Rainy Day Reads: The Murder in the Afternoon Book Club takes on Tartan Noir

  • Post by Molly Odintz

Please join us Tuesday, January 19th, at 2 PM as we discuss Knots and Crosses, by Ian Rankin. Ian Rankin will be speaking and signing his latest Rebus novel, Even Dogs in the Wild, on Sunday, January 31st, at 3 PM. All BookPeople events are free and open to the public. Pre-order a signed copy!

9780312536923Like many novels considered noir, Ian Rankin’s first Rebus novelKnots and Crosses, falls comfortably into the descriptive category of “starts bad, gets worse.” As the novel opens, Inspector John Rebus is divorced, ambiguously religious, living in Scotland, and still traumatized by his experiences training for special forces twenty years before.

Amidst a cloud of cigarette smoke and brooding, he works to solve a series of murders, each victim the same age and description as his own 12-year-old daughter, Samantha. Meanwhile, threatening notes arrive at the inspector’s door, referencing a betrayal clouded by Rebus’ significant memory gaps. As he fights to find the serial killer, John begins to suspect the carefully conducted crimes contain a message for Rebus himself.

Read More »

Molly’s Top Ten Mysteries of 2014

post by Molly

As the year comes to a close, it is time to compile as many lists as possible of our favorite books of the year. Here are my top ten –  you’ll see quite a bit of overlap between my top ten international list and this one, but I’ll also profile a few books from inside  the states. You may notice a paucity of female authors – one of my New Year’s resolutions is to read more female mystery writers, so you will see more on the list next year. The following  books are in no particular order of preference – all are equally fantastic.


in the morning1. In The Morning, I’ll Be Gone by Adrian McKinty  
McKinty brings his Troubles Trilogy to a (literally) explosive close as Detective Sean Duffy gets assigned by British secret service  to track down an old classmate turned IRA bigwig.


fever2. The Fever by Megan Abbott

Abbott takes on middle class paranoia and the dangerous lives of adolescent girls in this modern update to the Salem Witch Trials.  Teenage girls are falling ill in a small, polluted New England town and parents, teenagers, and the CDC work to find the cause before  the contagion can spread.


williammcilvanneylaidlaw3. Laidlaw by William McIlvanney

McIlvanney wrote this early Tartan Noir in the mid-1970s, and several decades later, it’s back in print and available on our shelves.  DI Laidlaw is a dour but compassionate man, working to find a criminal and put him in custody before a murdered girl’s family can take  their own revenge.


day of atonement4. The Day of Atonement by David Liss

Liss takes a break from his Benjamin Weaver character to take us into a stand-alone tale of revenge best served cold – a Jewish Count  of Monte Cristo, if you will. A young converso, after fleeing to England, embraces his Jewish heritage and returns to Lisbon to visit  revenge upon the inquisitor who betrayed his family.


the good life5. The Good Life by Frank Wheeler

Wheeler takes us deep into the messed-up head of a corrupt Nebraskan sheriff taking control of the drug trade in his small town. As  the body count got higher, my willingness to ever visit rural Nebraska got steadily lower. But hey, that’s what people think of Texas,  too.


ghostmonth6. Ghost Month by Ed Lin

Ed Lin sets his latest novel in Taipei’s historic Night Market as a college dropout/food vendor tries to find out who killed his ex- girlfriend. Full of vast conspiracies, bizarre foods, and a whole lot of Joy Division lyrics, Ghost Month is the best kind of  international noir.


last winter we parted7. Last Winter, We Parted by Fuminori Nakamura

A reporter is assigned to write a book on a photographer imprisoned for burning his models alive in a quixotic attempt to capture  their essence. As the reporter learns more about the photographer and the photographer’s sister, he begins to question the nature of  reality while at the same time getting ever closer to discovering the pair’s nefarious secrets. The most literary noir I’ve read this  year.


rose gold8. Rose Gold by Walter Mosley

Walter Mosley’s long-running protagonist Easy Rawlins returns to the page in this wild romp through the swinging sixties and the  nascent Black Power movement. Mosely creates a sympathetic portrayal of characters marginalized by society and once again immerses us  in his diverse vision of historic Los Angeles.


the black hour9. The Black Hour by Lori Rader-Day

This was my favorite debut of the year. Rader-Day crafts an intricate mystery set in the echoing halls of the Ivory Tower, addressing  school violence, battles over funding, and just about every other collegiate controversy you can name. I can’t wait to see what she  does next.


final silence10. The Final Silence – Stuart Neville

Stuart Neville has actually written a believable serial killer narrative set in Northern Ireland and seamlessly integrated into the  history of the Troubles. I thought it couldn’t be done, and I was wrong. Thank you, Mr. Neville.


secret history of las vegasHonorable Mention: The Secret History of Las Vegas, by Chris Abani

I just started reading this one, so I don’t want to put it on the official list, but judging by the first ten pages, this will be one  of the most beautifully written mysteries I have ever read. Given the psychopathic crimes, conjoined twins, and Las Vegas setting,  this will also be one of the creepiest.

 


Copies of each book are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

Scott and Molly’s Top Eight Reissues of 2014

This was a great year for publishers bringing back classics into print. It’s important to keep legacy publishing going, to inspire writers and readers alike. Here are eight books brought back into print this year that are well worth your time today.


Molly’s Top Four Reissues


williammcilvanneylaidlaw1. Laidlaw by Ian McIlvanney

When Ian McIlvanney took some time off writing poetry in the 1970s to write the Detective Laidlaw trilogy, he had no idea that he was  quietly creating the genre of Scottish Noir, or as some like to refer to it, Tartan Noir. Europa Editions reissued the first and  second volumes of the DI Laidlaw Trilogy this year – Laidlaw and The Papers of Tony Veitch – and the third volume, Strange Loyalties,  is due out April 2015. In a city as grey and dismal as Edinburgh, especially in the 1970s, it should be no surprise that Detective  Inspector Laidlaw is about as noir as it gets.


borderline2. Borderline by Lawrence Block

Lawrence Block is one of the most prolific and admired authors writing today, and after a 60-year career, Mr. Block has quite a few  novels to bring back into print. Borderline, a relic of the porn paperback industry, was initially published in the 1950s, and what  read as salacious at that time now reads as coy and clever. Borderline takes place in El Paso and Juarez as several desperate  characters, including a serial killer, collide in a murderous take on the Beatnik experience.


mad and the bad3. The Mad and the Bad, by Jean-Patrick Manchette

This classic, crazed French noir, originally written in the 1970s,and now reissued through New York Review of Books, stars a spoiled heir, a suspicious  red-headed uncle, a nanny recently released from the mental ward, and a professional killer suffering from ulcers, all with a severe  penchant for violence. Follow the nanny and the heir as they are kidnapped by the professional killer, and be rewarded with the most  violent road trip across France since the D-Day invasion. The novel’s ending is explosive and stylish, reminiscent of the recent film  Hanna in the fairy-tale setting of its final showdown.


gb844. GB84 by David Peace

Originally released in 2004, and never before published in the United States, possibly because of its radical politics, GB84 is David  Peace’s epic and intense depiction of the 1984 Coal Miners’ Strike in Great Britain. Through shifting perspectives and shadowy goings  on, lurking Special Branch agents and striking miners beaten by police, Peace merges history and crime novel to create a portrait of  Margaret Thatcher’s England more Orwellian than even George Orwell could have imagined.


Scott’s Top Four Reissues


get carter1. Get Carter (AKA) Jack’s Trip Back by Ted Lewis

Syndicate Books kicked off their publishing enterprise earlier this year with Ted Lewis’ trilogy featuring cold to the bone London mob enforcer Jack Carter. In  this first book, Carter is in full ruthless form, returning to his Northern England home town to hunt down the folks who killed his  brother.


pop12802. Pop 1280 by Jim Thompson

Mulholland books have reprinted almost all of Jim Thompson’s work with elegant new covers, with many having introductions by famed  authors. Daniel Woodrell introduces this violent and satiric tale of a crooked sheriff in the the early 20th century American South. The book looks at race,  greed, corruption, and love with a jaundiced yet inventive eye.


hardcase3. Hardcase by Dan Simmons

Mulholland also brought this hard boiled gift back in print, introducing us to Joe Kurtz, a private eye who makes Mike Hammer look  like a Hardy boy. You can feel Simmons love for the genre as spins this tale of Joe setting himself back in business after a ten year  prison stint, working for the mob boss who’s son he saved in the joint. The follow ups, Hard Freeze and Hard As Nails, will be out in  2015.


elmore leonard library of america4.  4 Novels From The 70s by Elmore Leonard

One of our most influential authors gets the American Library treatment. This first of three volumes features 52 Pick-Up, SwagUnknown Man #89, and The Switch. The reader can track the progress of an already seasoned writer developing a voice that would leave  its mark.

 


You can find copies of the books listed above on our shelves or via bookpeople.com. All books listed above as forthcoming are available for pre-order on our website.

Molly’s Top Ten International Crime Novels of 2014

Post by Molly

I have always loved international crime fiction – something about crimes on other shores sparks the imagination in a way that a news bulletin from across town can’t quite mimic. 2014 has been a fantastic year for international crime fiction, with great new releases from all my favorite crime fiction publishers. I celebrated International Crime Fiction Month (known to the layman as June) at the store by launching a new blog series profiling mysteries set across the globe, and now it’s time to pick my top ten international crime fiction novels of 2014.


williammcilvanneylaidlaw1. Laidlaw, by William McIlvanney – This reissue from Europa Editions’ World Noir Imprint takes place in a dismal 1970s Edinburgh, as a dour detective races to find a murder suspect before vigilantes get there first. Scotland’s miserable weather and, in this novel, even more miserable denizens are a perfect fit for noir.

 


in the morning2. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone, by Adrian McKinty – McKinty finished up his Belfast-set Troubles Trilogy earlier this year with an explosive conclusion. Detective Sean Duffy, catholic policeman, punk aficionado, and all-around smartass, is hired by MI5 to track down an old schoolmate-turned-terrorist in what turns into a fascinating retelling of the closest Margaret Thatcher ever got to being assassinated.

 


last winter we parted3. Last Winter, We Parted, by Fuminori Nakamura – Not all Japanese detective novels are poetic explorations of alienation in modern society, but this novel certainly is. Last Winter We Parted follows a young journalist’s interviews with a photographer convicted of burning two of his models alive in a quixotic attempt to capture their essence. As the journalist becomes closer to the photographer and his sister, he begins to lose his own self.


ghostmonth4. Ghost Month, by Ed LinGhost Month is Ed Lin’s first novel set abroad; his previous novels, set in New York City, have centered around the Chinese and Taiwanese-American community, and now Lin has voyaged to Taiwan itself. Ghost Month, takes place in the vibrant Night Market of Taipei, following a Joy Division-obsessed dropout as he tries to discover who killed his ex-girlfriend.

 


minotaurshead5. The Minotaur’s Head, by Marek Krajewski – Set in Poland and Prussia on the eve of the Second World War, The Minotaur’s Head follows two detectives; one a straight laced family man, the other a drunken aesthete of the Belle Époque; as they try to solve a crime that quickly entangles them in larger politics. Marek Krajewski, perhaps because he is Polish, and clearly because he is a good writer, has a perfect handle on the the dialogue and sensibilities of the time period.


the secret place6. The Secret Place, by Tana French – In each of French’s novels, a different character from the Dublin Murder Squad becomes the protagonist for an intense psychological exploration into human nature and crime. French’s latest installment of the series stars Detective Stephen Moran, previously introduced in Faithful Place, who teams up with a colleague’s teenage daughter to investigate a murder at an elite private school.

 


final silence7. The Final Silence, by Stuart NevilleThe Final Silence, Neville’s latest installment in his DI Jack Lennon series, has the detective at a low point in his life when an ex-girlfriend comes knocking to tell him she found something rather disturbing in her dead uncle’s spare bedroom. Neville crafts a thrilling narrative that, like much of his work, also serves as a meditative reminder of Belfast’s haunting past.

 


murder at cape three points8. Murder at Cape Three Points, by Kwei Quartey – This is the third installment of Ghanaian-American Kwei Quartey’s Detective Darko Dawson series. In Murder at Cape Three Points, Ghanaian Detective Dawson is called in to solve the seemingly ritualistic murder of an affluent couple found dead near an oil rig. His investigation is quickly stymied in his efforts by corruption, bureaucracy, and nefarious oil companies, and he must use intuition and unorthodox means to solve the crime.


mad and the bad9. The Mad and the Bad, by Jean-Patrick Manchette – After reading Manchette’s novel The Mad and The Bad, recently reissued by New York Review of Books, I have yet another reason to love the folks at NYRB. The Mad and The Bad is a crazed romp through 1970s France. A spoiled heir to a fortune is kidnapped by an ulcer-ridden hit-man. The child’s nanny, only recently released from a mental institution, must try to keep him safe despite her increasingly fragile grasp on reality.


10. Singapore Noiredited by singapore noirCheryl Lu Tan – this impeccable collection of stories set in the glitzy high rises and seedy underbelly of Singapore is one of Akashic’s finest releases to date. You’ll get a vast array of characters from one of the worlds most diverse cities, including mafiosos, maids, and murderers of all kinds, and plenty of proof that Singapore can be as murderous a city-state as Rome ever was.

 


Copies of each book are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

International Crime Fiction: LAIDLAW, by William McIlvanney

Post by Molly
This month in international crime fiction, we travel to the rain-soaked streets of Edinburgh in the 1970s. Europa Editions, through their World Noir imprint, has brought Laidlaw, the first of William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw Investigations across the water for their debut on American soil. McIlvanney is considered the father of “Tartan Noir,” which, admittedly, describes a wide variety of Scottish detective novelists whose main commonality seems to be their country of origin rather than any unified style. Still, before McIlvanney began writing his trilogy of novels starring DI Laidlaw and DC Harkness in the mid-1970s, crime fiction was virtually nonexistent in the highlands or the lowlands, and most detective novelists in Scotland today, including Ian Rankin, Val McDermid, and Denise Mina, have been strongly influenced by these early works.

In McIlvanney’s first novel, simply titled Laidlaw, a young woman has been brutally murdered. DI Laidlaw, a detective of unusual methods and dour visage, must go in search of a killer. To complicate matters, the girl’s father is also searching for his daughter’s murderer. If Detective Laidlaw finds him first, he has the hope of a fair trial and a life in prison. If the girl’s father finds him first, his brief and tortured existence will come to a sudden end.  To complicate the matter, the father has strong connections to the local mafia, some of whom take a moral stand against sex crimes despite numerous other criminal activities and are willing to give as much aid as necessary to make the father’s revenge complete.

McIlvanney has written in many genres and mediums during his lifetime, including poetry and screenwriting. He has an innate understanding of how to use the framework of a murder to draw attention to wider divisions and dysfunctions in society. Laidlaw uses each point in the narrative as a chance to reflect on the wider implications, and McIlvanney deliberately structures his narrative to allow for these moments of reflection. Laidlaw, despite a length of around 250 pages, manages to delve into homophobia, class conflict, drug addiction, religious divisions, and terrible weather, and each pause for thought is more beautifully written than the last. In particular, McIlvanney creates DI Laidlaw – intuitive, working class, and voice of humanistic tolerance – and then writes DC Harkness – college educated, young and handsome, bigoted and superior – as the perfect foil. Their debates contain many of the divisions of Scottish society that still exist today.

Much of what comes to mind when we think about Scotland – rain, lack of humor, depressed introspection – lend themselves particularly well to the noir genre. While reading Laidlaw, I got the sense that noir coming to Scotland was noir coming home. Europa Editions, as they continue to release McIlvanney’s novels, do a great service to the American reading public, and I, personally, cannot wait to read the next one.

If you liked this, check out:

anything by Ian Rankin, Denise Mina, Val McDermid, or Christopher Brookmyre


Laidlaw, by William McIlvanney, is available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. Molly blogs on international crime fiction every third Thursday of the month. Her last post took a look at Adrian McKinty’s Troubles Trilogy. Look for her next post on September 19.

Molly’s Top 10 of the Year So Far

MysteryPeople_cityscape_72

The year is far from over, but these days, a good list is appropriate for any time. The first chunk of this year has been a whirlwind. It’s been a combination of great authors in the store and great books on our nightstands, and we can’t wait for what the rest of 2014 will bring. For now, Molly provides some of her favorites:

Molly’s Top 10 OF The Year So Far

 

1. In The Morning I’ll Be Gone – Adrian McKinty
McKinty proves that the third in a trilogy can be just as good as the
first and second in his explosive conclusion to Detective Sean Duffy’s
trials and tribulations amidst the Northern Irish Troubles.

2. Laidlaw – William McIlvanney [reissue]
Europa editions proves their commitment to international crime
classics once again by reissuing William McIlvanney’s Laidlaw, the
first Scottish noir.

3. The Fever – Megan Abbott
Abbott’s latest exploration of the dangerous world of adolescent girls
is stunning in its complex attitudes and twisting plot points.

4. Borderline – Lawrence Block [reissue]
Hard Case crime has released this little-known relic of the porn
paperback industry, and when you pick it up, prepare yourself for some
wild 1950s hipster eroticism on the Texas-Mexico border.

5. The Truth About the Harry Quebert Affair – Joel Dicker
Joel Dicker has written an intricate mystery in the guise of a love
story, and his exploration of murder in Maine exists on several
levels.

6. The Black Hour – Lori Rader-Day
Lori Rader-Day tackles issues of school shootings, suicide, and
vicious academic competition to create a thoroughly enjoyable and
highly topical debut novel.

7. Wolf – Mo Hayder
In Mo Hayder’s latest Jack Caffery novel, Wolf, a family is trapped in
a country mansion by psychopaths and Caffery must race to secure their
release in order to follow his own quest to find his brother.

8.  Federales – Christopher Irvin
Christopher Irvin plunges into the dark world of drug cartels in
Mexico in this violent and heart-wrenching novella.

9. Prayer – Phillip Kerr
Phillip Kerr heads to modern day Houston to write a stylish thriller
about the horrors of religious zealotry and the power of belief.

10. Phantom Instinct – Meg Gardiner
Meg Gardiner writes a new tough heroine for her stand-alone
techno-thriller Phantom Instinct, and brings the suspense and the
satisfaction.