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  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 3:00 pm on 2019/12/02 Permalink
    Tags: beating about the bush, brewed awakening, Genesis, just watch me, , Mystery, , thriller, , , trace of evil and dangerous to know, under occupation   

    December New Releases in Mystery and Thrillers 

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    The holiday season is packed full of travel, social obligations, and time with family and friends—so there’s no better time to have a page-turning book to turn to during quiet moments, whether you’re stranded at the airport, or hiding out in the coat room. There are some fabulous holiday treats in store for mystery and thriller fans, including a compelling new antihero from the author who brought us Dexter and a perfect new British cozy starring Agatha Raisin.

    Under Occupation, by Alan Furst
    In occupied Paris in 1942, novelist Paul Ricard is handed a secret document by a stranger just before the man is killed by the Gestapo. When Ricard, realizing the document’s importance, goes out of his way to make sure it ends up in the hands of the resistance network, he finds himself unexpectedly drawn into a world of spying and subterfuge. As his involvements with anti-Nazi efforts increase, Ricard finds himself entangled with a beautiful spy and risking his life to undertake ever more dangerous assignments in this perfectly paced, edge-of-your seat historical espionage thriller.

    Genesis, by Robin Cook
    The death of twenty-eight year old social worker Kera Jacobsen seems like an open-and-shut case of a drug overdose…at first. But according to her family and friends, Kera never used drugs. And then there’s the fact that she’s ten weeks pregnant—and no one can name the father. As the mysteries and inconsistencies pile up, NYC Medical Examiner Laurie Montgomery finds herself distracted from the investigation by a medical emergency, and her new pathology resident, the slightly unconventional Dr. Aria Nichols, takes the lead. Aria plans to search genealogical databases for a match of the fetus’s DNA in the hopes of discovering possible male relatives who might lead to an identification of the father. But when a close friend of the victim’s is murdered, Laurie and Aria realize their cutting-edge investigative methods might be getting them too close to the truth—and they could be next on the killer’s list.

    Just Watch Me, by Jeff Lindsay
    The author who brought us the darkly irresistible Dexter series has a new vigilante antihero for us to root for: brilliant thief and master of disguise Riley Wolfe, who never met a priceless jewel he couldn’t steal. Until now—just as Riley is getting bored of his usual stealing-from-and-occasionally-murdering-the-superrich routine, he learns that the Crown Jewels of Iran are about to be exhibited in a Manhattan museum. These gems are beyond valuable, but stealing them is completely and utterly impossible…or is it? will Don’t miss this pitch-perfect escapist crime caper.

    Beating About the Bush (Agatha Raisin Series #30), by M.C. Beaton
    When the body of Mrs. Dunwiddy, the elderly assistant to the chairman of a local manufacturing company, turns up by the side of the road, crabby and clever Agatha Raisin is brought in to investigate. Quite a number of suspects, from a beloved donkey to several dubious factory bosses, are implicated in the crime, which keeps Agatha busy. Most concerning, however, are Agatha’s feelings for her longtime friend and sometimes-lover, Sir Charles Fraith. Will she unravel either the mystery at hand, or the one of the human heart? This charming, offbeat series is a bullseye for fans of British cozies.

    Trace of Evil: A Natalie Lockhart Novel, by Alice Blanchard
    Burning Lake, NY is an isolated town with a history as unsetting as its name. In the last few years nine transients have disappeared, and rookie detective Natalie Lockhart has been charged with investigating. The murder of local school teacher Daisy Buckner ramps things up considerably—there’s an obvious suspect, but when that suspect is found in a coma soon after the murder, it complicates things. The more Natalie digs, the more buried secrets come to light. This intricate, atmospheric mystery introduces a smart, relatable detective readers will be excited to follow into a series.

    And Dangerous to Know (Rosalind Thorne Mystery Series #3), by Darcie Wilde
    The resourceful Rosalind Thorne’s services have been retained by Lady Melbourne with regard to a delicate matter: a stack of letters of a sensitive nature relating to the poet Lord Byron have disappeared. Rosalind takes up residence at Melbourne house, posing as Lady Melbourne’s secretary while investigating the disappearance of the letters—but when she learns that the body of an unidentified woman has turned up in the Melbourne House courtyard, matters become even more concerning—and even dangerous. The third novel in this delightful Austen-inspired Regency mystery series continues to immerse readers in historical detail while shocking them with twists they didn’t see coming.

    Brewed Awakening (Coffeehouse Mystery Series #18), by Cleo Coyle
    Clare Cosi finds herself on an NYC park bench with no idea how she got there—when she wanders to a local coffeeshop where she knows she’ll be safe, she discovers that she’s been missing for the past week, and even worse, that she can’t remember the last ten years of her life. She doesn’t recognize her fiance, and she thinks her adult daughter is still a child. But the real problem is that according to security camera footage, Clare witnessed a kidnapping at gunpoint right before she lost her memory—but she has no idea what happened after that…or does she? Evidence begins to mount that Clare may have had something to do with the crime—and if she can’t reclaim her memories, she’s at risk of ending up in jail as an accomplice to a kidnapping and murder. A twisty, thought-provoking installment in a caffeinated long-running series.

    The post December New Releases in Mystery and Thrillers appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 2:00 pm on 2019/10/31 Permalink
    Tags: a christmas gathering: a novel, , , , , guilty not guilty, invitation only murder, , , , , lucy stone series, , murder she wrote: a time for murder, , Mystery, nothing more dangerous, , robert b. parker's angel eyes, the old success, , twisted twenty-six   

    November’s Best New Mysteries of 2019 

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    Armchair detectives know that a good gumshoe is always on the case and never rests, except maaaybe during a tryptophan-filled Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Reheat a slice of pumpkin pie and unwind by the fire with one of these clever page-turners this month.

    Twisted Twenty-Six (Stephanie Plum Series #26), by Janet Evanovich
    Wedding bells are ringing for Stephanie’s beloved Grandma Mazur, who is excited to be tying the knot with local gangster Jimmy Rosolli (whether Stephanie is also excited about this is up for debate). Unfortunately for all involved, Jimmy kicks the bucket from a heart attack only 45 minutes after the wedding ceremony. Now it’s up to Stephanie to protect her beloved grandmother from some nogoodniks who are convinced that Jimmy left his widow a set of very important keys. This delectable series is full of lovable characters, hilarious hijinks, and some very enjoyable mysteries to boot.

    Robert B. Parker’s Angel Eyes, by Ace Atkins
    Everyone’s favorite Boston PI heads to Tinseltown to track down a missing person in Robert B. Parker’s beloved long-running series that has been placed in the very capable hands of Ace Atkins. Boston local Gabby Leggett headed to Hollywood to become an actress, and managed to find fame and fortune—before promptly disappearing. Her mother hires Spenser to find her, and when he lands in L.A. he hooks up with his protégé, Zebulon Sixkill. Before too long things have gone south; the Armenian mob is on their trail, and a huge movie studio boss who seems to know something won’t give them the time of day. Reinforcements in the form of Chollo and Bobby Horse come to Spenser’s rescue, but is it too late?

    The Old Success (Richard Jury Series #25), by Martha Grimes
    In the twenty-fifth installment of this atmospheric series, Scotland Yard detective Richard Jury is called upon to solve three very different murders in three different counties across England. Working with the Devon-Cornwall police’s Brian Macalvie, Jury confronts the deaths of a French tourist found on an inlet, an estate owner murdered at home, and a third victim discovered in an Exeter cathedral. Fans of Martha Grimes’ police procedurals are in for a treat—her trademark wit and eccentric characters are here in spades—and new readers who enjoy this one would do well to begin at the beginning of her famed Richard Jury series.

    A Christmas Gathering: A Novel, by Anne Perry
    Lady Vespasia is not exactly thrilled to be spending Christmas with her new husband, Victor Narraway, at a gathering at their friends’ country home—she’d much rather be spending a relaxing holiday with him at home. Particularly since for Victor, who used to be the head of the London Special Branch, it appears to be a working vacation. One of the guests, the beautiful young Iris Watson-Watt, has been tasked with passing on sensitive information to Victor that should aid him in unmasking a British traitor. Years ago, in a similar situation, Victor was unable to protect another similar messenger, a young Frenchwoman, which resulted in her murder. That failure has haunted him to this day. Can he prevent history from repeating itself? And is Christmas going to be ruined for Vespasia either way? A gathering of fascinating characters at a beautiful locale plus a nailbiting plot is the perfect recipe for a cracking good holiday mystery.

    Nothing More Dangerous, by Allen Eskens
    In this powerful coming of age story threaded with mystery and intrigue, white high school freshman Boady Sanden is the new kid in his small town high school in Jessup, Missouri. Boady is having a rough time of it until the Elgins, an African-American family, move in next door. He and Thomas Elgin become friends, but their friendship comes with a price as it brings simmering racial and class tensions to the surface in their small town. Adding fuel to the fire is the suspicious disappearance of Lida Poe, a black woman who worked as a bookkeeper at a local factory and who is believed to have absconded with a hundred thousand dollars. As her story plays out, Boady learns just how tightly it is interwoven with his own in this moving, unforgettable novel by a master of the genre.

    Guilty Not Guilty, by Felix Francis
    Judge Bill Russell’s worst nightmare has come to pass: his lovely wife Amelia has been murdered, found dead in their home. Worse still, Bill becomes a prime suspect in her murder, and the cloud of suspicion surrounding him has cost him his job, and is on the verge of costing him his home and his friends. Bill knows he’s innocent, but can he clear his name by finding the guilty party—before they find him? This heart-pounding mystery features a protagonist you’ll root for and a bevy of never-saw-it-coming twists and turns.

    Murder She Wrote: A Time for Murder (Murder, She Wrote Series #50), by Jessica Fletcher and Jon Land
    The fiftieth entry in this beloved series, and the fourth entry by Jon Land, goes back in time to when Jessica was a young high school teacher who had yet to solve a mystery. Her first-ever case lands in her lap when the school’s principal dies mysteriously, and Jessica finds herself compelled to investigate. Meanwhile, in the present day, Jessica’s excited to attend a retirement party for a colleague at the high school—but the festivities are marred when the colleague also ends up dead. Convinced that the present case is linked to the past, Jessica has to catch this killer before it’s too late. Fifty books strong, this terrific series remains fresh and lively, and fans will relish this glimpse into Jessica’s origins as a sleuth.

    Invitation Only Murder (Lucy Stone Series #26), by Leslie Meier
    Lucy books a trip to a private Maine island owned by oddball billionaire Scott Newman in an effort to get some rest and relaxation (and some much-needed time away from her family in Tinker’s Cove). Newman is an intense environmentalist, and a trip to his exclusive property means giving up most modern conveniences, such as cell reception (and electricity!). When a young woman is found dead at the bottom of a cliff, Lucy finds herself investigating a murder while stuck on a remote, secluded—and suspect packed—island with extremely limited resources.

    What mysteries are you digging into this month?

    The post November’s Best New Mysteries of 2019 appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 4:00 pm on 2019/09/27 Permalink
    Tags: a bitter feast, a book of bones, , best new mysteries, dachshund through the snow: an andy carpenter mystery, , deborah crombie, , , , Mystery, nicholas meyer, owl be home for christmas: a meg langslow mystery, , the adventures of the peculiar protocols: adapted from the journals of john h. watson md, the shape of night, to the land of long lost friends,   

    October’s Best New Mysteries 

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    October’s new mysteries are filled with cozies, humor, and hilarious animal puns, but if you’re also looking for a searing gothic nightmarescape, a sexy ghost captain, or a new gem in the Sherlock Holmes canon, you’re in luck there too! Adjust your deerstalker caps and get ready for a mysterious fall, gumshoes!

    To the Land of Long Lost Friends, by Alexander McCall Smith
    In the 20th novel in McCall Smith’s delightful No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency series, Precious Ramotswe takes up with an old friend, who is having some trouble with her daughter, and is reminded once more that getting involved in family matters is often a complicated endeavor. In the meantime, Charlie has decided to propose to his girlfriend, Queenie-Queenie, but he’s having some difficulty drumming up a suitable bride price. With its likable characters and deft writing, this is a series that’s as much about humanity’s foibles and shining moments as it is about its mysteries.

    A Book of Bones (Charlie Parker Series #17), by John Connolly
    Connolly’s latest supernatural thriller in the underrated Charlie Parker series blends chilling gothic horror with an adept police procedural, resulting an almost unclassifiable—but extremely compelling—tale of good verses inter-dimensional evil. Throw in human sacrifice, a book that could end the world, and some of the creepiest villains since Hannibal Lecter, and you have a rollicking ghostly thriller that’s also superlatively entertaining.

    The Shape of Night: A Novel, by Tess Gerritsen
    In an effort to put a terrible tragedy behind her, Ava flees Boston for a sleepy seaside town in Maine. There she rents a rambling house called Brodie’s Watch, named for a long-dead sea captain who is rumored to still haunt the place. When the ghost of Captain Jeremiah Brodie shows up seeming all-too-real (and all too sexy), Ava finds herself wondering if she’s lost her mind, even as she also finds it impossible to ignore the specter’s considerable charms. But when Ava digs deeper into the house’s history, she discovers its horrible secret: every woman who has ever lived there has died. A haunting romantic thriller with an irresistible Gothic twist, this is one of Gerritsen’s best.

    A Bitter Feast: A Novel, by Deborah Crombie
    Scotland Yard detectives Duncan Kincaid and Gemma James and their children are excited to spend the weekend at Beck House. It’s a magnificent estate in the beautiful Cotswalds region, and the family has been invited Gemma’s detective sergeant, Melody Talbot. A charity luncheon has been planned for the weekend, catered by rising-star chef Viv Holland, who is hoping to gain a career boost from the event. But a terrible car accident, followed by several suspicious deaths, makes it a working weekend for Gemma and her husband, who are pulled into an investigation that seems to point squarely at Viv—or even at Beck House and its occupants. Crombie’s novels are full of nuanced characters, twisty plots, and local color.

    Dachshund Through the Snow: An Andy Carpenter Mystery, by David Rosenfelt
    There’s a Christmas tree at Andy and Laura Carpenter’s local pet store, decorated with wishes instead of ornaments, and one such wish touches defense attorney Andy’s heart: it’s a three part wish from a little boy named Danny: a coat for his mom, a sweater for his dachshund, and to find his missing dad. As it turns out, Danny’s dad is actually on the run after being arrested for a murder, but he swears he’s innocent. It looks like an open-and-shut case, but when Andy begins investigating, he learns that not everything quite adds up. Dog lovers will especially love the wry, clever Andy Carpenter series.

    Owl Be Home for Christmas: A Meg Langslow Mystery, by Donna Andrews
    This charming whoo-dunit takes place just before Christmas, during the annual Owl Fest Convention in Caerphilly, Virginia. A freak snowstorm strands all of the attendees at the Caerphilly Inn, which is unfortunate, as many of them are, as you might imagine, extremely eccentric. Trapped among them is Meg Langslow, there to assist her grandfather, conference host Dr. J. Mongtomery Blake, with general logistics. When one of the guests, a visiting ornithologist, is murdered, it looks like Chief Burke is set on keeping all of the attendees/suspects at the hotel until the crime is solved. Everyone is in danger of missing being at home for the holidays; that is, unless Meg can rise to the occasion and solve the murder.

    The Adventures of the Peculiar Protocols: Adapted from the Journals of John H. Watson, MD, by Nicholas Meyer
    The author the beloved Holmes mystery The Seven-Per-Cent Solution is back with his fourth “discovery” of a previously unknown case found in Watson’s journal. In this mystery that will delight Sherlock Holmes devotees, Watson and Holmes find themselves in pursuit of a document whose provocative contents have already cost a British Secret Service agent her life. The chase brings them to Russia aboard the Orient Express—on a case so dangerous, that is part of a conspiracy so shocking—that it presents an unprecedented challenge even to Sherlock Holmes.

    What mysteries are you excited to read this month?

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

  • Molly Schoemann-McCann 6:00 pm on 2019/08/29 Permalink
    Tags: , , , bella ellis, , , , , , , land of wolves, mrs. jeffries and the alms of the angel, mycroft and sherlock: the empty birdcage, Mystery, nevada barr, , robert b. parker's the bitterest pill, sins of the fathers, , the vanished bride, , , vendetta in death: an eve dallas novel, what rose forgot,   

    September’s Best New Mysteries 

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    Greetings, gumshoes! Fall is upon us, and great sleuthing weather (or at least what seems like great sleuthing weather) is here at last! Bleak skies, shorter days, and chillier nights make for great mystery reading. Curl up with one of our terrific new picks below and test your armchair detective skills.

    Vendetta in Death: An Eve Dallas Novel (In Death #49), by J. D. Robb
    A vigilante serial killer with the moniker Lady Justice has punished a string of high profile men for bad behavior by murdering them and leaving a grisly calling card in the taut, edge-of-your-seat forty-ninth book in Robb’s epic series. As Eve Dallas and her partner, Detective Delia Peabody, race against the clock to get to the next victim before the killer does, their frantic investigations uncover a wide range of possible suspects, oncluding a suspicious support group, and an ever-expanding web of wronged women. Fans of Robb’s In Death series, which is only getting faster, scarier, and more fun as it continues, will be delighted by this installment.

    This Tender Land, by William Kent Krueger
    A beautifully crafted story of four orphaned children—the irrepressible Odie O’Banion and his brother Albert, their friend Mose, and the mysterious Emmy, who escape from a terrible Minnesota institution called the Lincoln School and embark on a journey across the US during the Great Depression. This one manages to feel at once fresh and timeless, and will appeal to fans of Where the Crawdads Sing. B&N’s Exclusive Edition features a bonus essay by the author, along with archival photographs that help bring some of the history behind the novel to life.

    Land of Wolves (Walt Longmire Series #15), by Craig Johnson
    Walt Longmire has hardly recovered from the injuries he sustained during a showdown in Mexico in the previous novel in this winning series (which, as you may be aware, has inspired a popular Netflix show!), when he finds himself entangled in the case of a shepherd’s death by hanging. It might be a suicide—but it also might be a homicide. The situation becomes more complicated when an oversized wolf appears in the Big Horn Mountains, causing trouble and going after sheep. Longmire finds himself becoming more and more sympathetic toward the wolf, hoping to protect it as his case grows stranger and more hazardous.

    Sins of the Fathers (J. P. Beaumont Series #24), by J. A. Jance
    Retirement is actually suiting former Seattle homicide cop J. P. Beaumont, who is enjoying frisbee in the park with his new dog, quiet lunches with his wife, and the occasional crossword puzzle. That is, until an old friend shows up on his doorstep with a missing adult daughter, and a newborn baby in his arms. Nature abhors a vacuum, eh Beaumont? Suddenly, he’s swept up into an investigation that lays bare some of the skeletons he was hoping would stay in his own closet. Will his checkered past derail his calm, enjoyable present?

    Robert B. Parker’s The Bitterest Pill, by Reed Farrel Coleman
    In the masterful 18th novel in the Jesse Stone series, the opioid war has come to Paradise, and it’s already begun claiming young, innocent lives, including that of a popular 17 year old cheerleader, who has died of a suspected heroin overdose. It’s up to intrepid detective Stone, who is still reeling from the event’s of last year’s Colorblind, to track down the deadly supply chain and root out the ruthless dealers and pushers who are enabling the deadly drug to spread. Unfortunately it looks like fighting to protect Paradise High School means going toe-to-toe with some formidable foes: from teachers, to students, to parents to get to the epicenter of this evil—yet lucrative—business.

    What Rose Forgot, by Nevada Barr
    In this riveting standalone mystery from the author of the acclaimed Anna Pigeon series, 68 year old Rose Dennis wakes up in the hospital—and in the middle of her worst nightmare. She’s been committed to a nursing home, in the Alzheimer’s Unit, and she has no memory of how she got there: but she suspects foul play. As Rose tries to piece together what has happened to her, she comes to the chilling conclusion that her only chance for survival means escaping the nursing home by any means possible. Together with the help of her 13 year old granddaughter and her recluse sister, Rose fights to take back her life and ensure her survival—even after an assassination attempt in her own home, which proves beyond a doubt that someone is after her.

    The Long Call, by Ann Cleeves
    Detective Inspector Matthew Venn is standing outside the church where his estranged father’s funeral is taking place when the call comes. A man’s body has been found, stabbed to death, on a nearby beach. The man has a tattoo of an albatross on his neck, and his death’s sudden arrival in the middle of Matthew’s tidy present life connects Matthew to a messy slew of people and places he’d thought he’d left behind forever. This thoughtful, nuanced series starter by the author of the Vera and Shetland series introduces readers to an iconic detective lead, a gorgeous, atmospheric setting, and a masterfully layered mystery. This is a series you’ll want to be on board for from the beginning.

    The Vanished Bride, by Bella Ellis
    The Brontë sisters are reimagined as sleuths in the kickoff to a delightful new historical mystery series, and do you really need to know any more than that? Fine: Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, not yet published novelists, investigate the frightful disappearance of a young wife and mother, who left behind a pool of blood and two small children. Along they way they confront danger, buried secrets, and society’s stifling disapproval of women doing anything the least bit risky and adventurous. With a fine gothic flair, jarring twists and turns, and well-researched and pitch-perfect historical details, Brontë fans (and everyone else) will devour this one.

    Mrs. Jeffries and the Alms of the Angel, by Emily Brightwell
    When wealthy socialite Margaret Starling is found murdered, everyone is shocked! After all, she was an active churchgoer, devoted to helping others, and even served on the board of the London Angel Alms society. Of course, her nextdoor neighbor considered her an incurable gossip, the Reverend of her church despised her, and half the advisory board felt the same way. So, maybe her murder wasn’t a complete surprise to everyone? Regardless, Inspector Gerald Witherspoon is called in to investigate, and of course he relies on the subtle assistance of his housekeeper Mrs. Jeffries to help him crack the case. The cozy 38th installment in the Victorian Mystery series is sure to delight fans.

    Heaven, My Home, by Attica Locke
    Texas Ranger Darren Matthews is not in the greatest place in life. His marriage is on the rocks, and his career is stagnating (he’s currently serving as a desk jockey, analyzing surveillance data on the local Aryan Brotherhood). When the nine year old son of a prominent white supremacist goes missing, the disappearance has links to his previous case, and Darren must race to find him, all the while navigating dangerous racial prejudices, along with ominous threats related to the incoming Trump administration. Edgar Award-winning author Locke has written another sensitive, moving, and mesmerizing novel about a divided country.

    Mycroft and Sherlock: The Empty Birdcage, by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse
    The third novel in this cunning series that imagines the contentious and fascinating sibling relationship between a young Sherlock Holmes and his older brother just might be its best. A serial killer is terrorizing Great Britain; leaving victims, chosen seemingly at random, unmarked save for an eerie calling card left on the bodies. Sherlock’s interest in the killer quickly blooms into an obsession that leads him on a chase across the country. Meanwhile, Mycroft must contend with the reappearance of an old flame whose fiance is in trouble. This fast-paced installment is filled with rich and intriguing character backstories and period details that Sherlocks fans will love.

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

  • Jeff Somers 5:00 pm on 2019/07/25 Permalink
    Tags: devil in a blue dress, , , michael tolkin, Mystery, once upon a time in hollywood, quentin tarantino, , the player, , tinsel town blues,   

    Your Once Upon a Time in Hollywood Reading List 

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    Every new film by Quentin Tarantino—nine of them so far—is an event. Especially as he continues to affirm that he plans to only make 10, leading us to wonder what the acclaimed director might do with the rest of his life. The answer might be “write novels,” actually; Tarantino says he developed his latest film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, as a novel for five years before realizing it worked much better as a screenplay.

    The literary beginnings of the film—which stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a fading TV star, Brad Pitt as his loyal stunt double, and Margot Robie as the tragic figure of Sharon Tate, is set in a 1969 Hollywood about to be rocked by the Manson murders—make sense. There’s a strong tradition of grimy, noir-ish crime fiction set in Tinseltown, offering endless inspiration and plenty of shocking, violent imagery. Here’s a short list of Hollywood-set (or -themed) crime fiction to get you into the right head space for the ninth film from Quentin Tarantino. (And just a note: We’re steering clear of true-crime accounts of the Manson murders here—that’s a different listicle altogether.)

    Get Shorty, by Elmore Leonard
    Elmore Leonard was a master of minimalist crime stories with crackling dialog and smart, zippy plots. Get Shorty is easily one of his best, examining the often hilarious intersection of organized (and not-so-organized) crime and Hollywood and its glamorous (and not-so-glamorous) denizens. As small-time legbreaker Chili Palmer pursues Harry Zim, producer of bottom-of-the-barrel schlock, he starts to imagine he might be a producer himself, and goes about trying to convince megastar actor Michael Weir of that fact (Weir is the titular “Shorty,” a character reportedly based on Tom Cruise). In a sublime meta moment, it was adapted into a hit film a few years later. Both book and film served to set the tone of Hollywood mockery that Tarantino’s film touches on.

    Hollywood Homicide, by Kellye Garrett
    Garrett brings a modern sheen to the Hollywood crime story via Dayna “Day” Anderson, a struggling actress very familiar with the lower levels of economic hardship. When she runs out of gas and sees a billboard offering a $15,000 reward for information regarding a hit-and-run murder, she figures it’s better than chasing acting roles she won’t get and launches her private eye career with the help of a few friends who are also enmeshed in the Dream Factory. The fresh take just proves that the classic elements of a Hollywood mystery—the rotten glitz, and cynical glamour—are still potent forces for a modern mystery.

    Hollywood Tough, by Stephen J. Cannell
    Stephen J. Cannell, godfather of many beloved television shows (including 21 Jump Street, The A-Team, and The Greatest American Hero) was also a pretty prolific novelist, and his third book in the series following Detective Shane Scully is one of his best. Weaving together a plot by organized crime to take over the craft unions in Hollywood, a slowly collapsing big-budget film project, and a sting operation conducted by the LAPD, Cannell’s genuinely twisty yarn offers a satirical take on Hollywood that has the ring of authenticity—no surprise, considering Cannell had already logged more than three decades as a producer by the time of its writing. What sets the novel apart is that it’s not just about a crime that happens to have been committed (and thus investigated) in Hollywood, it about crimes that could only be committed in Hollywood.

    The L.A. Quartet, by James Ellroy
    Tarantino’s film promises to dig into the dark side of Hollywood, with Charles Manson, Sharon Tate, and Roman Polanski as primary characters—which makes Ellroy’s L.A. Quartet (The Black Dahlia, The Big Nowhere, L.A. Confidential, and White Jazz) must reads alongside the movie. Although the plots concern events occurring a decade earlier, familiarizing yourself with Ellroy’s seedy Hollywood is the ideal way to prepare for another peek at the seamy underbelly of the dream factory. It’s filled with corrupt police, perverted criminals, and decent people who’ve been fed to and ground down by the machinery of power. There’s not much glamour here; Ellroy fills that vacuum with powerful, punchy writing.

    Money Shot, by Christa Faust
    There’s an old saying about film production teams: the A-team does big features, the B-team does straight to video, and the C-team does porn (the D-team, the joke goes, does television). Faust is one of the most interesting writers working today: having tackled the novelization of Snakes on a Plane, she became the first woman to be published by Hard Case Crime with this 2008 novel (which won the 2009 Crimespree Award for Best Original paperback). The story’s brutal, for sure. It’s concerned with Gina Moretti, a former adult star who thinks she’s been lured into doing one last scene, but is instead beaten, raped, and left for dead. The subsequent fast-paced, gritty investigation she launches reveals ties to human trafficking and the international sex trade. Uncompromising in its vision, this is the Hollywood crime story you need, although perhaps not the Hollywood crime story you want.

    The Song is You, by Megan Abbott
    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 decadent style of the time. The gender roles the characters fall into seem traditional as well—the protagonist is a “fixer” for the film studios, taking care of business 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 with razor-sharp purpose—which might remind you of a certain filmmaker.

    The Player, by Michael Tolkin
    Michael Tolkin’s brilliant, subversive novel—made into a brilliant, subversive film by Robert Altman—is itself a bit of a period piece these days, but it’s still as sharp and biting as ever. Griffin Mill is the self-absorbed, self-satisfied Hollywood executive who is so close to claiming control over his studio he can taste it—all he needs are a few more hits and to avoid makinging a single mistake as he navigates the etiquette and jockeying of the power lunch set. When he starts to get threatening postcards from a disgruntled writer, he opts to launch his own sketchy, sloppy investigation rather than call attention to the potential embarrassment—and a dark comedy of Hollywood superficiality and moral bankruptcy commences. This book will likely be the perfect followup to Tarantino’s film, offering a clear-eyed look at Hollywood in the 1990s.

    The Little Sister, by Raymond Chandler
    You can’t discuss noir without at least one Chandler book entering the mix. The Little Sister isn’t his best-known, but it’s a novel directly inspired by his own experiences working as a screenwriter in Hollywood—years that didn’t exactly leave Chandler with a good opinion of the place. The story involves movie stars and gangsters and Philip Marlowe being followed by a series of ice pick murders, and is told with Chandler’s usual disdain for coherent plotting. The story features characters who are clearly based on real people—legendary writer and director Billy Wilder does not fare well—and is soaked in Chandler’s world-weary love/hate relationship with Hollywood and Los Angeles.

    Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley
    Offering a different perspective on mid-century Hollywood, 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. A 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 ours) front and center. Tarantino’s had an inconsistent dialogue with issues of race across his films; adding the perspective of one of the best black crime writers of all time might offer some context before your viewing of Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.

    Epiphany Jones, by Michael Grothaus
    Grothaus’s debut novel is the outlier on this list: not so much a noir story or even a crime novel as it is a fascinating character study. Which isn’t to say there isn’t a criminal element here—the main character, Jerry, suffers from psychotic delusions in the form of Figments—people who seem perfectly real to him but aren’t really there—and is shocked when a co-worker at the Art Institute of Chicago is murdered and a painting by Van Gogh is stolen. Jerry is more shocked to come home to find the painting in his apartment, and to discover that one of his Figments, Epiphany Jones, is actually a real person. Epiphany has framed Jerry for the crimes in order to compel him to help her track down a sex trafficking ring that serves the biggest Hollywood power players. It’s a weird, grim, and hilarious book that offers a satirical look at modern celebrity culture (not to mention a stark connection to recent headlines about powerful men who exploit young women) without skimping on the crime story aspects of its plot. Considering that Tarantino often dives into weird, metafictional satire in the midst of his stories, this one should fit right in.

    What are your favorite Hollywood crime stories?

    The post Your <i>Once Upon a Time in Hollywood</i> Reading List appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

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