Meike’s Top Ten Mysteries of 2016

Meike Alana truly became a trusted member of MysteryPeople this year. As author Josh Stallings said, “She looks normal, but she’s just as crazy as we are.” Her tastes run the gamut to traditional, to thriller, to noir, but as you can see in her top 10 for 2016, she has great taste. The listing is in no particular order.

  • Post by MysteryPeople Contributor Meike Alana

97803162310771. You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott 

No one plumbs the depths of teen girl depravity quite like Ms. Abbott and she’s done it again in this gripping tale of psychological suspense.  Gymnast Devon Knox is a prodigy seemingly destined for gymnastics gold, and her family will go to any lengths to help her fulfill those dreams.  When a handsome young man is violently killed, rumors begin to swirl and it becomes apparent that her dreams may be at risk.  

97814516866302. The Passenger by Lisa Lutz

I’ve often thought it wouldn’t be all that hard  to adopt a new identity—cut  and color your hair, get some glasses, throw on a hat and some baggy clothes.  Tanya Dubois must do exactly that after she comes home to find her husband dead—although she knows it was an accident, she’s sure the police will suspect her so she packs a suitcase, changes her look, and heads for Texas.  There she’s taken in by bartender Blue; running from her own past, Blue soon convinces Tanya to trade identities with her and things get a little crazy.

3. Young Americans by Josh Stallings9780996948005

Throw a heist story in a blender with glitter, drugs, and disco; add characters like a stripper who learned the fine art of safe-cracking at her grandfather’s knee and a badass ex-Marine transsexual; you get a rollicking thrill ride of a mystery. Groove to the sound of David Bowie as you blow through the year’s best heist novel! 

978163388205814. The Heavens May Fall by Allen Eskens

When a wealthy socialite is brutally murdered, suspicion immediately falls upon her husband.  Although he claims to have an alibi, a neighbor reports seeing him at the scene on the night of the murder and he’s arrested and charged with murder.  The investigating detective is convinced the police have the right man in custody; his good friend, who is counsel for the defense, is equally certain his client is innocent.  Both men will go to any lengths to prove their position, even though it threatens to destroy their friendship.  Fantastic twists in this one!

97816338817785. The Paris Librarian by Mark Pryor

I’ve been a fan of Pryor’s Paris-based series featuring Hugo Marston, head of security at the US Embassy, since his debut with “the Bookseller” several years ago.  In this latest, Pryor tries his hand at the classic locked room mystery when a body is discovered in the basement of the American Library in Paris and Hugo is called to investigate.  Stock up on croissants, you’ll be craving them with café au lait as you read this atmospheric European thriller.

97816338812666. See Also Deception by Larry Sweazy

Marjorie Trumaine lives on an isolated North Dakota farm with her  disabled husband Hank, where she works as an indexer to make ends meet.  When her friend Calla Eltmore, the local librarian, is found dead the police believe she committed suicide, but Marjorie is certain that’s not the case and sets out to uncover the truth.  In the process she uncovers myriad small town secrets  that put her safety in peril.

97816338818397. Heart of Stone by James Ziskin

Ziskin’s protagonist, Ellie Stone, is one of my favorite characters in the genre—a  confident 1960’s twenty-something girl reporter with a taste for strong whiskey and fast men.  While Ellie enjoys a late-summer holiday at her aunt and uncle’s Adirondacks lake property, two dead bodies are found on a nearby beach.  The local police chief believes these were victims of suicide, and asks Ellie to photograph the bodies as evidence.   But Ellie believes something more sinister may be behind the deaths and becomes determined to find out what really happened.

978163388120418. The Necessary Murder of Nonie Blake by Terry Shames

This latest installment of Shames’ series, set in the fictional small Texas town of Jarrett Creek, finds police chief Samuel Craddock investigating the murder of a young  woman who has recently returned to her home town after a lengthy stay in a mental institution.  Craddock soon finds himself dealing with not only murder, but multiple layers of secrets and deception that someone is determined to keep hidden.

978161695610319. His Right Hand by Mettie Ivie Harrison

Harrison is a practicing Mormon and has written an incredibly unique  series featuring Linda Walheim, the wife of a bishop in the Mormon church.  Linda’s tight-knit LDS community is thrown into upheaval when their ward’s second counselor—one of the bishops’ right hand men—is found murdered.  But when the autopsy reveals that this devout Mormon, a loving husband and father who was a pillar of the community, was a biological female, church officials seem more concerned with covering up the murder than with solving it.  Linda must step in, and in the process Harrison explores the LDS stance on gender and sexual identity.  The series provides an unprecedented glimpse inside the secretive Mormon Church and presents multiple sides to some of the complex issues its members and leaders are grappling with today.

978194422500110. Dollar Signs by Manning Wolfe

Austin attorney Merit Bridges likes her wine chilled and her men hot (and on the younger side).  In order to protect one of her clients, she goes after a shady corporation  that’s taking property from innocent people—aided by her bad-ass office manager Betty (she of the Ann Richards hair, motherly attitude, and smart mouth) , uber-fashionable paralegal Val, and investigator Ag (who wants more than friendship from Merit).  A fantastic debut, and Austin residents will have fun identifying local landmarks.

You can find all of the books listed above on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. 

Bouchercon Recap: Part 1

– Post by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

book-haul-scott

New Orleans is a city known for sin, drinking, and corruption; a perfect place for the 2016 Bouchercon where hundreds of crime novelists, publishers, and fans meet. I’ve been going solo to these things, but this time I was joined by my fellow MysteryPeople, newly named Director Of Suspense Molly Odintz and and MysteryPeople Blogger Meike Alana to divide and and conquer. That said, I was still exhausted after I was done.

Even the panels were more rollicking than usual. When Moderator Laura Lippman spoke on behalf of Megan Abbott on their “Real Housewives” discussion, panelist Greg Herren called up Megan to see if Laura was right. for the record, she was. On a panel on vigilante justice in crime fiction Stuart Neville questioned the authors who talked about the need for a vigilante hero, by saying it is a fascist trope. A panel on the use of violence got interesting when Taylor Stevens, author of The Informationist, talked about the need for it in her writings. “Our characters are gladiators in the arena and our readers want to see them get bloodied.”

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Crime Fiction Friday: “When The Hammer Comes Down” by Josh Stallings

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We’re looking forward to hosting Josh Stallings this upcoming Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM, along with Terry Shames and Scott Frank. His novel Young Americans is a heist novel set in the glam rock 70s. Here he takes a look at the war on drugs in the late 80s, with appearances from Daryl Gates and Nancy Reagan. The story originally appeared in Protectors 2: Heroes, edited by Thomas Pluck, an anthology we’re proud to sell here at BookPeople. Profits from Protectors 2: Heroes go to PROTECT, an organization that lobbies for legislation that protects children from physical, sexual, and emotional abuse.

Click here for more details about the event. 


“When The Hammer Comes Down” by Josh Stallings

“3:23 PM Los Angeles.

April hit like a firebomb. It was murder your best friend weather. Too hot to fuck weather. Watch what you say or this shit steps off weather. The only thing Angelenos hate more than rain is excessive heat. When you live in paradise anything less than perfection is an attack on your birthright. Traffic on the Harbor Freeway was building into a snarling mess. At under ten miles an hour no air moved throughthe Caprice’s open windows. Sweat dripped off Detective Madsen’s Neanderthal brow. “It is hotter than two rats fucking in a wool sock.”

“Two rats huh? Guess it is.” Detective Lunt wanted a cool drink in a cooler restaurant, instead he was driving across town for a P.R. bust and grin. “Apologize to Caselli. Eat a little shit and he’ll have our air blowing cold in bang time.”

“That walleyed inbred needle dick wrench monkey deserves nothing but my boot in his ass.”

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Screenwriter and Author Scott Frank

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Scott Frank is a screenwriter and director of exquisite talent. He has adapted Get Shorty, Out Of Sight, and Minority Report. As both writer and director, he has given us two of the best crime films in past decade, A Walk Among The Tombstones (from the Lawrence Block novel) and The Lookout.

Frank has now added “novelist” to his already impressive resume with his debut, Shaker, a crime satire that takes a New York hitman to L.A. just in time for one of California’s worst earthquakes. The book looks at gangs, the media culture, and politics, all in a style that allows for human depth and darkness as well as laughs. Mr. Frank took a few questions about the book and the switch from screen to prose. He joins us Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM, appearing alongside authors Terry Shames and Josh Stallings. 


MysteryPeople Scott: You mainly are known for your work in film. What made Shaker more suitable to tell as a novel?

Scott Frank: It was a story that depended so much on understanding the history of several characters. You couldn’t really go forward without knowing what had come before. So it just seemed more of a novel to me for that reason.

MPS: What did you enjoy doing in prose that you couldn’t do in a screenplay?

SF: When you write a film, “show not tell” is always your mantra. You don’t ever get a chance to go deep. You want to define scene and character as quickly as you can. And if you do go backwards, it can’t play as digression. It will feel like a mistake. We just don’t watch movies in the same way we read books. In a book, a digression can be the most satisfying part. It was so much fun writing about what happened before the book began, and then making it pay off.

MPS: The book has an interesting interplay between plot and backstory. On the surface, it plays like a Carl Hiassen crime satire, yet you slowly get introduced to everybody’s dark history. Was this planned going in or just happen since you were dealing with some pretty unsavory characters?

SF: It just sort of evolved. I realized that if I wanted a reader to actually care about these people, I couldn’t always write them as jokes. I thought it might be interesting for introduce someone, make an impression, then subvert that with their backstory, so that you cared about them, no matter how unsavory they turned out to be. The tone in those past sections, then, had to be more serious, but still had to somehow dovetail with the rest of the book. Was the hardest part for me. But I just heard those parts differently in my head.

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Hung Up On Romancing: Josh Stallings Remembers David Bowie

Josh Stallings’ latest work, Young Americansis a heist novel with a 70s glam-rock backdrop, set in San Francisco. Every character, much like the author, worships David Bowie. When Bowie passed away, we asked Josh if he would write a piece about his idol and in a few days he gave us this brilliant beautiful work.

“Hung Up On Romancing” by Josh Stallings

I am twelve and my big sister Lisa gives me David Bowie’s Hunky Dory. Lisa is the escape artist. She slipped the gravity of our chaotic, mad planet of a family and crash landed in Los Angeles. Violent red hair cut in a jagged bob, purple skirt, feather boa, walking cool down Hollywood Boulevard. Mythic.

I am thirteen and listening to Bowie’s Aladdin Sane. It is dirty and sexy and dangerous. In “Cracked Actor” Bowie sings of trading oral favors for fame. I hope my mother doesn’t hear this. The hippy Quaker activist woman who birthed me would panic at this casual pansexual Bacchanal. I’ll take your Erica Jong Fear of Flying zipper-less free love and raise you glitter rock’s anthem to lustful androgyny.

Bowie made it cool to be smart. Cool to love words. He was also a flag I flew to find others of my tribe. A litmus test for lifetime friendships. We might argue Rod Stewart vs Todd Rundgren, or Mott the Hoople vs Kinks, but no one questioned David Bowie’s place in our constellations. He was our north star. Our way home through the murky seas of hormones and high school.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Josh Stallings

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Josh Stallings took a break this year from his dark and brooding hero, Moses McGuire, to give us one of his best so far: Young Americans, a heist novel set in the glam-rock scene of seventies-era San Francisco. One of our Top 10 Of 2015, Young Americans works as a tight crime novel and a coming-of-age tale of friendship. Josh will be joining Terry Shames and Scott Frank on our Writers To Watch For panel, starting at 7 PM on February 1st. He was kind enough to talk with us ahead of time about his book and the life that inspired it.

MysteryPeople Scott: How did it feel working on something lighter than a Moses book?

Josh Stallings: Really freeing. Three novels in, Moses’s voice had been in my head for five years, his world view is heroically dark. I needed to come up for air and he begged to be left on a beach. I decided I needed to write a disco glam-rock heist novel. Didn’t know what that meant, but it sounded fun. And it was a blast to work on. With Bowie and Donna Summer playing, it’s hard not to smile.

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MysteryPeople Q&A with Terry Shames

  • Interview by Crime Fiction Coordinator Scott Montgomery

Terry Shames’ latest Samuel Craddock novel, The Necessary Murder Of Nonie Blake, deals with identity and family in a small town. When a woman is murdered upon her return from years in a mental hospital, Craddock takes on the case and delves deep into small-town secrets. We are happy to be hosting Terry, along with Josh Stallings and Scott Franks, on Monday, February 1st, at 7 PM. We are delighted she was able to take some time to talk about the book and the community she’s created.


MysteryPeople Scott: Part of the book deals with mental illness – what did you want to get a across to the reader about that issue?

Terry Shames: I wish I had something profound and astute to say about this, but the fact is that Nonie Blake just showed up, as most of my characters do. I’m conflicted about Nonie. When you understand her motivation, you feel compassion for her, but her decisions manifest in a distorted way. there’s a hint that some of Nonie’s mental disturbance is passed down to her from her predecessors. I don’t believe in the “inheritance” of mental illness, but I do believe that the way a family repeats its mistakes can lead to the same results. I never intend to be didactic in my books. I want to present a scenario and explore all its facets and I hope my readers will put some thought into how and why people behave they do and the consequences of that behavior not just for the immediate friends and family, but for the community.

MPS: The idea of identity also plays a big part. What did you want to explore about that concept?

TS: Anybody who has read my books knows that identity plays a big part in my writing. I’m interested in people’s secret selves, i. e., the things that people believe about themselves that others would not suspect. The ways in which people want others to admire them and how they think they fall short—and how they sometimes misread this. Especially I like to explore how people want to be seen and the lengths they will go to to protect that. And finally, I like to explore how identities are tied up in family, friends ands community. Someone like Nonie Blake can a make a terrible mistake and their identity is forever tied up with that mistake. is that fair? Is it different for members of a small town than it is for people in a city, where they can be anonymous?

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