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.
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.
Cara Black joins us here at BookPeople to speak and sign her latest Leduc Investigation, Murder in Saint-Germain,this Monday, June 12th at 7 PM. You can find copies of her latest on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Cara Black was kind enough to answer a few questions about her latest before her upcoming event.
*Warning: those who have not yet finished Murder on the Champs de Mars will find a spoiler in the following interview, although there are no spoilers as to the contents of Black’s latest.
She’s a Parisian. Politics and discussion are in the air all the time. She doesn’t trust the government, the police or sometimes her concierge but she’d do her civic duty because she’d like liberté, égalité and fraternité to be real!
Molly Odintz: Your previous novel in the series, Murder on the Quai, was a prequel, and the book before that in the series, Murder on the Champs de Mars, left readers with a bit of a cliffhanger after a shocking denouement! Was it tricky to figure out how to continue the series and keep up the momentum with Murder in Saint-Germain?
Cara Black: Good question! After the denouement in Murder on the Champs de Mars, I didn’t know what would happen to the characters. This was a game changer. But I had no clue where to go. My editor Juliet said that’s a perfect time to write a prequel and explore Aimée’s origins, how she became a detective, got her dog Miles Davis and meeting her future business partner René. Take her back to 1989 and her year in pre-med and when her father was alive so we finally get to meet him after hearing about him in so many books.
For Murder in Saint-Germain, the challenge was to forge ahead in Aimée’s ‘present’ life in 1999, her real time, and see how she was dealing with being a single mama, having an eight month old and balancing work and the man in her life. And still be a fashionista. But once I started, I just picked up with her life and put her in a hot rainy July on the Left Bank working at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and with her baby sitter going on vacation; then the story took off.
I’ve adored Cara Black’s ever-so-stylish Aimée Leduc Investigations ever since I first picked up my sister’s well-worn copy of Murder in the Maraisover ten years ago. My Francophile sister and I read everything we could about France, so of course we would fall in love with a series that started in Paris’ historic Jewish quarter, wherein we have wandered, thought about the past and eaten falafel, while appreciating the neighborhood’s mélange of old and new, gay and cis, Jewish and Muslim, and global and local. The reasons I initially fell in love with the series are personal and simple, but the series itself portrays a complex and richly detailed world, full of evolving relationships, tie-ins to French politics, and some seriously chic style.
Hey Folks! Overwhelmed by the number of amazing panels at this year’s Texas Book Festival? Can’t see the forest through the trees? Never fear, MysteryPeople is here with a guide to mystery, thriller and true crime happenings at the fest. Here’s a link to the full schedule, but in the following schedule, you can see we’ve picked out some of the highlights for crime fiction fans.
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.
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.
Gina Wohlsdorf’s debut thriller, Security, is a perfect mixture of romance, action, and surveillance, told from the multiple perspectives of a hotel’s security cameras just before its grand opening. The hotel, named Manderley Luxury Resort, is the modern-day mixture of many of fiction’s creepiest mansions and resorts. Security follows two men, the Killer and the Thinker, as they carve their way through the hotel’s staff. Are they psychotic serial killers? Are they trained mercenaries? Is it personal? All these questions may not even matter to the reader once they become fully immersed in the queasy voyeurism of narration-by-camera and watch the novel’s two heroes, hotel manager Tessa and her foster brother Brian, rekindle their childhood romance as they fight for their lives. The novel concludes with a stunning chase sequence and a host of shocking reveals, and the end is strangely emotionally affecting.
This one is part fairy tale, part abduction narrative. When a young girl in a red coat goes missing from a fairground, her mother suspects the worst, worried her fey-like child might never return. Hammer continues the tale from the dual perspectives of mother and daughter as they face their own challenges in their quest to reunite. Unexpected and haunting, with gorgeous prose and fascinating characters!
I’ve followed Cara Black and her oh-so-stylish detective, Aimée Leduc, throughout Black’s Paris-set series, as the Leduc Detective Agency solves many a case and Aimée’s wardrobe acquires many a Chanel suit. Her new addition, Murder on the Quai, should delight long-term fans and newcomers to the series alike! Cara Black will be at BookPeople this Thursday, June 23rd, at 7 PM, to speak and sign her latest. She’ll be joined by Texas author Lisa Sandlin for a panel discussion on private eyes from Paris to Beaumont.
Murder on the Quai takes the reader back to Aimée’s med-school days in 1989, before her decision to join her father’s detective agency as a partner. A woman claiming to be a distant relative of Aimée’s mother comes to the Leduc Detective Agency seeking information about a string of killings. Aimée’s father refuses to investigate, instead undertaking a mysterious mission to Berlin. In her father’s absence, Aimée accepts the case, hoping to discover more information about her mother, and to distract herself from an increasingly frustrating med-school experience. Aimée’s 1989 case slowly dovetails with a series of flashbacks to rural France during WWII, in which several farmers attempt to combine resistance to fascism with a quest for personal gain, triggering terrible consequences.
Cara Black has done her fans a service with an excellent prequel that answers many of her series’ biggest questions, including, finally, the reason for Aimée’s mother’s disappearance. The 1989 setting is used to great effect – Black portrays a moment in French history stunned by the end of the Cold War and torn between past crimes, and historical legacies and future dreams. As always, Black excels at mixing Parisian fashion with PI gadgets – even in her youth, Aimée Leduc is a tough and stylish heroine ready to sick her bichon frise on anyone who crosses her.