The Mysterious Bookshop

Though admittedly we've missed posting for a couple of months, we here at the Mysterious Bookshop are happy to bring you a new set of staff favorites for the month of March. 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!


Otto's Favorite

William Boyle, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, Pegasus.

Over the past year, William Boyle has quickly established himself as one of the leading authors of Brooklyn noir. Populated by a cast of characters whose lives are influenced in equal parts by religion and mob violence, rendered with a deft ear for local speech and attitudes, Boyle’s books crackle with an authenticity that could only come from an author born and raised in the borough. His newest novel, A Friend Is a Gift You Give Yourself, is a caper that begins in this same gritty locale, but once its propulsive plot is set into motion, the storyline cuts a wild and deadly path through South Brooklyn, the Bronx, and the quiet suburbs of the Palisades--a New York novel that hardly touches Manhattan at all. The book opens with two crimes: first, elderly mob widow Rena Ruggiero, resisting an overly-affectionate neighbor, knocks him unconscious with an ashtray and, believing him dead, steals his car to flee to her daughter’s apartment in the Bronx. She gets there right as her daughter is herself preparing to flee, with her own reluctant daughter in tow, with a man who has just committed the novel’s second crime, gunning down a meeting of mafia men and stealing a trunk-load of weapons and cash. After a chaotic confrontation, Rena, her granddaughter, and a neighbor, ex-porn star-turned-grifter Lacey “Wolfie” Wolfstein, escape with the boyfriend’s stolen loot and hit the road, pursued, at various times, by all sorts of bloodthirsty men. An entertaining, action-packed thrill ride follows, but the streaks of breathless page-turning are punctuated by moments of great heart, as Boyle lingers on the memories of older characters traveling through a landscape that’s given form to their lives. This is superb storytelling. Signed hardcover available. $25.95.


Tom's Favorite

Don Winslow, The Border, Mulholland.

After chronicling over 40 years of the Mexican-American drug war in The Power of the Dog and The Cartel, Don Winslow concludes his Cartel trilogy in a magnificent fashion with The Border. It’s been less than four years since The Cartel was published, yet somehow Winslow manages to fill The Border’s 700 pages with breathless storytelling that is just as compelling as its predecessors. Attempting to surmise the plot would be a fool’s errand. Its scope is truly epic and kaleidoscopic, following new and old characters (some of whom we haven’t seen since The Power of the Dog) ranging from the head of the DEA to Guatemalan refugees, female cartel assassins, NYPD cops, and Long Island junkies. The cartel power struggles in Mexico are as fascinating as ever, but it’s the insidious infiltration of drug money into everyday life that most chillingly defines the book, as anyone can be bought, maybe even an American president. Signed hardcover available. $28.99.

Mike's Favorite

Charles Cumming, The Moroccan Girl, St. Martin's Press.

In The Moroccan Girl by Charles Cumming, thriller writer Kit Carradine is accosted on a London street by Robert Mantis, who claims to be a big fan of his books. Mantis, whose card identifies him as a British government “operational control center specialist,” persuades Carradine to do some spying for the U.K. in Morocco, where he’s to attend a literary event. His tasks: carry some cash to one of Mantis’ associates and keep an eye out for a “remarkable young woman, cunning and unpredictable.” But you can be sure there’s going to be some mission creep! In Morocco, Carradine succeeds in identifying the remarkable young woman: Lara Bartok, the former girlfriend of Ivan Simakov, the leader of a revolutionary group that’s been kidnapping right-wing journalists. The Russian government wants to stop Simakov; the American government may also be involved. Excited and full of himself at first, soon Kit realizes that espionage isn’t like the James Bond films--it’s alternately dull and terrifying. Why, he might even get killed! A nicely woven tale of what it might really be like to be recruited as a temporary undercover agent. The title of the UK edition is The Man Between. Hardcover available. $27.99.

(We also have a signed UK first edition of the novel available for $38.00)


Steve's Favorite

Sam Eastland, The Elegant Lie, Faber & Faber.

Fans of Cold War thrillers should enjoy this Post WWII novel taking place in Cologne, Germany. A New Jersey cop, Nathan Carter, having successfully gone undercover to infiltrate the mob that controlled the waterfront, Carter is recruited by the Army in 1942 to investigate the theft of gasoline in Belgium. In 1949 he's to infiltrate a black market ring run by Hanno Dasch and he's soon a trusted member of the gang. Dasch is so successful he has his own plane. But when the plane crashes, he sends Carter to locate it and destroy it and it's contents before the Russians can get to it. There's plenty of action, betrayals, and double-crosses along the way. And of course Dasch has a beautiful daughter--the villain always has a beautiful daughter--to provide the romantic interest. I also recommend Eastland's WWII thrillers set in Russia involving Insp. Pekkala. Paperback available. $14.95.


Charles's Favorite

Lauren Wilkinson, American Spy, Random House.

Lauren Wilkinson’s remarkable debut is, first and foremost, an espionage novel, but it is also a hybrid of sorts, not limiting the scope of its story to typical genre constraints. As much a timely meditation on race and American foreign policy as it is a high-stakes narrative of Cold War-era spycraft and international intervention, the book’s various themes form a cohesive whole in the masterfully-crafted protagonist and narrator, Marie Mitchell. When the story opens in New York, in 1987, Mitchell is a young black FBI agent whose opportunities have been stunted by racism and sexism in the bureau, and who has long grown tired of her dead-end assignment surveilling black radical groups in Harlem. When she finally gets a new mission, however, she only reluctantly accepts, unable to shake the suspicion that there is something she isn’t being told, something beyond the relatively simple task she is given: to get close with the revolutionary new president of Burkina Faso, seduce him, and gain evidence that, when exposed, will cause him and his Communist ideals to lose the favor of the people, allowing for the election of a new leader aligned with American capitalist interests. Simple enough, but the mission becomes much more difficult for Marie after she arrives in Ouagadougou and finds herself sympathizing more with her target’s vision for his country than with that of her employers. As a spy novel, Wilkinson’s book relishes the more subtle aspects of intelligence: the arts of self-control, dissimulation, and conversation that allow an agent to develop sources and draw useful information from them. The interiority of our hero is on full display, and, unlike the one-dimensional spies too often encountered in fiction, she draws from a whole lifetime of experiences (as a sister, a daughter, and a black American) to perform her role. Deeply-felt and powerfully-written, this is sure to be one of the most talked-about novels of the season. Signed hardcover available. $27.00.

Thanks for reading!
Check back for more staff favorites in the coming months!

Written by Ian Kern — March 19, 2019

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