May 1, 2016 Booklist 5 #mysterymonth
mystery was evident in her nineteenth-century New York trilogy, but this slyly
satiric stand-alone takes her prowess to
new levels. A must for Brontë devotees;
wickedly entertaining for all.
King Maybe. By Timothy Hallinan.
2016. Soho, $25.95 (9781616954321).
Junior Bender, full-time thief and
part-time sleuth for L.A. crooks in need
of detecting, has a way of landing in
world-class pickles. This time Junior
devises a plan to rob the unrobbable
house of a notoriously treacherous
movie mogul, the titular King Maybe.
The curlicuing plot, the quirky cast of
bent supporting characters, and Hallinan’s dazzling, metaphor-rich style
add up to one of the best in a sinfully
The Passenger. By Lisa Lutz.
2016. Simon & Schuster, $25.95
In a stunning de-
Pretty Little Things. By Lori Rader-Day.
parture from her
comic Spellman Files
series, Lutz offers a
thriller. Tanya Dubois
finds her husband
dead and knows she
can’t afford the police
scrutiny that is soon
to follow. So she hits the road—and not
for the first time. Lutz develops riveting
suspense by slowly revealing Tanya’s past
while white-knuckling the reader with
her gritty heroine’s increasingly tenuous
bids at survival.
2015. Prometheus/Seventh Street, $15.95
The last person Juliet Townsend expects to see as she checks into a budget
motel is Madeleine Bell. Still bitter over
how it all went bad with Maddy in high
school, Juliet rejects a bid for forgiveness
only to find her former friend hanging from the lobby balcony. Rader-Day
proves herself a deft manipulator of dark
atmosphere, witty dialogue, and complex, charismatic characters.
The Whispering City. By Sara Moliner.
2015. Pegasus, $25.95 (9781605988955).
In 1952 Barcelona, fear of the secu-
rity police permeates daily life. When
newspaper-reporter Ana Martí Noguer’s
investigation of the murder of a society
widow connects the crime to top regime
officials, she must manipulate the city’s
constantly shifting political forces to
stay alive. Pair this atmospheric thriller
with Tom Rob Smith’s novels set in the
Stalinist Soviet Union.
BEST CRIME FICTION DEBUTS
All That Followed. By Gabriel Urza.
2015. Holt, $25 (9781627792431).
It’s five years after the murder of a
young politician in Spain’s Basque Country, but the repercussions reverberate still.
Urza tells this history-soaked tale through
three narrators, who offer different but
equally nuanced views of what happened.
A compelling look at Basque culture and
the lingering effects of violence.
Cambodia Noir. By Nicholas Seeley.
2016. Scribner, $26 (9781501106088).
Journalist Seeley’s debut stars Will
Keller, a once-great war photographer
gone to seed. It’s 2003, and he works for
a tiny paper in Phnom Penh, doubling
as a finder of missing persons. In a fast-moving narrative that feels like riding
through Phnom Penh’s streets on the back
of a motorcycle, Seeley delivers a moody
take on that enduring noir protagonist,
the dissolute foreign correspondent.
Dodgers. By Bill Beverly. 2016. Crown,
This outstanding debut novel also
appears on our overall top 10 (see annotation on p. 4).
The Do-Right. By Lisa Sandlin. 2015.
Cinco Puntos, $16 (9781941026199).
Ex-con Delpha Wade takes a secretarial
job with PI Tom Phelan, but quickly the
two are working side by side. Sandlin
vividly evokes the bayou country of 1973
Beaumont, Texas, while introducing a terrific character in Delpha, who is soaking
up her freedom as she gets used to “
wearing sky over her head.”
Hangman’s Game. By Bill Syken. 2015.
Minotaur/Thomas Dunne, $25.99
Nick Gallow, punter for the Philadelphia Sentinels pro-football team, is
present when the team’s first-round draft
pick and his agent are killed by a drive-by
shooter. Another player is suspected of the
killing, but Gallow doesn’t buy it. Syken
nails the football milieu in what may be
the best sports-themed mystery in years.
Maestra. By L. S. Hilton. 2016. Putnam,
Hilton remixes Highsmith’s Ripley
novels in a delicious, twenty-first-century
psychological thriller that is glamorous,
edgy, decadent, erotic, and irresistible. In
her “vicious heels,” Judith Rashleigh moves
quickly from art-brokerage underling to
successful confidence woman. You can bet
your Christian Louboutin stilettos that
fans of everything from Gone Girl to 50
Shades of Grey will love this one.
The Second Girl. By David Swinson.
2016. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $26
Retired D.C. cop Frank Marr, a coke
addict with a vigilante streak, isn’t your
average PI. But he’s a decent guy, and
when he finds himself in a tight spot—
while robbing a stash house, he comes
upon a kidnapped girl in the bathroom—
he knows he’s hit a crossroads. Readers
will be fascinated by the day-in-the-life
perspective of a tormented but oddly appealing antihero.
Shaker. By Scott Frank. 2016. Knopf,
Screenwriter Frank delivers a strikingly
original debut novel about an off-the-ra-dar hit man who becomes an inadvertent
hero. After a video of Roy Cooper intervening in a mugging by a group of teen
gangbangers in L.A. goes viral, Roy is the
target of both the gang and his former
mentor turned enemy. Every one of the
characters springs to vivid and tragic life.
The Swede. By Robert Karjel. 2015.
Harper, $26.99 (9780062339584).
In an intricate, fast-moving thriller,
Karjel explores morally ambiguous views
of justice. FBI agent Shauna Friedman
asks for the help of Swedish security
officer Ernst Grip in determining the
nationality of the mysterious N., now
imprisoned by the U.S. military. But is
Friedman’s real goal to tie N. and Grip to
a New York art theft? Add Karjel to your
short list of notable Nordic crime writers.
White Crocodile. By K. T. Medina.
2015. Little, Brown/Mulholland, $26
Afghanistan War vet Tess Hardy now
works with Mine Clearance Trust in Cambodia, where she
hopes to investigate
the suspicious death of
her ex-husband, Luke.
mixes suspense with
disturbing glimpses of
civilian mine casualties and a fascinating
primer on armaments.