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  • Tara Sonin 4:00 pm on 2018/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: a line in the dark, a separation, , , andrew aciman, , , bad love, , call me by your name, caroline kepnes, celeste ng, , , , everything I never told you, , , graham green, greer hendricks, , , , , jacqueline carey, , , jessica knoll, katie kitamura, , , , , malinda lo, my husband’s wife, , , , tana french, , the immortalizes, , , the wife between us, , tiffany jackson, , white oleander, , you   

    Bah, Humbug: 25 Unhappy Books for Valentine’s Day 

    Love is in the air…but that doesn’t mean you have to drink the Kool-Aid. If you’re not feeling all the lovey-dovey stuff this year, that’s cool. Sometimes other people being happy is the worst. So here’s a list of tragedies, thrillers, and romances that do not end well for you to relish instead. Misery does love company, after all.

    The End of the Affair, by Graham Green
    This novel begins after an affair has already ended, but of course the question is why? Taking the reader back in time, this historical epic romance follows a vengeful man determined to bring down the woman who broke his heart…but when we learn the reason why she did, it will break ours instead.

    Kushiel’s Dart, by Jacqueline Carey
    Not a tragedy per se, but since this fantasy romance involves a special woman who feels pain as pleasure, it felt appropriate to include. Phedre has spent her life in the service of pleasure, but when she has an opportunity to use her talents for political gain, her entire world collapses and she must fight to rebuild a broken kingdom she leaves behind.

    The Time Traveler’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger
    Clare and Henry are in love, but timing is not their strong suit. Henry is a time-traveller, cursed to travel to different times in his life without warning. That’s how he met Clare, when she was a little girl…and how when, she grew up, they found one another again. In this lyrical, beautiful novel, what was the unique beginning of a love story soon becomes the unraveling of one.

    A Separation, by Katie Kitamura
    A Firestarter of a novel in which a woman’s ex-husband goes missing and she goes to search for him. The story of a marriage is never understood by anyone but the two within it…but the story of a separation is even more mired in mystery.

    Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn
    Gone Girl is where most people’s familiarity with Flynn begins and ends, but she wrote two earlier thrillers that are on the same level. Her debut, Sharp Objects, may in fact be her best, a taut psychological thriller about an unsteady reporter who returns to her hometown to write about a past tragedy there—and must face her own demons in the process.

    Big Little Lies, by Liane Moriarty
    If you haven’t watched the TV series…I won’t blame you if you want to check that out first, it’s that good. But the book is just as intriguing; the story of a group of women in a community held atop pillars of class and status, and what happens when those pillars are shattered. What begins as a series of small untruths and deceptions grows beyond the scope of what they can handle, and someone ends up dead.

    Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
    A piercing portrait of a woman determined to outrun the shadows of her past, but forced to confront them. Ani FaNelli suffered a mysterious trauma during high-school and has successfully managed to reinvent herself as someone who would never be humiliated like that again. But all that effort is about to become undone when the opportunity to get even with the people who harmed her becomes too tempting to ignore.

    The Woman in the Window, by A.J. Finn
    A twisty thriller about a woman with agoraphobia (and a drinking problem) sees something in a neighboring house. She sees something devastating, something she should never have seen—and suddenly, her life is upended.

    Atonement, by Ian McEwan
    One of the most tragic stories of sisterhood and first love involves a misunderstood moment which builds to a lie, and then a war comes along and lays waste to already ruined relationships. Briony is an observant child, always in the background—and when she sees what she thinks is a man assaulting her sister, she tells an adult. But is that what she saw? And is that why she told? The past and present intertwine in a moving portrait of what happens when jealousy gets in the way of love.

    We Were Liars, by E. Lockhart
    A genre-defying story that is part thriller, part romance…and 100% captivating. A privileged family spends a summer on an exclusive island, uniting a group of friends. But secrets twist their friendships into something rotten, something dangerous…a lie that unless confronted, will leave them forever adrift.

    The Wife Between Us, by Greer Hendricks
    A co-written tragedy about a wife, her ex-husband, and the new woman he loves…in which nothing is real, or true, and each page keeps you guessing.

    White Oleander, by Janet Fitch
    A mother and daughter’s tumultuous relationship is explored in this haunting novel about a woman jailed for murder and her daughter passed between foster homes in search of the happiness she never had at home.

    The Magicians, by Lev Grossman
    All’s well that ends well where magic is concerned…perhaps in books like Harry Potter. But this is not that story. When Quentin is suddenly spirited into a world of magic, validating a lifetime of believing he was different and special, he also finds himself at the center of a terrible battle for power that will take everything from him—including the love of magic he once had.

    Everything I Never Told You, Celeste Ng
    A powerful novel about a Chinese family in the 1970’s, whose lives are ripped apart when their child is found dead. Each of them with their own perspectives, and their own secrets, the entire family is gripped by the need for the truth…and the desire to run from it.

    Call Me by Your Name, by Andre Aciman
    The Oscar-nominated movie should definitely be on your viewing list, but in the meantime, read the book it’s based on! This story of an unexpected romance between two young men during a hot Italian summer is as riveting as it is erotic.

    In a Dark, Dark, Wood, by Ruth Ware
    A night of revelry and excitement and old friends…that’s what was supposed to happen when Leonora shows up to celebrate an old—and estranged—friend’s impending marriage. But what happens is the exact opposite, and it leaves Leonora wondering what the truth is, and what she may have done to cover it up.

    In the Woods, by Tana French
    Mystery writer extraordinare French’s novel about a detective who returns to the town in which he himself was the survivor of a violent crime to investigate another. But the present is often a mirror of the past, and he finds himself growing unstable in the proximity of the case.

    Wicked, by Gregory Maguire
    A tragic origin story of one of the most captivating villains of all time: the Wicked Witch of the West. Meet Elphaba, who would grow up to face off with Dorothy…before the girl with the pigtails rode a tornado into Oz. An upbringing as an outsider, with magic she does not understand, Elphaba craves acceptance, and will eventually fight for it no matter the cost.

    You, by Caroline Kepnes
    A man becomes obsessed with a woman in New York City, following her on social media in order to orchestrate the perfect relationship…and if necessary, the perfect murder.

    The Lying Game, by Ruth Ware
    Here are the rules of the lying game: no lying to your friends and ditch the lie if you get caught. In this hypnotic and fascinating portrait of friendship, four girls used to play this game until they got the rulebook thrown at them and were expelled after the mysterious deaths of one of their fathers. Now, years later, that past is coming back to haunt them, but will they play the game again to survive?

    My Husband’s Wife, by Jane Corry
    Lily loves Ed, and wants nothing more than to be a wife and a lawyer.That is, until she meets Joe: a convicted murderer, and a man she finds herself drawn to. Carla is just a kid, but she knows a liar when she spots one. Years later, their paths collide, and nothing will be the same.

    Room, by Emma Donoghue
    The harrowing journey of a mother and son living in captivity thanks to a mysterious man who kidnapped her when she was a teenager. When she sees an opportunity to free them, she risks it all in order to give her son a chance in the real world beyond their room.

    The Immortalists, by Chloe Benjamin
    The decision to hear a psychic tell them when they will die changes the lives of a group of siblings, all of whom pursue different paths—and are haunted by lives they could have lived—in this stirring tale of family and fate.

    A Line in the Dark, by Malinda Lo
    This YA psychological thriller puts two friends to the test when a third comes between them. Jess and Angie have always been best friends, but Margot’s spell takes Angie away. In a striking structural shift, the novel switches from the perspectives of the girls to court records and transcripts…when someone in their circle ends up dead.

    Allegedly, by Tiffany Jackson
    She only allegedly killed the baby. But then why did she confess? In this book that will make you forever distrust…well, practically everyone you know—Mary has been in group homes and institutions since she was convicted of murdering the baby her mother was charged with caring for. But now she is pregnant herself, and has decided to tell the truth before her own child is taken away.

    What Anti-Valentine’s Day novels would you recommend?

    The post Bah, Humbug: 25 Unhappy Books for Valentine’s Day appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • Monique Alice 4:30 pm on 2016/09/21 Permalink
    Tags: fiona davis, john hart, , noah hawley, shari lapena, tana french, whodunnits   

    6 Cozy Mysteries for Sweater Weather 

    Well, everyone, Labor Day has come and gone—and you know what that means. If you look closely, you can begin to see a tinge of autumn on the edges of the leaves. Sweater season is nearly upon us, and before we know it, it’ll be far too chilly to do anything besides curl up on the couch with a mug of something hot and one of the mysteries below. Better be safe and stock up now—you never know when an early blizzard could hit.

    Iron House, by John Hart
    Brothers Michael and Julian grew up at Iron House for Boys, a menacing old monolith buried deep in the Carolina mountains. Their past was shrouded in mystery, and they clung to each other for survival in a harsh world of bullying and abuse. When a bully ends up dead, one brother takes the blame and the boys are separated. Years later, their very different paths cross again—and again, death seems to follow the brothers wherever they go. Desperate for a fresh start, Michael is torn between whether to protect his brother or the woman he loves. The two brothers must dig deep into their past to solve the mystery of where they came from. Only then will they be able to stop a present-day killer on the hunt for revenge.

    The Couple Next Door, by Shari Lapena
    When Anne and Marco Conti’s babysitter cancels at the last minute, they decide to leave their infant daughter, Cora, in her crib while they make an appearance at a neighbor’s party. To their horror, they return home to find Cora missing and suspicious tire tracks marring the driveway. Police are befuddled by the couple—as devastated as they seem, their stories don’t seem to entirely add up. Detectives Jennings and Rasbach will have to work overtime to crack the case if they want to bring little Cora home safely.

    Death on the High Lonesome, by Frank Hayes
    Sheriff Virgil Dalton’s little Southwestern town of Hayward used to be a nice, quiet place to live. Lately, though, people in Hayward keep turning up dead. First, Deputy Jimmy Tillman is badly injured by a body falling from a highway overpass. Then, an elderly woman reports her husband missing—and Virgil’s office manager shows up just in time to find her dead. To get to the bottom of the whole mess, Virgil sets out on horseback for the eerie High Lonesome mountain range. The cowboy lawman will need all of his skills to bring a killer to justice.

    Before the Fall, by Noah Hawley
    When a late-night charter flight from Martha’s Vineyard to New York goes down, passenger Scott Burroughs manages to rescue four-year-old JJ from the wreckage and swim for shore. The media frenzy of hero-worship that ensues weighs heavily on Scott’s survivor’s guilt, and he struggles to make sense of what has happened along with the rest of the nation. Through a series of cleverly woven flashbacks, we learn that nearly every passenger aboard had a dark past and something to hide. By the stunning conclusion, it becomes clear whether it was terrorism, mechanical failure, or good-old-fashioned revenge that sealed the fate of the flight that never made it home.

    The Trespasser, by Tana French
    The newest installment of the Murder Squad series focuses on Detective Antoinette Conway, who is the victim of unending department harassment despite her stalwart dedication to the job. When a beautiful young woman turns up dead in her pristine flat at a table set lovingly for two, some detectives on the Murder Squad feel the case is open and shut. Conway, however, has a sickening sense that there is more to the story—a sense that is confirmed by a dark figure lurking on the edges of the victim’s life. As the pressure to solve the case builds, so does the tormenting of Antoinette Conway—and the nail-biting climax that ties it all together.

    The Dollhouse, by Fiona Davis
    In the 1950s, the famous Barbizon Hotel for Women housed New York’s aspiring models and it-girls of the day. On the hunt for a good story, present-day journalist Rose becomes captivated by the grisly 1953 death of the resident maid, Esme. Hoping to solve the mystery of Esme’s death once and for all, Rose moves in with longtime Barbizon fixture Darby, whom she soon learns may know more about Esme’s demise than she is willing to let on. Through artful juxtaposition of the modern era with the glamor of the 1950’s, the story weaves an intricate web of intrigue and deception through the decades. It seems certain that Rose will uncover who killed Esme—but will she get more than she bargained for in the process?

    What mysteries will you be cozying up with this fall?

    The post 6 Cozy Mysteries for Sweater Weather appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

  • BN Editors 7:30 pm on 2016/04/01 Permalink
    Tags: bad girls, , maestra, oh no she didn't, tana french,   

    The Baddest Girls on the Thriller Shelves 

    Whether they’re in our books, our movies, or our dreams, we love strong, independent, take-no-prisoners women who know what they want and don’t care whose heads they have to step on to get it. Still, fictional bad girls have a particularly strong staying power—perhaps because, unlike those on the big screen, we have to use our own imaginations to help bring them to life—and I’m just saying, we have some crazy imaginations. From Maestras soon-to-be notorious Judith Rashleigh, to the inseparable (and frightening) Irish #GirlSquad at the heart of Tana French’s The Secret Place (which would eat T. Swift’s posse for brekkie, no offense), here are some of our favorite fun, fearless femme fatales of literature.

    Maestra, by L. S. Hinton
    Step aside, Amy Dunne (I’m sorry I said that Amy please don’t hurt me), because the beautiful and talented Judith Rashleigh is about to give you a run for your money. An art-house assistant who just knows she was made for better things, Judith is using her looks, brains, and ruthlessness to elbow her way into the glittery ranks of the rich and famous; and, subsequently, to claw her way out of some hair-raisingly dangerous situations). A complex antihero whom you’ll root for and then judge yourself for rooting for is motivated by restlessness, revenge, and a newly discovered knack for reinventing herself, and when Maestra (which has already been optioned by Sony pictures) hits shelves on April 19, she’ll be staying one step ahead of readers, and the law, as she wreaks havoc across glamorous, sun-soaked international borders.

    Luckiest Girl Alive, by Jessica Knoll
    The “mean girl” trope has been a staple for a long time, even after it was punctured in the titular Lindsay Lohan film. It’s become a bit of lazy shorthand: rich, plastic pretty girls are horrible and cruel. Few books explore what makes Mean Girls so mean in the first place, and even fewer bother to wonder what happens to Mean Girls after high school. Luckiest Girl Alive does both, and performs a remarkable trick by presenting a protagonist who is mean and difficult to like at first, then slowly humanizing her as her twisty and surprising story (trust us, you will think you’ve hit the twist—and then there is another twist) unfolds.

    The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
    Angry, slightly unhinged Rachel is the definition of an unreliable narrator: an alcoholic still reeling from the end of her marriage, she’s prone to blackouts and rages, and has a dangerous obsession with her ex-husband, Tom, and his new wife, Anna. Though unemployed, Rachel gives shape to her days by taking a commuter train into London—and every day she watches out the window for “Jason and Jess,” attractive strangers whose lives she likes to fantasize about. Meanwhile, “Jess,” whose real name is Megan, is less happy than she seems, treating her suburban ennui with a secret life outside of her marriage. Megan’s sudden disappearance kicks off a police investigation and gives Rachel an opportunity to lie her way into Megan’s life. The two women’s voices, plus Anna’s, entwine in a time-jumping narrative that will leave you breathless.

    The Secret Place, by Tana French
    You don’t have to have read any of Tana French’s earlier novels to get sucked right into her most recent tour deforce, The Secret Place (I hadn’t). Once you’ve entered her shimmering, radiant, and twisted world, though, you won’t want to leave, and you’ll go right back and start with her stunning debut novel, the dark, radiant In the Woods. Featuring a hard-boiled murder investigation set on the grounds of a cutthroat shark tank of an all-girls boarding school, The Secret Place embeds you deep in the middle of a solid (almost too solid) friendship between four smart, cynical, but still naive teenaged girls, that is as teeming with secrets and lies as it is with love, loyalty, and rampant clothes-borrowing.

    Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
    I can’t have a list of badass female thriller characters without mentioning Amy Dunne, because I’m scared she’ll come after me and make me pay for it. So: Amazing Amy, hats off to you, for being one of the most compelling, twisted, and confusing fictional narrators we’ve encountered in a long time. When perfect wife/possible devious sociopath Amy Amy figures out what she wants, she makes it happen, no matter the cost, and whether you’re rooting for or against her may change depending on what page you’re on (and how strong your stomach is).

  • Kelly Anderson 7:29 pm on 2015/08/03 Permalink
    Tags: , , , elizabeth wein, , , , tana french   

    7 Amazing Female Friendships in Fiction 

    Besties! BFFs! #SquadGoals! Whether it’s Taylor Swift and her parade of friends onstage, or adorable groups of puppies on Twitter, best friendship, and in particular best female friendship, is in the air these days. But of course, while others are into taking selfies or singing songs about it, as book nerds, our first way of joining in on a trend is always going to be via book. So that got me thinking: What awesome books are out there that celebrate female friendship? Here are 7 I love.

    The Neapolitan Novels series, by Elena Ferrante
    Speaking of names that are in the air these days, Elena Ferrante, guys! Over the past few years, as her later novels were translated into English, her star has just been rising higher, and for good reasons, such as her fantastic writing and fascinating exploration of complex minds and lives. But my favorite thing about Ferrante is her ability to write striking portraits of female psychology, particularly that surrounding female friendship. The best example of this is Elena and Lila, the central pair in her Neapolitan novels, which follow them from girlhood to late middle age in 1960s Naples. Ferrante memorably shows us both the inspiring, glorious side of having a brilliant best friend, as well as the less palatable underbelly of envy and competition that can arise. If you’ve ever had a long-term best friend and know just how much that experience can shape your life, you’ll recognize yourself here.

    The Secret Place, by Tana French
    Speaking of less palatable underbellies, Tana French’s The Secret Place is a memorably accurate exploration of teenage female friendship that has quite possibly gone horribly wrong. A teenage boy is found dead on the grounds of an all-girls’ prep school in Ireland, prompting an investigation with few leads—until one day someone anonymously posts “I know who killed him” on the school’s community bulletin board, known as the “secret place.” The detectives reopen the case and find themselves up against the psychological battlefield of high school girl cliques, frenemies, and social hierarchies, and all the secrets they hide. French paints a powerful picture of how deeply friendship matters to teenage girls, and does it with a depth of emotion sure to transport readers back to their own high school years.

    Code Name Verity, by Elizabeth Wein
    A WWII story, this fascinating book focuses on the very active role two teens play in the conflict. Maddie is a pilot who sometimes drops agents and supplies into France to aid the resistance, and Julie? Well, she seems to do all sorts of things she doesn’t talk about, things that eventually deliver her into the hands of an SS officer who interrogates her for weeks on end. The novel opens with Julie in prison; as tells the story of her intense friendship with Maddie, we discover how everything came to be. Julie is one of those people you never forget—the kind who’s always in motion, always planning, always doing, and who hides damage and secrets you might never guess. Code Name Verity is one of those novels I just can’t say much more about until you’ve read it, so get to it! Trust me, this is a secret you want to be in on.

    Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen
    The relationship between the sisters in this classic is usually what gets top billing (that is, if we’re not immediately talking about Darcy). And this makes sense. Between Lydia’s exploits, Mary’s preaching, Kitty’s slavish imitation, and Elizabeth and Jane’s quiet pact of sisterly sanity, all of these relationships give us something to talk about. However, what’s less often discussed is the one friendship not tied up in sisterhood: the one between Elizabeth and Charlotte. These ladies grew up together, and have clearly long been using each other as a rare sensible lifeline amid the nonsense of their families and neighbors. As the novel progresses, however, it becomes clear Elizabeth and Charlotte disagree on some fundamental principles of life, namely, love’s role in marriage. And yet, theirs is one of the few great examples of a friendship that manages to survive core differences and still end with both ladies rooting for each other.

    Borrowed & Blue, by Emily Giffin
    Giffin has written several books dealing with groups of friends making major life choices about marriage, children, and careers. But her gold standard remains the Something Borrowed/Something Blue duology (now a movie!), which explores the friendship of Darcy and Rachel, two women from Indiana who have been friends since elementary school. Darcy is blonde, beautiful, socially fearless, used to getting what she wants. Rachel is bookish, shy and awkward. But they show an incredible loyalty to each other—until the night something happens that tests the strength of their friendship and forces both to reexamine their relationship. These books are memorable not only for the capital-D Drama at their heart, but for being unafraid to dig into some uncomfortable issues about social status and the stories we tell ourselves to make our friendships work.

    The Desperate Duchesses series, by Eloisa James
    This series is an extended historical romance, set in the Regency era, about a bunch of women who all happen be married, engaged to, or running around with English dukes. So it sounds like this is going to be mostly about bodice-ripping sexytimes, heart-burning jealousy, and happy endings, right? Well, of course. (And what good fun it is, too!) But it’s also one of the few historical romance series I’ve come across that, in addition to the giggly fun times, ALSO insists upon the importance of female friendship. Although all the steamy romance you could want is in there, James never forgets to highlight that there are other relationships important to women’s lives, especially those they share with their female support systems.

    Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
    Yes, yes, these are sisters. I guess I’m cheating a little bit here. But how many of you have sisters who are your best friends? Or at the least your yardstick or pacing partner, who help you decide your life’s path? The lives of Amy, Jo, Beth, and Meg March (and their mother) are conducted in an almost entirely female universe. Jo, the fiery center of our novel, has particularly strong relationships with her sisters, and even initially rejects the idea of marriage in favor of the life she already has at home. Although of course the novel encompasses jealousy and anger and all the emotions you share with your nearest and dearest, ultimately it shows the strength that lies at the core of the best female friendships and how this can get us through the hard times when it seems nothing else can.

    What other books do you love that feature awesome female friendships?

  • Monique Alice 3:30 pm on 2015/04/16 Permalink
    Tags: detectives, elementary my dear watson, frank hayes, , , , , , tana french,   

    6 Gritty Gumshoes: Our Favorite Hard-boiled Detectives are on the Case 

     Is there anything more satisfying than a stellar detective story? A good gumshoe is observant, hyper curious, and passionate about making the world a safer, more just place. The most interesting detectives also usually happen to be deeply flawed human beings. These tortured souls are often burdened with pasts so dark that only solving cases and catching criminals can lighten their psychic loads. Feeling a little weighed down by the monotony of your non-detective life? Not to worry! The modern-day Sherlocks below are the on the case.

    Jack Taylor (The Guards, by Ken Bruen)
    Jack Taylor is a usually drunk, always irritable, but nevertheless keen detective who has recently been sacked from the Irish police force. Caught midway between an impulse to crawl into a pint glass and a burning desire to become Ireland’s premier private detective, Taylor will have to prove his mettle to his Galway community and himself on his journey from roguedom to redemption. He will have a chance to do just that when a woman interrupts his boozy reverie with a case that demands all of his faculties. Despite his overly gruff demeanor and often terrible manners, Jack manages to win readers over with his do-gooder spirit and heart of gold.

    Myron Bolitar (Deal Breaker, by Harlan Coben)
    Although Myron Bolitar is a sports agent, his many past lives have included lawyer and FBI agent. So, you know, a little investigating isn’t going to scare him off. That’s a good thing, too, since Myron’s newly acquired career as an all-American star quarterbackis about to take a nosedive thanks to the mystery of an ex-girlfriend’s disappearance. That’s when his latent detective skills kick into action, exposing the seedy underbelly of the competitive sports industry, a world replete with lies, greed, and violence. Will Myron, with the help of his witty and lethal sidekick, Win, be able to take back the game with only seconds on the clock? One thing is for sure: readers will be rooting for him.

    Cassie Maddox (The Likeness, by Tana French)
    Detective Cassie Maddox is still reeling from the biggest murder investigation of her career when another killer of a case comes her way. When a fateful phone call summons Cassie to a murder scene, she is hardly prepared to find that the victim is her own spitting image. Stranger still, the victim is carrying identification that bears the name of Cassie’s former undercover alias. It quickly becomes clear that Cassie must assume the victim’s identity in order to catch her killer. This feat will require that she shed light on her own shadowy past in order to recognize the person staring back at her in the mirror. What follows is a psychological thriller that will keep even the most seasoned crime novel connoisseur guessing until the very end.

    Kurt Wallander (Faceless Killers, by Henning Mankell)
    Written in the ‘90s and boasting several TV adaptations to its credit, the Wallander books can safely categorized as modern detective classics. As one delves into the mind and life of Swedish sleuth Kurt Wallander, one can easily see why. When an elderly farmer is slain on his property and his wife left for dead, Wallander is called upon to solve a case that seems to have every intention of going cold. Unlike many contemporary crime novels, this story eschews nitty-gritty forensic details in favor of good, old-fashioned detective work. Wallander is as dogged in his pursuit of the truth as he is haunted by the shambles that is his personal life. A divorce, a forbidden attraction, and an estranged relationship with his daughter provide the reader with a rich context for the sadness that permeates Wallander’s world, and the novel’s slow build works well with the austere, captivating backdrop of the Swedish landscape.

    Virgil Dalton (Death at the Black Bull, by Frank Hayes)
    Virgil Dalton has been the sheriff of Hayward, a sleepy Southwestern town, for about a dozen years. Like any small town, Hayward has its share of hidden dirt. From a conniving matriarch to a good ole’ boy up to no good, all the gears start grinding when Virgil discovers a dead body in the most unlikely of places. Throughout the novel, we get to know Virgil as a stoic, good-natured man of the people who is plagued with regret and a deep longing for times gone by. Virgil just barely manages to keep up with the body count in Hayward as this tiny town gets its first taste of big-city villainy. He must use all of  his shrewd policing skills to catch the killer, and along the way, he just might solve some of his own private mysteries. A vivid cast of characters, an ode to the sun-splashed mesas of the Southwest, and a shocker of an ending round out this impressive mystery.

    Camille Preaker (Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn)
    So, strictly speaking, Camille Preaker is not so much a detective as she is a frazzled reporter coming off of a recent stay at a mental institution. When her Missouri hometown is suddenly struck by one girl’s murder and another’s disappearance, Camille finds herself thrust back into the past with alarming force as she returns to cover the story. As Camille begins to identify more and more with the victims, her desire to unearth their fates is mirrored by her quest to understand her own history. This newshound-turned-bloodhound may be scarred, but she learns to wear her past wounds without shame in her fierce battle for what all detectives (and journalists) are after: the truth.

    Who are your favorite hard-boiled detectives?

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