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  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 5:00 pm on 2019/01/31 Permalink
    Tags: a justified murder, alex delaware, careless love: a dci banks novel, , charles todd, connections in death, hannah swensen series, , , , , , Mystery, , , the black ascot, the chocolate cream pie murder, the lost man, the vanishing man, the wedding guest   

    February’s Best New Mysteries 


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    February may be a bleak month in a bleak season, but mysteries were made for bleak weather! To celebrate freezing temperatures and still-too-short days, we’ve got some brilliant whodunits for you this month, gumshoes. Pile on another lap blanket as you settle into your favorite armchair, and lose yourself in one or two of our eight favorite new mysteries for February.

    Connections in Death, by J. D. Rob
    Eve Dallas and her billionaire husband Roarke are fans of giving back. That’s why they’re building a new school and shelter for troubled kids who need a second chance. They’ve enlisted the help of Dr. Rochelle Pickering, a psychologist who has experience in this area, having helped support her brother Lyle, whose life had been hurtling down a path of drug addiction and crime before he managed to get himself clean. But before long Lyle is found dead, a needle in his lap. It seems like an open and shut case of relapse, but something doesn’t add up for Eve, who is soon able to prove that actually, Lyle’s demise was not by his own hand.

    The Wedding Guest (Alex Delaware #34), by Jonathan Kellerman
    Fans of Kellerman’s Alex Delaware series know that no one is better at delving into a criminal’s twisted mind than the brilliant psychologist. Delaware’s pal, detective Milo Sturgis, is called to investigate a grisly murder that took place during a wedding reception that possibly got just a bit out of control at a former strip club. When a well-dressed female guest is found with her throat slashed, it’s up to this intuitive duo to narrow down the suspects from a list of 100 invitees, none of whom will cop to actually knowing the victim.

    The Chocolate Cream Pie Murder (Hannah Swensen Series #24), by Joanne Fluke
    The honeymoon is over for newlywed and bakery owner Hannah Swensen, whose life has fallen to pieces not long after her celebrated nuptials. The Cookie Jar has been chosen as the setting for an exciting television special, but to Hannah’s chagrin it’s her own personal life, rather than her bakery, that’s taken center stage. Gossip is spreading like wildfire in Lake Eden and it’s not helping that Hannah has received a visit from an ex she’s on less than good terms with. Worse, she’s being followed everywhere by a bunch of bodyguards ever since a victim turned up…in her bedroom. Camped out in her mother Delores’s penthouse, Hannah must team up with a former flame to solve a deadly mystery.

    The Lost Man, by Jane Harper
    Nathan and Bub Bright are brothers whose properties adjoin each other—but because this is the Australian outback, they live a three-hour drive from one another—and are each other’s closest neighbors. There they find the body of their third brother, middle child Cameron. Cameron ran the family homestead, and his passing leaves behind a grieving family. His death is a mystery, and there are few clues to what led Cameron to head out across the brutal landscape alone. All Nathan and Bub know is that there is a dearth of suspects in this sparsely populated part of the world, and their investigation into Cameron’s death begins to unearth family secrets that may have been best left buried.

    A Justified Murder, by Jude Deveraux
    In the second book in Deveraux’s hit new mystery series, trio Sara, Kate, and Jack find themselves entangled in another murder mystery—but this time, the trio has decided to leave sleuthing to the professionals, having suffered too close a call the last time they got involved in solving a murder. But when a lovely older woman named Janet Beeson is found shot, stabbed and poisoned, the townspeople of Lachlan (and even the local sherrif!) decide that the residents who solved the infamous Morris murders should be the ones investigating this heinous new crime.

    The Black Ascot, by Charles Todd
    Inspector Ian Rutledge receives a tip that just might be enough to reopen the search for Alan Barrington, the suspect in a terrible murder who has managed to disappear for ten years. As Rutledge pursues the cold case, he begins to believe that Barrington may be back in England, giving investigators a priceless opportunity to finally apprehend him. But as he continues to dig into the mind of a ruthless killer, he finds his own sanity coming into question as the long-buried demons of his past are shaken loose.

    The Vanishing Man: A Prequel to the Charles Lenox Series, by Charles Finch
    The second novel in a prequel trilogy to the Charles Lenox Victorian series opens with the theft of a valuable painting from the home of the Duke of Dorset. But as Charles Lenox discovers when called to the scene of the crime, the thieves missed an even more valuable painting, and he’s concerned that they’ll come back for it. When they do, they add ‘murder’ to their list of crimes, and Lenox finds himself a party to a dreadful secret that the venerable Dorset family will do anything to protect. Fans of Charles Lenox will relish reading about his early exploits as a hungry young detective early in his career.

    Careless Love: A DCI Banks Novel, by Peter Robinson
    Two bodies turn up under very peculiar circumstances with no clear explanation behind their deaths in the newest novel in the riveting 25th novel in the Inspector Alan Banks series. One, a young woman, is discovered in an abandoned car in the middle of nowhere. But she doesn’t drive—doesn’t even have a license. Then an older gentleman is found in the woods, presumably he died from a fall during a hike, but why is he dressed in business clothes? The eerie and confounding details continue to add up until a surprising tip leads back to a very old—and very cruel—enemy.

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

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:50 pm on 2018/12/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , Mystery, mystery gift guide, ,   

    12 Must-Have Titles for the Mystery Fan on Your Shopping List 


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    Giving books as gifts can be tricky; you want to ensure you get the bibliophiles on your list books they’ll appreciate and love, while avoiding books they’ve already read. The good news is there are so many strong mysteries out right now you have a lot of choice. We’ve taken the liberty of pointing you at some of the best mysteries out there right now; any one (or two! or three!) of these titles would make a perfect gift for the mystery fan in your life—and books make great gifts for Secret Santas and office gift exchanges, too, because who doesn’t love a good mystery?

    Look Alive at Twenty-Five, by Janet Evanovich
    Gift-giving can be stressful, so do yourself a favor and concentrate on the crowd-pleasing sure things like this. Twenty-five books in and Stephanie Plum is going strong as ever, still tackling gritty mysteries with humor, smarts, and competence to spare. This time around Plum’s attention is drawn to the Red River Deli in Trenton, famous for its pastrami and its cole slaw. More recently, it’s become famous because of its disappearing managers—three in the last month, each leaving behind a single shoe. Lula tries to convince Stephanie it’s aliens abducting humans for experiments, but Stephanie figures on something a little less exotic—and takes over running the business herself in order to get to the bottom of things. It’s certainly not the first time Plum has put herself in danger for the sake of a case—and she can only hope it won’t be her last.

    Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny
    Penny’s 14th book featuring Chief Inspector Gamache begins with the retired chief of the Sûreté du Québec receiving the surprising news that he’s one of three executors of the estate of an elderly woman he’s never met. With his suspension and the events that led to it still under excruciatingly slow investigation, Gamache agrees to participate, even thought the terms of the will are outlandish, leading him and his fellow executors to wonder if the old woman was mentally sound. When a dead body turns up, however, it prompts Gamache to reconsider—because the terms of the will suddenly seem much less strange, and much more ominous. Meanwhile the drugs he allowed to remain on the streets as part of his plan to destroy the drug cartels are still out there—and if he doesn’t find them, and soon, there will be devastation throughout the city. For once, Chief Inspector Gamache is something wholly unexpected: desperate.

    Lethal White, by Robert Galbraith
    By now everyone knows that Robert Galbraith is actually J.K. Rowling, and the fourth Cormorant Strike novel finds her at the top of her adult fiction game. Strike, now a famous private investigator, has to deal with people showing up at his offices as well as the difficulty in investigating things when you’re instantly recognizable to everyone. When a young man comes to his office asking for help looking into a murder he thinks he witnessed—and thus has been haunted by—as a kid, Strike senses just enough sincere detail to take on the case. As his investigation leads him into the secret corridors of British power, his personal life in the form of his relationship with former assistant-turned-full partner Robin reaches new levels of complexity.

    Leverage in Death, by J.D. Robb
    Robb delivers the 47th entry in this bestselling series with appropriate fireworks, as Paul Rogan, a successful executive, arrives at a routine meeting concerning a merger and promptly detonates the suicide vest he’s wearing. Eve Dallas is called in as the investigating detective and first has to figure out whether this was purposeful terrorism or simple desperate suicide with collateral damage. Every detail Dallas and her team discover serves only to muddy the waters and spin up the tension, especially after they discover that Rogan had been told by mysterious men that his family would be killed if he didn’t do as they asked. As Dallas puzzles over the convoluted manner of what seems like a murder attempt, more explosions deliver more bodies—and more clues.

    The Witch Elm, by Tana French
    French turns in her first novel not part of the Dublin Murder Squad, telling the story of affably low-key Dubliner Toby. Toby’s low-stakes life involves working as a social media guru for an art gallery and contemplating someday maybe marrying his girlfriend Melissa. When two robbers break into his apartment and beat him brutally, however, his lingering mental and physical injuries prevent him from living a normal life, and he and Melissa move in with his dying Uncle Hugo. When a skeleton found in a tree on Hugo’s property turns out to be an old classmate of Toby’s, the damaged young man is haunted by the possibility that his lost memories hold the key.

    Depth of Winter, by Craig Johnson
    After thirteen books, it’s understandable that Walt Longmire has made a lot of enemies. Professional assassin and enforcer for drug cartels Tomás Bidarte knows this, and so he kidnaps Walt’s daughter, Cady, and holds her captive in a remote cabin in the Chihuahua desert in northern Mexico, intending to auction her off to whichever of Walt’s enemies hates him the most. Walt heads off to rescue his girl, but Bidarte has an army of bad guys protecting his investment, and Longmire isn’t the sort of man who can blend in. Longmire’s faced bad odds before, but never quite this bad—and never with so much on the line. In a foreign country, with no help from his own government and disinterest from the locals, it’s tempting to count Longmire out—but fans know better.

    The Colors of All the Cattle, by Alexander McCall Smith
    The nineteenth novel featuring Mwa Ramotswe and her fellow investigators and residents of the town of Gaborone is as delightful and insightful as ever. Ramotswe is persuaded to run for a seat on the city council when it’s revealed that the arch-enemy of her agency partner Grace, Vera Sephotho, is in the race. Vera supports a terrible initiative to build a luxury hotel next to the town’s cemetery, which gives Mwa Ramotswe the moral edge in the race, but her compulsively honest answers to questions might complicate her campaign. Meanwhile, the agency deals with the investigation of a hit-and-run case even as their assistant Charlie, finally growing up, engages in his first true romance.

    Feared, by Lisa Scottoline
    Scottoline is as close to a safe bet when it comes to buying books for mystery fans, and her series about lawyers Mary DiNunzio and Bennie Rosato is probably on your mystery superfan’s shopping list already, so giving it as a stocking stuffer will be genius. When Rosato & DiNunzio is hit with a sex discrimination lawsuit from three men who claim they weren’t hired because of their gender, Mary and Bennie smell a rat. When their only male employee, John Foxman, resigns because he agrees, they’re floored—and then they find out who’s behind the lawsuit—Mary’s nemesis, Nick Machiavelli. Nick is determined to have his revenge, and when Foxman turns up murdered suspicion settles on the firm’s partners and things look bleak. Mary—seven months pregnant—and Bennie must somehow fight off a lawsuit that could ruin them and solve a murder that could incarcerate the partners. That’s a recipe for the perfect mystery to give as a gift.

    November Road, by Lou Berney
    Berney spins a karmic tale about a mob fixer named Frank Guidry working in New Orleans in 1963. Guidry snips loose ends for his boss Carlos Marcello, violently if necessary. He gets the job of leaving a car in a Dallas parking lot, and after President Kennedy is assassinated he realizes he provided a getaway vehicle for the real shooter—and worse, now he’s a loose end. Trailed by Marcello’s top hitman, Guidry flees and meets up with Charlotte Roy, an unhappy but steel-tipped housewife escaping an abusive husband. As the tension rises, the two find themselves making a surprisingly effective team as they seek to survive in different ways.

    Field of Bones, by J.A. Jance
    For long-time fans of Jance’s Joanna Brady series, book number eighteen will be a welcome addition to their gift haul—and it’s not a bad idea for any fan of great mysteries with a realistic protagonist and a lot of heart. Brady, pregnant and on maternity leave, responds to acting sheriff Tom Hadlock’s call for all hands on deck when a teenager finds a skull in the desert, revealing what appears to be a body disposal area for a very active—and very terrifying serial killer. Alternating points of view between the killer and the police’s efforts to identify him is a master class in ratcheting up the tension and keeping the reader guessing, as the birth of Brady’s daughter underscores the desperation to save the killer’s remaining prisoners.

    Bright Young Dead, by Jessica Fellowes
    Fans of Downton Abbey and other Edwardian-era historical fiction are closer to the mystery genre than they realize, and Fellowes’ Mitford Murders series is the perfect way to convince them. Set in 1925, when London is roiled by the criminal activities of an all-female gang known as the Forty Thieves, London police Guy Sullivan and Mary Moon find themselves in the company of aristocrats upstairs and their servants downstairs as they try to tackle the gang—and find themselves embroiled in a distasteful murder before it’s all over. Think of Fellowes’ work as Abbey with murder and they’ll be sold—and you’ll be getting some very enthusiastic Thank You cards.

    One for the Money, by Janet Evanovich
    The holiday season is the ideal time to give someone more than just a single book, but rather the gift of one of the best characters to ever grace the mystery shelves, Stephanie Plum. For twenty-five books, Evanovich has been delighting mystery fans with Plum’s adventures as a bounty hunter and detective, and the first book remains the ideal introduction. Plum, down on her luck in Trenton, New Jersey, convinces her cousin to give her a shot at apprehending criminal Joe Morelli—coincidentally the man who seduced Plum out of her virginity at age sixteen—and gets a crash course in the rough and tumble world of being an apprehension agent as she explores some long-dormant feelings for Joe. The lucky person getting this book from you will thank you twenty-four more times, trust us.

    There’s no mystery why people love getting books as gifts (see what we did there?)—it’s an opportunity to lose yourself and get away from holiday stress (the travel! the cooking! the travel!) by escaping into a thrilling story that also challenges your little gray cells. Which books are on your gift list this year?

    Shop all mystery & crime >

    The post 12 Must-Have Titles for the Mystery Fan on Your Shopping List appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 4:12 pm on 2018/11/07 Permalink
    Tags: , allen eskens, , , , , , , , mike lupica, , Mystery,   

    November’s Best Mysteries 


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    November officially kicks off the holiday season, which means you’re putting together shopping lists and trying to pick out the perfect gifts for everybody. You have to practice self-care, though, which means that aside from choosing the best mysteries to give to your loved ones as gifts, you have to pick out a few for yourself. This week’s best mysteries include new adventures from the best in the business, including the very real Janet Evanovich and Louise Penny and the very fictional Jessica Fletcher.

    Look Alive Twenty-Five, by Janet Evanovich
    Twenty-five books in and Stephanie Plum is going strong as ever, still tackling gritty mysteries with humor, smarts, and competence to spare. This time around Plum’s attention is drawn to the Red River Deli in Trenton, famous for its pastrami and its cole slaw. More recently, it’s become famous because of its disappearing managers—three in the last month, each leaving behind a single shoe. Lula tries to convince Stephanie it’s aliens abducting humans for experiments, but Stephanie figures on something a little less exotic—and takes over running the business herself in order to get to the bottom of things. It’s certainly not the first time Plum has put herself in danger for the sake of a case—and she can only hope it won’t be her last.

    Kingdom of the Blind, by Louise Penny
    Penny’s 14th book featuring Chief Inspector Gamache begins with the retired chief of the Sûreté du Québec receiving the surprising news that he’s one of three executors of the estate of an elderly woman he’s never met. With his suspension and the events that led to it still under excruciatingly slow investigation, Gamache agrees to participate, even thought the terms of the will are outlandish, leading him and his fellow executors to wonder if the old woman was mentally sound. When a dead body turns up, however, it prompts Gamache to reconsider—because the terms of the will suddenly seem much less strange, and much more ominous. Meanwhile the drugs he allowed to remain on the streets as part of his plan to destroy the drug cartels are still out there—and if he doesn’t find them, and soon, there will be devastation throughout the city. For once, Chief Inspector Gamache is something wholly unexpected: desperate.

    Robert B. Parker’s Blood Feud, by Mike Lupica
    In response to a request from Robert B. Parker’s fans, veteran sportswriter-turned-novelist Lupica brings the late Parker’s only female private eye, Sunny Randall, back in this exciting, fast-paced seventh novel. Sunny—hypercompetent as a private detective—is struggling with her emotional state as she deals with being divorced but still drawn to her ex-husband, Richie Burke. Richie, the son of local mobster Desmond Burke, gets shot in the back one night—but the shooter makes it clear that he was left alive on purpose, and that it’s part of a grudge against the Burkes in general. A few nights later, his bookie uncle Peter is shot dead. The Burkes want to handle this on their own, but Sunny can’t stay out of it, even when her investigation beings her repeatedly up against old foe Albert Antonioni, supposedly retired after trying to bump Sunny off. Lupica does Parker proud with this energized, smart story, and Sunny’s fans old and new will be very happy with the way everything turns out.

    The Colors of All the Cattle, by Alexander McCall Smith
    The nineteenth novel featuring Mwa Ramotswe and her fellow investigators and residents of the town of Gaborone is as delightful and insightful as ever. Ramotswe is persuaded to run for a seat on the city council when it’s revealed that the arch-enemy of her agency partner Grace, Vera Sephotho, is in the race. Vera supports a terrible initiative to build a luxury hotel next to the town’s cemetery, which gives Mwa Ramotswe the moral edge in the race, but her compulsively honest answers to questions might complicate her campaign. Meanwhile, the agency deals with the investigation of a hit-and-run case even as their assistant Charlie, finally growing up, engages in his first true romance.

    A Christmas Revelation, by Anne Perry
    Perry’s tradition of offering a Christmas-themed Victorian mystery continues, this time telling the story of nine-year old Worm, an orphan living in mid-19th century London. Worm has found an ersatz family at Hester Monk’s clinic, located at the site of a former brothel, and especially in the sweet Claudine Burroughs and the sour Squeaky Robinson, who once worked at the brothel and now serves as the clinic’s bookkeeper. One day Worm sees a woman on the street who immediately infatuates him with her gentle visage—only to be apparently attacked and kidnapped. Distressed, Worm enlists the reluctant but experienced Squeaky to help him track down the lady and ride to her rescue—but of course, twists and turns abound as they walk the cobble stone streets in search of clues.

    Murder, She Wrote: Manuscript for Murder, by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
    Fans of the classic TV show and fans of great mysteries alike will be thrilled with Land’s second outing with writer and detective Jessica Fletcher. In New York for a meeting with her publisher, Fletcher is approached by a fellow writer named Thomas Rudd who tells her he thinks their publisher, Lane Barfield, is skimming money form their royalties—and later turns up dead in a suspicious gas explosion. When she meets with Barfield, however, he can only talk about a new novel he’s acquired from an unknown writer named Benjamin Tally, and he gives Fletcher a copy of it for her opinion. Then the bodies begin to pile up: Barfield turns up dead, an apparent if unlikely suicide, and two other authors who saw the manuscript are dead as well. When Fletcher herself is attacked and left for dead before she can finish the book, she seeks out allies and digs in like only Jessica Fletcher can.

    The Shadows We Hide, by Allen Eskens
    Report Joe Talbert, Jr. reads about a man named Joe ‛Toke’ Talbert, recently murdered in a small Minnesota town. Joe never knew his father, and he wonders if this man might turn out to be his namesake. He begins looking into the man’s life and murder, and finds no shortage of suspects who might have wanted Toke dead, as he was by all reports a terrible human being and worse father. Toke’s wife died shortly before under suspicious circumstances, leaving Toke with a large inheritance, making the solution to his murder an even more complex puzzle—especially since, if Toke is in fact Joe’s father, the money would legally be his. Part personal journey, part grim mystery, Joe learns as much about himself as he does about the man who might be his father as the mystery takes a few delirious twists before the surprising, satisfying ending.

    The Whispered Word, by Ellery Adams
    Nora Pennington and the Secret, Book, and Scone Society return to run Miracle Books and feed the soul with the perfect choice of novel. A new business opens in town, Virtual Genie, offering cash for unwanted goods that it then sells on the Internet. Everyone thinks owner Griffin Kingsley is a perfect gentleman, but Nora isn’t sold. And when an obviously terrified young girl named Abilene wearing a hospital bracelet and some bruises turns up hiding in the store, followed by a pair of suspicious deaths, Nora begins to suspect that Abilene is the next target—and that Griffin Kingsley’s arrival at the same time may not be as much of a coincidence as it first appears.

    Whether it’s holiday stress, plane ride downtime, or the simple pleasures in life, nothing beats a good supply of mysteries to feed the soul while the cold weather moves in. Grab a bunch from this list and thank us later!

    Shop all mystery & crime >

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

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , Mystery, , , ,   

    Every Megan Abbott Book, Ranked 


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    Megan Abbott is having a Moment. With the publication of her ninth novel, Give Me Your Hand, comes the realization that this brilliant author has flown under the radar for too long, and it’s time we all caught up. Abbott hasn’t really written a bad book yet, but we have our own ideas about where you should start. Below, we rank the novels, leaving the best for last. Disagree? Tell us in the comments..

    The Fever
    Abbott’s assured 2014 novel tells the tale of a sleepy town whose teenage girls suddenly start suffering a mysterious illness. As thrillers go, it’s low key but tense: on one hand, Abbott easily crafts a creepy, sexually-charged atmosphere and populates it with true-to-life characters struggling with teen sexuality from every pained perspective—and then ramps up the paranoia and horror by stages. On the other hand, if you’re looking for action, or an explosive conclusion that burns off all the high-pressure unease the novel generates, well, that’s not what the author is going for here.

    You Will Know Me
    This story of a young gymnast with Olympic aspirations and a dread of her growing bosom, the obsessively supportive parents who have given up everything to push their daughter forward, and the isolated, suffocating world of gymnasts, is great. The unlikeable characters are reliably fascinating and well-rendered, and the setting and sense of dread is palpable. While the book is offered up as a mystery, however, Abbott is absolutely disinterested in that aspect of the story. Said mystery, involving the death of teen boy, isn’t much of one, and readers paying the slightest attention will know exactly what happened shortly after the body’s discovered. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t fantastic—but it does mean those looking for shocking twists should start elsewhere.

    Die a Little
    Abbott’s first published novel follows a schoolteacher in postwar L.A. who begins to suspect her policeman brother’s new wife is on the sketchy side, and it’s about as great a debut novel as you can hope for. If Die a Little isn’t as polished, tight, or spellbinding as Abbott’s later work, its subversion of traditional noir gender roles and other tropes is delightful fun, if a bit on-the-nose—something else Abbott got better at as time went on. It’s still a definite must-read, if only to see how a very good writer slowly evolves into a tremendous one.

    Bury Me Deep
    Based on a true story, Abbott’s 2009 novel (nominated for an Anthony Award) is an immersive, slow burn telling the story of Marion Seeley, whose husband, a doctor, leaves her in Phoenix so he can go to Mexico for work and to kick his drug habit. Marion falls in with a group of other women and meets Joe Lanigan, who seduces her—and then, things go really, really badly for everyone involved. Abbott takes her time with the pacing of this one; the first 80 percent of the book, finds her wallowing in her own gorgeous writing and the increasingly unbearable tension of the story. The final act is therefore an exhilarating explosion that feels oh so good, even as it highlights how slow the buildup was.

    The End of Everything
    This story of a 13-year old girl, Lizzie, whose best friend suddenly disappears, is so much more than a mystery—the revelation of what happened comes fairly early in the story, and isn’t too surprising. It is more a deep-dive into the girl’s unreliable, confused psyche. Abbott infuses Lizzie with vigilance, confusion, and dark secrets, then layers on a serious lack of reliability—Lizzie doesn’t always seem to be totally in control of her own narrative. Lizzie’s voice is what makes this book so incredible. Spending time with her is almost overwhelming—she’s a brilliant character, and a narrative device that you’ll really love. But you’ll be happy, too, to see the back of her at its end.

    Give Me Your Hand
    Abbott’s newest book, about two brilliant girls who pushed each other to achieve back in high school and fell out over a terrible confession, only to be forced together professionally years later, loads all the author’s weapons into one powerful vehicle, which then proceeds to run you over. There’s the exploration of dark, twisted teen girl relationships. There’s the slow boil of inarticulate rage that results in horrific violence. The careful study of small, claustrophobic groups. The entertaining rendering of characters who are, at best, unlikeable. At this point, the top four Abbott novels approach a kind of singularity of excellence, so feel free to consider this on equal footing with the three that follow.

    Dare Me
    Dare Me is probably the book that woke most people up to Abbott, and for good reason. Set in the world of teenage cheerleading, it explores the “Mean Girls” dynamic with a story packed with the sort of ruthless twists and subversions that are Abbott’s hallmark—asking the simple question, what happens when the Regina George of your group gets demoted? If you’ve read any of Abbott’s books, you know the answer involves murderous rage, and the way former Queen Bee Beth reacts when her loyal sidekick Addy becomes enamored with the cool new cheerleading coach is a compelling study of sociopathic teen girl angst. At the same time, Abbott smartly positions the cheerleading team as being disdained by the rest of the school—they’re not the popular girls, because cheerleading, despite its demanding athletic standard, is seen as silly. Dare Me is an drum-tight book that captures the true terror of being a teenage girl.

    The Song is You
    If you’re only familiar with Abbott’s more recent novels set in contemporary times, get thee to her classic noir The Song is You, which seems so old-fashioned at first blush, it’s easy to miss its electrifying subversions. Set in Golden Age Hollywood, it’s got all the boozy, jazzy earmarks of a period piece, aping the bleak mood and dark style of the time. At first glance, the gender roles he characters fall into seem traditional as well—the protagonist is a man, a “fixer” for the film studios when scandals arise, and he’s haunted by his involvement in covering up the disappearance of a young starlet. Dig deeper, and you find Abbott knows exactly what she’s doing, and what tropes she’s playing with. The end result is an Ellroy-esque twister that revels in the debauchery of old Hollywood, but does so with razor-sharp purpose.

    Queenpin
    Abbott’s third novel is nearly perfect (it won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original). It’s another red meat dive into noir, telling the story of a girl who’s adopted by the titular Queenpin of the criminal underground, Gloria Denton, who teaches her everything she knows about the rackets—and then falls for precisely the wrong man. As the unnamed narrator and her mentor slowly circle each as their respective roles change, the violence and tension of the story ratchets up as if a supercomputer was tasked with crafting the perfect thriller plotline, even as Abbott explores and interrogates gender roles and classic tropes with a modern, gimlet eye. Even if you think you don’t enjoy hardboiled-style stories, check out Queenpin—there’s so much more going on aside from the whiskey, cigarettes, and gunplay.

    What Abbott novel left you breathless?

    The post Every Megan Abbott Book, Ranked appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Jeff Somers 3:00 pm on 2018/09/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , Mystery, , , ,   

    Every Megan Abbott Book, Ranked 


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    Megan Abbott is having a Moment. With the publication of her ninth novel, Give Me Your Hand, comes the realization that this brilliant author has flown under the radar for too long, and it’s time we all caught up. Abbott hasn’t really written a bad book yet, but we have our own ideas about where you should start. Below, we rank the novels, leaving the best for last. Disagree? Tell us in the comments..

    The Fever
    Abbott’s assured 2014 novel tells the tale of a sleepy town whose teenage girls suddenly start suffering a mysterious illness. As thrillers go, it’s low key but tense: on one hand, Abbott easily crafts a creepy, sexually-charged atmosphere and populates it with true-to-life characters struggling with teen sexuality from every pained perspective—and then ramps up the paranoia and horror by stages. On the other hand, if you’re looking for action, or an explosive conclusion that burns off all the high-pressure unease the novel generates, well, that’s not what the author is going for here.

    You Will Know Me
    This story of a young gymnast with Olympic aspirations and a dread of her growing bosom, the obsessively supportive parents who have given up everything to push their daughter forward, and the isolated, suffocating world of gymnasts, is great. The unlikeable characters are reliably fascinating and well-rendered, and the setting and sense of dread is palpable. While the book is offered up as a mystery, however, Abbott is absolutely disinterested in that aspect of the story. Said mystery, involving the death of teen boy, isn’t much of one, and readers paying the slightest attention will know exactly what happened shortly after the body’s discovered. That doesn’t mean the book isn’t fantastic—but it does mean those looking for shocking twists should start elsewhere.

    Die a Little
    Abbott’s first published novel follows a schoolteacher in postwar L.A. who begins to suspect her policeman brother’s new wife is on the sketchy side, and it’s about as great a debut novel as you can hope for. If Die a Little isn’t as polished, tight, or spellbinding as Abbott’s later work, its subversion of traditional noir gender roles and other tropes is delightful fun, if a bit on-the-nose—something else Abbott got better at as time went on. It’s still a definite must-read, if only to see how a very good writer slowly evolves into a tremendous one.

    Bury Me Deep
    Based on a true story, Abbott’s 2009 novel (nominated for an Anthony Award) is an immersive, slow burn telling the story of Marion Seeley, whose husband, a doctor, leaves her in Phoenix so he can go to Mexico for work and to kick his drug habit. Marion falls in with a group of other women and meets Joe Lanigan, who seduces her—and then, things go really, really badly for everyone involved. Abbott takes her time with the pacing of this one; the first 80 percent of the book, finds her wallowing in her own gorgeous writing and the increasingly unbearable tension of the story. The final act is therefore an exhilarating explosion that feels oh so good, even as it highlights how slow the buildup was.

    The End of Everything
    This story of a 13-year old girl, Lizzie, whose best friend suddenly disappears, is so much more than a mystery—the revelation of what happened comes fairly early in the story, and isn’t too surprising. It is more a deep-dive into the girl’s unreliable, confused psyche. Abbott infuses Lizzie with vigilance, confusion, and dark secrets, then layers on a serious lack of reliability—Lizzie doesn’t always seem to be totally in control of her own narrative. Lizzie’s voice is what makes this book so incredible. Spending time with her is almost overwhelming—she’s a brilliant character, and a narrative device that you’ll really love. But you’ll be happy, too, to see the back of her at its end.

    Give Me Your Hand
    Abbott’s newest book, about two brilliant girls who pushed each other to achieve back in high school and fell out over a terrible confession, only to be forced together professionally years later, loads all the author’s weapons into one powerful vehicle, which then proceeds to run you over. There’s the exploration of dark, twisted teen girl relationships. There’s the slow boil of inarticulate rage that results in horrific violence. The careful study of small, claustrophobic groups. The entertaining rendering of characters who are, at best, unlikeable. At this point, the top four Abbott novels approach a kind of singularity of excellence, so feel free to consider this on equal footing with the three that follow.

    Dare Me
    Dare Me is probably the book that woke most people up to Abbott, and for good reason. Set in the world of teenage cheerleading, it explores the “Mean Girls” dynamic with a story packed with the sort of ruthless twists and subversions that are Abbott’s hallmark—asking the simple question, what happens when the Regina George of your group gets demoted? If you’ve read any of Abbott’s books, you know the answer involves murderous rage, and the way former Queen Bee Beth reacts when her loyal sidekick Addy becomes enamored with the cool new cheerleading coach is a compelling study of sociopathic teen girl angst. At the same time, Abbott smartly positions the cheerleading team as being disdained by the rest of the school—they’re not the popular girls, because cheerleading, despite its demanding athletic standard, is seen as silly. Dare Me is an drum-tight book that captures the true terror of being a teenage girl.

    The Song is You
    If you’re only familiar with Abbott’s more recent novels set in contemporary times, get thee to her classic noir The Song is You, which seems so old-fashioned at first blush, it’s easy to miss its electrifying subversions. Set in Golden Age Hollywood, it’s got all the boozy, jazzy earmarks of a period piece, aping the bleak mood and dark style of the time. At first glance, the gender roles he characters fall into seem traditional as well—the protagonist is a man, a “fixer” for the film studios when scandals arise, and he’s haunted by his involvement in covering up the disappearance of a young starlet. Dig deeper, and you find Abbott knows exactly what she’s doing, and what tropes she’s playing with. The end result is an Ellroy-esque twister that revels in the debauchery of old Hollywood, but does so with razor-sharp purpose.

    Queenpin
    Abbott’s third novel is nearly perfect (it won the Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original). It’s another red meat dive into noir, telling the story of a girl who’s adopted by the titular Queenpin of the criminal underground, Gloria Denton, who teaches her everything she knows about the rackets—and then falls for precisely the wrong man. As the unnamed narrator and her mentor slowly circle each as their respective roles change, the violence and tension of the story ratchets up as if a supercomputer was tasked with crafting the perfect thriller plotline, even as Abbott explores and interrogates gender roles and classic tropes with a modern, gimlet eye. Even if you think you don’t enjoy hardboiled-style stories, check out Queenpin—there’s so much more going on aside from the whiskey, cigarettes, and gunplay.

    What Abbott novel left you breathless?

    The post Every Megan Abbott Book, Ranked appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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