty. MysteryPeople’s Meike Alana talked to Mr. Eskens about his characters and their shared universe.

Meike Alana: Your novels are stand-alone works that are completely unique from each other, but a handful of significant characters make appearances throughout the books. Can you tell us how you devised that concept?

Allen Eskens: You have asked a very big question, so excuse the long answer.

I write about a community of characters who have connections to one another, some greater some lesser, with different characters taking the lead in different novels. I came to this idea as I was writing my debut novel, The Life We Bury. I like writing stories where the protagonist goes on a personal journey that changes them by the end of the novel. I didn’t think I could do that consistently if I wrote a series that revolved around a single protagonist. Also, my protagonist in The Life We Bury is a college student and I didn’t want to have him tripping over dead bodies in an attempt to create a series.

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MysteryPeople Review: THE HEAVENS MAY FALL by Allen Eskens

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

Allen Eskens wowed us all last year with his first two books, both masterpieces of literary noir. Now he’s back with a third tale of kindness and cruelty, The Heavens May Fallreviewed below by MysteryPeople’s Meike Alana. 

9781633882058When the naked, mutilated body of socialite and philanthropist Jennavieve Pruitt is found dumped behind a storefront at the start of Allen Eskens’ latest literary noir, The Heavens May Fall, detective Max Rupert is called in to investigate and the victim’s husband Benjamin soon becomes the prime suspect.  Although he claims to have an alibi, saying he was out of town at a conference, a neighbor recalls seeing him in the driveway of his home on the night of the murder.  When Ben is arrested and formally charged with Jennavieve’s brutal murder, he retains Max’s good friend, defense attorney Boady Sanden, as his counsel.  The story of the subsequent investigation and trial are told from opposing viewpoints, coming from vastly different perspectives.

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Scott’s Top Ten of 2015

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

If there was a common thread through the best books of 2015, it was ambition. Authors stretched themselves by taking on large subjects or writing something much different, or taking their series characters down a different path. All of these authors raised the bar for themselves and leaped over it.


hollow man1. Hollow Man by Mark Pryor

Pryor’s smart use of point of view puts us in the head of Dominic – Austin prosecutor, musician, and sociopath – who gets involved with a robbery and to continue to tap into his darker nature when things go bad. One of the freshest and best neo-noirs to come down the pike.


the cartel2. The Cartel by Don Winslow

Winslow’s sequel to The Power Of The Dog reignites the blood feud between DEA agent Art Keller and cartel head Adán Barrera in epic fashion to show the disastrous effect of the war on drugs in Mexico. A book that both enrages and entertains.Read More »

Bouchercon 2015: Southern Comfort in Raleigh

Scott Montgomery and Allen Eskens
Scott Montgomery and Allen Eskens

Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery gives us the low-down on this year’s Bouchercon, THE mystery convention. 

I met Dashiell Hammett’s granddaughter. That will be my takeaway from this year’s Bouchercon. It made sense to meet her at this conference, held in the scarily clean city of Raleigh North Carolina. Organizers seemed to be interested in crime fiction’s past, present, and future.

Ali Karim should get credit for some of the best panels ever put together at a B-con. Reed Farrel Coleman was moderator for The Private Sector, a discussion of the PI genre that became a discussion about reality versus fiction when it came to the audience Q&A. Michael Koryta, a former private investigator, said he knows a writer is doing their work when they get surveillance right. He also suggested to research the job as if you were going into it as a profession. As detailed as it got, J.L. Abramo, author of the Jake Diamond series, put it all in perspective when he said, “Herman Melville wasn’t a whaler.”

 

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Allen Eskens

In The Guise Of Another, Allen Eskens’ follow-up to his award-winning debut, The Life We Bury, police detective Alexander Rupert (the brother of The Life We Bury‘s cop hero, Max) gets involved in a false identity case that could take his soul as well as his life. Allen was kind enough to talk about the book and the art of character.

MysteryPeople Scott: What prompted the decision to use two of the supporting characters from The Life We Bury in this novel?

Allen Eskens: I am a strong believer that plot moves the reader forward and that character draws the reader in deeper. I believe that a protagonist should undertake a journey over the course of a novel. He/she should be changed in some way by the time the story concludes. While I am a fan of the mystery-series format, I sometimes feel that the storyline can suffer from familiarity (fans of Lee Child will probably disagree).

So to give myself an array of characters with personal journeys to undertake, I decided to move among my secondary characters from The Life We Bury, telling their stories. My hope is to create a small community of people who will interact with each other to varying degrees as the novels branch out. The Guise of Another is the first in a three-book arc for Max Rupert. I have a sequel for The Life We Bury planned, and I have a stand-alone, which is the backstory of Boady Sanden, partially written.

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MysteryPeople Review: THE GUISE OF ANOTHER by Allen Eskens

  • Reviewed by Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator

L ast year, Allen Eskens received much praise and an Edgar nomination for his debut novel, The Life We Bury. He showed a talent for providing rich character development within a classic page turner. In his follow-up, The Guise Of Another, he uses that skill for a different kind of book, even though he brings back a couple of familiar folks.

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Three Picks for October

ville ratThe Ville Rat by Martin Limón

The latest book to feature Sueño and Bascom, two Army CID detectives in 1970s Korea, has the detectives assigned two cases that put them up against one of the toughest and tightest units stationed on the North-South border. Limón uses an involving mystery to look at race and politics in the military for one of his best. The Ville Rat comes out Tuesday, October 6. You can find copies on our shelves after tomorrow, or order at any time via bookpeople.com.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Seventh Street Books Editorial Director Dan Mayer

seventh street books


Seventh Street Books, an imprint of Prometheus Books, is one of our favorite publishers of late. We even did a special panel with three of their authors in June, including Terry Shames, Mark Pryor, and James Ziskin. We caught up with one of the brains behind the outfit, Editorial Director Dan Mayer, to talk about their books and direction for the future.


MysteryPeople: Describe your goal for every Seventh Street Book.

Dan Mayer: Obviously, I’m hoping every title is successful and finds an audience. I’d love for each book to bring something special to the genre. And I also want the publishing experience to be a good one for all the authors.

MP: You are mainly known for introducing new writers to the genre. What attracts you to fresh talent?

DM: I think it’s a combination of luck and timing. We are a relatively new imprint, so it’s not that unusual that many of our authors are just beginning their writing careers. And as a small publisher, I don’t have some of the pressures that an editorial director might feel at one of the big publishing houses. I understand that it may take more than a couple books for the author to find an audience, and I’m willing to wait it out.

MP: You also show that a paperback original can be just as high quality as hardback. Why is that the format to go with for you?

DM: It’s our publishing model to publish in trade paperback. I also believe that it’s a format that has a longer shelf life than hardcovers or mass markets.

MP: Which author has surprised you the most with their work?

DM: I’m fortunate that all the authors I work with are incredibly talented. Still, it’s exciting when an author you’ve published and come to know surprises you with a change in direction. For example, we’ve published Mark Pryor since our very first release, The Bookseller, and even though we’re five books in to the Hugo Marston series, Mark brought us this incredible, totally different standalone—Hollow Man—a most welcome surprise.

MP: Is there a sub-genre in crime fiction that you’d like to have for Seventh Street that you don’t already have?

DM: I have a whole list of things I’d like to pick up: a cozy series, a historical series set during World War II, a British crime series . . . I could go on and on. Interestingly, I’ve had a few conversations recently with editors from other houses, and we’ve all agreed that we want to see more female protagonists.

MP: What are some things readers can look forward to from Seventh Street in the future?

DM: Well, we will continue to nurture and develop the authors and books we already have in our catalog. Writers like Mark Pryor, Terry Shames, James Ziskin, Lori Rader-Day, and Allen Eskens—to name just a few (and honestly, not naming all of our authors is very hard for me!)—have incredibly bright futures ahead of them. We’re proud to be part of this journey with them.

We will continue to bring new writers into our fold. This fall we have a number of new additions to the Seventh Street family—Stephanie Gayle (Idyll Threats), Jennifer Kincheloe (The Secret Life of Anna Blanc), Robert Palmer (The Survivors)—and each book has a unique premise and setting that has excited the bookselling community.

Scott’s Top 6 Debut Novels of 2014

I know, you’re only supposed to have five. I wrote a list of these favorites, got six, and could not bear to take one of them of the list. Read them all and you’ll understand and be happy for the future of crime fiction.


the ploughmen1. The Ploughmen by Kim Zupan

A Montana sheriff’s deputy guards an old hired killer, hoping to get information about his past crimes. What ensues is a hard meditation on sin, death, regret, and friendship. A book as harsh and beautiful as its winter setting.

 

 


2. The White Van by Patrick Hoffmanthe white van

A somewhat functioning drug addict is manipulated into being a part of a bank robbery. When she takes off with the money, she’s soon on the run from the criminals, the law, and a bent cop. Hoffman makes us feel the desperation of his characters in this steet-wise thriller that is part Elmore Leonard, part Hitchcock, yet completely unique.


 

life we bury3. The Life We Bury by Allen Eskens

Joe is a poor college student with a drunk mother, autistic brother, and his own baggage. When Joe gets an assignment to write a biography, the project leads him to a dying Vietnam vet, still proclaiming his innocence for the rape and murder for which he was convicted. As Joe searches for information to prove the vet’s innocence, he soon endangers himself and those he loves. A great new voice in the mainstream thriller.


 

stinking rich rob brunet4. Stinking Rich by Rob Brunet

The tender of a Canadian pot farm runs afoul of his biker gang bosses in a situation involving a dead dog and a lot of cash in this comic crime novel. Brunet infuses his likable losers and bad guys with humanity and dialogue that keeps you laughing. The closest I’ve read to Donald Westlake. I almost forgot, there’s a lizard involved too.

 


 

dry bones in the valley5. Dry Bones In The Valley by Tom Bouman

Bouman’s affable, fiddle playing lawman, Henry Farrel, takes on a murder investigation that could light up his rural Pennsylvania county, already turned into a tinderbox by meth, poverty, and family history. Reminiscent of Craig Johnson in the way the hero interacts with his community.

 


 

cb mckenzie bad country6. Bad Country by C.B. McKenzie

McKenzie introduces us to meet former bareback rider turned PI, Rodeo Grace Garnett, who has to maneuver around wild women, shady good ol’ boy politics and business, questionable local law, and a rough and tumble Arizona that would make most big city detectives run for the safety of their own mean streets. I couldn’t help but hear echoes of James Crumley in the way it deals with people living a life on the margins.


All of the books listed above are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Look out for more top lists later in December!