As we sink deeper into the fall season, here are a few titles we've hunkered down to read and enjoyed over at the Mysterious Bookshop. This monthly selection of staff favorites (and a slew of other new mystery-related content) is available every month in our newsletter, which is available via subscription (email or print), as well as directly through our website. Here's hoping you enjoy one or more of these titles as much as we did!
Michael Connelly, Dark Sacred Night, Little, Brown.
I don’t know how Connelly does it. It is common for readers to tire of series characters and inevitably say that the later books in a series are good but not as good as the earlier titles. However, after more than 30 novels, mostly about the iconic Harry Bosch, the new Connelly novel is just as fresh and compelling as anything he has ever written. Seeming always to find a new variation, this one features both Bosch and his new series character, the female cop Renée Ballard, who tell the stories in alternate chapters (or groups of chapters). Bosch has aged (he has a daughter in college) and now is a reserve officer for the San Fernando Police Department, while Ballard is a detective for the LAPD who has been punished for standing up to a superior officer and been assigned to the night shift, known in cop speak as “the late show’ (the title of the book in which she was introduced last year) and they find themselves working together on one major case and several others, most of which are tied to that long-ago cold case: the brutal murder of Daisy Clayton, a 15-year-old runaway. Bosch knows her mother, who has largely given her life over to drugs after her daughter was murdered, and he believes the killer is responsible for the destruction of two lives. As Bosch works on the case, he tells Ballard of some famous cases from his time in Hollywood Homicide—almost before she was born—when the media gave names to many of those cases: “The Woman in the Suitcase,” “The Man with No Hands,” “The Dollmaker,” and so on. “It was as though homicides back then were an event,” he muses. “Now it seemed that nothing was new, nothing shocked.” There’s no denying that I’m a devotee of Bosch and can’t wait for his next adventure, but I also think Renée Ballard is a fabulous character and am glad she’ll be a continuing presence. Hardcover (To Be Signed). $28.99. Pre-order here! | Exclusive Limited Edition also available for pre-order here.
Lou Berney, November Road, William Morrow.
Unfolding in the wake of the JFK assassination, Lou Berney’s November Road is a masterpiece of suspense, noir, and heart. New Orleans, 1963: Frank Guidry is a slick mob operator, making deals and greasing palms for Carlos Marcello, boss of the town. After a bullet kills President Kennedy, a nation mourns, and Frank panics, knowing that he recently delivered a car to Dallas on behalf of Marcello, a sworn enemy of the Kennedy brothers. When Frank realizes that loose ends are being cut and he might be next, he goes on the run, triggering a nation-wide mafia manhunt.
Frank’s flight takes him west in a road trip of fear, and surprising moments of tenderness once Frank’s path crosses with Charlotte, a woman leaving her husband with her two young daughters in tow. Realizing that acquiring a family might be the best disguise against the hitman hot on his tail, Frank the mobster must become Frank the family man. The world of November Road is spectacularly rendered, from the bars of New Orleans, to the nightmarish glass palaces of Las Vegas, and populated by an unforgettable cast of coldly calculating mobsters. Alternating chapters between Frank, Charlotte, and the hitman chasing them down, Berney deftly weaves these threads together, creating an incredible sense of paranoia and doom, all while writing with a supherb eye for human fallibility and longing. Hardcover. $26.99. A Thriller Club selection. Signed copies available here.
Anthony Horowitz, Forever and a Day, Harper.
007 is dead! The sea has given up its secrets before, but when a bullet-ridden body washes up off of Marseille, hell has frozen over and the unthinkable has happened. The notion of a ‘license to kill’ was a new one and had been enacted over certain misgivings within the Service. But it is only five years after V-E day and it might be said that the war is not yet over, for Great Britain has enemies foreign and domestic, and truly the battle rages on. Deliberately kept small and secret, the ‘00’ section now has one operative dead, one in hospital for the foreseeable future, and one underground in Miami. Enter the division’s newest recruit, a man named Bond--James Bond. He insists upon retaining the code number and is quickly dispatched to the South of France to determine what happened to his predecessor, who was investigating labour racketeering amongst the Corsicans. Of course there is a woman involved--code name Sixtine. Trained at Bletchley, she is an agent who knows no loyalty save to whoever will pay, and who may or may not be involved with the syndicates and who may or may not be in cahoots with the opposition.
Again Anthony Horowitz brings 007 to vibrant life in the latest thriller based upon Ian Fleming’s worldwide sensation. As in the author’s previous James Bond adventure, Trigger Mortis, he utilizes material from a set of scripts prepared by Fleming for a proposed television series. When the film franchise took off, this plan was abandoned, but author Horowitz bases one of the chapters on this work and another on information contained in Fleming’s nonfiction collection Thrilling Cities. A smashing, senses-shattering ride through postwar Europe--with the one and only 007. Hardcover. Signed UK Edition (Jonathan Cape), $48.00, available in limited quantities here. Unsigned US Edition (Harper, pictured) also available at $26.99.
Robert Olen Butler, Paris in the Dark, Mysterious Press.
The fourth book of this exciting series finds reporter/spy “Kit” Cobb in Paris. It's 1915 and Europe is at war. Cobb is reporting on the American volunteers driving ambulances to the front lines to the wounded back to Paris hospitals. The city is also under siege from within as someone is planting bombs and killing civilians. The French Secret Service is afraid the enemy is entering the city with the many refugees escaping the German onslaught. The German speaking Cobb is tasked with going underground, find whoever is responsible and kill them. His investigation from seedy bars to the front lines ends in a highly thrilling climax. Butler has written a fast-paced, entertaining but also a deeply-felt work that rises well above the “thriller” genre. Hardcover available. $26.00.
Thanks for reading!
Check in again next month for a new set of staff favorites.
Here are our top five bestselling titles, both hardcover and paperback, respectively, for October 2018! This list can also be found in our newsletter, which is available via subscription (email or print) or directly via our website.
All signed books are available on our website. Simply follow the link beneath the respective title to order a copy.
All unsigned books are available in-store or by phone order. The shop's phone number is 212-587-1011.
Check in again soon for October's Staff Favorites!
Here are a few titles we've read recently and enjoyed over at the Mysterious Bookshop. Generally, these recommendations are written for our newsletter, which is available via email or physical subscription, as well as directly through our website here. We hope these books pique your interests as they did ours!
Largely because of my new publishing company, Penzler Publishers, and its imprint, American Mystery Classics, I’ve been reading quite a few wonderful vintage titles for the past few months. It would be too obvious to choose my favorite of the month from our first list; the books are described elsewhere in the newsletter and all six are my favorite! Instead, I picked up this wonderful, very English mystery story which is nearly perfect of its kind. It is set at Christmas-time in Warbeck Hall, a grand old country house. Naturally, a heavy snow storm cuts the holiday party,
rife with seething angers, jealousies, and frustrations, off from all communication with the outside world. A policeman from Scotland Yard is among the guests, sent to protect a cabinet minister, and so is the head of a fascist organization, as well as Lady Camilla, who has set her sights on him. Add the wife of the politician for whom she has ambitions, a perfect butler, a scholar working on the family’s papers, and the dying head of the family who has invited them for what he knows will be his last Christmas. Poison takes the first victim, though dinner is still impeccably served—and on time. Hare brilliantly disguises the identity of the murderer and does it with a subtle humor that will have readers smiling throughout the novel, if not laughing out loud. On the morning after the murder, one of the guests comes down for breakfast. She says, “Goodness knows, I don’t feel capable of eating anything on a morning like this!...No, don’t bother, I can help myself....What is that under the cover?...Oh, well, perhaps a small kipper, if you don’t mind. After all, as I always tell my husband, one must keep one’s strength up.” PB. $14.95.
Most crime novels start with a mystery and end with a solution. Cherry does it backwards. Our narrator begins as a relatively innocent kid, and ends as an Iraq War veteran addicted to heroin and robbing banks. It is hard to view Cherry as purely fiction since its author, Nico Walker, is a veteran, and a former heroin addict currently serving time in prison for bank robbery.
The narrator of Cherry is not saintly, apologetic, or even particularly sympathetic, but he is achingly human. We join him in his descent to hell overseas. His return to the States is not as a glorious victor, but as a haunted shell seeking any relief from pain. Not all will relate as he gets deeper and deeper into drugs and crime. None can deny the power of his pain.
Why wallow in this misery? Though the world of Cherry is ugly, it’s our world and its problems aren’t solving themselves. Plus the writing is a blast: a knowing irreverent stream of absurdity, profanity and heartache. While the war scenes are inescapable nightmares, Tim O’Brien colliding with Denis Johnson, the crime scenes are casually naturalistic. Cherry doesn’t give us the solving of a crime, but the creation of a criminal. Because crime is nothing compared to war. HC. $26.95.
Many people have seen the television series The Untouchables, and films like Scarface (both versions), The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, and even Boardwalk Empire, but how many know the real story of mob boss Al Capone and Prohibition enforcer Eliot Ness? There is a strange tendency to romanticize gangland violence; similarly, folks like to minimize Ness’ contribution to law enforcement during the ‘noble experiment.’ But what if the two were human beings, subject to the usual foibles and follies? In Scarface and the Untouchable, by Max Allan Collins and A. Brad Schwartz, the authors strip away decades of mythmaking and self-serving narratives, using thousands of hours worth of research by themselves and others, to tell the true story. Both Ness and Capone were single-minded in pursuit of their goals, whatever they may be; both were convinced that they were in the right; and both have been ill-served by history. The passage of time tends to obscure the realities of the street, and here we learn about some hard truths: Capone apparently did beat a rival with a baseball bat; Ness really was dedicated and incorruptible; and Chicago and its environs, especially Cicero, Illinois, were places where conventional law enforcement hopelessly broke down, due in part to the ease of bribing low-paid local officials, and in part due to the utter ineptitude of the Hoover administration. Citizens’ committees made some difference in turning the tides, but the brilliant, innovative strategy of busting gangsters for income tax evasion was very successful and driven by the Supreme Court decision that even illegal income was taxable.
Take a trip back to the Depression-era Windy City, where death by machine gun lurked around every corner, the Prohibition law was simply ignored as a joke, and the federal government had a very long road to regain the public trust. HC. $29.99.
The theft of masterpieces from the Gardner Museum in 1990 is the premise of this fabulous novel, but the author ingeniously stages it in 1946. Three men foolishly rob the wrong card game at the derelict Carlesgate Hotel, and as punishment are forced to take part in the theft. We jump to 2014, and a murder at the now expensive Charlesgate. In 1986, the building is owned by Emerson College, and student Tommy Donnelly is writing the history of the building, bringing him to the attention of one of the thieves. And so it goes, jumping ahead decades, then jumping back, each chapter introducing colorful characters, each with the idea of getting rich. How it all plays out is priceless. HC. $22.99.
Thanks for reading. Check in next month for a new set of staff favorites!
After months of reading as many short mystery stories as possible (seriously, around 3,000 tales of murder, crime, and transgression), editor Otto Penzler and guest editor Louise Penny have selected the twenty best of the past year, to be published in this fall's Best American Mystery Stories anthology from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
We've spent the last week notifying authors of their inclusion in the top twenty, and are sharing it here as a preview of things to come. Runners up will be listed in the book when it is published. Congratulations to all that were selected!
(Note: We still have copies of Best American Mystery Stories 2017 signed by Otto, available here)
- LOUIS BAYARD, Banana Triangle Six, published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
- ANDREW BOURELLE, Y Is for Yangchuan Lizard, published in D Is for Dinosaur, edited by Rhonda Parrish
- T.C. BOYLE, The Designee, published in the Iowa Review
- MICHAEL BRACKEN, Smoked, published in Noir at the Salad Bar, edited by Verena Rose, Harriette Sackler, and Shawn Reilly Simmons
- BURKE, JAMES LEE, The Wild Side of Life, published in the Southern Review
- LEE CHILD, Too Much Time, published in No Middle Name
- MICHAEL CONNELLY, The Third Panel, published in Alive in Shape and Color, edited by Lawrence Block
- JOHN FLOYD, Gun Work, published in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, edited by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks
- DAVID EDGERLEY GATES, Cabin Fever, published in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine
- CHARLAINE HARRIS, Small Signs, published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
- ROB HART, Take-Out, published in MysteryTribune
- DAVID H. HENDRICKSON, Death in the Serengeti, published in Fiction River, edited by Kevin J. Anderson
- ANDREW KLAVAN, All Our Yesterdays, published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
- MARTIN LIMON, PX Christmas, published in The Usual Santas, edited by Peter Lovesey
- PAUL D. MARKS, Windward, published in Coast to Coast: Private Eyes from Sea to Shining Sea, edited by Andrew McAleer and Paul D. Marks
- JOYCE CAROL OATES, Phantomwise: 1972, published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine
- ALAN ORLOFF, Rule Number One, published in Snowbound, edited by Verena Rose, Harriette Sackler, and Shawn Reilly Simmons
- WILLIAM DYLAN POWELL, The Apex Predator, published in Switchblade
- SCOTT LOVING SANDERS, Waiting on Joe, published in Shooting Creek and Other Stories
- BRIAN SILVERMAN, Breadfruit, published in MysteryTribune