Scott’s Top Ten Mysteries of 2014

Scott’s Top 10 (Okay, Eleven)


This was quite a full year for crime fiction. Raymond Chandler came back and Moe Prager left. Emerging voices like Benjamin Whitmer  and Matthew McBride made a stand and veterans like James Ellroy came back. Matt Scudder was in a great movie and the poster couple  for toxic marriage in Gone Girl got beautifully adapted. Needless to say it was difficult to make a top 10 list, so I found a way to  shoehorn in eleven.


cry father1. Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer

This book, following the dark criminal adventures of a tree cutter in disaster sites in mourning for his son, is a perfect piece  of brutal poetry. Raw in its emotion, it speaks to and for the people society pushes to the margins. I plan to read this book at  least every ten years for the rest of my life.

 


hollow girl2. The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman

The final Moe Prager novel deeply involves Coleman’s recurring theme of identity in a way that forces one of the most human private detectives ever put on the page to deal with his own concept of self. A pitch perfect swan song.

 


fever3. The Fever by Megan Abbott

Mysterious seizures hit a group of high school girls, causing hysteria in an upstate new York town. Abbott blends mystery, horror, and  coming of age, digging emotionally deep into community, family, and female friendship with an aching and dark mood.

 


swollen red sun4. A Swollen Red Sun by Matthew McBride

A masterpiece of rural crime fiction. When a Missouri sheriff’s deputy steals $72,000 out of a meth dealer’s trailer in a moment of  weakness, it sets the spark that sends a corrupt county up into flames. A relentless novel that moves like a muscle car on an open  road.


the drop poor boys game5. The Drop by Dennis Lehane & The Poor Boy’s Game by Dennis Tafoya

Both of these books tapped into the emotional core of their stories with poignancy while still delivering a bad-ass hard-boiled tale.  Lehane’s lonely bartender being batted about by the mob and Tafoya’s damaged U.S. marshal who has to fight the mob off are characters  who will stay with you for some time.


last death of jack harbin6. The Last Death Of Jack Harbin by Terry Shames

The second Samuel Craddock novel has the retired police chief looking into the murder of a disabled war veteran. As he investigates, Samuel  becomes a witness to the sins of his town and society in this moving mystery.

 


the forty-two7. The Forty-Two by Ed Kurtz

A tension filled thriller that effectively uses early Eighties Time Square as a backdrop in all its seedy glory. Kurtz uses grind  house theaters, peepshows, and greasy spoons like Hitchcock used Mount Rushmore and The Statue Of Liberty.


forsaken ace atkins8. The Forsaken by Ace Atkins

The fourth Quinn Colson novel has the Mississippi sheriff dealing with race issues, biker gangs, county Kingpin Johnny Stagg, and an  old crime connected to his father who disappeared years ago. Entertaining dialogue and action with strong thematic undercurrents.


mark pryor the blood promise9. The Blood Promise by Mark Pryor

A great thriller with vivid characters and a plot that ties a modern treaty signing to an event during The French Revolution. Further  proof of why Pryor’s Hugo Marston is one of the best new heroes.

 


after im gone10. After I’m Gone by Laura Lipman

Lippman looks at the disappearance of a shady businessman through the wife, daughter, and murdered mistress he left behind. Lippmann  uses the lives of these ladies as a clever window into family, class, religion, and feminism in the last half of the twentieth  century.


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

 

The Mystery Community Takes the Ice Bucket Challenge

The Ice Bucket Challenge to raise awareness and donations to combat ALS is starting to run through the crime fiction community.

als alifair
Alifair Burke, author of  two mystery series, one starring NYPD Detective Ellie Hatcher, and the other driven by Portland, OR, Prosecutor Samantha Kincaid, accepted the challenge from Michael Connelly, author of the Hieronymus “Harry” Bosch series and the Mickey Haller novels, who also dumped the ice water on her.


Two of the people she challenged were McKenna Jordan, owner of Houston’s Murder By The Book, and her dad, James Lee Burke, winner of the Edgar Award and writer of the Dave Robicheaux mysteries.
reed farrell coleman

One of our favorites, Reed Farrel Coleman, acclaimed author of The Hollow Girl,  took the challenge.

He challenged SJ Rozan, Hilary Davidson, and Gary Phillips. Gary accepted the challenge on Reed’s facebook and Hilary and SJ are good sports, so look forward to more videos.

MysteryPeople Q&A with Reed Farrel Coleman

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In The Hollow Girl, our May Pick Of the Month, Reed Farrel Coleman gives us the last book, with his painfully human Private Eye Moe Prager. Hired by Nancy Lustig, a woman who appeared in the very first book, Walking The Perfect Square, to find her missing daughter, the case takes Moe to the online blogging and New York acting world in a story that deals with the concept of identity. We caught up with Reed to ask a few questions about his final novel with Moe.

MYSTERYPEOPLE: You ended Hurt Machine with Moe in a pretty good place, what did you feel he needed to go through before you wrapped up the series?

REED FARREL COLEMAN: I felt there was the origin story to tell–Onion Street–so that when I closed the series with The Hollow Girl, there would be a perfect set of bookends. I always wanted to explore Moe as a younger man, before he was a cop, before he was jaded and world weary. When we first meet Moe in Walking the Perfect Square, he’s already done with his police career. He’s been beat up by his life and the job. I wanted to experience Moe and, by extension, the readers to experience Moe before all of that. I wanted to see Moe untainted and untested. I had to do that before I ended the series.

MP: What makes The Hollow Girl case the perfect one for him to go out on?

RFC: It’s the type of story that is symbolic of Moe’s career as a PI and as a man. Not to give too much away, but there have been big regrets in Moe’s life and this was a chance for his redemption and forgiveness.

MP: He’s hired by Nancy Lustig, a woman who has a appeared twice before in the series. For Moe, who has had his share of loves, requited and unrequited, what does she mean to him?

RFC: In our real lives, we seldom get a chance for resolution with past loves–requited or unrequited. Here, Moe gets to experience resolution in a way we don’t often get to. So Moe is symbolically living through something for all of us. I certainly felt that way. There are relationships I’ve had that ended on terrible notes that I wish I could, not so much rekindle, but explain. I think there are apologies I would like to make and talks I would like to have with old friends and lovers. I gave Moe his wish and mine.

MP: While we get get reacquainted with many characters in the past and Moe recalls some previous cases, which happens in a lot of the books, The Hollow Girl doesn’t announce itself as a fond farewell. Was there a reason for that?

RFC: I want readers to enjoy The Hollow Girl as they would any Moe Prager novel. If I kept signaling “THIS IS THE END” all through the book, I don’t think readers would enjoy the book as much as I hope they would. But by the end of the novel, I want them to leave Moe feeling satisfied and uncheated both in terms of the mystery in this book and in terms of farewell. I guess we’ll see.

MP: I read Eight Million Ways To Die right before I picked up The Hollow Girl and noticed a few echoes. You’ve cited Lawrence Block’s Scudder books as an influence. Do you hope your series has anything in common with those books?

RFC: I’ve had the honor of knowing Larry Block, as much as someone like me can know him, for over a decade. Although I have never gushed it to him, because he would hate it, there is little doubt that without Scudder there would be no Moe Prager. When I started the Moe series, I aimed at achieving the same sort of quality and hard reality that Larry Block brought to Scudder. Did I achieve that? It’s not for me to say, but I am proud to have tried my best and glad that I had Scudder there as an example of excellence.

MP: Any last words on Moe?

RFC: THE END


Copies of The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com. Also be sure to check out MysteryPeople’s Pick of the Month review of The Hollow Girl.

MysteryPeople Pick of the Month: THE HOLLOW GIRL

hollow girl

MysteryPeople May Pick Of The Month: The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman

It’s rare for an author to finish with their series character. Usually, an author’s life ends before the adventures of their creation come to a conclusion. With The Hollow Girl, however, Reed Farrel Coleman actually puts his acclaimed private eye character, Moe Prager, to bed. Suffice to say, our hero leaves the stage as elegantly as he entered it.

In Hurt Machine, Moe was in a pretty good place, connecting with his daughter, Katy, and with a new love in his life, Pam. Apparently, Coleman wasn’t done with him. After Pam is killed in a car accident, Moe ends up drunk, jeopardizing his fragile relationship with Kay by saying one of the most heinous things he has ever uttered.

To get away from drinking, Moe relents and takes on a case. He’s then hired by Nancy Lustig, who he first met in the debut novel, Walking The Perfect Square. Back then, she was a homely girl, whom he felt an attraction to. When he met her again in Empty Ever After, Nancy had undergone plastic surgery and hit the gym. It was as if the inner beauty traded for the outer, leaving Nancy as a bitter woman.

Now, Nancy’s estranged daughter has gone missing. Almost two decades ago, the same daughter was one of the first Internet sensations, known as The Hollow Girl, though she ended her fifteen minutes of fame with a controversial fake suicide. With help from friends and allies from previous cases, Moe searches through the New York acting community and the girl’s old friends for more information. It isn’t long before new Hollow Girl posts appear on the Internet, which indicate that she’s possibly being tortured.

Identity plays a large part in this story. There are characters with fake names. There are pasts which have been changed or erased. This theme is epitomized by the reconnection of Moe and Nancy, two people lost to who they were and are, leaving us to question the hollow part that is in all of us. It’s a somewhat ironic end for a character who is often defined by his lack of  definition, but it’s Moe’s first few steps toward his own identity that make it a pitch perfect note to finish on.

The Hollow Girl ends the Moe Prager series as an ellipsis rather than an exclamation point. It’s perfect for a character who reflects us in so many ways. There is no loud or fond farewell. Hurt Machine may have given us a glimpse of the ending we wanted, but it is in The Hollow Girl that Moe gets the ending he needed.


Copies of The Hollow Girl by Reed Farrel Coleman are available on our shelves at BookPeople and via bookpeople.com