If You Like Louise Penny….

Many of you have already heard of Louise Penny’s impending visit to our fair city – this event’s going to be so big, we’re hosting her outside of our store and over at the Central Texas Presbyterian Church. Tickets are now SOLD OUT thanks to our wonderful mystery community. 

For those looking to get their Louise Penny fix another way, here are a few more atmospheric series, some Francophone and some Canadian, to please the Louise Penny fan who’s all caught up with Inspector Gamache.

9780143109457Fred Vargas’ Commissaire Adamsberg series

Fred Vargas writes the Commissaire Adamsberg series, set in provincial France in a small town that both mimics and parodies the political fractures of the nation. She came to writing from archeology and history, and like Margaret Atwood, her fascination with the plague, mythology, medieval history, and ancient fears has translated into brilliant modern fiction. You can find copies of Fred Vargas’ works on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

9780307454690Martin Walker’s Bruno, Chief of Police series

Walker is known for his Bruno, Chief of Police series, wherein Bruno must tackle crimes both petty and perverse while engaging in more politicking than he can stand. He takes plenty of breaks to consume the provincial delicacies of his small French town and meditate on Francophone culture. Fans of Louise Penny will enjoy the quirky cast of characters that populate Bruno’s little fiefdom. You can find copies of Martin Walker’s works on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

the unquiet deadAusma Zehanat Khan’s Community Policing series

For those looking to keep up with the best in Canadian crime fiction, try Ausma Zehanat Khan’s community policing series featuring Detective Esa Khattack and his partner Rachel Getty. The two tackle crime solving in an empathetic, very Canadian way – no swashbuckling, just skillful crime-solving respectful of civil rights and minority communities. This series should please those who appreciate Louise Penny’s series for both its conscientious morality and Canadian settting. You can find copies of Ausma Zehanat Khan’s works on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

 

Domestic Surveillance: The Internal Spy Novel

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

Tales of espionage used to mean (to me, anyway) stories of international intrigue with more mileage accrued in the course of an adventure than the travel plans of an international jetsetter, and more locations than the TV show Sens8. To spy does not necessarily mean to travel – the FBI keeps tabs on plenty of Americans, just as the KGB kept a close watch on the doings of many a Soviet citizen. Here’s a few suggested reads for those curious about the intimate nature of spying on one’s own people, on one’s own soil.

9781496712356The Striver’s Row Spy by Jason Overstreet

After graduating from a prestigious university with an engineering degree and a hunger for justice and success, Sidney Temple finds himself recruited to be the FBI’s first African-American agent instead. Told to spy on Marcus Garvey’s Back to Africa movement for the FBI, he decides to funnel useful information over to WEB Du Bois and the NAACP. Discussions of the disagreements between supporters of Du Bois and followers of Marcus Garvey immerses readers in the internal debates of Harlem Renaissance America. Temple’s apolitical artistic wife rounds out the portrayal of the time period’s Harlem intelligentsia, for a novel that excels as both spy fiction and historical fiction. The Striver’s Row Spy comes out in paperback on Tuesday, July 25th. Pre-order now! 

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Molly’s Top Ten International Crime Fiction of 2017 (so far)

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

After this 4th of July, I find myself thinking of other places, far from here – and the fantastic crime novels set there. Below, you’ll find a list of recommended summer reads for the international crime fiction enthusiast. This year, I’ve had a historical theme to my reading, although most of the works listed below are in communication with our modern sensibilities as much as they represent a window into the past. Not much else unifies the selections below, and perhaps that’s part of why I love international crime fiction; it celebrates the diversity of world experience in a way impossible to find in a single nation’s literature. All are great crime novels, and each one should make for perfect summer reading for the armchair traveler. 

1. The Long Drop by Denise Mina9780316380577

Denise Mina’s first historical novel is a better than the words I know to describe it – almost impossibly good. Mina bases her latest on the trial of Peter Manuel, a serial killer in midcentury Glasgow, and splits her narrative between the lurid details of the trial and the pub crawl from hell as Peter Manuel and William Watt, the surviving patriarch of a murdered family, go from bar to bar, sinking deeper into the Glasgow underworld and getting closer to admiting their most private truths to one another. The more we get to know Watt and Manuel, the more sinister the trial of Peter Manuel becomes, heightened in tension by the dramatic irony of what we know and what the jury suspects, but can’t quite allow themselves to contemplate…A knowing, mature and sympathetic portrait of a society defined by violence and proud of it, that we may now judge and find wanting. You can find copies of The Long Drop on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Ausma Zehanat Khan

 

Ausma Zehanat Khan first appeared on our radar with her crime fiction debut, The Unquiet Dead, introducing the handsome Esa Khattak and the sporty Rachel Getty. The two are partners in a special Canadian community policing unit dedicated to sensitive cases involving minority communities. In The Unquiet Dead, they tackle a case involving war criminals, Balkan ghosts, and the intersection of private and public suffering. In The Language of SecretsKhattak and Getty go undercover in a a mosque controlled by a charismatic leader suspected of planning a violent attack – and engaged to Khattak’s sister. In Khan’s third novel to feature the duo, Among the RuinsKhattak just wants to enjoy a nice vacation in Iran, but gets recruited by the Canadian secret service to look into the untimely death of a Canadian citizen and activist filmmaker. Ausma was kind enough to let us ask her a few questions about the series. 

  • Interview by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

“I have this set of stories I want to tell based on my background in human rights law and my continuing commitment to human rights issues. It’s important to me personally because these are stories that rarely see the light, or that when they do, they’re depicted through a perspective that I don’t recognize as authentic.”

Molly Odintz: Rachel Getty is my favorite contemporary sidekick – she’s practical, sporty, and is always game to help Esa Khattak both with his assigned work and his efforts to outwit his superiors. She seems to be the average joe of the novel, intended to balance out Esa Khattak’s impressively erudite mind. Is she a Watson, to Esa’s Sherlock? Tell us about the dynamics between Rachel and Esa. 

Ausma Zehanat Khan: That’s such a lovely compliment, thank you! Rachel is definitely Esa’s counterpoint, and her story is as important to the books as Esa’s is. I try to have these characters draw each other out, and to serve as foils for each other—I think Rachel is braver than Esa when it comes to personal conflicts and entanglements. She doesn’t always get things right, but she’s much more willing to take chances than he is, though both characters will continue to develop as they grow closer over time. I see Rachel as quite independent of Esa, and as an equal contributor to their crime-solving efforts. I think she also helps interpret Esa and humanize him to my readers.

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50 Mystery Novels by Women Crime Writers, Read in a Year

  • Post by Molly Odintz

The list below is the tip of the cold, murderous iceberg when it comes to works by women crime novelists, but like any other list, it’s a good place to start.

With my yearly New Year’s Resolutions, most of which I will never revisit, I usually come up some kind of reading project, based around genres, authors, or settings I’ve neglected. 2015’s goal? Best not mentioned, as I miserably failed in my efforts to complete it. 2016’s reading goal? Read fifty books by women, and if possible, fifty works of crime fiction by women; not just new releases, but also classic noir and domestic suspense. With the release of Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s, we’ve entered a new era of publisher and reader support for crime fiction classics by women.

Many of the books below are part of the zeitgeist – you’ll see a lot of girls in the title. I’ve also tried to focus on reading some of their antecedents, and you’ll see works on the list from Dorothy Hughes, Daphne Du Maurier, Margaret Millar, Patricia Highsmith, and other classic women crime writers of mid-century America, plus a couple of golden age works from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. You won’t find many representatives of the tough second-wave protagonists of the 80s and 90s, or many works in translation – both areas, I’m sorry to admit, I neglected in the past year.

You will find quite a few books set in Texas, and some that have yet to be released; both quirks of a bookseller’s reading habits, as we tend to dive deep into the literature of our areas, and often receive early copies of upcoming releases.

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Molly’s Top Ten International Crime Novels of 2016

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

2016 was a stellar year in international crime fiction – the stories below run the gamut from humorous to heart-breaking, daring to disturbing, and playful to pensive. There are entries on the list from Britain, Ireland, Brazil, Canada, France, Argentina, and more, yet the works are just some of the standouts in a thriving international crime fiction community. 

97800624407781. The Mother by Yvette Edwards

Yvette Edwards tells a moving tale from a complex perspective in this story of murder and consequences in London. Eight months after 16-year-old Ryan is stabbed to death by another teenager, his killer goes on trial, ready to protest his innocence. Ryan’s mother, and her sister Lorna, are torn between their search for justice and their empathy for the teenager on trial. The outcome of the trial comes down to the testimony of a vulnerable teenage mother previously involved with both Ryan and the defendant, and after amping up the action in the last third of the book, Edwards provides a hopeful conclusion. One of the most necessary and moving books of the year.

97815942064052. Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

This book is twisted! Frustrated by a lack of fulfillment in his imaginary relationship with a cadaver, a young medical student kidnaps a writer named Clarice and takes her on road trip through Brazil. From locking her in a suitcase to forcing her to accept his edits to her novel, the doctor-in-training makes Clarice’s life hell, all while justifying his actions to the reader in increasingly bizarre and sometimes comical ways. After several reversals of power, the ending will leave your mouth agape. As funny as it is disturbing!

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31 Crime Novels by Women: A New Year’s Resolution Progress Report in Honor of Women’s Equality Day

  • Post by Molly Odintz

The list below is the tip of the cold, murderous iceberg when it comes to works by women crime novelists, but like any other list, it’s a good place to start.

Minotaur Books Created This Stunning Image to Celebrate Women's Equality Day
Minotaur Books created this stunning image in celebration of Women’s Equality Day (this year, Friday, August 26th).

With my yearly New Year’s Resolutions, most of which I will never revisit, I usually come up some kind of reading project, based around genres, authors, or settings I’ve neglected. 2015’s goal? Best not mentioned, as I miserably failed in my efforts to complete it. 2016’s reading goal? Read fifty books by women, and if possible, fifty works of crime fiction by women; not just new releases, but also classic noir and domestic suspense. With the release of Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s, we’ve entered a new era of publisher and reader support for crime fiction classics by women.

This year, to my surprise, I’m a bit further on the path to completing my reading goal, so time to brag and share it with you all, despite my failure to complete it as of yet. Hey, I’ve got four more months left, so why not put the cart before the horse and smugly tell you all about my accomplishments? After all, I’m 31 books in, 31 crime novels by women that I can now confidently recommend in the store and on the internet, because I have read and enjoyed them. Before I (prematurely) rest on my laurels, I’d like to trace the origins of this mighty goal.

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Three (More) Picks for February

  • Post by Molly Odintz

MysteryPeople (in the corporeal form of Scott Montgomery, Crime Fiction Coordinator, and me, Molly, bookseller) will be joining Hopeton Hay for his radio show, KAZI Book Review, 88.7 FM, on the last Sunday of each month between 12:30-12:45 to talk about our favorite releases for the month. I had so much fun discussing my most anticipated picks for February, I’ve decided to put them up on our blog as well! Below, you’ll find three very different books, each and every one a gem of a crime novel.


Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

9781594206405There’s not much I can say about this one without giving one of Montes’ myriad twists away. I can say that, early in the novel, Montes references the director Michael Haneke and the film Misery, and both of those references become increasingly relevant through this twisted novel. In other words, Perfect Days is the most disturbing novel that I also enjoyed reading since I was first terrified by Kathryn Dunn’s Geek Love. 

Perfect Days follows a medical student as he develops an obsession with a young wannabe screenwriter named Clarice he briefly meets at a party. When his wheelchair-bound mother and “Gertrude,” the corpse he’s slowly been dissecting for school, fail to satisfy his need for female companionship, the student kidnaps Clarice, stashes her in a suitcase, and takes her across Brazil while attempting to brainwash her into falling in love with him.

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Molly’s Top 7 Debuts of 2015

When perusing my year’s end list of favorite novels, I noticed more than a few debuts within the mystery genre on the list (some of the writers mentioned below have previously been published within other genres).  Those that made the greatest impression, I’ve collected for you below. Seven may be a bit of a weird number – think of this list as my top five, plus two!

  • Molly Odintz. 
luckiest girl alive1. Luckiest Girl Alive by Jessica Knoll
This may be the most startling novel of 2015. There isn’t much I can say about this book without giving something away. Luckiest Girl Alive functions as a primer in the vicious nature of social competition in all stages of life, while simultaneously remaining sympathetic to the experience of trauma.

 


2. The Bishop’s Wife by Mette Ivie Harrison

Mette Ivie Harrison writes ‘Mormon Noir,’ which I had bishops wife full sizenever heard of nor conceptualized till picking up this book on the strong recommendation of Scott Montgomery. The Bishop’s WifeHarrison’s debut in the mystery genre, follows Linda Wallheim as she helps her husband Kurt, just appointed bishop, in aiding their community. Linda grows attached to a neighborhood child, and through her investigation of the child’s mother’s disappearance, draws attention to both the vulnerability of Mormon women and the attraction of Mormonism to women.

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Women’s History Month: Recommendations of Women (and Men) in Crime Fiction, From Women in Crime Fiction

-Post by Molly

March is Women’s History Month, so at the beginning of the month, I reached out to many of my favorite female authors writing in crime fiction today for some thoughts and recommendations. Jamie Mason, Meg Gardiner, Ausma Zehanat Khan, Megan Abbott, and Lori Rader-Day all sent replies along, posted earlier this month (Mason’s response posted separately), and now we bring you some of their amazing recommendations. Not all the authors listed below are currently in print (although some soon return to print), and this is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the best crime writers today (a virtually impossible task). I’ve added quite a few of the following to my “to read” list. Enjoy!


monday's lieJamie Mason Recommends…

Classic Authors:

  • Josephine Tey
  • Dorothy Sayers
  • Daphne du Maurier
  • Patricia Highsmith
  • Agatha Christie

Second Wave Authors:

  • Ruth Rendell
  • PD James
  • Patricia Cornwell
  • Mary Higgins Clark
  • Sue Grafton
  • Kathy Reichs

Contemporary Authors:

  • Gillian Flynn
  • Tana French
  • Laura Lippman
  • Megan Abbott
  • Tess Gerritsen
  • Kate Atkinson
  • Lisa Lutz
  • Mo Hayder
  • Sara Paretsky

phantom instinct

Meg Gardiner Recommends…

Classic Authors:

  • Agatha Christie
  • Mary Shelley (as innovator of suspense fiction)
  • Patricia Highsmith

the unquiet deadAusma Zehanat Khan Recommends…

Classic Authors:

  • Ngaio Marsh
  • Dorothy L. Sayers (and the Jill Paton Walsh continuation of the Wimsey/Vane series)

Contemporary Authors:

  • Deborah Crombie
  • Imogen Robertson
  • Charles Finch
  • Charles Todd
  • Alan Bradley
  • Louise Penny
  • Susan Hill
  • Ariana Franklin
  • Anna Dean
  • Martha Grimes
  • Morag Joss
  • C. S. Harris
  • Stephanie Barron
  • Laurie R. King
  • Laura Joh Rowland
  • Elizabeth George
  • Peter May (in particular, The Blackhouse)
  • the late, great Reginald Hill

feverMegan Abbott Recommends…

The following books are soon to appear in the Library of America’s collection Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s, edited by Sarah Weinman

  • Dorothy B. Hughes’s In A Lonely Place
  • Vera Caspary’s Laura
  • Elizabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall
  • Margaret Millar’s Beast In View

the black hourLori Rader-Day Recommends…

Classic Authors:

  • Lois Duncan
  • Agatha Christie
  • Mary Higgins Clark

Contemporary Authors:

  • Tana French
  • Catriona McPherson
  • Denise Mina
  • Clare O’Donohue
  • Sara Gran
  • Gillian Flynn
  • Alan Bradley
  • James Ziskin