2015 has been an eclectic year for crime novels. Below, you’ll find historical fiction, reissues, domestic suspense, sophisticated city thrillers, and coincidentally, several books detailing the nightmarish and inescapable legacy of high school. Whether you are looking for dark and dense or light and playful, there’s a book on this list guaranteed to tickle your fancy.
1. In a Lonely Place by Dorothy Hughes
Hughes’ tale of an homme fatale turns the sexualized imagery of crime novels on its head, and like much of the genre, once again reminds us how to find the eroticism in death, and the violence in sex. In a Lonely Place, after decades out of print, is now available as part of the Library of America’s collection Women Crime Writers of the 40s & 50s.
2. Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh
In Eileen, Ottessa Moshfegh takes us on the tour of small town life in mid-century America. Eileen, a repressed juvenile prison administrator stuck taking care of her drunk father in their filthy house, is fearful and disgusted by virtually every bodily function or urge. When a glamorous new coworker joins the prison staff as the new juvenile therapist, the two form an intense bond, liberating each from the confines of their historical context.
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When perusing my year’s end list of favorite novels, I noticed more than a few debuts within the mystery genre on the list (some of the writers mentioned below have previously been published within other genres). Those that made the greatest impression, I’ve collected for you below. Seven may be a bit of a weird number – think of this list as my top five, plus two!
This may be the most startling novel of 2015. There isn’t much I can say about this book without giving something away. Luckiest Girl Alive functions as a primer in the vicious nature of social competition in all stages of life, while simultaneously remaining sympathetic to the experience of trauma.
Mette Ivie Harrison writes ‘Mormon Noir,’ which I had
never heard of nor conceptualized till picking up this book on the strong recommendation of Scott Montgomery. The Bishop’s Wife,
Harrison’s debut in the mystery genre, follows Linda Wallheim
as she helps her husband Kurt, just appointed bishop, in aiding their community. Linda grows attached to a neighborhood child, and through her investigation of the child’s mother’s disappearance, draws attention to both the vulnerability of Mormon women and the attraction of Mormonism to women.
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Megan Abbott is one of the most versatile and creative crime novelists writing today. Her first four novels, Die a Little, The Song is You, Queenpin, and Bury Me Deep use historical settings and noir style to explore female narratives – in particular, the tension between female community and competition.
Her next three novels continue to explore these themes in a modern setting with young adult characters. The End of Everything, Dare Me and The Fever all tackle the the murky waters of adolescence, with characters trapped in the space between victim, perpetrator and witness. Abbott’s novels are mature, daring, intelligent and unique. If you love her work as much as we do, here are a few recommendations we think you’ll enjoy!
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Ever since Gone Girl flew off the shelves quickly enough to convince publishers that a bestseller can include an unlikable female protagonist, we’ve seen a flurry of excellent reads exploring the darker side of female psychology popping up in the mystery section. As part of my New Year’s resolution to embrace the subgenre of domestic suspense, I’ve been catching up on some of the many psychological thrillers to star complex and sometimes less-than-likable female protagonists.
The women in each of the novels discussed below may be smiling as much as the rest of us, but their interior worlds are dark, brutal, and confused; marred by competition, and healed by solidarity. Each of the following novels uses mystery conventions to tell stories about the pleasures and complexities of womanhood, and about the ungendered struggles of life. Each is entertaining, and each is quite different.
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