SCOTT’S TOP TEN (OR ELEVEN) SO FAR

Since there’s a few more weeks left for summer reading, I thought it might not be a bad idea to share my top ten crime novels so far for 2018. Many of these books pushed the boundaries of the genre, showing that it is still growing and has places to go. I also know there is some great work that would be on this list if I read it yet, like May Cobb’s Big Woods or Sunburn by Laura Lippman. Still, I’ve read enough good stuff, I couldn’t just limit this list to ten.

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott – Abbott once again dives through the stylish surface of noir and hits its darkest depths, pushing its boundaries in this tale of science, female competition, and the burden of secrets.

 

 

 

 

The Lonely Witness Cover ImageThe Lonely Witness by William Boyle- Boyle shows his skill of examining lives of quiet desperation, then turning up the volume. A former party girl, now living a quiet life, flirts with her past ways when she witnesses a murder and trails the killer who ends up stalking her.

 

 

 

Dominic: A Hollow Man Novel Cover ImageDominic by Mark Pryor- Pryor brings back his Austin sociopath, tying up loose ends from Hollow Man. A great thriller that has you catching yourself rooting for the bad guy.

 

 

 

 

If I Die Tonight: A Novel Cover ImageIf I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin – A harrowing trip through the social media age with a suburban crime that causes rumors to get way out of control. Gaylin uses an ensemble of characters to show how one act can effect a community and the multiple points of view that fracture and event.

 

 

 

What You Want to See: A Roxane Weary Novel Cover ImageWhat You Want To See by Kristine Lepionka – Roxane weary returns for a second case, clearing a client for the murder of his fiance’, taking her into the dark world of real estate fraud. In just two books, Lepionka proves to know her detective, the craft of great plot, and the art of a great shoot out.

 

 

 

High White Sun Cover ImageHigh White Sun by J. Todd Scott – In this follow up to The Far Empty the law of Big Bend County contends with an Aryan biker gang. Scott uses the Texas backdrop and history for one hell of an epic gritty crime novel.

 

 

 

 

Blackout: A Pete Fernandez Mystery Cover ImageBlackout by Alex Segura & Potter’s Field by Rob Hart – Both of these authors take their troubled private detectives through great changes with cases that hold a mirror to their lives. Along with Lepionka, these two prove the future of the PI novel is in good hands.

 

 

 

Blood Standard (An Isaiah Coleridge Novel #1) Cover ImageBlood Standard by Laird Barron- Mainly known for his horror writing, Barron introduces us to his hard boiled series character Isaiah Coleridge, a former enforcer on the outs with the mob. I can’t wait for the next book about this bad ass.

 

 

 

A Tooth for a Tooth Cover ImageA Tooth For A Tooth by Ben Redher- The latest in the Roy Ballard series has the legal videographer on a fraudulent accident claim that turns out to reveal bigger crimes. A fun classic PI yarn with some fresh spins on the genre.

 

 

 

 

Bottom Feeders Cover ImageBottom Feeders by John Shepphird – A fun fair play mystery with the cast and crew of a made for cable movie getting arrows shot into them. Shepphird, who has directed his share of cable movies, captures

 

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Three Picks for August

The Long Drop Cover ImageThe Long Drop by Denise Mina

One of the best crime novels from 2017 is out in paperback. Denise Mina weaves the events from one of Scotland’s most infamous trails through with the pub crawl from hell between the father and husband of the victims and the man prosecuted. A dark and rich meditation on media, class, and different forms of sin.

 

 

The Long-Lost Love Letters of Doc Holliday Cover ImageThe Long-Lost Love Letters Of Doc Holliday by David Corbett

The correspondences between the infamous gunfighter Doc Holliday and his beloved cousin come into the hands of an arts lawyer and former rodeo cowboy, ex-art forger, turned western art appraiser. A crooked judge has his eyes on them and soon a militia group and a few other scoundrels are after the the two, Corbett gives us a modern west as wild as the old one, full of colorful characters. The author will be at BookPeople August 27th to sign and discuss the book.

 

Scarface and the Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and the Battle for Chicago Cover ImageScarface And The Untouchable: Al Capone, Eliot Ness, and The Battle For Chicago by Max Allan Collins and Brad A Schwartz

Crime fiction stalwart Max Allan Collins teams up with historian Brad A Schwartz for detailed and informative look at the famous mob boss and the driven government agent out to get him. This epic true crime weaves their biographies as well as the life of prohibition era Chicago for something more exciting than any film or TV show captured about their story.

 

MURDER IN THE AFTERNOON RETURNS TO MARSIELLES WITH CHOURMO

Our June Murder In The Afternoon book club will be celebrating International Crime Fiction Month with a discussion by one of France’s most celebrated crime writers. Chourmo is the second installment of Jean Claude Izzo’s Marseilles trilogy. Once again, the romantically tarnished knight Fabio Mantale navigates this port city of many cultures on a quest for private justice and other things unattainable.
Mantale has left the force, mainly due to the events from the first book in the trilogy, Total Chaos, but the cousin he used to be in love with puts him back on the streets. Her son who was having a Romeo & Juliet style affair with an Arab girl has gone missing. The search involves organized crime, religious extremism, the city’s politics, and early on the murder of his informant, Serge, creating a second mystery.
Chourmo deals with several different themes, both old and new love, intolerance, the culture of Marseilles. We will try to cover as much as we can. Join us with your thoughts Monday the 18th1PM, on BookPeople’s third floor. Chourmo is 10% off for those planning to attend.
Next month, July 16, we will be discussing Craig Johnson’s Dark Horse with the author calling in.

3 Picks for June

For June, we have two different kind of men dueling it out with Mexican drug cartels in nature in the present and a big city newspaper man finding the truth in a flashy New York of the past.  All have struck a great balance between character and pace.Damon Runyon's Boys Cover Image

Damon Runyon’s Boys by Michael Scott Cain

In postwar New York, a reporter looks into the murder of a dance troupe leader and uncovers a plot that puts the mob on him. Cain’s vivid recreation of the glitzy Big Apple in its Broadway heyday and appearances by Walter Winchell, an young Truman Capote, and others make this a fun historical hard boiled that pops.

Bearskin: A Novel Cover ImageBearskin by James A McLaughlin

Hiding from a drug cartel, Rice Moore serves as the caretaker of a remote game preserve in Appalachia. When a poaching ring starts butchering bears, he makes new enemies while getting attention of the old ones. A crime thriller that understands the humanity of its characters and the violence they create.

 

Hawke's War (Sonny Hawke Thriller #2) Cover ImageHawke’s War by Reavis Z. Wortham

Texas Sonny Hawke finds himself lured into a trap in Big Bend National Park, where he has to fend of terrorists and a drug cartel out for revenge. Halfway through this book, you may feel sorry for the bad guys in this fun shoot-em’-up with vivid supporting characters, villains who you can’t wait to get their comeuppance, and a killer pace. Reavis Z. Wortham will be at BookPeople July 8th along with Ben Redher and Billy Kring.

3 picks for May

In May the private eyes take over the month. From the iconic to the new, differing in age, race, and sexual preference, all three of these detectives prove the vitality of the genre.

Robert B. Parker's Old Black Magic (Spenser #47) Cover ImageRobert B Parker’s Old Black Magic by Ace Atkins

Spenser is hired by a prestigious museum  to solve a twenty year old art theft. With help of his mob-connected ally Vinnie Morris, our Boston PI has to delve into a history of gangsters, art dealers, and double crosses that has resurfaced in the present with deadly consequences. Atkins delivers Parker’s iconic hero into one of the more intricate plots he or Robert B. Parker came up with.

 

What You Want to See: A Roxane Weary Novel Cover ImageWhat You Want To See by Kristen Lepionka

When a possible cheating fiance Roxanne Weary tails end up murdered, her client becomes the main suspect. In an attempt to clear his name, she comes up against a real estate scam that literally strikes close to home. This follow up to Lepionka’s brilliant debut, The Last Place You Look, and proves she and Roxanne have what it takes for the long haul.

 

 

Blackout: A Pete Fernandez Mystery Cover ImageBlackout by Alex Segura

Pete Fernandez returns to his Miami home to locate a politician’s missing son who resembles someone who disappeared after he was seen with Pete’s high school crush before she was murdered. To unravel the mystery, Pete has to deal with the mob, a political assassination, and old wounds. The book is a great balance of action and emotion. Alex Segura will be at BookPeople May 16th.

 

3 Picks for April

Bottom Feeders Cover ImageBottom Feeders by John Shepphird

The cast and crew on location in a small, low budget cable movie gets picked off one by one with arrows. It could be anyone from an angry local to the mobsters who invested. Shepphird, a man who has directed his share of low budget enterprises, captures the microcosm of filming while giving us an engaging whodunnit. You can meet him and Billy Bush (The Oaxcan Kid) on May 5th, 2PM, at BookPeople.

 

 

High White Sun Cover ImageHigh White Sun by J Todd Scott

Scott continues his South Texas crime saga, following The Big Empty. Chris Cherry, now the sheriff after killing the corrupt former one, investigates the murder of a river guide putting him and his deputies against the Aryan Brotherhood. A gritty, often grim novel that mines lone star life and legend for some strong story telling. J. Todd Scott should be an author on the rise.

Greeks Bearing Gifts (Bernie Gunther Novel #13) Cover ImageGreeks Bearing Gifts by Philip Kerr

Bernie Gunther returns, although under a different name, working as a Munich insurance adjuster in 1958. A claim takes him to Athens, where there is still no love for Germans, and he becomes involved in plot involving war criminals, stolen gold, and a few murders. Kerr continues Bernie’s saga with historical insight, and tragic fallout of Hitler’s plan, tempered by noir humor. Kerr, of course, passed away last week, and we are saddened by that news.

Scorching Love: Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver

There are a select group of, usually, female writers I turn to in times of crisis, in times of desire, in times of need, woe, loss, hope.  These authors include Alison Gaylin, Alafair Burke, Alex Marwood, Megan Abbott, Lisa Lutz, and of course, Laura Lippman.  Laura Lippman often stands in a category by herself—she is both the leading writer in transgeneric literary mysteries, but also a powerhouse who generally puts out a book a year—flawless books, beautiful books, books that always end with emotional punches that are eye-opening in startling ways.  Other than perhaps Lou Berney and Daniel Woodrell, I find very few male authors approaching Lippman’s league.  And do not get me wrong, this review is not a love letter to Laura Lippman.  This is a love letter to Dodging and Burning, the brilliant, impeccable debut by John Copenhaver.  John Copenhaver, who may or may not eventually become the male equivalent of the heretofore unmatched Laura Lippman.

Me in hat.jpgI was hesitant in beginning this book.  OK, that may be a lie.  I was eager to start this book, after reading Kristopher Zgorski’s review at the end of 2017 in his year-end review.  The book features strong female characters, complicated homosexual relationships, and as Copenhaver himself has recently pointed out to me, a challenge to the patriarchy.  There are love triangles, or what might be perceived at first as love triangles, but really, just as in real life, love is much more complicated than it first appears.  There is mystery, and intrigue, as one character points out to the two female protagonists that he believes he has found a body (and taken a photograph) of a deceased—really, murdered—woman, somewhere in Virginia.

Whatever your expectations for this novel are, put them aside. You will not be able to predict a single twist or turn to this book. You will also, likewise, not be able to put it down, just as I read it all in one solid sitting—a long sitting, as it’s not a short book, but a delicious, amazing, startling book.  Copenhaver balances both a beautiful, poetic style written in many forms (narrative, epistolary letters, among other forms and styles of writing) but Copenhaver never once sacrifices story for style.  They are balanced perfectly equally, satisfying everything the reader feels he or she needs in this volume that is too slim for my liking.  I wanted more.

This novel has taken Copenhaver years to write, and what an unfortunate note for readers.  We will have to wait years more for another book from Mr. Copenhaver, potentially, but that is O.K. by me. There are enough twists and turns, jaw-dropping shocks and surprises, that I do not believe I will ever, ever get tired of Dodging and Burning.  This is a book that will never cease to surprise you with its turns and revelations, no matter how many times you breeze through it—and there is a danger in this, the ease with which one can breeze through Copenhaver’s writing without really, truly appreciating it.  Copenhaver’s style, his story, his everything is meant to be savored, like a delicious meal—a last meal, on death row, one you might never have again.  It needs to be appreciated as such.

The fatal flaw in this book is that it is only one book, one volume.  The fatal flaw is that there is not more to appreciate in Copenhaver’s irresistible story and style.  It is endless, how fascinating his words are, his characters and their actions, their voices and their thoughts and their yearnings.  They come to life on the page.  They come to life like no other author I can think of—other than the grand, remarkable, equally undeniably unmatched Laura Lippman.

Perhaps they should start a club.