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.

Texas Book Festival Wrap-up!

~post by Molly and Scott

MysteryPeople’s Molly Odintz and Scott Montgomery were invited to be moderators at the 19th Annual Texas Festival Of Books held at the state capitol last weekend. It was Scott’s fourth time moderating at the festival and Molly’s first time ever. They both survived to tell the tale to report back.


SCOTT

Crime fiction had its strongest presence yet at the festival with six panels and three one-on-one interviews with the likes of Walter Mosely and James Ellroy. Even before the actual festival got underway, I got to sped some time with the authors. Timothy Hallinan, author of the Junior Bender and Poke Rafferty series, shared some BBQ as we talked books and his time working with Katherine Hepburn. I also got to spend some time with friends Harry Hunsicker, Mark Pryor, and the three authors who make up the pseudonym Miles Arceneaux before they went to their panels. Then I had my own.

First up was an interview with Craig Johnson, who’s latest book, Wait For Signs, is a collection of all the short stories featuring his Wyoming sheriff hero, Walt Longmire. He told the audience that Walt’s last name came from James Longmire who opened up the trail near Washington’s Mount Rainer and had the area named after him. He felt the combination of the words “long” and “mire” expressed what his character had been through. He added it also passed the test for a western hero name in that it could easily be followed by the word “Steakhouse.”

My panel discussion, Risky Business, had Jeff Abbott and debut author Patrick Hoffman looking at the art of thriller writing. The discussion got interesting when when it got into the topic of being categorized in a genre. Jeff said he wanted to get pigeon holed, “That way I know I’m selling.” He added it has never interfered with the type of book he wanted to write. We also got into an interesting talk about use of location. Patrick Hoffman talked about how he would often use his company car to drive to the location of his San Fransisco centric, The White Van, and write there on his lunch hour. Jeff and I also had fun drawing as much attention we could to our friend, author Meg Gardiner, who was in the audience and should have known better.

By the time the festival was over my body dehydrated, my voice was shot, and my blood alcohol content was questionable. Can’t wait til’ next year.


MOLLY

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of moderating two mystery panels at the Texas Book Festival. This was my first try at moderating panels and I am so thankful to MysteryPeople and the Texas Book Festival for giving me the opportunity to channel an NPR interviewer.The first, a panel on International Crime, featured authors Kwei Quartey, on tour with his latest Darko Dawson novel, Murder at Cape Three Points, and Ed Lin, with his new novel Ghost Month. Kwei Quartey’s novels take place in Ghana and increasingly focus on the economic and social imbalances of modern day Ghanaian life. Ed Lin has previously written novels depicting the Asian-American experience, including his Detective Robert Chow trilogy, set in New York City, and Ghost Month is his first to take place outside of the country.

We talked about what it means to write international crime fiction, the place of food in the detective novel, fiction as a method of dealing with historical and current societal trauma, and how to escape from a crashing helicopter. Both authors are published by SoHo and you can find their books on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

The second panel, looking at crime noir, brought together authors Rod Davis, with his latest, South, America, and Harry Hunsicker, with his new novel The Contractors. South, America follows a Dallas native living in New Orleans as he finds a dead body, gets tangled up with the dead man’s sister, and must go on the run from mobsters. The novel reaches deep into the twisted Louisiana web of racism and poverty to write a lyrical portrait of two desperate people.

Harry Hunsicker is the author of many previous novels, and his latest, The Contractors, explores the blurred lines between public and private when it comes to law enforcement. His two protagonists are private sector contractors working for the DEA and paid a percentage of the value of any recovered substances. They get more than they bargained for when they agree to escort a state’s witness from Dallas to Marfa with two cartels, a rogue DEA agent, and a corrupt ex-cop following them.

We talked about the meaning of noir, the craft of writing mysteries, the purpose of violence in fiction, and stand-alones versus series. South, America and The Contractors  are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com.

MysteryPeople Recommends: Five of Walter Mosley’s Easy Rawlins Novels

On Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, we will have the pleasure of hosting Walter Mosley at BookPeople. He will speak and sign his latest, Rose Gold, the thirteenth book featuring Easy Rawlins. It made us want to go back and pick five of the detective’s best cases.

devil in a blue dress1. Devil In A Blue Dress

The one that started it all. Getting laid off from the aircraft factory gets Easy pulled into being a P.I. when he’s hired to find a white woman known to frequent black clubs. This book announced a new voice to the genre with jazz-style prose, violence, and racial themes popping off the page. It is also has one of the best character arcs as Easy comes into being his own man.

 

 

red death2. A Red Death

Easy is forced by the FBI to ferret out communists. His infiltration of a union gets him involved with murder and the moral dilemma of setting up a person and ideal he’s come to respect. This is the book where Easy becomes keenly aware of the world outside his own.

 

 

white butterfly3. White Butterfly

This is Mosely working perfectly on all cylinders. When a white college girl is murdered in Watts in the same fashion as two black women, the police become interested and ask Easy for help. The color of place and period are incredibly vivid, plot, character, and them are vividly woven together.

 

 

little scarlet4. Little Scarlet

Easy is once again asked to look into a matter. This time, he’s been hired to search for a white suspect in the murder of a black woman during the Watts Riots. Mosley completely plugs in to the aftermath of the riots in vivid detail and emotion. One passage alone that deals with a group of scared white folks and their perception of Rawlins as a black man makes the book worth reading.

 

 

little green5. Little Green

Mosley resurrects Easy and treats him like Rip Van Winkle as Easy takes a trip over to the psychedelic Sunset Strip, looking for a young Compton man known to drop out with the hippies. Easy comes back full force with an engaging mystery that provides a great backdrop for his changing life and changing LA.

 

 


Please join MysteryPeople on Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, for an evening with Walter Mosley. He will speak and sign his latest novel,  Rose Gold, available now on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. This is a ticketed event. You will receive a ticket upon purchase of Rose Gold. The speaking portion of the event is free and open to the public. The event will take place on BookPeople’s second floor.

MysteryPeople Review: ROSE GOLD, by Walter Mosley

On Wednesday, October 22, at 7 pm, BookPeople is proud to host the eminent and prolific novelist, Walter Mosley. Mr. Mosley has been writing for almost a quarter century and has published books in a variety of genres. He is the recipient of PEN America’s Lifetime Achievement Award and is one of the most respected and dynamic writers in America today. He will be joining us to speak and sign his latest Ezekial Rawlins novel, Rose Gold.


Post by Molly

Walter Mosley wrote his first Easy Rawlins detective novel, Devil in a Blue Dress, nearly a quarter century ago. Despite taking breaks from the series to write numerous other novels (including sci-fi stories, general fiction, and other crime series), he has just released Rose Gold, his thirteenth novel to star the character of Easy Rawlins. One of the most enjoyable aspects of reading the series has been following Easy Rawlins through three decades of American upheaval. Mosley set the first book in the series in the 1940s, and twelve books later, Ezekial Rawlins has made it to the smack-dab middle of the sixties. Mosley’s last novel in the series, Little Green, followed Easy as he dove head-first in the Summer of Love trying to hunt down a wayward teenager. His next novel starts immediately after Little Green left off.

Rose Gold, loosely based on the story of Patty Hearst and the Symbionese Liberation Army, continues Rawlin’s journey through the chaos of mid-century America. At the start of the novel, Easy is in the midst of moving houses when a corrupt cop with a hidden agenda tracks him down and offers him some mortgage money fast. Easy reluctantly agrees to find a wealthy debutante, Rosemary Goldsmith, kidnapped out of her dorm room and held hostage by a group of wannabe revolutionaries.  The debutante’s father, a high-profile arms dealer, hires Rawlins to infiltrate the radical black power community, but Easy soon figures out this is easier said than done. His first step is to find the revolutionary group’s leader, a black nationalist ex-boxer named Uhuru Nolicé, and he quickly figures out that the police are searching for Uhuru much more assiduously than for Rosemary, and with much worse intentions.

As Easy continues the search for Rosemary, he takes the time to fix a few problems for his friends and family on the side, and throughout the novel, the reader finds frequent reminders that Easy Rawlins is happiest when defined by his relationship with his community. Walter Mosley, in the character of Easy Rawlins, has created not only an ass-kicking private eye, but also an ideal role model. One of the great pleasures of reading a novel starring Easy Rawlins is witnessing the actions of a character both likable and moral – a rare protagonist in the detective-novel world.

In the murky world of 1960s revolutionary politics, lines quickly blur between kidnapper and kidnapped, victim and perpetrator, and revolutionary and poser. Mosely’s characters use 1960s radicalism as a way to try on new identities and act out personal vendettas, and the radicals that Easy meets have a difficult time distinguishing the difference between performance and belief. Mosley does an excellent job of both portraying a society in motion and showing the parts that remain static. In particular, Mosley draws attention to police abuse towards young black men in a story that, stripped of its revolutionary framework, could be seen in a newspaper today. Both timely and timeless, Rose Gold provides an excellent addition to the canon of Mosley and a new modern classic for our shelves.


Please join us on October 22 for a visit from Walter Mosley, who will be speaking and signing his latest Easy Rawlins novel, Rose Gold. Copies are available on our shelves and via bookpeople.com. All BookPeople events are free and open to the public. The signing for this event will be ticketed.