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  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 5:00 pm on 2018/01/31 Permalink
    Tags: charles finch, death of an honest man, down the river unto the sea, force of nature, jane harper, joanne fluke, , joseph knox, laura lippman, , Mysteries, , night moves, raspberry danish murder, sirens, sunburn, the woman in the water, ,   

    The Best New Mysteries of February 2018 

    As the bleak winter months drag on, it becomes even more important to take time to do the things you enjoy. For armchair detectives, this means stocking up on some of February’s best new mysteries. From twisty tales of murder and mayhem, to cozy cloak-and-daggers, our latest bumper crop of whodunits has got you covered.

    Night Moves (Alex Delaware Series #33), by Jonathan Kellerman
    When a wealthy family returns home after an evening dinner, they discover a mutilated corpse sitting in their den. Detective Alex Delaware and his friend on the LAPD, Milo Sturgis, are having trouble finding any leads save the suggestion, from one of the family, that their cartoonist neighbor is “weird”, which is a long-shot of a lead, but it’ll have to do. Longtime fans of Kellerman’s long-running Alex Delaware Series will love the gruesome 33rd installment, which is conveniently also a good place for new readers to start from.

    Raspberry Danish Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #22), by Joanne Fluke
    Newlywed Hannah Swensen Barton has barely had time to savor her newfound wedded bliss when her husband Ross vanishes without a trace. Unable to piece together his disappearance, she throws herself into a baking frenzy to help fill holiday orders at The Cookie Jar, including a raspberry Danish tasty enough to help anyone forget about their troubles at home. But before P.K., Ross’s assistant at KCOW-TV, gets the chance to try the delectable pastry, he is murdered. P.K. had been sitting at Ross’s desk at work and driving his car—was he the murderer’s target, or was it Ross? Dig into the delicious 22nd mystery in this toothsome series.

    Force of Nature, by Jane Harper
    There’s nothing quite as awful as a corporate retreat, is there? Especially when it involves a trek into the great outdoors. Five colleagues are compelled to put on hiking boots and trek off into the mud…but only four make it back. And their stories don’t add up. As Federal Police Agent Aaron Falk begins investigating the disappearance, he finds himself stumbling down a rabbit hole of betrayal, inter-office intrigue, and long-buried secrets. Harper’s dazzling debut is not to be missed.

    Down the River Unto the Sea, by Walter Mosley
    A new standalone novel by the author of the Easy Rawlins series introduces Joe King Oliver, who has had what you might call a very difficult time of things. A former cop who found himself framed for assault by fellow NYPD officers, he was sent to Rikers Island, where he endured (and meted out) his fair share of abuse and brutality, and finally ended up in solitary. Now free, Joe’s post-prison life is a quiet one, revolving around his work as a private detective with the aid of his teenage daughter. Until he receives a mysterious note in the mail from a woman claiming to be the person who was paid to frame him. Joe realizes that he cannot rest until he gets to the bottom of his own case, but discovering the truth means aligning himself with a sociopath and wading into a fray of dirty cops and crooked lawyers.

    Death of an Honest Man, by M. C. Beaton
    Honesty is the best policy, but when newcomer Paul English moves to the town of Cnothan and begins attending church in Lochdubh, his policy of brutal truth-telling gets him in trouble, fast. English likes to call things as he sees them, and this essentially involves insulting every townsperson he comes across (he even has the nerve to tell everyone’s favorite laconic police sergeant, Hamish Macbeth, that it’s obvious he dyes his red hair). Before long, nearly everyone English has met would cheerfully kill him—and then someone does. It’s up to Hamish to solve this crime, but when basically everyone is a suspect, it’s far from an open and shut case. The entertaining 33rd installment in the Hamish Macbeth Series will delight longtime fans and win new ones.

    Sunburn, by Laura Lippman
    No one is quite who they seem in Lippman’s riveting noir masterpiece. Polly and Adam first encounter each other in a small town in Delaware. Adam is drawn to Polly’s air of mystery, but she’s not the only one with secrets. Even as they begin a passionate affair that is sure to end in disaster, each continues to hold back, engaging in a dangerous game of cat and mouse. As Polly and Adam’s lives become more tightly entwined, the stakes grow ever higher, until a suspicious death threatens to destroy them both. Be warned: you’ll want to finish this one in a single sitting.

    Sirens, by Joseph Knox
    Disgraced undercover officer Aidan Waits has been given the perfect assignment—perfect because it involves infiltrating the inner circles of dangerous drug lord Zain Carver, so it’s basically a suicide mission, and Aidan’s superiors are not particularly concerned about his health and safety. But Aidan will not be underestimated. He’s been assigned to save young Isabelle Rossiter from Zain’s dangerous influence, and he’s going to do it, even if it costs him everything. Which in fact it may, especially because his interest in her has gone beyond purely professional…

    The Woman in the Water, by Charles Finch
    The eleventh book in the Charles Lenox series is a prequel, taking readers back to the illustrious detective’s early days, when he was fresh, inexperienced, and eager to prove himself. When the discovery of a woman’s body in a naval trunk just off a small island in the middle of the Thames is linked to an anonymous letter sent to the paper suggesting that the killer will strike again, and soon—Lenox sees the opportunity to advance his career he’s been looking for. But his efforts to solve the case attract the killer’s attention, putting Lenox’s inner circle in danger. With a frightening murderer and a desperate young detective, The Woman in the Water will delight longtime fans of the series, while providing the perfect entry point for new readers.

    Claws for Concern, by Miranda James
    Delighted new grandfather Charlie Harris is keeping busy in the 9th novel in James’ endearing series. Through volunteering at the local library, he’s befriended an elderly man who is doing genealogical research that ends up being shockingly close to home. At the same time, true-crime author Jack Pemberton has become obsessively focused on making Charlie the subject of his next book. Fortunately, Charlie’s Maine Coon cat Diesel is up for the challenge of helping him get to the bottom of an unsolved murder. Heaped with Southern Charm and with a puzzling mystery at its heart, Claws for Concern is the perfect story to curl up with on a cold February night.

    The Gate Keeper (Ian Rutledge Series #20), by Charles Todd
    Ian Rutledge is driving around aimlessly after his sister’s wedding when he encounters a startling scene: a woman standing over a bloodied body in the middle of the road. The shaken woman insists that she is not the murderer; that the man was killed by a passerby, and Ian persuades Scotland Yard to give him the case despite the fact that he is a witness after the fact. The victim’s name was Stephen Wentworth, and he appears to have been generally well-liked, except by his own family, who refers to him as a murderer. As Ian digs deeper into the case, a second death makes it clear that the killer is not finished, and in fact may just be getting started.

    What mysteries are you sleuthing on this month?

    The post The Best New Mysteries of February 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 9:00 pm on 2017/12/27 Permalink
    Tags: , , dark in death, gregg hurwitz, hellbent, into the black nowhere, , , jessica fellowes, karen ellis, louisa luna, map of the dark, meg gardiner, mitford murders, Mysteries, , pope of palm beach, robicheaux, the grave's a fine & private place, tim dorsey, two girls down, wife   

    The Best New Mysteries of January 2018 

    January’s mysteries are as dark, bleak, and beautiful as the month itself. Stories of betrayal, shifting loyalties, and perfect-from-the-outside marriages abound. The days are still short, but once you’ve finished this roundup, trust us, your TBR pile will be longer than ever. Without further ado, we present our favorite mystery picks for the first month of 2018!

    Dark in Death (In Death Series #46), by J. D. Robb
    A young woman is quietly murdered with an icepick during a screening of Hitchcock’s Psycho (and yes, during that scene) in the 46th novel in Robb’s masterful In Death series. Before long, Detective Eve Dallas is tipped off that there may be a link between this murder and a recent strangulation—both echo scenes written by an author of procedural thrillers. Dallas and her wealthy husband Roarke begin a frantic quest to figure out which mystery novel this terrifying killer is going to crib from next. And although they’re enjoying delving into mystery novels, time is of the essence if they want to stop another fictional copycat’s crime.

    Robicheaux: A Novel, by James Lee Burke
    Louisiana detective Dave Robicheaux has found himself in a dark place. He’s battling demons including alcoholism, regret, and anger at the loss of his adored wife, Molly. Knee-deep in an investigation into the murder of the man who accidentally killed her, Robicheaux begins to suspect that he himself may have actually committed the murder he is trying to solve. As he and his friend Clete Purcell dig deeper into the mystery, they encounter a colorful cast of characters—a brutal mob boss, an eccentric author, and a pretty-boy with a dark side and deep political aspirations. Burke’s sharply beautiful prose and his timely investigation into themes of corruption, racism, America’s past and its future coalesce into an unforgettable new novel.

    The Mitford Murders, by Jessica Fellowes
    Impoverished but plucky Louisa Cannon is overjoyed when she lands a plum position as a nursemaid to the wealthy Mitford family, becoming particularly close to their clever sixteen-year-old daughter, Nancy. But the two are drawn into the orbit of a dangerous killer when a famous nurse (and descendent of Florence Nightingale) is brazenly murdered on a train in plain sight. This homage to the classic murder mystery is based on a fascinating real-life murder (and a real family!).

    The Grave’s a Fine and Private Place: A Flavia de Luce Novel, by Alan Bradley
    As talented as she is precocious, young Flavia de Luce has already endured her share of tragedies (and solved more than her share of mysteries) by the tender age of twelve. While on a boating trip intended to lift her spirits, traveling with her two older sisters and faithful family servant Dogger, Flavia dangles her fingers in the water and encounters a floating object that turns out to be a human head—still attached to a human body. Of course, this discovery does lift Flavia’s spirits—because she is Flavia, and she now has a brand new murder to solve. This delightfully addictive and award-winning series about a brilliant young sleuth will enchant you.

    Hellbent (Evan Smoak Series #3), by Gregg Hurwitz
    Hellbent is the nail-biting third installment in the Orphan X series featuring trained covert government assassin-turned-friend-of-the-desperate Evan Smoak. This time Smoak, known to the grateful people he assists as Nowhere Man, is called upon to help the only father figure he’s ever had, Jack Johns, on what turns out to be an exceptionally personal mission: Protect Jack’s final protégé from harm, and find new recruits for the Orphan Program. Unfortunately he’s up against both clandestine government forces, who are trying to obliterate all traces of the program, and the new head of the program itself, Van Sciver. Surviving this mission is going to take everything Nowhere Man has.

    The Pope of Palm Beach: A Novel, by Tim Dorsey
    Author Tim Dorsey is a genius at mining the Sunshine State’s rich vein of wackadoodle characters, and he does so with admirable aplomb (and irreverence) in this novel starring the indomitable, dedicated Florida fan Serge A. Storms. A compelling mystery leads Serge to return to his home turf to investigate the myths behind a man named Darby, a.k.a. the Legend of Riviera Beach, a universally beloved surfer with a heart of gold from Serge’s childhood. As Serge and his quirky sidekick Coleman begin to investigate, the body count grows, and the mystery only deepens.

    Two Girls Down, by Louisa Luna
    The tension never lets up in this harrowing thriller. Single mother Jamie Brandt leaves her eight and ten year old daughters in the car for just a few minutes while she buys a birthday present, and when she returns, they’re gone. Her sister enlists tough-as-nails bounty hunter Alice Vega to find the girls, and when the police force resists her help, Alice teams up with a disgraced former cop named Max Caplan. Don’t miss this beautifully written, character-driven, and relentlessly suspenseful story by and up and coming master of the genre.

    Into the Black Nowhere: An UNSUB Novel, by Meg Gardiner
    A charming yet psychopathic serial killer in this disturbing, Ted Bundy-inspired thriller is targeting young women in southern Texas; a different one is murdered every Saturday night. FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix is a rookie who’s just started in the Behavioral Analysis unit, and she’s charged with working against the clock to get inside the depraved mind of a ruthless killer who just might be hiding in plain sight. Her focus narrows to a well-liked, successful professional, but he’s linked to the crimes only by circumstantial evidence, which may not be enough to save this weekend’s next murder victim.

    The Wife, by Alafair Burke
    Having escaped her tragic past, Angela is enjoying a quiet life in relative obscurity with her son when she meets Jason, who sweeps her off her feet. They marry, and several years later Jason’s writing career takes off and Angela finds herself and her son closer to the spotlight than she would like. When several women make troubling accusations against her husband, Angela is forced to confront the fact that she may not know Jason as well as she thinks, and to decide whether or not she can defend him, if it means losing everything. A twisty psychological thriller about trust, loyalty, and long-buried secrets.

    A Map of the Dark, by Karen Ellis
    When a teenaged girl named Ruby disappears under mysterious circumstances, FBI agent Elsa Myers takes the case even though she’s already got a lot on her plate—her father is dying in the hospital, and she’s keeping a lot of emotions related to several deeply dysfunctional family relationships and a difficult past at bay by compartmentalizing it all in order to keep herself sane. But as Ruby’s case unfolds it shakes free some long-buried secrets, and Elsa’s painful history begins to rear its ugly head, threatening to derail her investigation—and ruin the life she has built for herself in the process. At the heart of this harrowing race-against-time story is an exploration of the way our family legacies shape us—and the way they can destroy us.

    Which mysteries are you excited to pick up this month?

    The post The Best New Mysteries of January 2018 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 1:00 pm on 2017/06/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , deadfall, down a dark road, elizabeth peters, joan hess, , , , Mysteries, , paradise valley, the fallen, the painted queen, two nights   

    July’s Best Mysteries 

    This month’s mystery roundup packs a punch! July is a terrific time to be a deckchair detective, and we’ve got a fresh batch of puzzlers that will keep you occupied for the 90 minutes you need to wait before you can swim after eating all that barbecue. (A little extra caution never hurt anyone.) Dig in, gumshoes!

    Paradise Valley, by C. J. Box
    After three years of stalking a terrifying truck stop-haunting serial killer known as the Lizard King, Investigator Cassie Dewell finally has him in her sights with the perfect sting operation—but when it goes sideways, she’s left holding the bag, as well as unemployed and disgraced. In the meantime, tough kid Kyle Westergaard, whom Cassie has been looking after, mysteriously disappears. Cassie’s got some down time while the dust settles, so she throws herself into the search for Kyle…which begins to turn up some alarming evidence of foul play.

    The Painted Queen, by Elizabeth Peters and Joan Hess
    Elizabeth Peters’ beloved and hilariously arch series starring a renowned family of archaeologists who thwart danger at every turn comes to a thrilling conclusion in this twentieth novel. After her arrival in Cairo to begin another exciting excavation, Amelia Peabody can’t even take a leisurely bath at in her hotel suite without being rudely interrupted by a monocle-sporting stranger with a knife in his back, who inconveniently dies before he is even able to tell her who sent him. It soon becomes apparent that Amelia and her charismatic husband Radcliffe Emerson have become the target of assassins—and when they dig a little deeper, they realize the whole thing is in fact a deeply disturbing family affair.

    Down a Dark Road (Kate Burkholder Series #9), by Linda Castillo
    Joseph King, a “fallen” Amish man with a history of violence, was convicted of his wife’s murder and sentenced to life, escaping from prison two years later. Chief of Police Kate Burkholder’s past with King is as far-reaching as it is twisted; as a young Amish girl, she idolized him, so despite his ruthless reputation, she is still shocked to find herself in the middle of a terrifying negotiation with him when he takes his five children hostage on a relative’s Amish farm. As Kate becomes more involved in the standoff, she finds herself at King’s mercy. But is he really a killer—or is he himself the victim of an even deeper scheme?

    Two Nights, by Kathy Reichs
    Fans of Reichs’ Temperance Brennan series (which inspired the beloved television show Bones) will be thrilled to meet Sunday Night—who is different from Brennan in almost every way, namely due to her implacable rage—but just as compelling. The heroine of this new standalone novel, Sunnie has been spending the bulk of her time trying to forget her past, cutting herself off from the people around her, and not feeling her feels. But when a girl goes missing after a terrifying bomb explosion, her family desperately needs Sunnie’s help, and despite herself, Sunnie finds herself drawn into the search to find her…even though doing so means confronting some serious demons.

    Deadfall (Alexandra Cooper Series #19), by Linda Fairstein
    The nineteenth novel in Fairstein’sAlexandra Cooper series explores the business of protecting (and exploiting) wild animals in one of the world’s most infamously unforgiving urban environments—New York City. When a city employee whom Assistant DA Alex has known for years is gunned down, she must work with NYPD detectives Mike Chapman and Mercer Wallace to discover who is behind the cold-blooded killing. In the process they get a fascinating (and unsettling) peek at the underbelly of big-game hunting and the illegal animal trade that has them wondering who the real animals are.

    A Distant View of Everything: An Isabel Dalhousie Novel, by Alexander McCall Smith
    Isabel and her husband have welcomed a new baby into their lives, which is thrilling to everyone but their almost-four-year-old son, Charlie. In the meantime, Isabel finds herself enlisted by an old acquaintance, Bea Shandon, to assist with an investigation into a possible matchmaking situation gone wrong. Bea introduced a female friend to an impressive doctor at a recent dinner party, but she now fears that the doctor may have ulterior motives, and fears for her friend’s safety (and wealth). But as Isabel digs deeper into the case, she begins to question the motives of everyone involved.

    The Fallen (Quinn Colson Series #7), by Ace Atkins
    A group of bank robbers responsible for a rash of impeccably timed robberies have left Mississippi Sheriff Quinn Colson quite impressed, despite himself. Their technique is so good, it reminds him of his training as an army ranger in Iraq and Afghanistan. In fact, their robberies are so similar to the raids he used to lead back in the day, that Quinn is beginning to suspect that these robbers may have the same kind of background as he does. Which means, unfortunately, that he’s going to dig deep in order to find the kind of people—some friends, others enemies—to help him put a stop to their reign of terror.

    What mysteries are you excited to read this month?

    The post July’s Best Mysteries appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Jeff Somers 6:15 pm on 2017/06/12 Permalink
    Tags: , Mysteries, , ,   

    50 Must-Read Noir Detective Novels 

    Whatever kind of reading you like best in life, you can find your match in a good noir detective novel. Great stories with complex plots? Noir. Hilarious humor, albeit of a generally dark variety? Noir. Unforgettable characters? Noir. Breathless action? Noir again. If you’ve fallen behind the curve on noir fiction, now’s the time to get on board that train, because some of the greatest novels ever written have fallen into this beloved, chameleonic genre. Here are 50 noir books in no particular order that any fan of detective fiction should have on their shelves—and if you’re not familiar with the label, any one of these would be the ideal introduction to the genre.

    The Killer Inside Me, by Jim Thompson
    Thompson’s story of a small-town deputy sheriff is one of the most chilling depictions of a sociopath ever committed to paper. As the plot twists itself into an ever-tighter knot, you’re simultaneously fascinated and revolted by Lou Ford, a character that helped shape our modern conception of serial killers.

    The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiell Hammett
    This is the novel that introduced the world to quintessential noir private eye Sam Spade, based in part on Hammett’s own experience working for the infamous Pinkertons. It contains much of the basic genetic material that has been mined ever since for that noir feel—from the world-weary private investigator willing to get physical (in every sense of the word) to the femme fatale to the seamy underside of dark secrets.

    The Postman Always Rings Twice, by James M. Cain
    If the setup—young drifter meets beautiful young woman unhappily married to older man, whom they decide to murder for financial and romantic gain—is a classic, it’s because this fast-paced, lushly written novel made it a classic. Based on a real-life case, the book was banned in several areas of the country for its frank depiction of lust and violence, with a bleak ending that helped define the genre.

    L.A. Confidential, by James Ellroy
    The third book in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet marks the point at which noir invaded the literary world and made a home for itself. Ellroy’s 1950s Los Angeles is corrupt, violent, soaked in lust and addictions, and populated by crooked cops and criminals. With its intricate plot and flawed characters, it’s much more than a violent story about violent people, following the career of three cops—ambitious Ed Exley, brutal Bud White, and slick Jack Vicennes—as they spiral into darkness.

    The Ice Harvest, by Scott Phillips
    A classic element of noir is the simple, perfect crime that is subverted ruinously by human nature. Phillips’ modern classic is the story of low-level crook and former attorney Charlie Arglist, who has a simple plan to make off with his mobster boss’s money in the middle of a Christmas Eve blizzard in Wichita. Charlie’s own poor judgment slowly unravels the scheme, however, leading him inexorably into an evening of violence and desperation, told in one of the funniest narrative voices in noir history.

    The Big Sleep, by Raymond Chandler
    Chandler’s iconic private investigator Philip Marlowe gets embroiled in a famously complex story involving blackmail, murder, pornography, and seduction—so complex that to this day no one knows who committed one of the murders described therein. Chandler’s rhythmic dialogue and sparse, gut-punch descriptions make this novel much more than the sum of its violent, cynical parts.

    Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell
    Woodrell’s modern classic at first might seem too cold and modern to be noir, but Ree Dolly’s quest to save her ramshackle house by either finding her good-for-nothing father or proving him dead is set up in classic noir terms. In the Ozarks, presented as a frozen wasteland of ice and methamphetamine, Ree must navigate a culture whose rules feel alien and threatening, relying on her wits and courage—and desperation. In other words, it’s noir.

    Fast One, by Paul Cain
    None other than Raymond Chandler had high praise for this “ultra-hardboiled” novel. George Kells is a rough-and-tumble gambler and gunman who just wants to be left to his own devices. When rival criminal and political cartels try to recruit him, he aims to stay out of it—but of course is sucked in after a series of double-crosses. And now Kells is angry and looking to take on all comers in this ferocious, bloody story that never lets up.

    A Drink before the War, by Dennis Lehane
    Lehane’s brilliant debut introduces private investigators Patrick Kenzie and Angela Gennaro, hired by three politicians to retrieve photos from a woman named Jenna Angeline. While the city slides into one of its most explosive periods of gang warfare, Kenzie and Gennaro find themselves looking into sickening child abuse, terrifying violence, and a series of twisting double-crosses culminating in a victory that feels more like a defeat.

    Double Indemnity, by James M. Cain
    Cain returns with another classic based on the real-life case of Ruth Snyder, telling the story of an insurance agent who conspires with a bored, beautiful woman to murder her husband and collect the double indemnity payout on his life insurance. Filled with the sort of smart, world-weary dialogue and ink-black morality that defined the genre, with an ending that might just be the bleakest ever committed to the page.

    He Died with His Eyes Open, by Derek Raymond
    The first in Raymond’s Factory series introduces an unnamed police sergeant working in the Department of Unexplained Deaths, out of a building dubbed “The Factory” because of the efficient way the cops bring in, tune up, and turn out suspects. The narrator is a misanthrope knee-deep in the worst of humanity at all times, and it’s his determination to somehow bring the dignity of investigation to the “nobodies” at the core of his cases that makes Raymond’s brutal universe sing.

    Kiss Me, Deadly, by Mickey Spillane
    Spillane’s Mike Hammer is another icon of the genre, a wrecking crew of a man whose “own rules” attitude toward legalities and social niceties predates Dirty Harry by decades. Kiss Me, Deadly is perhaps the ideal Hammer story, as a chance encounter leads Hammer to turn his furious vengeance on the mafia—an organization that has become so entrenched and political it’s basically the establishment, and is thus vulnerable to the disruption of a violent, determined man.

    The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson
    Larsson’s first novel is a brilliant locked-room mystery, a study of an entire society, and a classic noir premise. Disgraced journalist Mikael Blomkvist is lured into investigating a decades-old cold case, and his efforts bring him face to face with what can only be called the banality of evil. Larsson gives the noir ingredients a 21st-century makeover—the femme fatale part is taken over by Lisbeth Salander, no pinup dame—and the result is a pitch-black noir story exposing the grimy underside of Swedish society.

    The Glass Key, by Dashiell Hammett
    This novel served as inspiration for the film Miller’s Crossing, and represents one of the greatest triumphs of noir writing, combining a corrupt society ruled by violence with the shifting sands of male friendship. Ned Beaumont, a gambler closely connected to a gangster, finds himself dancing a line between warring gangs and politicians, with an ending that’s noirishly bleak without being expected or particularly brutal.

    The Crow Girl, by Erik Axl Sund
    An example of a modern take on the noir genre, The Crow Girl is a violent story with an unreliable narrator. Detective Jeanette Kihlberg has the requisite messy personal life and cynical worldview for noir stories, and the crimes she finds herself investigating, involving mutilated, mummified children, explode into a horrifying and exhilarating exploration of generational violence, another classic noir theme.

    Midnight Sun, by Jo Nesbø
    Nesbø has established himself as a modern master of noir—specifically the Nordic Noir that has invigorated the genre in recent years. Midnight Sun isn’t as hardboiled as Nesbø’s Harry Hole novels, but the story of a low-level and unenthusiastic criminal on the run from his vengeful boss offers a flipped-script view of the traditional story that’s deeper and richer than most.

    I, the Jury, by Mickey Spillane
    The debut Mike Hammer novel could serve as a template for writing the perfect hardboiled detective novel. In a story involving a renowned psychiatrist simultaneously coercing her clients into drug addiction and assisting a crime syndicate with their prostitution and drug-dealing businesses, it takes that dark view of humanity and throws the wrecking ball known as Mike Hammer into it, ending with a typically extralegal and extra-violent conclusion.

    Farewell, My Lovely, by Raymond Chandler
    The second Philip Marlowe novel begins with Marlowe witnessing a murder—but since it’s a murder of a black man in 1940s Los Angeles, the police are content to leave the investigating to Marlowe himself. Typically for Chandler, the plot—constructed from previously published short stories—was less important than the style, resulting in the classic Chandler-esque dreamlike prose that makes the dark, violent storytelling almost beautiful.

    Night and the City, by Gerald Kersh
    Harry Fabian is one of the least sympathetic narrators in literary history, a morally blank criminal desperate to elevate himself into a position of power, wealth, and influence. Although he’s smart and his schemes tend to succeed, nothing Harry does coalesces into anything tangible, and his desperation grows over the course of the novel, as does the sense of amoral chaos in the world Kersh describes.

    Payback, by Russell James
    Drawing inspiration from the classics of the genre with dialogue that crackles with Hammett’s rhythmic style and dreamy prose that echoes Chandler, James tells the story of a Floyd Carter returning to London to bury his brother Albie, only to find himself dragged into his brother’s criminal world. A gangster pins Albie’s debts on Floyd, another urges him to consider a career in drug trafficking. Shot through with dark humor and a rising body count, James explores the consequences of living in a noir world.

    Brighton Rock, by Graham Greene
    Pinkie is one of the most dreadful and fascinating characters ever created, a fervent Catholic who possesses zero compassion or empathy, a violent criminal and sociopath who manipulates everyone around him. He finds himself squaring off with Ida Arnold, a woman who decides to expose Pinkie’s crimes solely out of a sense of rightness. Greene deftly explores the conflict between the noir protagonist’s bleak worldview and a more moral and upright approach, resulting in a rich, complex story that transcends classification.

    Killing Floor, by Lee Child
    Child’s first Jack Reacher novel remains a searing modern noir that builds from an inciting mystery to a bloody, violent ending. Upon arriving in a small town in Georgia, Reacher is promptly arrested for a murder he couldn’t have committed, leading the former military policeman down a rabbit hole of local corruption and into the classic noir setup of one man against a broken society.

    A Rage in Harlem, by Chester Himes
    Himes’ straightforward depiction of violence, criminal activity, and racial attitudes isn’t for the shy or squeamish. In this story of a luckless man swindled out of borrowed money and reaching out to Harlem cops Grave Digger Jones and Coffin Ed Johnson to help him get it back, the police are depicted almost as a criminal gang themselves—a concept shocking in the 1950s, though less so in the modern age.

    The Blue Hammer, by Ross MacDonald
    The final Lew Archer novel is considered by many to be MacDonald’s triumph, a story involving a long-dead artist, a priceless work, and the violence, deception, and mounting moral costs involved in plumbing the mystery surrounding it. It’s easy to see the whole story as an investigation of noir itself, a metafictional exercise that wonders out loud whether Archer, a prototypical noir antihero who helped define the genre, is the hero or the villain, and whether it matters.

    Dope, by Sara Gran
    Josephine Flannigan is a former junkie and prostitute in Hell’s Kitchen in this subversion of noir tropes. When a rich girl gets sucked into the junkie life and goes missing, who better to look for her than Joe, who could use the money and certainly knows the neighborhood. The mystery leads Joe to explore dark nooks of her world even she had somehow avoided, and leads to noir-typical betrayals, violence, and revelations that confirm everyone’s dark view of humanity.

    Red Harvest, by Dashiell Hammett
    Narrated by another of Hammett’s iconic characters, the Continental Op (based again on Hammett’s own experiences in the Pinkertons), this is a violent story from the title down. Finding himself in the corrupt, barren town of Personville (called Poisonville by the residents), the Op is backed into a corner by rival gangs, friendless and framed. He has to use his wits to set his enemies against each other—and his talent for violence as well.

    Dark Passage, by David Goodis
    Employing the rare completely innocent protagonist, Goodis tells the story of Vincent Parry, wrongly convicted of killing his wife and imprisoned based on the false testimony of a woman with a personal grudge. He escapes, undergoes plastic surgery to evade the police, and dives into the underworld to find the true killer, spiraling downward into desperation.

    Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley
    Mosley’s debut introduces Ezekiel “Easy” Rawlins, a down-on-his-luck laborer in desperate need of money in 1948 Los Angeles. He’s hired to find a white woman who has gone missing, and as he becomes embroiled in a complex web of crime and duplicity—and is framed for murder along the way—Rawlins undergoes a transformation, evolving into the classic noir detective right before readers’ eyes in a story that puts the race issues of the time—and our time—boldly front and center.

    A is for Alibi, by Sue Grafton
    A modern example of a lighter, more mystery- than violence-centric noir, Grafton’s debut Kinsey Millhone novel has all the classic noir elements, from the unfaithful spouse to the false accusations, the frame-ups, betrayals, and smart dialogue. Grafton has written twenty-four more Millhone mysteries since, making this one of the most deeply explored fictional universes in literature.

    Miami Purity, by Vicki Hendricks
    Hendricks’ story of low expectations and murderous lovers comes very, very close to going too far, and then nimbly steps back each time. Sherri Parlay has just violently rid herself of an unwanted husband and decided to give up exotic dancing for a Day Job, applying at Miami Purity dry cleaners. There she meets mama’s boy Payne Mahoney and his domineering mother, who doesn’t like Sherri much. Payne likes Sherri a lot, however, and soon Mom is dead—and that’s when the story gets weird and violent.

    The Deep Blue Good-by, by John D. Macdonald
    The first Travis McGee novel (all of them color-coded for your convenience) introduces a young McGee, a character who will age naturally over the course of twenty-one novels and two decades. McGee represents an evolution of the noir detective, shedding much of the dark, grim loneliness in favor of a more hedonistic enjoyment of his bachelorhood, even as he finds himself constantly enmeshed in the plots of psychopaths like Junior Allen, the superficially charming thief, murderer, and rapist seeking a buried treasure in this first adventure.

    The Bird Tribunal, by Agnes Ravatn
    An outlier in the world of noir, this dense, foreboding story of a television personality, Allis Hagtorn, who flees scandal for a job as a caretaker in a remote village, includes a heavy dose of psychological thrills. She discovers her employer isn’t a sickly old man, but a middle-aged, taciturn, and somewhat disturbingly intense man named Sigurd. While his wife is away, Allis is to tend to the garden and his needs—but from their first meeting an uneasy relationship threatens to explode into something terrible.

    The Friends of Eddie Coyle, by George V. Higgins
    Higgins’ story, noted for its realism, is a brutal depiction of the midcentury Irish underworld in Boston. Eddie Coyle is an aging criminal caught between dying in prison and ratting out a connected associate. As he struggles to navigate a middle route between these two dangerous options, events outside of his control and knowledge slowly constrict into doom, proving there really is no honor among thieves.

    Die a Little, by Megan Abbott
    Abbott’s modern noir takes a different approach to an old setup: when spinsterish teacher Lora King meets her brother’s new wife, the gorgeous and mysterious Alice, you might expect her to be suspicious and hostile. Instead, she’s falls under Alice’s glamorous spell, too, and only slowly—and somewhat reluctantly—comes to worry about Alice’s missing pieces, ominous friends, and reluctance to answer questions. Abbott captures the hopelessly grim tone of noir without giving into clichés, reinventing as she goes.

    The Bride Wore Black, by Cornell Woolrich
    Inverting the usual noir paradigm, Woolrich puts us in the head of the titular bride, a woman who methodically and clinically assumes various identities specifically to murder a man, leaving behind mystified police. In other words, it’s a noir with the femme fatale at its center instead of the gumshoe, and it has got one heck of a twist that still resonates after all these years.

    Altered Carbon, by Richard K. Morgan
    Science fiction often crossbreeds with other genres, but rarely as perfectly as in this cyberpunk story of a future where sleeving in and out of bodies is common—and complicated. Takashi Kovacs is as pure an antihero as you’ll find, and for all the mind-bending technology and sci-fi concepts, at its heart this is a bloody, moody noir story.

    Savages, by Don Winslow
    Winslow’s story of two guys trying to reinvent the drug trade and falling into the familiar grinding vices of violence and betrayal that always thundering away in the background of a noir story is propulsively written (the first two words of the book are a profane insult) and filled with crazy twists that somehow work. It’s a bold reestablishment of noir’s fleshy, funky power in the modern day.

    Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell
    Another character who has aged with each successive book, Kurt Wallander lives in a secret- and violence-laden Sweden that predates and somehow predicts Stieg Larsson’s version of the country. The morally exhausted Wallander and his team investigate the savage murders of a couple; the wife’s last word was “foreign,” which, when leaked to the press, sparks a series of attacks on foreigners. Mankell uses this setup to explore the seamy underbelly of modern society and the way everyone is complicit in it.

    White Jazz, by James Ellroy
    The final volume in Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet is as cynical and bloody as the first three, introducing LAPD lieutenant Dave Klein, who paid for law school by doing work for the mob. It’s work he continues to do as a police officer, and includes the occasional murder for hire. As is typical in classic noir stories, Klein is smart and capable, but finds himself dragged into a conflict out of his control, because when no one plays it straight, how can you trust anyone?

    In a Lonely Place, by Dorothy B. Hughes
    Shortly after World War II, Dix Steele roams the streets of Los Angeles. Claiming to be a writer in order to have an excuse to not have a job, Dix offers to help a detective friend named Brub hunt down a serial killer. But Brub’s wife and another woman begin to have their own suspicions about Dix’s intentions—and connections. The taut story offers a reversal of the noir template with a study of a misogynist and sociopath who isn’t always aware of the trap tightening around him.

    The Thin Man, by Dashiell Hammett
    Hammett’s final published novel is a bit more lighthearted than his other work, and other noir detective novels in general. Nick and Nora Charles set the standard for the wisecracking, witty romantic team solving crimes almost as a hobby, and while the people the couple encounter are grotesque and violent, the seaminess never seems to touch their perfectly tailored, hard-drinking selves.

    The Grifters, by Jim Thompson
    Thompson once again presents a version of reality in which nothing is truly good and love is not really real in this classic story of con artists who never even aspire to any sort of big score—rather, they’re intent on mere survival. That survival might cost them the most fundamental bonds people can have with each other, and Thompson once again implies that this is us—all of us—at our core.

    A Simple Plan, by Scott B. Smith
    One of the key elements of noir is the erosion of trust and affection when money—or survival—is introduced. In Smith’s brilliantly efficient novel, both come between three men who find millions of dollars at the site of a small plane crash, money they decide to keep. The plan is indeed simple, but fails to take into account the chance and randomness of the universe.

    Strangers On a Train, by Patricia Highsmith
    Patricia Highsmith is perhaps the only author on this list who could challenge Jim Thompson for sheer bleakness when it comes to her view of human nature. The premise—two strangers share their troubles and consider how they could commit the perfect crime by killing the people troubling each other, people they have no connection to, and the cascading events that follow after one of the men takes the idea far more seriously than the other—once again dives into the fundamental noir concept of the illusion of control, that the idea that you can guide events is laughable, and even deadly.

    Pop. 1280, by Jim Thompson
    Some regard Pop. 1280 as Thompson’s masterpiece, and it’s a gloriously disturbing book. Nick Corey is a lazy small-town sheriff with no greater goal than to indulge his appetites and stay the course, cheating on his shrewish wife and ignoring her mentally slow brother. But Nick Corey isn’t just a liar—he’s a man with such a profound lack of self-awareness he doesn’t even realize how evil he is. As the depth of his depravity slowly dawns on the reader, everything that has come before is recast in a new, more awful light, and the betrayals and violence that come later suddenly seem perfectly in tune with the grimy universe Thompson has created.

    Galveston, by Nic Pizzolatto
    Pizzolatto, creator of HBO’s True Detective, wasn’t so famous when his debut novel was published, but it’s still a gorgeously mean-spirited noir, following low-level enforcer Roy Cady—recently diagnosed with a terminal illness—who flees New Orleans when his boss puts a hit on him. Taking a young girl along for the ride, Cady heads into Texas, trying to hide out in Galveston’s fleabag bars. But Cady comes to realize that his decision to bring the girl along has doomed them both.

    Savage Season, by Joe R. Lansdale
    Lansdale introduces his characters Hap Collins and Leonard Pine, two middle-aged nobodies who work bottom-feeder jobs. Hap’s ex-wife recruits them to help her and a radical leftist group locate money lost in a wilderness no one knows better than Hap. At first Hap is impressed by the politics and wonders if he’s wasted his life, but as the betrayals and body count mount it becomes a story of survival, pure and simple.

    Eight Million Ways to Die, by Lawrence Block
    Block’s Matthew Scudder is a recovering alcoholic, ex NYPD detective making ends meet by working as an unlicensed private detective. He agrees to help a high-class hooker get out of the life, and is surprised when her pimp seems resigned to her retirement. Then the girl is found dead, and Scudder’s physical decline due to his drinking problem is paralleled with New York City’s decline, forming the ideal noir backdrop.

    Donnybrook, by Frank Bill
    The universe of Donnybrook is a barren, economically anemic Indiana and Kentucky, where men and women scratch out their lives in a swamp of crime, drugs, and violence—exemplified by the title event, a bare-knuckle fighting competition with a $100,000 prize. The brutality is endless and unforgiving, and rendered in painful detail.

    Drive, by James Sallis
    Sallis’ novel has all the noir elements, including a skilled protagonist (called only Driver) who isn’t worried about breaking the law (in this case, by using his stunt-driving skills to help criminals commit crimes) and who quickly finds himself in over his head and struggling not to understand, or to find justice, but merely to survive. With violence around every corner, the story is as gut-spinning as a car chase, and soaked in Driver’s existential malaise.

    The post 50 Must-Read Noir Detective Novels appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 5:30 pm on 2017/02/01 Permalink
    Tags: Mysteries, , ,   

    February’s Best Mysteries 

    Welcome, armchair detectives! The bleakest, coldest time of the year has arrived, and for those of us who prefer to lean in to winter’s dreariness, a good whodunit is perfect cozy company on a dark, frigid evening. Some of our favorite long-running mystery series have new books coming out this month—from J. D. Robb’s thoroughly entertaining In Death series, to Jonathan Kellerman’s twisty Alex Delaware novels, there’s something for everyone. Best of all, if you haven’t been reading these series from the beginning, many of February’s novels provide the perfect point for jumping in.

    Echoes in Death (In Death Series #44), by J.D. Robb
    Fans of the long-running In Death mystery series by author J. D. Robb (the alter-ego of the marvelously Nora Roberts) know that it chronicles the dark twists and turns in the lives of celebrated detective Lieutenant Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband, Roarke. In the 44th novel in the series, Echoes in Death, Dallas and her husband encounter a bleary, naked woman wandering the streets of Manhattan. She turns out to be Daphne Strazza, whose husband, a renowned surgeon, has just been brutally murdered. As they dig deeper into the case, the darker character of Daphne’s late husband emerges, and the list of suspects only grows.

    Heartbreak Hotel (Alex Delaware Series #32), by Jonathan Kellerman
    Ninety-nine year old Thalia Mars is not the kind of patient that child psychologist Alex Delaware typically interviews, but the charming and insistent woman makes him an offer he can’t refuse. When he agrees to meet her at the Aventura hotel, a luxurious location with a dark history, the topics Thalia wants to talk about—from guilt, to criminal behavior—strike Alex as curiously morbid. And although she promises to explain more during their second meeting, when Alex returns, Thalia has been found dead in her room. The investigation into her mysterious death leads Alex and his partner, Milo Sturgis, down a rabbit hole of secrets and lies and into an examination of the fascinating life of a woman who was far from innocent.

    Banana Cream Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #21), by Joanne Fluke
    Readers of this delicious series know that baked goods and cozy murder mysteries go together like chocolate and peanut butter. In Banana Cream Pie Murder, the 21st novel in the series, bakery owner and sleuth extraordinaire Hannah Swensen returns from a dreamy honeymoon only to find herself in the thick of a murder investigation. Her mother’s neighbor has turned up dead, and the formerly famous stage actress made no end of enemies during her storied career. Was the murder a random act, as the police believe, or was something more sinister at play? As Hannah unravels the case she finds herself confronting something a lot more dangerous than a pie in the face. This Barnes & Noble exclusive edition includes an extra recipe—and an epilogue with a special twist!

    Bone Box: A Decker/Lazarus Novel, by Faye Kellerman
    When Rina Lazarus makes a gruesome discovery while hiking in the woods (spoiler alert: it’s a body, aaaand it’s been there awhile), she brings her police detective husband, Peter Decker, in on the case, which soon spirals into a far-reaching investigation across the Five Colleges of Upstate, where Rina is employed. Fortunately she’s able to use her insider knowledge of the schools to gather intelligence and round up a list of suspects, because a very dangerous killer with a gruesome past is on the loose, is the body count is showing few signs of slowing down.

    Garden of Lamentations (Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James Series #17), by Deborah Crombie
    A beautiful young nanny is found murdered in a private garden in a quiet neighborhood, sparking an investigation into a case that hits particularly close to home in different ways for Det. Supt. Duncan Kincaid and his wife, Det. Insp. Gemma James. The nanny, Reagan Keating, was looking after a child that the couple knows, which is disconcerting to Gemma, and when another body turns up not long after in the same neighborhood, her determination to find the murderer becomes all-consuming. Meanwhile, as Kincaid begins to delve into cases that involve members of the force, he begins questioning whether there might be a traitor among them—suspicions that only grow when an officer close to him suffers a brutal attack.

    Death of a Ghost (Hamish Macbeth Series #32), by M. C. Beaton
    When Police Sergeant Hamish Macbeth is called to investigate strange noises at a purportedly haunted castle, he and his partner, Charlie “Clumsy” Carson, decide to spend the night there to catch what they believe are simply delinquent teenagers or other riffraff. But when a body turns up, the dazzlingly smart (but notoriously unambitious) Hamish realizes there is more to this case than he originally suspected. Fans of Hamish’s antics in his beloved, sleepy Scottish village of Lochdubh will enjoy this fiendishly clever installment in his long-running series, which involves a coverup among his superiors that has him risking everything to find the truth. If you haven’t yet met this sly Highlander, you’re in for a treat.

    Rather Be the Devil (Inspector John Rebus Series #21), by Ian Rankin
    Detective Inspector John Rebus is not exactly living his best life. For one thing, he’s recently given up smoking. For another, he’s been forced into retirement, which is not sitting well with him. When he finds himself obsessing over a cold case that has always haunted him—the 40 year old murder of a wealthy socialite in a glamorous hotel—Rebus begins asking questions about it, and it comes roaring back to life—complete with a new body to add to the count.

    What mysteries are you digging into this month?

    The post February’s Best Mysteries appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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