Scott’s Top Ten of 2017 (So Far)

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Around this time of the year, we like to look back on what has come out so far in the year as we think of suggestions for reading for the rest of the summer. Below, you’ll find recommended reads that deserve their due. In fact some are so good I had to combine a few, so my top ten is a top twelve.

97800626644191. The Force by Don Winslow

I know, an obvious choice, but it is so obviously great. This epic look at today’s New York through police eyes has plot, character, and theme singing together in this opera of city corruption. You can find copies of The Force on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

 


97803163805772. The Long Drop by Denise Mina

Mina takes Scotland’s crime of the last century and brings it to a chilly intimate scale. A deep, multi-faceted reflection on class, media, and the darkness that lies in our hearts. You can find copies of The Long Drop on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

3. She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper

9780062394408A tour de’ force debut novel about a career criminal on the road with his eleven year old daughter after they’ve been targeted by a white supremacist gang. Both brutal and beautiful. You can find copies of She Rides Shotgun on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Jordan Harper joins us to speak and sign his latest on Wednesday, July 21st at 7 PM. 

97803991730424. What You Break by Reed Farrel Coleman

The second Gus Murphy novel has the reluctant detective working two cases involving past sins. A perfect balance between a a hard boiled detective tale and a multi-faceted and emotional character study. You can find signed copies of What You Break on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97803991731105. The Weight Of This World by David Joy

A heart breaker of a rural noir concerning a vet back in his Appalachian home, his mother, and ne’r do well friend whose who dive head first into violence and loss when a bunch of money and drugs falls into their laps. Joy poignantly shows how certain lives can close in one the ones living them. You can find copies of The Weight of This World on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97803995767136. Little White Lies & The Fallen by Ace Atkins

Atkins uses Robert B Parker’s Spenser and his own Quinn Colson to explore Trump’s America. Both books prove you can how social insight and be entertaining as hell. You can find copies of Little White Lies on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. You can additionally find copies of The Fallen on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Ace joins us to speak and sign his latest on Friday, July 21st at 7 PM

97803162642117. Crime Song by David Swinson & Exit Strategy by Steve Hamilton

Two debut characters from last year, junkie PI frank Marr and Nick Mason, a man in indentured criminal servitude to a kingpin who runs his empire behind bars, returned in novels that proved they can go the series distance. Both authors talent for reveals and reversals and emotionally real and complex characters have me impatiently waiting for the third book in both series. You can find copies of Crime Song on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. You can find signed copies of Exit Strategy on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97803162717768. Every Night I Dream Of Hell by Malcolm MacKay

A wildly entertaining Scottish noir about an enforcer forced to take over his crew after his boss was nicked. Full of colorful criminal characters and pitch black humor. You can find copies of Every Night I Dream of Hell on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

9. A Welcome Murder by Robin Yocum

9781633882638

A twisted tale of rust belt town and its perverse citizens caught in the ripple effect of its high school sports hero returning from prison to grab his drug money and the murder of his old nemesis. Yocum creates each characters voice distinctively and keeps all the plates spinning in a funny and engaging fashion. You can find copies of A Welcome Murder on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

978194340259510. Bad Boy Boogie by Thomas Pluck

This story of a man coming out of prison, learning he still has to pay for murdering a mob bosses bullying son when they where teens is a moving study of stunted emotional growth and male identity. Picture Dennis Lehane slammed into James Lee Burke and filtered through Bruce Springsteen. You can find copies of Bad Boy Boogie on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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. 

2. Six Four by Hideo Yokoyama9780374265519

American crime fiction sometimes seemed defined by intentionality – cops are either effective or corrupt, but certainly never incompetent. Not so in Japanese crime fiction, or at least, in this sprawling Ellroy-esque take-down of a vast police conspiracy designed to cover up a single, stupid mistake. After a botched kidnapping rescue resulting in the death of the victim, a department’s urge to prove professional competency plus the need to save face lead to a cover-up that goes all the way up to the top. Years later, a cop transferred to media relations puts aside his former departmental loyalties to continue the kidnapping investigation and discover the shocking truth behind the initial investigation… You can find copies of Six Four on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

3. Police at the Station and They Don’t Look Friendly by Adrian McKinty 

9781633882591

When a petty drug dealer gets taken down with a crossbow, Detective Sean Duffy scratches his head, wondering why anyone would bother with such an old-fashioned murder weapon in a region filled to the brim with guns. The seemingly symbolic murder weapon is only the first in a series of strange occurrences, as Duffy’s investigation leads him to uncovering a vast conspiracy. Like the previous installments in McKinty’s Sean Duffy series, his latest continues to illustrate the morally complex landscape of Northern Ireland in the 1980s. You can find copies of Police at the Station & They Don’t Look Friendly on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

4. Among the Ruins by Ausma Zehanat Khan9781250096739

After the events of The Language of Secrets, Khan’s previous installment of her community policing series, you can’t blame her handsome hero Esa Khattack for wanting a vacation. Off he trots to Esfahan, a historic city in Iran known for its beauty, only to be recruited by the Canadian Secret Service to investigate the murder of a Canadian-Iranian documentary filmmaker. He ropes in his partner Rachel to do a little investigating back home, and together they discover a vast conspiracy. Set against the background of the Iranian Green Movement, Among the Ruins provides some much-needed exploration of an underappreciated historical moment. A timeline provides context, while the driving pace demonstrates Ausma Zehanat Khan’s growing mastery of the mystery and espionage genres. You can find copies of Among the Ruins on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

97812501111735. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough

A woman goes out to celebrate her new job, spending part of the evening in the company of a handsome stranger. She’s much surprised to discover the next morning that her companion of the previous evening is her new boss – and he’s married. Things start to get strange when her boss’ wife befriends her, even as she continues to be attracted to her boss. This book has the BEST TWIST ENDING EVER!!!!!!!!!!! You can find signed copies of Behind Her Eyes on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

6. Murder in Saint Germain by Cara Black 9781616957704

Cara Black’s latest takes us into the historic and artistic neighborhood of Saint Germain as she continues her work for l’Ecole des Beaux Artes while raising her new bébé, Chloe. Despite postponing a visit to her now-distant mentor, Morbier, as he lays in the hospital, Aimée’s life is almost too busy for her to handle. To add more to her plate,  a friend she owes asks her for help tracking down a Serbian war criminal, previously thought to be dead, after he is spotted in a Paris Cafe. Aimée works to track down the fugitive as her friend’s former peacekeeping squad begins to disappear, one by one. You can find signed copies of Murder in Saint Germain on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

7.He Said, She Said by Erin Kelly 9781250113696

Kelly’s unusual domestic suspense novel tells the story of a relationship, bracketed by eclipses, obscuring truth like sunlight until the final revelations at the end. In the present day, a husband leaves his pregnant wife to go celebrate an eclipse in the Arctic Circle. His wife fears that his trip will trigger a visit by a dangerous woman from their past.  Flashbacks take us through the couple’s first celebration of an eclipse together, a perfect vacation marred by their intervention to stop a sexual assault. The victim befriends the couple, with far-reaching consequences. You can find copies of He Said, She Said on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

8. The Girl Before by J. P. Delaney9780425285046

I love architecture mysteries – that is, when the architecture of the setting steps out of the background to shape the narrative. J. P. Delaney’s book is first about a house, and second about two women who live there at different times, each facing danger. The owner of the modern house at the heart of the story requires tenants to shed all material objects and change their way of living to the minimalism best suited to their new abode. Some tenants thrive under the new restrictions, while others allow their residence to become more and more of a prison, trapping them in their obsessions, to the detriment of those surrounding… You can find copies of The Girl Before on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

9. A Rising Man by Abir Mukherji9781681774169

A murder investigation opens a window into life in India under British rule. Just after his arrival to his new posting, a shell-shocked veteran of WWI must investigate the murder of a high-ranking British official, found dead in a slum. First in a new series, this one’s a new favorite with staff and regulars alike! You can find copies of A Rising Man on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

978080212654210. The State Counsellor by Boris Akunin

Akunin’s late-imperial tales of 19th century Russia, like the game Tetris, represent one of the more popular exports from the frozen north – and both just happen to contain irresistible puzzles. The armchair traveler interested in Russian history, or in the roots of modern-day oligarchy, should enjoy this latest in the series. Inspector Fandorin plays a cat-and-mouse game with a determined revolutionary known only as Green, who’s been working hard to assassinate those deemed guilty of injustice. Spies, revolutionaries, aristocrats, and functionaries fill out the complex landscape of Russian society as the great upheavals of the 20th century loom ahead. You can find copies of The State Counselor on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

MysteryPeople Q&A with Denise Mina

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Our Pick Of The Month, Denise Mina’s The Long Drop, looks at the famous Scottish trial of Peter Manuel, a small time thief charged with the murders of three women. We also flash back to years earlier with a pub crawl for the ages, as Manuel takes William Watt, the husband and father of two of the victims, who was also a suspect, out on the town. The book is a dark look at class, media, and crime. We caught up with Denise to talk about those subjects and the period the story takes in.

MysteryPeople Scott: You often use true crime and scandal as a basis for your stories, changing names and details, but here you stuck close to story with part of the fiction taking place in the shadows of the events. What was it it about this murder and trial that made you stick closer to the history with the many of the real events and names?

Denise Mina: I had to stick close to the real story because it simply wasn’t credible as fiction. Usually I take a premise or an interesting idea but this story was so odd I felt it needed told the way it happened. OJ and Polanski set out to ‘turn detective’ and solve the murders they were involved with, so that was transferable, but the rest it was particular to that story. Also everyone in it was dead and they didn’t have kids to upset so I figured it would be okay.

MPS: This was also the first time you went back into a time you went back to a time you didn’t experience yourself. How did you tackle that challenge?

DM: I wrote it as a play originally and it was produced in Glasgow so I was pretty steeped in it even before I began the researched the book. This period is when Glasgow’s reputation was made, Like Detroit in the 1960s and it felt very familiar. I got too into it actually. I could feel that old city more than the pretty, latte-and-sushi hipster place Glasgow of now.

MPS: What did the novel allow you to do that writing it as a play didn’t?

DM: The novel let me tell the story as an internal voice so I could go into the actor’s minds and see how it looked from their POV. Most of the facts presented to the court were obvious lies, everyone came forward because they were trying to do the right thing, even life long criminals, the cops all told the truth because they were cops etc. In serial killer stories what is often most interesting is the way people behave around them, rather than what they do.

MPS: I read in reviews that Watts is less sympathetic in the book than he was in the play. Did you come to a different understanding of him between projects?

DM: In the original play Watt was a nicer guy who has innocently stumbled into a freaky situation. A lot of older people came to see it and they cornered me at the end and told me that I had told it wrong. The official story was that Watt, a prominent businessman, was innocent. That was the finding of the trial. But the old dears said it was more complicated than that. The story in the city was that Watt took the guard dog away from the house on the night of the murders. It was much better.

MPS: Class plays an important part important part of the novel and many of your others. What makes that an interesting theme for you to explore?

DM: Part of the beauty of crime novels is that they can span society. Class is a natural source of conflict but largely unspoken. Class of origin, adoptive social class, aspiration, these are all major sources of social identity. Honestly, I bang on about it so much, I’m starting to feel like a lonely Marxist professor who should have retired years ago.

MPS: Do you think these murders would be just as shocking and be the media sensation today?

DM: Definitely. There is something uniquely creepy about home invasions and eating in a house where you’ve just killed people is revolting, somehow. Of course, the added element as in Bundy, was the fact that Manuel was attractive and represented himself. He was a pretty clever little psychopath.

You can find copies of The Long Drop on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE LONG DROP by Denise Mina

  • Review by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780316380577Denise Mina has often used true crime and scandal for the basis of her novels. Usually she tears off the headline and runs with it, going further with the ideas and situations it suggests. With The Long Drop, she takes one of Glasgow’s most notorious murder cases, keeping the names of those involved, cutting closer to the bone and going deep instead of far. The result is her finest book to date.

in 1956, three women, Marion Watt, her daughter Viviene, and family friend Margret Brown were found in bed with a bullet in each head. Marion’s husband, William Watt, a man with a known drinking problem was the first chief suspect. Mina creates a fictional account of Watt meeting Peter Manuel, a petty burglar who was eventually put on trial for the murders, in a club arranged by Watt’s lawyer. Manuel agrees to tell him everything about the night of the killings if they ditch the lawyer. The story proceeds to follow their dark pub crawl, interweaving it with Manuel’s trail two years later.

Mina tells the interlocking stories contrasting in tone, yet reflecting off one another for deeper thought and meaning.The night between Watt and Manuel has the feel of a subdued thriller filled with quiet Watt’s quiet desperation as he is at the whims of a quiet mad man. First the novel is about finding the truth, then the nature of truth itself is put to the question. The last part of that question is examined in the sensational trial that captured O.J. level interest in Scotland with Manuel defending himself and Watt testifying on a stretcher. This part starts at a great distance, capturing place and period more by attitude of the time than tossing historical detail at the reader. Mina slowly becomes more intimate, yet cold as we get to know those involved with the case, creating a feel much like Capote’s In Cold Blood especially near the end. For Americans unfamiliar with the case, only look into it after you’ve read the book, since it creates some unintended suspense for us.

Just a little over two hundred pages, the novel is concentrated Denise Mina. Class, a subject she often explores, is examined through Watt’s and Manuel’s interactions. It becomes especially apparent when when Watt mocks in his mind a club that Manuel would find posh even though it is below his tastes. It’s an odd feeling of superiority displayed by a man at the mercy of the other. Forms of guilt and sin are measured. Mina creates a mystery out of Watt’s goal for information. Through Manuel is he trying to find justice for his wife and daughter, simple exoneration, or a deeper absolution? There appears to be enough guilt to go around.

The Long Drop is a well cut, cold hard diamond of a novel, showing off the many facets of its thematics. While much is revealed, we are properly left with more haunting questions than when we started. Denise Mina respects her readers and their emotional intelligence in her acknowledgment that no murder, solved or unsolved, punished or unpunished, ever has closure.

The Long Drop comes out May 23rd – pre-order now! 

MysteryPeople Q&A with Denise Mina

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Denise Mina’s latest Alex Morrow novel, intriguingly titled Blood, Salt, Water, is more of a ‘why done it’ than a ‘who done it.’ The detective inspector looks into what she initially suspects to be a mob killing, but the case proves both knottier in resolution and in morality when her investigation leads her to Helensburg, a small tourist town. Denise was kind enough to take enough to take some questions from us across the pond.

“It was a strange year, when I was writing this book. We had a referendum about whether Scotland wanted to leave the UK and become an independent country so EVERYTHING became about identity politics. It was like we all became teenagers again, the way teens are working out their identity obsessively and see everything as a statement about themselves. Even now, the Syrian War is discussed in terms of ‘what does this say about us’?”

MysteryPeople Scott:  Many of your novels are based on a true crime. Was this one?

Denise Mina: It was. Helensburgh is a beautiful town on the west coast of Scotland but there was a horrible house fire there and it turned out it was arson. The story that came out was that there had been a series of fires out there, caused by a gang of drugs dealers in the area. The town seemed to be waiting for permission to name the arsonist. Then there was a TV appeal featuring a reconstruction of the setting of the fire. A policeman played the part of the arsonist and the public were informed that CCTV was available. A lot of people called from the town, naming the same guy responsible, saying they recognised the guy in the film. I went to the court case when the guys were finally charged. It was bizarre.

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Three Picks for December

  • Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

9780316380546Blood, Salt, Water by Denise Mina

A murder victim’s cell phone leads Glasgow DI Alex Morrow to a seaside town that has more darkness and secrets than one would imagine. Denise Mina is one of the best crime fiction writers to come out of Scotland. You can find copies of Blood, Salt, Water on our shelves and via bookpeople.com


9781440592058A Better Goodbye by John Schulian

This book follows the relationship of a massage parlor worker and the tarnished-knight ex-boxer hired to work security for the place. A evocative and human modern LA hard boiled. You can find copies of A Better Goodbye on our shelves and via bookpeople.com


9780986259418A Fine Dark Line by Joe Lansdale

I am thrilled that one of my all time favorite Lansdale books is back in print. Set in the late Fifties, a young boy discovers a collection of old love letters behind his family’s drive in that unlock the fist clues to a twenty year old murder mystery. One of the author’s most personal novels.You can find copies of A Fine Dark Line on our shelves and via bookpeople.com

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