50 Mystery Novels by Women Crime Writers, Read in a Year

  • Post by Molly Odintz

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.

Many of the books below are part of the zeitgeist – you’ll see a lot of girls in the title. I’ve also tried to focus on reading some of their antecedents, and you’ll see works on the list from Dorothy Hughes, Daphne Du Maurier, Margaret Millar, Patricia Highsmith, and other classic women crime writers of mid-century America, plus a couple of golden age works from Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie. You won’t find many representatives of the tough second-wave protagonists of the 80s and 90s, or many works in translation – both areas, I’m sorry to admit, I neglected in the past year.

You will find quite a few books set in Texas, and some that have yet to be released; both quirks of a bookseller’s reading habits, as we tend to dive deep into the literature of our areas, and often receive early copies of upcoming releases.

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Molly’s Top Ten International Crime Novels of 2016

  • Post by Director of Suspense Molly Odintz

2016 was a stellar year in international crime fiction – the stories below run the gamut from humorous to heart-breaking, daring to disturbing, and playful to pensive. There are entries on the list from Britain, Ireland, Brazil, Canada, France, Argentina, and more, yet the works are just some of the standouts in a thriving international crime fiction community. 

97800624407781. The Mother by Yvette Edwards

Yvette Edwards tells a moving tale from a complex perspective in this story of murder and consequences in London. Eight months after 16-year-old Ryan is stabbed to death by another teenager, his killer goes on trial, ready to protest his innocence. Ryan’s mother, and her sister Lorna, are torn between their search for justice and their empathy for the teenager on trial. The outcome of the trial comes down to the testimony of a vulnerable teenage mother previously involved with both Ryan and the defendant, and after amping up the action in the last third of the book, Edwards provides a hopeful conclusion. One of the most necessary and moving books of the year.

97815942064052. Perfect Days by Raphael Montes

This book is twisted! Frustrated by a lack of fulfillment in his imaginary relationship with a cadaver, a young medical student kidnaps a writer named Clarice and takes her on road trip through Brazil. From locking her in a suitcase to forcing her to accept his edits to her novel, the doctor-in-training makes Clarice’s life hell, all while justifying his actions to the reader in increasingly bizarre and sometimes comical ways. After several reversals of power, the ending will leave your mouth agape. As funny as it is disturbing!

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31 Crime Novels by Women: A New Year’s Resolution Progress Report in Honor of Women’s Equality Day

  • Post by Molly Odintz

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.

Minotaur Books Created This Stunning Image to Celebrate Women's Equality Day
Minotaur Books created this stunning image in celebration of Women’s Equality Day (this year, Friday, August 26th).

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.

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MysteryPeople Review: JUDENSTAAT by Simone Zelitch

9780765382962– Post by Molly Odintz

I’ll admit it, I’ve been on a bit of an alternative history kick this year. Rather than continue watching the TV adaptation, I finally read The Man in the High Castle, and earlier this year, I read and raved about A Man Lies Dreaming, Lavie Tidhar’s brilliant send-off of Hitler as a disenfranchised German refugee working as a private detective in a world where Communists, rather than Fascists, win the German elections of 1933. Then I picked up Simone Zelitch’s Judenstaata brilliant and complex merging of the strange histories of Israel, East Germany, and Birodbidjan (Stalin’s bizarre attempt at a Soviet Jewish state).

Simone Zelitch’s novel Judenstaat is one of those rare fictional works that has content truly representative of the complexities of history. Many authors use history for inspiration; Zelitch feels the weight of history, its idiosyncrasies and its parallels. Even moreso, Zelitch understands the use of history. Judenstaat takes place in 1989, in an alternative history where post-WWII, the Soviet Union has created a Jewish state in the German region of Saxony, and therein allowed Jewish residents protection for their lives, but not their identity. Highly assimilated residents, terrified of being purged or sent to the east, have replaced continuation of culture with worship of the state. Those who wish to continue practicing Judaism traditionally are relegated to lumpenproletariat status and looked down upon in the novel as “blackhats.”

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On Alternative History and Historical Amnesia: MysteryPeople Q&A with Simone Zelitch

Earlier this year, I had the pleasure of reading Simone Zelitch’s Judenstaata brilliant and complex merging of the strange histories of Israel, East Germany, and Birodbidjan (Stalin’s bizarre attempt at a Soviet Jewish state). Judenstaat takes place in the late 80s, in an alternative history where post-WWII, the Soviet Union has created a Jewish state in the German region of Saxony. Zelitch was kind enough to take some questions about the book and its inspirations. 

Molly Odintz: Judenstaat brings together threads from the history of several regions and peoples – you weave together the history of East Germany, Birobidjan and Israel/Palestine for a many-layered alternative history of Saxony as a Jewish state. How much did you draw on real history for your narrative? How did you create a story that functions on so many different levels? 

Simone Zelitch: Probably the one thing that weaves all these histories together is the way that nation-states tell stories—and what gets left out of those stories.  In the case of Judenstaat, my own reading about Zionism and my time in the Peace Corps in post Cold War Hungary led me to think about the way that “narratives” are constructed, but as I pursued the idea of a Jewish State in Germany, I was lucky enough to find some books that complicated my own preconceived ideas and really enriched the novel.   Three books that come to mind are:   Amos Elon’s The Pity of It All a marvelous account of the history of Jews in Germany, Nora Levin’s two-volume The Paradox of Survival: the Jews in the Soviet Union Since 1917, and Mary Fulbrook’s The People’s State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker.  They all made me consider a specific legacy (Jews in the tradition of the very German Moses Mendelson), a specific dilemma (how Jews survived or didn’t survive in Stalin’s Soviet Union and the countries under its domination), and a specific location (a German state which—much like East Germany– constructs its own origin story as a response to fascism, with its borders, and, of course, its wall).   I think these different layers do challenge readers, particularly as I overlay an imaginary history.   My hope is that my focus on Judit, the archivist, and her own struggle to make sense of all these layers, gives readers a chance to struggle along with her.   

“But here’s the real key to Judenstaat:  Nineteen-Eighty Four.   I recently wrote that my novel is Orwell Fan Fiction.   I borrowed Orwell’s structure—from the Ministry of Truth where history is rewritten, to a Leon Trotsky-like bogey-man who challenges the Great Leader, to the hidden, secret book/manifesto.”

 

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Molly’s Top Ten (actually, 11) of the Year (So Far)

  • Post by bookseller and blogger Molly Odintz

97816162056211. Security by Gina Wohlsdorf

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.


97816121950012. The Girl in the Red Coat by Kate Hamer

 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!

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