Top of Her Game: Alafair Burke’s The Wife

There comes a time in every prolific author’s career when one has to ask “Is there any way for this author to get better? To improve upon their most recent work? To actually write something better than this?” For some writers, they go downhill after their peak—other authors only rise, never reaching that peak exactly (see wonderful examples like Laura Lippman, Alison Gaylin, Alex Marwood, and Megan Abbott).  The question now is: has Alafair Burke reached her peak? I sincerely doubt it—a writer of her talent can most likely reach unimaginable heights—yet it is incredibly hard to fathom Burke improving upon her most recent masterpiece, The Wife.

Burke kicks off the year in the grandest fashion, with a book that will compel you to the very end, even without a murder in its very beginning.  From the moment the book begins, we know that Burke’s protagonist has committed perhaps the ultimate betrayal—that against herself, lying for her husband’s defense. I have read this book countless times, as I tend to do before beginning a review, and it never ceases to amaze me—the language is fluid and nearly flawless, drawing the reader in.  The narrator, while incredibly deluded and not necessarily the picture-perfect definition of a feminist, is incredibly relatable.  The book speaks to the issues of our times, many of them dealing with women, rape, infidelity, and the permanence of love.

From the very beginning of the novel, I was roped in.  The reader is startled by the way Burke can transform the most mundane scenes into something extraordinary, ripping out incredible portions of her character’s psyches in ways you would never expect.  I was floored again and again as revelation after revelation was revealed, chapter after chapter.  The book is such a quick read that, when finished, I felt compelled to start it over immediately, unsure if I had finished the novel or just begun.

This is not to say the novel is without a conclusion.  Boy, does it have a conclusion.  Alafair Burke is a master at revealing tiny little secrets that are actually big explosions, unraveling and unraveling her characters and plot until, once untangled, the reader is finally able to uncover the truth.  You think you know the truth from the beginning, and then you might change your mind in the middle, and then be completely floored by the end of the book by the smallest, slightest turn of the story: this is how The Wife works.  And I’m not afraid to call it a new masterpiece of the crime genre.

This past award season, Alafair Burke was nominated for the Edgar for The Ex, which works as a sort of companion novel to The Wife.  They feature similar characters, they are placed in similar settings, but these novels are completely different (and equally brilliant).  Here’s the only issue: this is the year of the female crime writer.  So while I would say that Alafair Burke has the Edgar in the bag, with masterpieces like Laura Lippman’s Sunburn and Megan Abbott’s Give Me Your Hand being released soon, it’s hard to tell which author will come out on top.  What’s amazing about the crime community is: no one cares.  Each of these authors are improving daily, each new book proving that the preceding novel was only a precursor to something much more amazing and fantastic than the book that came before.  And Alafair Burke proves this beyond a doubt.  From the very beginning, you are hooked.  From the very beginning, you are roped in.  And it’s all Alafair’s fault.

Burke’s newest novel is mind-blowing, spine-tinglingly good and awe-inspiring in ways that very few authors can aspire to be.  Pick up this book and find yourself lost in it.  Pick up this book and hours later, wonder where you have been, and how you got there.  This is the magic that Alafair Burke works in The Wife, which may very well be the Book of the Year.

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Interview with Terry Shames

Terry Shames will be with us twice in February. On the 4th she will be one of several authors involved with the discussion and signing of the anthology Lone Star Lawless and on the 5th you will find her, Laura Oles, and James Ziskin, discussing the thriller and their latest books. Terry’s is A Reckoning In The Back Country that has her hero Samuel Craddock looking into a murdered doctor’s dark double life that includes the crime of dog fighting. We caught up early with Terry to ask her a few questions.

MysteryPeople Scott: You spin several plates with this mystery, was there anything in particular you wanted to explore?

Terry Shames: This book just grew and grew. I once attended a talk by Joan Didion, who said that when you are writing a book, you should put everything you know into it. She said not to be afraid that there won’t be something left over for another book—there always will be. So I didn’t hold back anything in the this book.

The original idea of “Reckoning” came about because I wanted to kill a doctor who injured me in a botched surgery. I had to kill him on the page, so I wouldn’t have to go to jail for doing it in real life. I tried to imagine a terrible death for him—and I think I succeeded. That’s where dog fighting comes in.  The idea of doing a book that involved the awful issue of fighting had been nudging me for a couple of years. Combining the two seemed natural. So that’s two of the plates I juggled in the book. Another was the continuing life of characters in the community. A few of the characters that show up have been in almost every book, but never had an important place. We learn more, for example, about Harley Lundsford, who in most of the books makes a case for toting a gun. I wanted to take a closer at him, and he surprised me.

MPS: Since Back Country deals with dog fighting, you risk that unwritten rule of alienating a reader by harming an animal. Did you have any trepidation?

TS: I absolutely worried about it. As I said, the idea of doing a book that included dog fighting as a theme had been in the back of my mind. After all, it is part of life in many country areas. To ignore it is to be dishonest through omission. I put if off not only because of the “unwritten rule,” but because it seemed like a horrible thing to research. Writing it was very hard. At first, I left out a description of the dog fighting itself altogether, knowing I was being a coward. But my stalwart writer’s group would not allow it. So I set the description in Samuel’s past, a way of lessening the grim reality, since it was observed through the lens of a young boy; and also as a way of illustrating more about Samuel’s upbringing. I decided another way of dealing with the grim nature of it was to give Samuel a puppy as a counterbalance.

MPS: Did writing a four-legged supporting character cause any challenges?

TS: Since I have dogs, and know puppies, the actual puppy part was not hard. But I kept “forgetting” about the puppy and had to go back and make allowances for him when Samuel was going about his business. There’s a funny story about that. When I was editing, I thought there were too many details about the care and concern for the puppy, so I took some out. I got a scolding note from my copyeditor at SSB, telling me that Samuel couldn’t leave the puppy in the car alone. That happened to be a passage I had removed, thinking it was too much fussiness. Apparently not! I had to put it back in.

MPS: You having two women vying for Samuel. What made you think this was the right time to have romance reenter his life?

TS: This is an awful thing to say, and some readers may get mad at me, but I grew not to like Ellen very much. About a year ago, Dru Ann Love invited me to write a piece in her “Day In The Life” blog, in which writers imagine a day in the life of one of their characters. I wrote about Ellen Forester, and discovered that Ellen had a secret. I kept wondering what it might be. When I started writing this book, I realized that the story line with Ellen had grown stale and it was time to shake it up. So I started looking at her secret, and….well, I hope readers enjoy the shake-up!

MPS: What is Sam’s greatest strength as an investigator?

TS: That’s a hard one. I can talk about his strengths as a person:  He’s persistent, honorable, open-minded, has a good sense of humor, and isn’t afraid to admit that he doesn’t know something. That latter may be his greatest strength as an investigator. The old adage that there are no stupid questions works well for investigators—not just of crime, but of science, journalistic endeavors, and history. If you are afraid of asking a question because it might make you look stupid, you’re likely to miss important points. Samuel sometimes prods people to tell him something that everyone assumes he knows, and they are annoyed by what they take to be his naivete. But he has a method to his “stupid” questions, a method that often works to get to the truth.

MPS: You also have a short story in the anthology Lone Star Lawless. What can you tell us about your tale?

TS: I am not really a short story writer. I mean that the form doesn’t come naturally to me. I’m in awe of those writers who gravitate to the short form. They seem to know what is important to move a story along without getting cluttered with details. My natural impulse is to write all the details of character, setting and plot, and to embrace sub-plots. Someone pointed out that the short has to hinge on a single idea, which helped me learn how to keep it trim.

I started “Lone Star Motel” a few years ago, knowing it would be a short story. The story came to me after I talked with someone whom I suspected was being abused psychologically, and maybe physically as well. She was a woman with few options and I imagined what it would be like for her to try to escape her situation. After I wrote the first scene, I let it sit while I went on to other writing. But it never entirely left me. I kept thinking about it periodically. When I was invited to submit a story for Lone Star Lawless it seemed like the perfect opportunity to develop the idea. I ended up liking the story, and I hope readers do, too. This is an anthology with some great stories in it!

Matthew Turbeville’s Most Anticipated Books of 2018 (and 2019, too!)

This year is filled with a vast and exciting list of books both by great, established authors and also newcomers to the genre.  Needless to say, this is a year for mystery fans, and a year to celebrate mystery authors.  With long-awaited returns from some of the greatest authors, as well as those who continue to put out books steadily year after year, 2018 is promising to be brilliant when it comes to crime fiction, even if the rest of the world may seem a very drab.

Note to reader: This is not a comprehensive list.  The mystery world is, well, a mystery, and there will be many more wonderful surprises for readers throughout the years that have not been announced or readied yet. However, each of the books on this list are guaranteed to be a good time.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn—January 2

This is one of the most hyped and talked about books of the year, mixing literary genius with Hitchcockian elements that will keep you well up into the night.

A Map of the Dark by Karen Ellis—January 2

Order this book while you can! It is not to be missed, and hailed from greats like Alison Gaylin and others as the book of the year.

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey—January 9

A newcomer to the genre and perhaps one of the most exciting series debuts of the year.  Much hyped and much talked about.

The Wife by Alafair Burke—January 23

Burke holds nothing back in this new novel, which many consider her best.  If you were a fan of The Ex, an Edgar nominee, don’t hesitate to preorder this novel.

Into the Black Nowhere by Meg Gardiner—January 30

The sequel to last year’s remarkable Unsub, this time supposedly set in Texas, will no doubt be one of the biggest blockbusters of the year.

A False Report by T. Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong—February 6

A nonfiction crime book about a supposed rape that was believed to be a lie—but might not be.

Force of Nature by Jane Harper—February 6

The sequel to Jane Harper’s The Dry, plenty of people are promising that this follow-up will more than satisfy the readers of her debut novel.

Sunburn by Laura Lippman—February 18

It’s Laura Lippman.  She took a pseudo-year hiatus to work on this novel.  It’s a masterpiece.  And it’s Laura Lippman.

The French Girl by Lexie Elliott—February 20

Friends traveling around Europe experience danger and intrigue in this new novel.

 I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara—February 27

Tragically, McNamara passed away before this book was finished—but many are already claiming it’s one of the greatest crime books ever, and that McNamara might have caught the killer had she lived to see the day.  A must read for true crime addicts.

The Cadaver King and the Country Dentist: A True Story of Injustice in the American South by Radley Balko and Tucker Carrington—February 27

Based on the title alone, we should all be reading this book.

If I Die Tonight by Alison Gaylin—March 6

Gaylin’s latest and one of her best, a not-to-be missed triumph about youth, the dangers of love and ecstasy, and the powers of redemption.

Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver—March 6

Copenhaver’s long awaited and much anticipated debut novel, which chronicles decades, encompasses many different styles, and is a fascinating and absorbing read all together.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan—March 27

Mangan’s book is the talk of the town, and is likely not one to be missed, considering the early praise it has garnered (as well as the movie deal already in the making!).

Paper Ghosts by Julia Heaberlin—April 17

It’s Julia Heaberlin, and she’s back with a novel that will surely blow us away.

 Blackout by Alex Segura—May 8

The fourth book in Alex Segura’s series, this is not one to be missed by a master of the detective genre.

The Favorite Sister by Jessica Knoll—May 15

I still obsess over Knoll’s debut novel Luckiest Girl Alive, so there’s no doubt that The Favorite Sister is in my top list of books to read this year.  I cannot wait to get my hands on this book that will surely be electric with life and passion.

How It Happened by Michael Koryta—May 15

A standalone from Koryta that comes highly recommended to me from several greats.  Surely not to be missed.

Trigger Switch by Bryon Quertermous—June 5

The third book in Quertermous’s trilogy—preorder immediately, people.

 

Give Me Your Hand by Megan Abbott—July 17

How can a beautiful friendship go wrong? Only crime can tell.  Also, it’s Megan Abbott.  I would read her grocery list. 

The Disappearing by Lori Roy—July 17

Lori Roy has a new book coming out and I cannot wait to get my hands on the ARC.  This is her first set in the present day, and the multiple-Edgar winner will surely not disappoint—she never has.

The Three Beths by Jeff Abbott—July 18

Jeff Abbott blew us out of the water last year with his book Blame, his first attempt to write primarily (and successfully so) from two women’s POVs.  This is his follow up, a brilliant book about a woman’s search for the person—or persons—who took her mother from her.  How is that not appealing?

Desolation Mountain by William Kent Krueger—August 21

I have loved William Kent Krueger for the longest time.  This is a long, ongoing series, so do your best to get caught up now.

New Crime Novel by Lou Berney—Sometime in October

LOU BERNEY HAS A NEW BOOK COMING OUT! This is his follow-up to The Long and Farway Gone, and if it’s anything like its predecessor, it will not only not disappoint, but blow your mind.

Among the Wholesome Children by Sarah Weinman—Early November

Sarah Weinman does not disappoint, with her articles, anthologies, everything.  This is her book based on the real-life case that inspired Lolita, and man am I excited.

But waittheres 2019 too

There are also a few books to be excited about in 2019, which we are already anticipating hungrily.

The Paragon Hotel by Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye is releasing another book, following her Sherlock Holmes collection of stories and the Edgar nominated Jane Steele, which I still can’t stop dreaming of.

Also, there may be another book by Alex Marwood in 2019, as well as definite entries from the brilliant Steph Cha and Amy Gentry, and so I couldn’t be more excited. Let’s just keep reaching for the future people.  In the literary world—in the crime world—it looks bright.

Please comment if you have any additional books youre looking forward to.  MysteryPeople staff are experts at recommending, reviewing, and understanding the genre, but there are always books that slip under our radar, and wed love to hear more from you! 

Scott Butki’s interview with James Lee Burke

James Lee Burke remains a master of his game, one of the best writers out there. Some of the deserved praise – including getting the Grand Master Award from the Mystery Writers of America – is for his writing style, some for how he digs deep with plots and fleshes out his unique characters.

While I have interviewed Burke here for his book featuring protagonist Texas Sheriff Hackberry Holland I, and many Burke fans, prefer his books about Dave Robicheaux. These books are set in the towns and wetlands of Louisiana.

The new book, Robicheaux, as it name implies, features Dave, and while Dave has often faced major obstacles before in this book they seem to come from everywhere and every direction. Burke often writes about Dave going to AA meetings and struggling to not drink, but in this book the struggle is worse as he not only gets drunk but can’t remember what he’s done while drunk.

Meanwhile, Dave is mourning the loss of his wife, Molly, in a car accident. So when Dave encounters the man who caused the car crash…. And when that man is himself murdered… the big question becomes: Did Dave do it? And since Dave was drunk at the time the answer is not entirely clear.

Burke agreed graciously to let me interview by email. Oh, one other note he talks in the book, and in the interview about the Jefferson Davis 8, which you can read more about here.

The book has this author’s note:

“The literary antecedents of this novel lie in two earlier works of mine. The unsolved murders in Jefferson Davis Parish formed the backdrop for the Dave Robicheaux novel titled The Glass Rainbow… These homicides are often referred to in the media as the Jeff Davis Eight.

The bombing of the Indian village in Latin America happened in 1956. I wrote about this incident in the short story titled “The Wild Wide of Life,” published in the winter issue of The Southern Review in 2017.”

With that let’s get to the interview. Thanks to my minister, Rev. Meg Barnhouse, for helping develop some of these questions.

Scott Butki: I am so glad you brought Dave back but boy did you give him some stuff to work on in this novel. Why did you decide to have Dave encounter, and try to investigate the murder of, the man who killed his wife in a car crash?

James Lee Burke: My wife was in a similar accident in New Iberia and almost died.

SB: I’ve always admired how you write about the struggle so many face with alcoholism and using AA. Why did you decide to have Dave fall off the wagon in this book?

JLB: I don’t plan the books. I think they already exist in the unconscious.

SB: In this book Dave seems a haunted man, partly due to what I asked about in the earlier questions. What did you hope to accomplish by putting him through all of this?

JLB: Mortality is not an elective study.

SB: I am happy you brought back some of Dave’s friends in this book. Why did you decide to do so?

JLB: They’re among the most interesting and brave people I have ever known.

SB: What do you want readers to take away from this book?

JLB: To fear an embryonic dictatorship and the divisiveness and racial hatred and self-doubt a dictator can inculcate in an electorate that loses faith in the Republic.

SB: When Dave imagines a just world what does that look like?

JLB: The egalitarian world that Jesus spoke of.

SB: What do you think might have worked in Dave to form his desire to be a hero, to throw himself into the ugliest mess and try to make it right?

JLB: Dave is the Chaucerian good knight. He’s a man of conscience and honor and is not capable of being otherwise.

SB: A friend, Meg, asked me to pass on this comment: “I love Dave as a wounded hero.  I love his violence and how it lives along with his spirituality. I love the descriptions of the weather and the land. I think most of us identify with him as we struggle to be good people while dragging along concrete blocks of illness injury addiction or other complications and difficulties.” Do you get a lot of feedback like that?  

JLB: Yes, I have. I don’t think a writer could receive a better compliment.

SB: In past interviews you have told me you tend to draw from older sources, like the Bible and Greek mythology rather than contemporary ones. Why is that?

JLB: I subscribe to Jung’s notion of inherited memory. I think the great stories are always within each of us. My father once said that both science and art are simply the incremental discovery of what already exists.

SB: One thing many fans of yours, including me, love is your use of language. Was your writing always like that or was there a time when you wrote closer to the traditional mysteries with lots of short sentences with the focus on plot instead of description and language?

JLB: I read the Hardy Boys when I was kid, and Mickey Spillane in high school, but neither had any influence on me. The great influences were John Dos Passos. James T. Farrell, Gerard Manley Hopkins, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Flannery O’Connor, Ernest Hemingway, and Robert Penn Warren.

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.

January Pick of the Month: DOMINIC

In Hollow Man, Mark Pryor broke from his square-jawed series hero Hugo Marston to enter the mind of prosecutor/musician/sociopath Dominic. The book showed another side and style to his talent. Now, this new year brings us the return of his anti-hero in Dominic.
The book takes place soon after the robbery, cover up, and revenge Dominic committed in Hollow Man, with him facing a few loose ends. A police detective keeps questioning Dominic while Bobby, a young man with his tendencies, keeps getting into trouble, and –most worrisome — Bobby’s sister, who Dominic seems attracted to, keeps reminding him she knows what he did. Add a position for judgeship and our man begins to maneuver.
Pryor seems to have tapped into Hitchcock as he builds his intricate tale. He piles layer upon layer of plot and tension effortlessly, yet never revealing what he intends to do until the moment of truth. Knowing that we’ve learned Dominic’s narration obfuscates from Hollow Man, he gives us differing points of view in each chapter. We are given a clearer view of the persona he exudes and where the cracks in his mask are that add to the tension. It also allows us to feel the moral blow back of Dominic’s crimes since we learn to understand his victims the way he can’t. Much like The Master Of Suspense, Pryor allows our anxiety to move between Dominic getting caught or his victims getting killed.
The book’s succinct prose and stylish black humor cut to the bone and into the dark heart of our anti-hero. We find ourselves colluding with him, even though we know better and feel the results. With Dominic, Mark Pryor once again proves to be at his best when he is writing about the worst.
Mark Pryor will be at BookPeople with Meg Gardiner on January 30th at 7pm — join us!

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.