Crime Fiction’s New Favorite Private Eyes

Few crime writers will argue against the importance of Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler. Their novels and stories are staples in the crime community, their innovative use of language, plot, and deception still resonating with writers and readers alike today. However, the modern private investigator, and any other sort of investigator including police, spies, and so on are evolving. Those who aren’t the physical representation of Hammett and Chandler need not stray far in the genre to find a new breed of top notch writers creating private investigators that build on these classic crime writers and, sometimes, surpass them.

For years now, Laura Lippman’s Tess Monaghan, Alison Gaylin’s Brenna Spector, and most recently Sara Gran’s Claire Dewitt have paved the path for new and astonishing  detectives of all races, sexes, and sexualities—investigators who do not always simply fight crime, but also attempt to understand how justice works, when it fails, and how these issues affect all modern Americans. Claire Dewitt, a book series rumored to have two more installments until the series completion, has developed an intense following, and Gran herself has taken giant steps to show that while Philip Marlowe may fight with gunfire, Dewitt is the woman who takes a bullet, pries it from her body, and continues on with her journey to solving every mystery possible. The self-proclaimed greatest private investigator alive has opened a world for other private investigators.

Steph Cha, Author of the Song series and YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY; photo used with author's permissionJuniper Song, Juniper Song Series by Steph Cha

The brilliant Song—and the nearly unrivaled Cha—is the best place to stop. The groundbreaking series by Cha is at once an ode to Chandler as much as it focuses on the needs of women, racial minorities, intense personal and world issues, and what it means to survive again and again. While Song may not be the hardcore and physically resilient Claire Dewitt, she casts a shadow over the rest of crime fiction as the talent to beat. Although Song may be privileged, living with some of the wealthiest people, she is not without her ghosts, the limitations placed on her due to Song’s race and sex, and so many other hurdles placed in her path. Cha’s private investigator is a woman who makes tough decisions, learns to lead a hard, lonely, and oftentimes frightening life, and values the loved ones she holds dear, all while remaining noir to the bone.

Alex Segura, Author of the Pete Fernandez series; photo used with author's permissionPete Fernandez, Pete Fernandez Mystery Series by Alex Segura

There are authors who find inspiration and light in all of their private investigators, so much they cannot let them go. Segura is brave, having mapped out the series over the course of five books (like Gran’s Dewitt), with the fifth and final book slated for publication later this year. It isn’t just Pete who is noir, but his whole life that is filled with turmoil, desperation, and darkness. Like Song, he reserves the most significant parts of him for protecting the people he loves. Always being dragged back into the pit of noirdom, much like Veronica Mars (the titular character played by Kristen Bell) and Rachel (Shiri Appleby) in UnReal, Pete struggles to keep his head about the water. In the most recently published Blackout, Segura doesn’t settle for Pete wandering down a dark alley. Segura saves the most intense battles for hurricanes of all sorts. With the conclusion of Pete’s saga, fans will have a fully realized series at their disposal, and what a wonder that is.

Erica Wright, author of the Kat Stone series; photo used with author's permissionKat Stone, Kat Stone Series by Erica Wright

It is not uncommon for extremely talented poets to venture into the crime genre. Crime is dark, but also a genre that permeates all books, creeping into a Toni Morrison novel or Alice Munro story just as it would with the latest Megan Abbott novel. Erica Wright, one of the most gifted poets today, brings as much lyricism into her writing as Chandler might have. Wright has an advantage: she’s younger and has a work ethic and undeniable talent for bringing the truth out in each of the Kat Stone novels. Kat can be wacky or poignant, depending on what page, paragraph, or even sentence you’re reading. Wright has a way to navigate through the books, maintaining her private investigator’s personality, needs, and duty just as she might a well written poem.  The structure in her novels is tight, with Kat a strong and determined woman who lives up to Wight’s potential. Wright, like Cha, is releasing her first standalone, and while readers are ecstatic about a new book from Wright, one can’t keep hoping for more from Kat Stone.

Kristen Lepionka, Author of the Brilliant Roxane Weary Novels; photo used with author's permissionRoxane Weary, Roxane Weary Series by Kristen Lepionka

Kristen Lepionka isn’t afraid to take her extremely hard, incredibly smart, and undeniably resilient private investigator Roxane Weary to the limit. Roxane is one of the few openly queer private investigators in the mainstream literary world today, and Lepionka—as well as Roxane—are looking to change that. Lepionka is known as one of the most kind and loving writers around, but don’t let Lepionka’s own personality fool you. Roxane is a force to be reckoned with. With endorsements from Laura Lippman and Sophie Hannah, as well as multiple books already slated for publication, Roxane’s voice, attitude, and determination are qualities readers cannot get enough of. Lepionka is breaking the world just as Roxane deals with broken bones and broken bodies. Stylistically and artistically speaking, her voice and no nonsense attitude may be closest to Chandler’s Marlowe, but Lepionka gives Roxane empathy which shines through any predecessor’s characters. Just as Roxane is destined to solve more mysteries and weather any storm imaginable, Lepionka will likely rise to stardom just as Lippman, Abbott, and multiple other female writers have before her. Readers need not fear—the third Roxane book is coming out this year, and it’s certainly something to preorder and eagerly anticipate, just like the other Roxane Weary novels.

Julia Dahl, author of the Rebekah Roberts series; photo used with author's permissionRebekah Roberts (Sort Of), Rebekah Roberts Novels by Julia Dahl

Rebekah Roberts has a voice that leaps off the page, which goes well with every outspoken, intelligent, and determined private investigator. Investigators like Rebekah have to be as resilient and fierce as they are determined and ready to deal with the darkness in the world surrounding them. Rebekah is a one-of-a-kind investigator, gritty and witty all at once. She comes hard and ready, and just like so many other great detectives before her, Rebekah’s first case comes with strings, including a strong connection to Rebekah herself. Dahl writes books which are as alive with energy as they are brilliantly crafted with story and Rebekah’s own voice. Few sleuths catch the reader as immediately as Rebekah, and determined fans hope for more books from Dahl, and new readers will find a safe space in Rebekah’s life, no matter how dark it gets.

Kellye Garrett, author of the Detective by Day series; photo used with author's permissionDayna Anderson, A Detective by Day Mystery Series by Kellye Garrett

Recently, when speaking with Kellye Garrett, discussion turned to Barbara Neely, one of the greatest mystery authors of all time. Like Neely, Garrett is a black woman paving the way for future crime writers of color. Just as Lepionka champions queer crime writers, Garrett writes one of the fiercest and funniest crime series to date. While her humor is incredibly different from other comical private investigators like the characters in Lisa Lutz’s Spellman Files, Garrett gets all the laughs with her inventive, sparkling heroine Dayne Anderson. In Dayna’s adventures, Garrett manages to avoid vulgar language and over-the-top gore and violence while still maintaining suspense surpassing so many other novels and writers. Garrett, a former television writer, gives back to other writers hoping to make a name for themselves just as Garrett has with her own novels. Dayna is kind, giving, and protective of her loved ones, but she won’t hesitate to obliterate anyone who messes with her or her core group of friends. The cherry on top is not Dayna’s love interest, although Dayna’s romances are worth all the butterflies in your stomach, but instead seeing Dayna in action, as we do at the end of the first novel in one of the most epic crime climaxes yet. Garrett is receiving critical acclaim and every bit is deserved. Readers may have to wait a bit longer than they would like for the next novel chronicling Dayna’s adventures, but the wait is worth it. Garrett is formidable, classy, and full of love.

Needless to say, the world of crime fiction is changing. Everyone including critically acclaimed best-selling novelist—and now television show executive producer—Megan Abbott, has pointed out that crime fiction is now a woman’s world and it is time for the Raymond Chandlers and Dashiell Hammetts to find their own footing. Steph Cha and Alex Segura praise Sara Gran for the Claire Dewitt series, novel after novel building upon this world Gran has created which is as interesting as it is puzzling, and now it is time for Cha, Segura, and other crime writers to step up and let their voices be heard. The crime world’s community is becoming more diverse, and as crime novels evolve, so do their protagonists. As time passes and these private investigators are finally put to rest, there will always be a place for more private investigators, sleuths as determined to solve the mysteries of our world as are their creators and authors. Fortunately for every reader out there, if one has not yet found a private investigator to identify with, this very private investigator is on their way, and the world needs to get ready as each investigator gets closer to solving the mysteries light must be shone upon, some answers needed and others necessary but not always welcome. No solution is an ending, just as few mysteries can be traced back to their beginnings. Not to worry, there’s a PI for that.

HIGH RISE MYSTERY: The First Young Black UK Detective Duo Is Here!

High Rise Mystery by Sharna Jackson is the first black UK detective duo for readers ages 9–12 in the UK. It takes place during a record-breaking heatwave in London.

High Rise MysteryThere’s been a murder in the TRI, the high-rise building where two sisters Nik (age 11) and Norva (age 13) live. One of the building’s most favourite residents, Hugh Knightley-Webb, a dealer of antiques, has been found dead, and Nik and Norva are on the case.

They are smart, they are stubborn and they know how to follow the evidence. In the wake of a lackluster police effort, Nik & Norva will get to the bottom of the case no matter what it takes.

Author Sharna Jackson is also Artistic Director of The Site Gallery, an international contemporary art space in Sheffield, UK. High Rise Mystery is a new series and I’m delighted to see it hitting the shelves in the past few weeks.

High Rise Mystery is published by Knights Of, a new, inclusive publisher based in London. I’ve written before about Knights Of. I took a group of students to meet co-founder David Stevens, who, along with business partner Aimée Felone, started Knights Of because of a study which revealed that in the UK only 1% of children’s books published contained a BAME (Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic) main character.

As a School Librarian, I know the importance of ensuring students see themselves reflected back at them in the books that they read. The damage done by seeing only white, straight characters as the protagonists in novels is undeniable. It tells students from diverse backgrounds in a very direct way that they are not good enough to be the hero or to come out the winner in the stories that help develop their teenage brains.

Knights Of have also successfully remained permanent in their Brixton location, opening Round Table Books in May of 2019—check it out!

8 of the Best Cold Case Stories For Your TBR

This list of cold case stories is sponsored by Atlantic Monthly Press.

From “master of narrative journalism” (New York Times) and #1 bestselling author Mark Bowden, comes a gripping true crime story about the disappearance of the two Lyon sisters in 1975, and the extraordinary effort—40 years later—to bring their kidnapper to justice. “A riveting, serpentine story about the dogged pursuit of truth.” –NPR “A stirring, suspenseful, thoughtful story that, miraculously, neither oversimplifies the details nor gets lost in the thicket of a four-decade case file.” –New York Times


If you are a fan of Serial Podcast, these riveting books on cold cases will keep you hooked till the very end!

Death on the Devil’s Teeth by Jesse P. Pollack and Mark Moran

The barbaric 1972 slaying of 16-year-old Jeannette DePalma remains one of New Jersey’s most notorious cold cases. Plagued by rumors of witchcraft—DePalma’s body was found on a cliff called the Devil’s Teeth and allegedly surrounded by strange objects—the murder shocked the suburban Springfield community. Including extensive interviews with DePalma’s friends and family, new evidence, and theories about who could have committed this horrible crime, Death on the Devil’s Teeth provides the definitive account of this shocking cold case that remains a mystery more than four decades later.

Case Histories by Kate Atkinson

A complex and wickedly humorous literary detective story. Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, attempts to unravel three disparate case histories and begins to realise that in spite of apparent diversity, everything is connected.

Black Dahlia, Red Rose: The Crime, Corruption, and Cover-Up of America’s Greatest Unsolved Murder by Piu Eatwell 

The gruesome 1947 murder of hopeful starlet Elizabeth Short holds a permanent place in American lore as one of our most inscrutable true crime mysteries. Drawing on recently redacted FBI and LAPD files and exclusive interviews, Black Dahlia, Red Rose is a gripping panorama of noir-tinged 1940s Hollywood and a definitive account of one of the biggest unsolved murders of American legal history.

The Shadow of Death by Philip E. Ginsburg

A riveting account of the search for a “latter-day Jack the Ripper” in New England. In the mid-1980s, someone stabbed six women to death in the Connecticut River Valley on the border between New Hampshire and Vermont. The murderer remains at large and the total number of his victims is unknown. In this brilliant work of true crime reportage, New York Times bestselling author Philip E. Ginsburg provides fascinating insights into the groundbreaking forensic methods used to track the killer and paints indelible portraits of the lives he cut so tragically short.

Adnan’s Story: The Search for Truth and Justice After Serial by Rabia Chaudry

In early 2000, Adnan Syed was convicted and sentenced to life plus 30 years for the murder of his ex-girlfriend Hae Min Lee, a high school senior in Baltimore, Maryland. This story was turned into the phenomenal podcast Serial. But Serial did not tell the whole story. In this compelling narrative, Rabia Chaudry presents new key evidence that she maintains dismantles the State’s case: a potential new suspect, forensics indicating Hae was killed and kept somewhere for almost half a day, and documentation withheld by the State that destroys the cell phone evidence – among many other points – and she shows how fans of Serial joined a crowd-sourced investigation into a case riddled with errors and strange twists. Adnan’s Story also shares Adnan’s life in prison, and weaves in his personal reflections, including never-before-seen letters.

Lost Girls by Robert Kolker

Award-winning investigative reporter Robert Kolker delivers a humanizing account of the true-life search for a serial killer still at large on Long Island, and presents the first detailed look at the shadow world of online escorts, where making a living is easier than ever and the dangers remain all too real. This story of unsolved murders offers sharp critique of our society and gives a nuanced glimpse in the victims’ life.

The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale

In June of 1860, 3-year-old Saville Kent was found at the bottom of an outdoor privy with his throat slit. The crime horrified all of England and led to a national obsession with detection,in the process ironically destroying the career of perhaps the greatest detective in the land. This is an exhaustively researched, utterly compelling work of nonfiction which reads like a Victorian thriller.

The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi

The Monster of Florence chronicles the story of 16 murders that took place in Italy between 1968 and 1985. Though four different men have been arrested for and convicted of the crimes at different times, critics believe that the real killer has never been caught. This is the true story of their search for – and identification of – the man they believe committed the crimes, and their chilling interview with him. And then, in a strange twist of fate, Preston and Spezi themselves become targets of the police investigation. This is a harrowing and nail biting story involving murder, mutilation, and suicide – and at the center of it, Preston and Spezi, caught in a bizarre prosecutorial vendetta.

50 Must-Read Crime Novels on Shelves April–June 2019

We’re finally making it through this terrible, terrible winter, and thankfully, we have an enormous pile of crime novels waiting for us, just in time for summer reading! As you dream of warmer weather, take a look at these 50 spring 2019 crime novels coming out in the next several months and start planning your beach book list! All plot summaries come from Goodreads.

Note: ^ after the title indicates that a book is part of a series.

April

Bluff by Jane Stanton Hitchcock

“One-time socialite Maud Warner polishes up the rags of her once glittering existence and bluffs her way into a signature New York restaurant on a sunny October day. When she shoots Sun Sunderland, the “Pope of Finance,” as he lunches with ‘accountant to the stars’ Burt Sklar – the man that she’s accused for years of stealing her mother’s fortune and leaving her family in ruins – she deals the first card in her high-stakes plan for revenge. Her intimates in New York high society believe that ‘Mad Maud’ accidentally missed Sklar, her real target. But nothing is as it first appears as she weathers the unexpected while following her script. And while Maud is on the run, the dark secrets of men who believe their money and power place them above the law will be exposed. Betrayal, larceny, greed, sexual battery, and murder lurk beneath the surface of their glittering lives.”

Loch of the Dead by Oscar de Muriel ^

“The Scottish Highlands, 1889…When a young heir receives a sinister death threat, Inspectors Frey and ‘Nine-Nails’ McGray answer a desperate plea to offer him protection. The detectives travel north to the remote and misty Loch Maree, site of an ancient burial ground. They must stay with the mysterious Koloman family – any one of whom might be a suspect. But Frey and McGray have little time to get their bearings. Even before they arrive the boy’s guardian is brutally murdered, and one thing becomes clear to the two detectives: Someone is willing to kill to protect the secrets of Loch Maree.”

Alice and Gerald: A Homicidal Love Story by Ron Franscell

“After Alice, a desperate young mother in a gritty Wyoming boomtown, kills her husband in 1974 and dumps his body where it will never be found, she slips away and starts a new life with a new love. But when her new love’s ex-wife and two kids start demanding more of him, Alice delivers an ultimatum: Fix the problem or lose her forever. With Alice’s help, he “fixes” the problem in an extraordinarily ghastly way … and they live happily ever after. That is, until 2013, almost forty years later, when somebody finds a dead man’s skeleton in a place where Alice thought he’d never be found.”

they_all_fall_downThey All Fall Down by Rachel Howzell Hall

“Delighted by a surprise invitation, Miriam Macy sails off to a luxurious private island off the coast of Mexico, with six strangers—an ex-cop, a chef, a financial advisor, a nurse, a lawyer, a young widow. Surrounded by miles of open water in the gloriously green Sea of Cortez, Miriam is shocked to discover that she and the rest of her companions have been brought to the remote island under false pretenses—and all seven strangers harbor a secret. Danger lurks in the lush forest and in the halls and bedrooms of the lonely mansion. Sporadic cell-phone coverage and miles of ocean keeps the group trapped in paradise. And strange accidents keep them suspicious of each other, as one by one . . .They all fall down.”

The Last  by Hanna Jameson

“Jon thought he had all the time in the world to respond to his wife’s text message: I miss you so much. I feel bad about how we left it. Love you. But as he’s waiting in the lobby of the L’Hotel Sixieme in Switzerland after an academic conference, still mulling over how to respond to his wife, he receives a string of horrifying push notifications. Washington, DC has been hit with a nuclear bomb, then New York, then London, and finally Berlin. That’s all he knows before news outlets and social media goes black—and before the clouds on the horizon turn orange. Now, two months later, there are twenty survivors holed up at the hotel, a place already tainted by its strange history of suicides and murders. Those who can’t bear to stay commit suicide or wander off into the woods. Jon and the others try to maintain some semblance of civilization. But when the water pressure disappears, and Jon and a crew of survivors investigate the hotel’s water tanks, they are shocked to discover the body of a young girl. As supplies dwindle and tensions rise, Jon becomes obsessed with investigating the death of the little girl as a way to cling to his own humanity. Yet the real question remains: can he afford to lose his mind in this hotel, or should he take his chances in the outside world?”

Murder by Milkshake: An Astonishing True Story of Adultery, Arsenic, and a Charismatic Killer by Eve Lazarus

“When forty-year-old Esther Castellani died a slow and agonizing death in Vancouver in 1965, the official cause was at first undetermined. The day after Esther’s funeral, her husband, Rene, packed up his girlfriend, Lolly; his daughter, Jeannine; and Lolly’s son, Don, in the company car and took off for Disneyland. If not for the doggedness of the doctor who treated Esther, Rene, then a charismatic and handsome CKNW radio personality, would have been free to marry Lolly, who was the station’s pretty twentysomething receptionist. Instead, Rene was charged with capital murder for poisoning his wife with arsenic-laced milkshakes in one of British Columbia’s most sensational criminal cases of the century. Murder by Milkshake is the compelling story of the Castellanis, and of their daughter, Jeannine, who was eleven at the time of her mother’s murder and who clung to her father’s innocence, even committing perjury during his trial. Rigorously researched, and based on dozens of interviews with family, friends, and co-workers, Murder by Milkshake documents the sensational case that kept Vancouver spellbound, while providing a snapshot of the city’s Mad Men-esque social and political realities in the 1960s.”

Alice’s Island by Daniel Sánchez Arévalo (April 16, 2019, from Atria books)

“Alice Dupont’s perfect marriage was a perfect lie. When her husband, Chris, dies in a car accident, suspiciously far from where he should be, Alice’s life falls apart. After the police close the case, she is left with more questions than answers. While learning to cope with her loss and her new identity as a single mother of two, Alice becomes obsessed with unraveling the mystery surrounding her husband’s death and decides to start her own investigation. Retracing her husband’s last known whereabouts, she soon discovers clues that lead her to a small island near Nantucket. As she insinuates herself into the lives of the island’s inhabitants in an effort to discover what they knew about her husband, Alice finds herself increasingly involved in their private lives and comes to a disturbing realization: she has been transformed into a person she no longer recognizes.”

Miracle Creek by Angie Kim book coverMiracle Creek by Angie Kim (April 16, 2019, From Sarah Crichton Books/Farrar, Straus & Giroux)

“In the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine—a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic ‘dives’ with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community. Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night—trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges—as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.”

Diary of a Murderer and Other Stories by Young-Ha Kim; Translated by Krys Lee (April 16, 2019, From Mariner Books)

Diary of a Murderer captivates and provokes in equal measure, exploring what it means to be on the edge—between life and death, good and evil. In the titular novella, a former serial killer suffering from memory loss sets his sights on one final target: his daughter’s boyfriend, whom he suspects is also a serial killer. In other stories we witness an affair between two childhood friends that questions the limits of loyalty and love; a family’s disintegration after a baby son is kidnapped and recovered years later; and a wild, erotic ride about pursuing creativity at the expense of everything else.”

Flowers Over the Inferno by Ilaria Tuti; Translated by Ekin Oklap (April 16, 2019, From Soho Press)

“In a quiet village surrounded by ancient woods and the imposing Italian Alps, a man is found naked with his eyes gouged out. It is the first in a string of gruesome murders. Superintendent Teresa Battaglia, a detective with a background in criminal profiling, is called to investigate. Battaglia is in her mid-sixties, her rank and expertise is hard-won from the battling for respect in the male-dominated Italian police force. While she’s not sure she trusts the young city inspector assigned to assist her, she sees right away that this is not ordinary case: buried deep in these mountains are whispers of a dark and dangerous history, possibly tied to a group of eight-year- old children to whom the killer seems to gravitate. As Teresa inches closer to the truth, she must also confront the possibility that her body and mind, worn down by age and illness, may fail her before the chase is over. ”

I Know Who You Are by Alice Feeney (April 23, 2019, From Flatiron Books)

I Know Who You Are is the brilliant tale of two stories. One is about Aimee Sinclair—well-known actress on the verge of being full-on famous. If you saw her, you’d think you knew her. One day towards the near-end of her shoot on her latest film, Aimee comes home from filming to find her husband’s cell phone and wallet on the dining room table. He never goes anywhere without them. But he’s nowhere to be found. She’s not too concerned—they had a huge fight the night before. They both said things they didn’t mean. He might have done things he didn’t mean, things she can’t forget. Even though she has a history of supposedly forgetting. After all, she’s a very good actress. The next morning she goes for her morning run and then goes to her favorite coffee shop. But her card is denied. When she calls the bank they say her account has been emptied of $10,000. She immediately suspects her husband. But they say no, it was Aimee herself who closed out the account. And thus begins a bizarre rabbit hole into which Aimee finds herself falling where nothing is at it seems.”

Her Fugitive Heart by Adi Tantimedh (April 23, 2019, From Atria/Leopoldo Co.) ^

“All Ravi wants is to marry his girlfriend Julia in peace, but events conspire to keep things anything but peaceful. An actress hires the agency to track down the source of a sex tape she never made, yet still appeared in. A weekend party in a deceased rock star’s country mansion where the investigators are charged with surveilling the rich guests for dirt goes way out of control. A terrorist leader goes missing in London before he can turn himself in to the CIA and the agency is hired on the hush-hush to help track him down. Ravi’s efforts to avoid getting involved backfire and he finds himself in worse trouble than he could have imagined. And finally, Ravi’s boss’ secret plans to make himself a major player in the world stage blows up in everyone’s face and the investigators have to go into hiding. Forced to flee to the United States, an old client comes calling with a job Ravi and Julia can’t afford to turn down while the future of Golden Sentinels hangs in the balance.”

Little Darlings by Melanie Golding (April 30, 2019, From Crooked Lane Books)

“Everyone says Lauren Tranter is exhausted, that she needs rest. And they’re right; with newborn twins, Morgan and Riley, she’s never been more tired in her life. But she knows what she saw: that night, in her hospital room, a woman tried to take her babies and replace them with her own…creatures. Yet when the police arrived, they saw no one. Everyone, from her doctor to her husband, thinks she’s imagining things. A month passes. And one bright summer morning, the babies disappear from Lauren’s side in a park. But when they’re found, something is different about them. The infants look like Morgan and Riley―to everyone else. But to Lauren, something is off. Determined to bring her true infant sons home, Lauren will risk the unthinkable. But if she’s wrong about what she saw…she’ll be making the biggest mistake of her life.”

The Invited by Jennifer McMahon (April 30, 2019, From Doubleday)

“In a quest for a simpler life, Helen and Nate abandon the comforts of suburbia and teaching jobs to take up residence on forty-four acres of rural land where they will begin the ultimate, aspirational do-it-yourself project: building the house of their dreams. When they discover that this charming property has a dark and violent past, Helen, a former history teacher, becomes consumed by the legend of Hattie Breckenridge, a woman who lived and died there a century ago. As Helen starts carefully sourcing decorative building materials for her home – wooden beams, mantles, historic bricks — she starts to unearth, and literally conjure, the tragic lives of Hattie’s descendants, three generations of ‘Breckenridge women,’ each of whom died amidst suspicion, and who seem to still be seeking something precious and elusive in the present day. ”

Like Lions by Brian Panowich (April 30, 2019, From Minotaur Books) ^

“Clayton Burroughs is sheriff of Bull Mountain and last surviving member of the brutal and blood-steeped Burroughs clan. It’s been a year since a rogue government agent systematically crippled the family’s criminal empire, leaving two of his brothers dead and Clayton broken and haunted by wounds that may never heal. Now Bull Mountain is vulnerable, ripe for predators wanting to re-establish the flow of dope and money through the town. And the death of a boy belonging to a rival clan brings the wolves straight to Clayton’s door. The only good son born of a crooked tree, Clayton wants to bury his bloody family legacy for good. But he’ll need to call on it if he wants to save his family, and his mountain, from the destruction that awaits.”

May

Broken Wings by Jia Pingwa (May 3, 2019, From ACA Publishing, LTd.)

“Despite her humble rural beginnings, Butterfly regards herself as a sophisticated young woman. So, when offered a lucrative job in the city, she jumps at the chance. But instead of being given work, she is trafficked and sold to Bright Black, a desperate man from a poor mountain village. Trapped in Bright’s cave home with her new “husband”, she plans her escape… not so easily done in this isolated and remote village where she is watched day and night. Will her tenacity and free spirit survive, or will she be broken?”

Westside by W.M. Akers (May 7, 2019, From Harper Voyage)

“A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.”

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep (May 7, 2019, From Knopf Publishing Group)

“Reverend Willie Maxwell was a rural preacher accused of murdering five of his family members for insurance money in the 1970s. With the help of a savvy lawyer, he escaped justice for years until a relative shot him dead at the funeral of his last victim. Despite hundreds of witnesses, Maxwell’s murderer was acquitted–thanks to the same attorney who had previously defended the Reverend. Sitting in the audience during the vigilante’s trial was Harper Lee, who had traveled from New York City to her native Alabama with the idea of writing her own In Cold Blood, the true-crime classic she had helped her friend Truman Capote research seventeen years earlier. Lee spent a year in town reporting, and many more working on her own version of the case. Now Casey Cep brings this story to life, from the shocking murders to the courtroom drama to the racial politics of the Deep South. At the same time, she offers a deeply moving portrait of one of the country’s most beloved writers and her struggle with fame, success, and the mystery of artistic creativity.”

The Last Time I Saw You by Liv Constantine (May 7, 2019, From Harper)

“Dr. Kate English has it all. Not only is she the heiress to a large fortune; she has a gorgeous husband and daughter, a high-flying career, and a beautiful home anyone would envy. But all that changes the night Kate’s mother, Lily, is found dead, brutally murdered in her own home. Heartbroken and distraught, Kate reaches out to her estranged best friend, Blaire Barrington, who rushes to her side for the funeral, where the years of distance between them are forgotten in a moment. That evening, Kate’s grief turns to horror when she receives an anonymous text: You think you’re sad now, just wait. By the time I’m finished with you, you’ll wish you had been buried today. More than ever, Kate needs her old friend’s help.Once Blaire decides to take the investigation into her own hands, it becomes clear that all is not as it seems in Baltimore high society. . .”

The Killer Across the Table: Unlocking the Secrets of Serial Killers and Predators with the FBI’s Original Mindhunter by John E. Douglas & Mark Olshaker (May 7, 2019, From Dey Street Books)

“The legendary FBI criminal profiler, number-one New York Times bestselling author, and inspiration for the hit Netflix show Mindhunter delves deep into the lives and crimes of four of the most disturbing and complex predatory killers, offering never-before-revealed details about his profiling process, and divulging the strategies used to crack some of America’s most challenging cases.”

The Woman in the Blue Cloak by Deon Meyer (May 7, 2019, From Atlantic Monthly Press) ^

“Early on a May morning in the depth of South Africa’s winter, a woman’s naked body, washed in bleach, is discovered on a stone wall beside the N2 highway at the top of Sir Lowry’s Pass, some thirty-five miles from Cape Town. The local investigation stalls, so the case is referred to Captain Benny Griessel and his colorful partner Vaughn Cupido of the Hawks—the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations. The woman proves to be Alicia Lewis, an expert in old Dutch Masters paintings specializing in the recovery of valuable lost art. Discovering the two men she had contacted before coming to South Africa reveals what she was seeking—a rare painting by Carel Fabritius, Rembrandt’s finest student, not seen since it disappeared from Delft in 1654. But how Lewis died, why, and at whose hand shocks even the two veteran detectives.”

If She Wakes by Michael Koryta (May 14, 2019, From Little, Brown and Company)

“Tara Beckley is a senior at idyllic Hammel College in Maine. As she drives to deliver a visiting professor to a conference, a horrific car accident kills the professor and leaves Tara in a vegetative state. At least, so her doctors think. In fact, she’s a prisoner of locked-in syndrome: fully alert but unable to move a muscle. Trapped in her body, she learns that someone powerful wants her dead–but why? And what can she do, lying in a hospital bed, to stop them? Abby Kaplan, an insurance investigator, is hired by the college to look in to Tara’s case. A former stunt driver, Abby returned home after a disaster in Hollywood left an actor dead and her own reputation–and nerves–shattered. Despite the fog of trauma, she can tell that Tara’s car crash was no accident. When she starts asking questions, things quickly spin out of control, leaving Abby on the run and a mysterious young hit man named Dax Blackwell hard on her heels.”

The Things She’s Seen by Ambelina Kwaymullina & Ezekiel Kwaymullina (May 14, 2019, From Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers)

“Nothing’s been the same for Beth Teller since the day she died. Her dad is drowning in grief. He’s also the only one who has been able to see and hear her since the accident. But now she’s got a mystery to solve, a mystery that will hopefully remind her detective father that he is still alive, that there is a life after Beth that is still worth living. Who is Isobel Catching, and why is she able to see Beth, too? What is her connection to the crime Beth’s father has been sent to investigate–a gruesome fire at a home for troubled youth that left an unidentifiable body behind? What happened to the people who haven’t been seen since the fire? As Beth and her father unravel the mystery, they find a shocking and heartbreaking story lurking beneath the surface of a small town, and a friendship that lasts beyond one life and into another…”

The Satapur Moonstone by Sujata Massey (May 14, 2019, From Soho Crime) ^

“India, 1922: It is rainy season in the lush, remote Sahyadri mountains, where the princely state of Satapur is tucked away. A curse seems to have fallen upon Satapur’s royal family, whose maharaja died of a sudden illness shortly before his teenage son was struck down in a tragic hunting accident. The state is now ruled by an agent of the British Raj on behalf of Satapur’s two maharanis, the dowager queen and her daughter-in-law. The royal ladies are in a dispute over the education of the young crown prince, and a lawyer’s counsel is required. However, the maharanis live in purdah and do not speak to men. Just one person can help them: Perveen Mistry, Bombay’s only female lawyer. Perveen is determined to bring peace to the royal house and make a sound recommendation for the young prince’s future, but she arrives to find that the Satapur palace is full of cold-blooded power plays and ancient vendettas. Too late, she realizes she has walked into a trap. But whose? And how can she protect the royal children from the palace’s deadly curse?”

The Scholar by Dervla McTiernan (May 14, 2019, From Penguin Books) ^

“When DS Cormac Reilly’s girlfriend Emma stumbles across the victim of a hit and run early one morning, he is first on the scene of a murder that would otherwise never have been assigned to him. The dead girl is carrying an ID, that of Carline Darcy, heir apparent to Darcy Therapeutics, Ireland’s most successful pharmaceutical company. Darcy Therapeutics has a finger in every pie, from sponsoring university research facilities to funding political parties to philanthropy – it has funded Emma’s own
ground-breaking research. The investigation into Carline’s death promises to be high profile and high pressure. As Cormac investigates, evidence mounts that the death is linked to a Darcy laboratory and, increasingly, to Emma herself. Cormac is sure she couldn’t be involved, but how well does he really know her? After all, this isn’t the first time Emma’s been accused of murder… ”

Girl Gone Missing by Marcie Rendon (May 14, 2019, From Cinco Puntos Press) ^

“Her name is Renee Blackbear, but what most people call the 19-year-old Chippewa woman is Cash. She lived all her life in Fargo, sister city to Minnesota’s Moorhead, just downriver from the Cities. She has one friend, the sheriff Wheaton. He pulled her from her mother’s wrecked car when she was three. Since then, Cash navigated through foster homes, and at 13 was working farms, driving truck. Wheaton wants her to take hold of her life, signs her up for college. She gets an education there at Moorhead State all right: sees that people talk a lot but mostly about nothing, not like the men in the fields she’s known all her life who hold the rich topsoil in their hands, talk fertilizer and weather and prices on the Grain Exchange. In between classes and hauling beets, drinking beer and shooting pool, a man who claims he’s her brother shows up, and she begins to dream the Cities and blonde Scandinavian girls calling for help. ”

The Confessions of Frannie Langton by Sara Collins (May 21, 2019, From Harper)

“All of London is abuzz with the scandalous case of Frannie Langton, accused of the brutal double murder of her employers, renowned scientist George Benham and his eccentric French wife, Marguerite. Crowds pack the courtroom, eagerly following every twist, while the newspapers print lurid theories about the killings and the mysterious woman being held in the Old Bailey. The testimonies against Frannie are damning. She is a seductress, a witch, a master manipulator, a whore. But Frannie claims she cannot recall what happened that fateful evening, even if remembering could save her life. She doesn’t know how she came to be covered in the victims’ blood. But she does have a tale to tell: a story of her childhood on a Jamaican plantation, her apprenticeship under a debauched scientist who stretched all bounds of ethics, and the events that brought her into the Benhams’ London home—and into a passionate and forbidden relationship. Though her testimony may seal her conviction, the truth will unmask the perpetrators of crimes far beyond murder and indict the whole of English society itself.”

The Summer of Ellen by Agnete Friis; Translated by Sinead Quirke Kongerskov (May 21, 2019, From Soho Crime)

“Jacob, a middle-aged architect living in Copenhagen, is in the throes of a bitter divorce and the resulting alcoholic binge when he receives an unexpected call from his great-uncle Anton, who is in his nineties and still lives with his brother Anders on their rural Jutland farm—a place Jacob hasn’t visited since the summer of 1978. Anton asks Jacob to answer the question that has haunted them both for decades: What happened to Ellen? To find out, Jacob must revisit the farm and confront what took place that summer—one defined by his teenage obsession with Ellen, a beautiful young hippie from the local commune who came to stay with Anton and Anders, and the unsolved disappearance of Jacob’s best friend’s sister. What he finds is that none of these events were what they seemed, though they have affected the course of his entire life.”

Cari Mora by Thomas Harris (May 21, 2019, From Grand Central Publishing)

“Twenty-five million dollars in cartel gold lies hidden beneath a mansion on the Miami Beach waterfront. Ruthless men have tracked it for years. Leading the pack is Hans-Peter Schneider. Driven by unspeakable appetites, he makes a living fleshing out the violent fantasies of other, richer men.  Cari Mora, caretaker of the house, has escaped from the violence in her native country. She stays in Miami on a wobbly Temporary Protected Status, subject to the iron whim of ICE. She works at many jobs to survive. Beautiful, marked by war, Cari catches the eye of Hans-Peter as he closes in on the treasure. But Cari Mora has surprising skills, and her will to survive has been tested before.”

The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth by Josh Levin (May 21, 2019, From Little, Brown and Company)

“On the South Side of Chicago in 1974, Linda Taylor reported a phony burglary, concocting a lie about stolen furs and jewelry. The detective who checked it out soon discovered she was a welfare cheat who drove a Cadillac to collect ill-gotten government checks. And that was just the beginning: Taylor, it turned out, was also a kidnapper, and possibly a murderer. A desperately ill teacher, a combat-traumatized Marine, an elderly woman hungry for companionship-after Taylor came into their lives, all three ended up dead under suspicious circumstances. But nobody-not the journalists who touted her story, not the police, and not presidential candidate Ronald Reagan-seemed to care about anything but her welfare thievery. Growing up in the Jim Crow South, Taylor was made an outcast because of the color of her skin. As she rose to infamy, the press and politicians manipulated her image to demonize poor black women. Part social history, part true-crime investigation, Josh Levin’s mesmerizing book, the product of six years of reporting and research, is a fascinating account of American racism, and an expose of the “welfare queen” myth, one that fueled political debates that reverberate to this day.”

Vessel by Lisa A. Nichols (May 21, 2019, From Atria/Emily Bestler Books/Alloy Entertainment)

“After Catherine Wells’s ship experiences a deadly incident in deep space and loses contact with NASA, the entire world believes her dead. Miraculously—and mysteriously—she survived, but with little memory of what happened. Her reentry after a decade away is a turbulent one: her husband has moved on with another woman and the young daughter she left behind has grown into a teenager she barely recognizes. Catherine, too, is different. The long years alone changed her, and as she readjusts to being home, sometimes she feels disconnected and even, at times, deep rage toward her family and colleagues. There are periods of time she can’t account for, too, and she begins waking up in increasingly strange and worrisome locations, like restricted areas of NASA. Suddenly she’s questioning everything that happened up in space: how her crewmates died, how she survived, and now, what’s happening to her back on Earth.”

The Favorite Daughter by Kaira Rouda (May 21, 2019, From Graydon House)

“Jane Harris lives in a sparkling home in an oceanfront gated community in Orange County. It’s a place that seems too beautiful to be touched by sadness. But exactly one year ago, Jane’s oldest daughter, Mary, died in a tragic accident and Jane has been grief-stricken ever since. Lost in a haze of anti-depressants, she’s barely even left the house. Now that’s all about to change.It’s time for Jane to reclaim her life and her family. Jane’s husband, David, has planned a memorial service for Mary and three days later, their youngest daughter, Betsy, graduates high school. Yet as Jane reemerges into the world, it’s clear her family has changed without her. Her husband has been working long days–and nights–at the office. Her daughter seems distant, even secretive. And her beloved Mary was always such a good girl–dutiful and loving. But does someone know more about Mary, and about her last day, than they’ve revealed? The bonds between mothers and daughters, and husbands and wives should never be broken. But you never know how far someone will go to keep a family together…”

June

Murder in Bel-Air by Cara Black (June 4, 2019, From Soho Crime) ^

“Aimée Leduc is about to go onstage to give the keynote address at a tech conference that is sure to secure Leduc Detective some much-needed business contracts when she gets an emergency phone call from her daughter’s playgroup: Aimée’s own mother, who was supposed to pick up Chloe, never showed. Abandoning her hard-won speaking gig, Aimée rushes to get Chloe, annoyed that, yet again, her mother has let her down. But as Aimée and Chloe are leaving the playground, Aimée witnesses the body of a homeless woman being wheeled away from the neighboring convent, where nuns run a soup kitchen. The last person seen talking to the dead woman talking to was Aimée’s mother—who has vanished. Trying to figure out what happened to Sydney Leduc, Aimee tracks down the dead woman’s possessions, which include a huge amount of cash. What did Sydney stumble into? Is she in trouble?”

The Shallows by Matt Goldman (June 4, 2019, From Forge Books) ^

“A prominent lawyer is found dead, tied to his own dock by a fishing stringer through his jaw, and everyone wants private detective Nils Shapiro to protect them from suspicion: The unfaithful widow. Her artist boyfriend. The lawyer’s firm. A polarizing congressional candidate. A rudderless suburban police department. Even the FBI. Nils and his investigative partners illuminate a sticky web of secrets and deceit that draws national attention. But finding the web doesn’t prevent Nils from getting caught in it. Just when his safety is most in peril, his personal life takes an unexpected twist, facing its own snarl of surprise and deception.”

The Sentence is Death by Anthony Horowitz (June 4, 2019, From Harper) ^

“‘You shouldn’t be here. It’s too late… ’ These, heard over the phone, were the last recorded words of successful celebrity-divorce lawyer Richard Pryce, found bludgeoned to death in his bachelor pad with a bottle of wine – a 1982 Chateau Lafite worth £3,000, to be precise. Odd, considering he didn’t drink. Why this bottle? And why those words? And why was a three-digit number painted on the wall by the killer? And, most importantly, which of the man’s many, many enemies did the deed? Baffled, the police are forced to bring in Private Investigator Daniel Hawthorne and his sidekick, the author Anthony, who’s really getting rather good at this murder investigation business. But as Hawthorne takes on the case with characteristic relish, it becomes clear that he, too, has secrets to hide. As our reluctant narrator becomes ever more embroiled in the case, he realises that these secrets must be exposed – even at the risk of death…”

Searching for Sylvie Lee by Jean Kwok (June 4, 2019, From William Morrow)

“It begins with a mystery. Sylvie, the beautiful, brilliant, successful older daughter of the Lee family, flies to the Netherlands for one final visit with her dying grandmother—and then vanishes. Amy, the sheltered baby of the Lee family, is too young to remember a time when her parents were newly immigrated and too poor to keep Sylvie. Seven years older, Sylvie was raised by a distant relative in a faraway, foreign place, and didn’t rejoin her family in America until age nine. Timid and shy, Amy has always looked up to her sister, the fierce and fearless protector who showered her with unconditional love. But what happened to Sylvie? Amy and her parents are distraught and desperate for answers. Sylvie has always looked out for them. Now, it’s Amy’s turn to help. Terrified yet determined, Amy retraces her sister’s movements, flying to the last place Sylvie was seen. But instead of simple answers, she discovers something much more valuable: the truth. Sylvie, the golden girl, kept painful secrets . . . secrets that will reveal more about Amy’s complicated family—and herself—than she ever could have imagined.”

Those People by Louise Candlish (June 11, 2019, From Berkley Books)

“Lowland Way is the suburban dream. The houses are beautiful, the neighbors get along, and the kids play together on weekends. But when Darren and Jodie move into the house on the corner, they donʼt follow the rules. They blast music at all hours, begin an unsightly renovation, and run a used-car business from their yard. It doesn’t take long for an all-out war to start brewing. Then, early one Saturday, a horrific death shocks the street. As police search for witnesses, accusations start flying–and everyone has something to hide.”

Recursion by Blake Crouch (June 11, 2019, From Crown Publishing)

“‘My son has been erased.’ Those are the last words the woman tells Barry Sutton, before she leaps from the Manhattan rooftop. Deeply unnerved, Barry begins to investigate her death, only to learn that this wasn’t an isolated case. All across the country, people are waking up to lives different from the ones they fell asleep to. Are they suffering from False Memory Syndrome, a mysterious new disease that afflicts people with vivid memories of a life they never lived? Or is something far more sinister behind the fracturing of reality all around him? Miles away, neuroscientist Helena Smith is developing a technology that allows us to preserve our most intense memories and relive them. If she succeeds, anyone will be able to re-experience a first kiss, the birth of a child, the final moment with a dying parent. Barry’s search for the truth leads him on an impossible, astonishing journey as he discovers that Helena’s work has yielded a terrifying gift–the ability not just to preserve memories but to remake them . . . at the risk of destroying what it means to be human.”

Kingdom of Lies: Unnerving Adventures in the World of Cybercrime by Kate Fazzini (June 11, 2019, From St. Martin’s Press)

“A 19-year-old Romanian student stumbles into a criminal ransomware ring in her village. Soon she is extorting Silicon Valley billionaires for millions–without knowing the first thing about computers. A hotel doorman in China once served in the People’s Army, stealing intellectual property from American companies. Now he uses his skills to build up a private side-business selling the data he takes from travelers to Shanghai’s commercial center. Kingdom of Lies follows the intertwined stories of cybercriminals and ethical hackers as they jump from criminal trend to criminal trend, crisis to crisis. A cybersecurity professional turned journalist, Kate Fazzini illuminates the many lies companies and governments tell us about our security, the lies criminals tell to get ahead, and the lies security leaders tell to make us think they are better at their jobs than they are.”

Grab a Snake By the Tail by Leonardo Padura; translated by Peter Bush (June 11, 2019, From Bitter Lemon Press) ^

“Mario Conde investigates a murder in the Barrio Chino, the rundown
Chinatown of Havana. Not his usual beat, but when Conde was asked to take the case by his colleague, Lieutenant Patricia Chion, a frequent object, he couldn’t resist. The case proves to be unusual. Pedro Cuang, a lonely old man, is found hanging naked from a beam in the ceiling of his dingy room. One of his fingers has been amputated and a drawing of two arrows was engraved with a knife on his chest. Was this a ritual Santería killing or a just a sordid settling of accounts in a world of drug trafficking that began to infiltrate Cuban society in the 1980s? Soon Conde discovers unexpected connections, secret businesses and a history of misfortune, uprooting and loneliness that affected many immigrant families from China. As ever with
Padura, the story is soaked in atmosphere: the drinking of rum in deliciously smoke-filled bars, the friendships, the food and beautiful women.”

Big Sky by Kate Atkinson (June 18, 2019, From Doubleday) ^

“Jackson Brodie has relocated to a quiet seaside village, in the occasional company of his recalcitrant teenage son and an aging Labrador, both at the discretion of his ex-partner Julia. It’s picturesque, but there’s something darker lurking behind the scenes. Jackson’s current job, gathering proof of an unfaithful husband for his suspicious wife, is fairly standard-issue, but a chance encounter with a desperate man on a crumbling cliff leads him into a sinister network—and back across the path of his old friend Reggie.”

The Body Lies by Jo Baker (June 18, 2019, From Knopf Publishing Group)

“When a young writer accepts a job at a university in the remote countryside, it’s meant to be a fresh start, away from the big city and the scene of a violent assault she’s desperate to forget. But despite the distractions of a new life and single motherhood, her nerves continue to jangle. To make matters worse, a vicious debate about violence against women inflames the tensions and mounting rivalries in her creative writing group. When a troubled student starts sending in chapters from his novel that blur the lines between fiction and reality, the professor recognises herself as the main character in his book – and he has written her a horrific fate. Will she be able to stop life imitating art before it’s too late?”

The Last House Guest by Megan Miranda (June 18, 2019, From Simon Schuster)

“Littleport, Maine is like two separate towns: a vacation paradise for wealthy holidaymakers and a simple harbour community for the residents who serve them. Friendships between locals and visitors are unheard of – but that’s just what happened with Avery Greer and Sadie Loman. Each summer for a decade the girls are inseparable – until Sadie is found dead. When the police rule the death a suicide, Avery can’t help but feel there are those in the community, including a local detective and Sadie’s brother Parker, who blame her. Someone knows more than they’re saying, and Avery is intent on clearing her name before the facts get twisted against her.”

The Black Jersey by Jorge Zepeda Patterson; translated by Achy Obejas (June 18, 2019, From Random House)

“Marc, a French-Colombian professional cyclist with a military past, is on an elite Tour de France team led by his best friend, Steve, an American star and a favorite to win this year’s Tour. But the competition takes a dark turn when someone begins eliminating racers in a series of violent “accidents,” and all the remaining athletes become suspects. Marc agrees to help the French police with their investigation from the inside, but as the days progress, the dangers grow, and the number of potential murderers–and potential winners–shrinks. In fact, if there’s any team that has been favored by the murderer’s actions, it’s Marc and Steve’s. Who can Marc trust? Who should he protect? As the finish line approaches, Marc must decide what he’s willing to risk for justice, victory, and friendship.”

The Gone Dead by Chanelle Benz (June 25, 2019, From Ecco)

“Billie James’s inheritance isn’t much: a little money and a shack in the Mississippi Delta. The house once belonged to her father, a renowned black poet who died unexpectedly when Billie was four years old. Though Billie was there when the accident happened, she has no memory of that day—and she hasn’t been back to the South since. Thirty years later, Billie returns, but her father’s home is unnervingly secluded; her only neighbors are the McGees, the family whose history has been entangled with hers since the days of slavery. As Billie encounters the locals, she hears a strange rumor: that she herself went missing on the day her father died. As the mystery intensifies, she finds out that this forgotten piece of her past could put her in danger.”

A Nearly Normal Family by M.T. Edvardsson; Translated by Rachel Wilson-Broyles (June 25, 2019, From Celadon Books)

“Nineteen-year-old Stella stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him? Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?”

The Van Apfel Girls Are Gone by Felicity McLean (June 25, 2019, From Algonquin Books)

“Eleven and one-sixth years old, Tikka is the precocious narrator of this fabulously endearing coming-of-age story, set in an eerie Australian river valley suburb with an unexplained stench. The Van Apfel girls vanish from the valley during the school’s ‘Showstopper’ concert, held at the outdoor amphitheatre by the river. While the search for the sisters unites the small community on Sydney’s urban fringe, the mystery of their disappearance remains unsolved forever.”


Want more? We also pulled together a list of crime novels that were released between January and March of this year!

Cover Reveal: THE KILL CLUB By Wendy Heard

Looking for your next thrilling read and a fresh take on serial killer stories? Feast your eyes on the cover for The Kill Club by Wendy Heard, out December 2019. And check out the synopsis below:

The Kill Club by Wendy Heard

Art Director: Kathleen Oudit; Cover Design: Mary Luna

Jazz will stop at nothing to save her brother.

Their foster mother, Carol, has always been fanatical, but with Jazz grown up and out of the house, Carol takes a dangerous turn that threatens thirteen-year-old Joaquin’s life. Over and over, child services fails to intervene, and Joaquin is running out of time.

Then Jazz gets a blocked call from someone offering a solution. There are others like her—people the law has failed. They’ve formed an underground network of “helpers,” each agreeing to eliminate the abuser of another. They’re taking back their power and leaving a trail of bodies throughout Los Angeles—dubbed the Blackbird Killings. If Jazz joins them, they’ll take care of Carol for good.

All she has to do is kill a stranger.

Do Crime Like a Victorian: 11 Nonfiction Recommendations

Is there anything better than a Victorian crime story? From Poe and Collins to Doyle and Hornung, some of the 19th century’s most enduring tales revolve around Victorians behaving very badly indeed. This was the era that saw the rise of both the detective novel and serious media interest in crime—the more gruesome, the better.

This list highlights 11 nonfiction books about Victorian crime and the legendary criminals who were among the era’s most infamous celebrities. Read a few of these, grab a time machine, and then you, too, can do crime like a Victorian.

(Writer’s Note: Nonfiction about the Victorian era is dominated by white authors, and so is this list. Hopefully this will change soon. It would be great to read about this wide-ranging topic from a non-white perspective!)

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime by Judith Flanders

Boy, did Victorians love crime. Every high-profile murder was followed by a media frenzy, and every book, song, and play about crime—no matter how tacky or trashy—was almost guaranteed to turn a profit. The Invention of Murder explores how Victorians became the morbid, crime-obsessed weirdos that still intrigue us today.

The Napoleon of CrimeThe Napoleon of Crime cover by Ben MacIntyre

This is a fascinating look into the life of art thief Adam Worth, who stole an enormously valuable painting but could never bring himself to sell it, instead hanging onto it for over twenty years. Worth’s criminal empire was so successful that it provided the inspiration for a certain desperately overused Sherlock Holmes villain.

The Suspicions of Mr. Whicher coverThe Suspicions of Mr. Whicher: A Shocking Murder and the Undoing of a Great Victorian Detective by Kate Summerscale

Jonathan Whicher was one of Victorian England’s best detectives. But the murder of a little boy proves his professional undoing. Classism prevents Whicher from proving that the boy’s wealthy family committed the crime—until a belated confession thrusts the case back into the spotlight.

The Giant and How He Humbugged America coverThe Giant and How He Humbugged America by Jim Murphy

In 1869, as America struggled to rebuild after its civil war, a farmer in Cardiff, New York, announced that he had dug up the petrified corpse of a giant. Dubbed the Cardiff Giant, this discovery electrified the nation. Everyone, professional or otherwise, had an opinion on it. Was it an ancient statue? Was it proof of the Bible’s veracity? Or maybe—just maybe—it was all one giant lie?

The Inheritor's PowderThe Inheritor’s Powder: A Tale of of Arsenic, Murder, and the New Forensic Science by Sandra Hempel

The events of this book start just before the Victorian era, but is there a murder weapon more quintessentially Victorian than poison? This book puts the spotlight on arsenic, the cheap availability of which made it popular with anyone wanting to bump off an inconvenient relative or two. It also follows the footsteps of the chemist who finally figured out how to detect arsenic in autopsies.

The Murder of the Century coverThe Murder of the Century by Paul Collins

The discovery of a man’s dismembered body scattered around Long Island sparks a tabloid war unlike any seen before (but which will likely sound familiar to modern readers). The murder itself is no less interesting: it involves a love triangle, conflicting testimonies, and a method of body identification so scandalous that even the tabloids couldn’t print it.

Murder in the First-Class Carriage coverMurder in the First-Class Carriage: The First Victorian Railway Killing by Kate Colquhoun

A London man mysteriously vanishes from a first-class train car, leaving no trace but a few personal belongings and a pool of blood. Who killed him, and how, and why? The ensuing rush to answer these questions captivated newspaper readers on both sides of the Atlantic.

The Apparitionists coverThe Apparitionists: A Tale of Phantoms, Fraud, Photography, and the Man Who Captured Lincoln’s Ghost by Peter Manseau

Whenever someone invents something new, someone else will find a way to make a scam out of it. Such was the case with William Mumler’s “spirit photography,” which allegedly showed the ghosts of a person’s loved ones in an otherwise ordinary photograph. But was Mumler cheating people on purpose, or did he genuinely believe his own hype?

The Wicked Boy coverThe Wicked Boy: An Infamous Murder in Victorian London by Kate Summerscale

In 1895, two boys are accused of murdering their mother. The younger one, 12-year-old Nathaniel, turns on his brother Robert, and Robert is condemned to an asylum. But why did he commit this horrible crime? Victorian audiences were spellbound by news of Robert Coombes’s trial, and thanks to Summerscale’s engrossing page-turner, you can be too.

The London Underworld coverThe London Underworld in the Victorian Period: Authentic First-Person Accounts by Beggars, Thieves and Prostitutes by Henry Mayhew

If you want to hear the story of Victorian crime straight from the horses’ mouths, look no further than this book. Henry Mayhew, co-creator of the Victorian satirical magazine Punch, spent years interviewing London’s poorest and cataloged their statements in this four-volume opus—although it should be noted that some of his interview subjects were not happy with the final product.

Victorian Convicts coverVictorian Convicts: 100 Criminal Lives by Helen Johnston, Barry Godfrey & David J. Cox

This book doesn’t have a narrative per se. Rather, the authors have combed through historical records to compile the life stories of one hundred people arrested for various reasons. It gives readers a broad look at the true face(s) of Victorian crime.

Thriller Pitches for the 21st Century

Beach season is in sight, and along with it: paperback thriller season. Readers will want to get their salt-stained fingers on this new crop of thrillers for the 21st century. Modern nightmares await.

On a hot, dry day in early January, the East Coast loses power for good. There is a ferocious pack of killers on the loose; no one is safe and anyone could be the next victim. Where are they coming from and what do they want? They killed all of the pets first. In a surprising twist, it turns out everyone is a killer when you’re fighting for the last few drops of water. Who will survive the climate apocalypse and who will be killed by a thirsty grandma?

You spend your life devoted to security—but what happens when you become the target? Cyber security specialist Anna Thompson learns the hard way what happens to your credit score when hackers overseas steal your identity. A nail biter until the very end, readers will be on the edge of their seats wondering: will she ever be able to buy a house?

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Karen has spent her life working at a job she hates just to earn enough money to get by. She wakes up most nights in a cold sweat, haunted by the memories of bussing tables to pay off her student loans. Echoes of “How hard is it to get an order right?” taunt her in her sleep. When she finally makes the last payment she is sure the nightmares will stop, but then her daughter tells her it’s time to look at colleges. Karen wonders if she’ll make it out alive this time.

Haunted by a string of bad boyfriends, Jodie has decided she’s ready to be single for a good, long while. But during a tropical storm in February, she receives a text message from an unknown number: “I have ur nudes” it says. Jodie’s stomach drops; she was always so careful to only send them via Snapchat, and she never received a screenshot notification. Her phone dings again: “By the way, this is your internet provider.” The power goes out.

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An uneasy crowd is gathered in blizzardy California. People are starting to get anxious and the crowd starts moving closer and closer. It’s becoming difficult to breathe, and Jason Hedge is claustrophobic. He pulls out his phone. “Mom, I’m getting scared—do you think this is all worth it?” A Range Rover pulls up. Kendall Jenner steps out. Jason screams.  

In a small town outside of Baltimore, all of your neighbors are falling ill around you. The elderly lady on the corner dies and a teenager is rushed to the emergency room in the middle of the night. Sirens echo hauntingly through the quiet, dark night. Everywhere you turn, faces are tense, eye contact scarce. You’re scared to leave your home, afraid to be the next victim. The police are frantically trying to locate the cause, questioning parents and young couples. Is it suburban anti-vaxxers or is there E. coli in the lettuce? FDA Inspector Kyle may be the only one who can save them.

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Please Let Mycroft Holmes Be Fat

I treat Sherlock Holmes the way other people treat Pokémon: gotta watch ’em all! From the big names like Rathbone and Brett to the obscure ones like Whitehead and Howard, I can’t get enough of seeing Holmes on screen.

But the more Sherlock Holmes adaptations I watch, the more I begin to see patterns. Not all of these patterns are good ones. Take, for instance, the case of Mycroft Holmes.

Hi, Mycroft!

Mycroft Holmes Greek InterpreterFor the non-Holmesians, Mycroft is Sherlock’s older brother. He is much smarter than his more famous sibling, but in every other way, he is Sherlock’s opposite. Where Sherlock is energetic, Mycroft never leaves the sanctuary of his club if he can help it. Sherlock enjoys getting to the bottom of things; Mycroft often knows he’s right, but isn’t willing to go out and prove it. And of course, Sherlock is slender while Mycroft is heavyset. When Watson first meets Mycroft in The Greek Interpreter, he describes the elder Holmes as “absolutely corpulent” with a “massive” face. He also rather rudely adds that Mycroft has “a broad, fat hand like the flipper of a seal.”

So yes. Mycroft is fat. I say this not as an insult—there’s nothing wrong with being fat—but as a simple statement of fact.

Until recently, Mycroft hasn’t shown up in many adaptations, or if he does, his role is brief. That’s understandable, given that he only appears three times in the canon. My personal favorite on-screen Mycroft is Charles Gray from the Granada series.

Mycroft Granada

Gray gave us a Mycroft who was lazy yet cheerful. He and Sherlock merrily exchange deductions and solve cases together, with Mycroft even reluctantly agreeing to do some footwork now and again. Gray’s Mycroft is a delight and I recommend him to everybody.

But again, it’s not like we have a whole lot of Mycrofts to choose from pre-21st century. That’s starting to change now. We’ve had a spate of new Sherlock Holmes adaptations lately, each more daring than the last in its willingness to reinterpret the canon.

A side effect of all this is a Mycroft renaissance. Sherlock’s mysterious sibling has gone from a very minor recurring character to an adversary, a rival, a secretly loving protector, and even a hero in his own right. Unfortunately, as his role has expanded, his waistline has shrunk.

Let the Parade of Mycrofts Begin

We’ll start with the obvious. Sherlock’s Mycroft is portrayed by series co-creator Mark Gatiss.

Mycroft Sherlock

Not pictured: a fat person.

There is one caveat here. The Christmas special, The Abominable Bride, is set in the Victorian era and features a morbidly obese Mycroft who makes bets with Sherlock about how much he can eat before he finally keels over. That’s rather less than flattering. And anyway, most of this episode takes place in Sherlock’s imagination, so it doesn’t really count.

Meanwhile, Elementary cast Rhys Ifans as their Mycroft. He did a good job, and I liked him, but…

Mycroft Elementary

They hand-wave Mycroft’s appearance as the result of an illness that caused him to lose a lot of weight. Sounds to me like they wanted an excuse to avoid portraying a fat Mycroft. People can get sick and not end up looking like this!

Then there’s Miss Sherlock, a Japanese adaptation where both Holmes and Watson are women. The Mycroft character is named Kento Futaba, and he’s played by Yukiyoshi Ozawa. Here he is with Sherlock.

Sherlock and Kento Miss Sherlock

He’s…sturdy, I guess? Honestly, I don’t know enough about Japanese culture to be able to say how this character is perceived by a Japanese audience.

The only modern adaptation I can think of where Mycroft stays fat is Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, where he is played by Stephen Fry.

Mycroft Sherlock Holmes

You’ll note this is the one adaptation I’ve mentioned thus far that takes place in the 1890s, not in the present day. But don’t worry, Mycroft has been put on a completely unnecessary diet in Victorian-set stories as well. Let’s look at the Russian miniseries Sherlock Holmes, where both Sherlock and Mycroft are played by Igor Petrenko. The main difference between them now is Mycroft’s facial hair.

Russian Sherlock Holmes

Personally, I think they did this just so they could have a gag about Sherlock disguising himself as Mycroft and fooling everybody (except Watson, who is not amused).

Even print media isn’t immune to this phenomenon. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s graphic novel, Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook, is a prequel tale about a young, energetic, womanizing Mycroft.

Mycroft Holmes and the Apocalypse Handbook

Because making him young, energetic, womanizing, and still fat would have stretched credulity.

Finally, in the interest of fairness, I should mention that the concept of a thin Mycroft did not originate with any of the examples I’ve listed here. It goes back at least as far as 1970’s The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes, where Mycroft was played by Christopher Lee.

Mycroft Private Life of Sherlock Holmes

So 21st-century adaptations didn’t start the trend of forcing Mycroft to slim down; they just perfected it.

I Deduce…

What does all this mean, exactly? I’m guessing it’s an extension of Kelly’s observations regarding fatness in YA: it’s okay to have been fat, past tense (especially if that past was in another century), but to be fat, present tense, is unacceptable. In addition, it’s okay if a minor character is fat, but the second he starts to get depth and character development, he has to lose weight. Now there’s a logic that Sherlock Holmes himself would be proud of.

(I typed that as sarcastically as possible, in case it wasn’t clear.)

This is all speculation on my part. I don’t know what these folks were thinking when they cast and wrote their Mycrofts. Maybe they were just trying to subvert the canon as much as possible and got carried away.

But it’s important to remember that questioning canon is not inherently subversive. Questions like “What if X was a woman instead of a man?” give voice to a group of people who were traditionally excluded from certain types of roles. Questions like “What if X wasn’t fat anymore?” do the opposite. They’re oppressive, not subversive.

We have so few decently depicted fat characters in the media. Mycroft could be one of them, if someone would just let him be fat.