The Mysterious Bookshop

Want to know what the staff at the Mysterious Bookshop is reading these days?  Check out our favorites below!


November 2015


Crais, Robert, The Promise, Putnam.

I’ve been a huge fan of Crais and his books ever since the first one, The Monkey’s Raincoat, introduced Elvis Cole in 1992 and I still remember laughing out loud. I like his stand-alone novels, too, and think Joe Pike, who has been sharing top billing with Elvis in recent years, is incredibly cool. Last year, Crais introduced one of my favorite characters in Suspect, a tough, fearless, and smart female named Maggie, a veteran of several tours in war zones in the Mid-East who overcame post-traumatic stress problems when she returned to California. Maggie is a German shepherd who now works for the LAPD K-9 corps, and Crais told a lot of the novel from the point of view of the dog and her handler, Scott James. Although The Promise is billed as a Cole & Pike novel, Maggie and Scott are back, and they are most welcome. The enigmatic Jon Stone, a black ops mercenary, adds to the firepower as they attempt to handle an explosive (literally) situation. Cole is hired to find the man who apparently convinced an otherwise responsible woman who works for a defense department contractor as an explosive expert to steal a large amount of money from her company. In a plot with more twists than a Chubby Checker concert, we learn that the woman’s son was killed by al Qaeda and she wants revenge. I’d tell you more of the plot, but it would be like trying to describe the best way to drive from Princeton to St. Louis by using only two-lane roads. You will thoroughly enjoy the ride, just as you will be happy you had all these fascinating characters at your side. This is the 20th novel by Crais and every bit as crisp and compelling as any he’s written—a reminder of why he was named a Grand Master by the Mystery Writers of America.

Signed copies will be available after his reading and autographing event on Nov. 13. $27.95.

A special edition limited to 100 signed copies, bound in marbled boards and leather spine, is also available. $150.00


Also recommended:

McCarry, Charles, The Mulberry Bush, Mysterious Press.

The greatest American espionage writer who ever lived shows he hasn’t lost a step, even in his 80s. An American undercover espionage agent (unnamed) works for an agency (also unnamed, but clearly the CIA, for which McCarry worked, many years ago) and finds himself among a group of Argentine Communists. He falls for the daughter of one of the revolutionaries, who has a secret agenda, but so does he. His father had been a respected member of the agency but a mishap caused him the humiliation of losing his job and becoming a sad, bitter, impoverished old man. His son sets out to avenge his downfall. The author will not be touring, but we can offer signed bookplates. $26.00



Marra, Anthony, The Tsar of Love and Techno, Hogarth.

In a recent review in the New York Times Book Review, the critic notes that Anthony Marra’s first collection of stories, The Tsar of Love and Techno, will restore your faith “in the emotionally transformative power of fiction.”  I heartily agree!  After being utterly entranced by his debut novel, A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, I was a little wary of Marra’s ability to follow it up with anything even close to that level of emotional and lyrical complexity, but the author quickly proved me wrong. From the very first tale involving a censor in Soviet-era Russia (which is absolutely incredible and should be included on every “best of the year” list) to the almost comically absurd tale of an out-of-work art curator in Grozny, Marra’s stories constantly surprise, entangling the reader in a web of characters related by blood and circumstance.  That these stories are linked plays a large part in their accessibility, making the distinction between novel and collection almost irrelevant.  Each piece paints a vivid picture of Russia and Chechnya from the early Soviet-era on up to the present, many of which involve criminals, thugs, soldiers, and con-men.  There’s a lot of heart, here, and a lot of skill.  There’s also enough to satisfy literary and crime fiction fans alike. Signed.  $25.00.  



Mawer, Simon, Tightrope, Other Press.

In 1944 Marian Sutro, a young woman agent for the British Secret Service, is dropped into Nazi occupied France to smuggle out a French scientist needed to work on the atom bomb. Having completed her assignment, she remains behind in France. Her identity is betrayed, and she is arrested, tortured, and sent to a concentration camp where she takes on yet another identity. That of another prisoner who has died. At war's end Marian returns to her family in England and must now adjust to civilian life and another identity, her own. But adjusting isn't easy. Not after a year in a concentration camp. And it's a new world and a new war; the world of the atom bomb and a Cold War. Allies are now enemies. Marian is drawn back into the Service but now with divided loyalties. Although Mr. Mawer's previous novel, Trapeze, was a novel of Marian's experiences during the war, Tightrope can be read on its own. But his writing is so good you may want to read both. Tightrope is an intriguing novel of trust and betrayal, identity and deception, with a compelling and complex woman at its center. Paperback. $15.95.



Minier, Bernard, Frozen Dead, Minotaur.

In a frozen, hidden cranny of the French Pyrenees lies a top security installation for incorrigibles, inmates convicted of horrible crimes and those who cannot assimilate into ‘civilized’ society. With multiple levels of security, a breakout is impossible. Or so Servaz believed. Two particularly grisly crimes, one a homicide and one an equicide, sowed doubt into the mind of the French gendarme and his colleagues. Particularly suspect is Julian Hirtmann, a former prosecutor who has been remanded to this institution for the most heinous of crimes, positively Lecterian in their scope and grotesque majesty. There is no evidence that this miscreant has ever gotten out of his cell, but his DNA was found at one of the crime scenes. Now it is up to Servaz and his team to unravel the mystery. With realistic characterizations of the police, the suspects, and the townspeople alike, with the truly malevolent behavior on view, and with the quite credible depictions of the political and social machinations surrounding the penal institution’s work and ongoing struggle for survival in a world of reduced resources, this is a novel that will compel you to keep turning the pages until there are no more left to turn. Paperback, $15.99.



Boileau-Narcejac She Who Was No More, Pushkin Vertigo

Ferdinand Ravinel and his mistress, Lucienne, conspire to murder his wife, Mirielle, and collect millions in life insurance. Tey drug her, drown her in the bathtub, and then, several days later, deposit the drowned body into a pond behind Ravinel’s house. Te next day, Ravinel returns home from his week out working as a travelling salesman, prepared to discover the body—only the body is no longer there. In fact, it’s all but disappeared. And as he searches for the corpse, he encounters a number of neighbors who claim to have seen Mirielle wandering about as if nothing happened. But how? As his desperation and guilt mix with a deep paranormal fear, Ravinel’s mental state teeters on the brink of collapse. She Who Was No More served as the basis for the excellent Jacques Clouzot flm, Les Diaboliques; the author duo’s other claims to fame include the novel behind Hitchcock’s Vertigo, another wonderful tale examining the consequences of an impossible, worldshattering encounter. Lucky for us, these two books—and several other rediscovered classics—have just been made available for the frst time in years by Pushkin Vertigo, a new imprint focusing on vintage international crime fction.


October 2015


Otto’s Favorite:

Patterson, James, ed., The Best American Mystery Stories 2015, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Okay, I admit I’m very close to this book, since I am the series editor of BAMS 2015 and have been for all 19 volumes of this prestigious series. While my innate humility generally prevents me from listing one of my own books as my favorite for the month, this time I had to do it after it received such rave reviews from all the trade journals and a starred Publishers Weekly notice. To have Patterson agree to be the guest editor of this edition was a great surprise and a coup for the series. He is the hardest working, and among the most prolifc, writers in the mystery feld, and for him to take the time to do this was pretty exciting. Te publisher was so pleased that it has released a hardcover this year, afer issuing only trade paperbacks since 2008. It’s the usual mix of great stories by famous authors (Tom McGuane, Lee Child, Dennis Lehane & Michael Connelly, and Joyce Carol Oates, among others) as well as many who have never made a best-seller list—including a first story. The series has always been about the quality of the stories, never about “big names,” and that is why it has flourished in an environment in which publishers and booksellers alike complain that short stories don’t sell. Of course I enthusiastically recommend it! Signed by the series editor only. Hardcover, $25.95; Trade paperback, $14.95


Ian’s Favorite:

Connolly, John, A Song of Shadows, Atria.

Charlie Parker has had his share of close calls over the years, but his last case left him closer to death than he has ever been before. And yet, the fight hasn’t gone out of him just yet. If anything, the desire to right wrongs, to take on the worst of humanity, has only grown stronger. So when his convalescence in the seaside town of Boreas intrudes upon the machinations of shadowy group determined to keep their identity hidden, it’s an easy choice for Parker—stand and fight, however difficult it may be. In A Song of Shadows we find Parker at his weakest and most vulnerable. Connolly uses this point as a sort of reset for the series. We have reached a crossroads. New information has come to light and new foes are gathering in the dark. What hasn’t changed is Connolly’s signature style: dark yet lyrical; grounded in history, but not beholden to it. Fans of the series will continue to be impressed. Newcomers… well, you have a lot of catching up to do, but believe me, it’s worth it. Signed. $26.99

In addition to A Song of Shadows, Connolly has also produced a new collection of short stories, Night Music: Nocturnes Volume 2. From stories of the monstrous for dark winter nights to fables of fantastic libraries and haunted books, from a tender account of love after death to a frank, personal, and revealing account of the author’s affection for myths of ghosts and demons, this is a collection that will surprise, delight—and terrify. The US edition is the true first and a paperback original ($17.00), while the UK edition will be the first hardcover ($38.00). Both will be signed.


Steve’s Favorite:


Smith, Donald, The Constable’s Tale, Pegasus.

This exciting debut is set 16 years before Te American Revolution and during Britain’s war with France. Harry Woodyard is a newly married farmer and the volunteer constable of Craven County, North Carolina. When a family is found murdered in what seems to be a ritualistic slaying, the people of the town waste no time arresting and locking up an old Indian living in the forest. The Indian, Comet Elijah had been Harry’s friend and mentor and Harry is convinced of the man’s innocence. At the scene of the crime, Harry finds a note and a Masonic crest. Convinced the owner of the crest must be the murderer, Harry disobeys his orders and leaves the county to discover information concerning the crest. His journey will take him north to Virginia where he learns of a French spy, and to Boston. Finally to Canada where the British are attempting to drive the French from Quebec. Along the way there is much intrigue, attempts on his life and a bit of romance. Smith’s book is rich in period detail and a thrilling story. It would certainly get my vote for an Edgar Award for best debut novel. $25.95.


Mike’s Favorite:

Horowitz, Anthony, Trigger Mortis, Harper.

Bond… James Bond. Shaken, not stirred. Moneypenny. Oddjob. M. Is there any character in fction, other than perhaps Sherlock Holmes, so thoroughly immersed in our culture? For over sixty years, 007 has been ofen imitated, never duplicated or surpassed. Sadly, Bond’s creator, Ian Fleming, died of lung cancer in 1964. Fifty years on, in the summer of 2014, author Anthony Horowitz was allowed access to Fleming’s papers by the estate, and found outlines of some unfinished Bond tales, intended to be part of a proposed television series that was shelved when the films proved so popular. Now for the frst time a new 007 story incorporates one of the plots upon which Ian Fleming was working when he died. Tus the tone of the original series is intact. Firstly it was an excellent idea to keep the story in the proper time frame--1957. Not only is Bond properly of his time, but the inimitable agent works best when he must use his wits, and here he must do so plenty. Despite an unfortunate tendency, apparently shared by both authors, to render certain characters’ speech in dialect, the judicious use of the past works very well in this novel, with just enough reference to Bond’s past exploits to engage the reader but not so many as to shift the focus from where it belongs- -how will Bond thwart SMERSH? Yes, the subversive organization has an ingenious plan to throw America’s space program into chaos. Somewhat reluctantly Bond fnds himself with a new colleague, US Treasury agent Jeopardy Lane, a most worthy addition to the Bond-iverse. Te plot thickens: a traitor is murdered, counterfeit currency is passed (hence the involvement of the Treasury Department) and one shadowy, sinister figure is involved in the nefarious scheme against America. Typical of many a Bond villain (and many a miscreant in fiction!), Jason Sin undertakes a long-winded explanation of his upcoming crime and his motivations since, after all, Bond and Agent Lane will soon be dead! So to an extent we’ve been here before, but part of the roguish charm of certain recurring characters is that very sense of familiarity, like visiting an old friend! Set in Virginia, England, and New York, this is a most worthy addition to the Bond canon. $27.99.


Charles’s Favorite:


Gardner, Leonard, Fat City, NYRB.

While not a mystery, and containing little to no crime, New York Review Books’s recently re-issued Fat City deserves mention here because it is centered on a subject nearest and dearest to classical noir: Boxing. Indeed, the action inside the ring has often been given center stage in the grittiest novels of the genre, even if those novels are oftentimes more concerned with the gangsters and gamblers on the other side of the ropes. Perhaps that is why authors like Ross Macdonald and Denis Johnson have found such an affinity with Gardner’s book, which tells of the lives of two boxers, the young Ernie Munger and the older Billy Tully—one just starting his career, the other dealing with the fallout of his failure—as they move through the poverty-stricken agricultural outpost of Stockton, California. In and out of bus stations, cheap motels, walnut groves, barrooms, and, of course, the gym, the lives of these two men provide insight into an all-but-ignored American reality: in the most remote places, gambling with one’s body is often one’s only hope for the elusive dream of success. It’s not hard to imagine that these same conditions inform the kinds of criminality familiar to readers of mystery fiction. The basis for John Huston’s 1972 film of the same name, which starred Stacy Keach, Jeff Bridges, and Susan Tyrell. $14.95


July 2015 


Otto's Favorite:

DeMille, Nelson, Radiant Angel, Grand Central.

John Corey, one of my favorite characters in contemporary crime fiction, is back and this time he’s not battling Muslim terrorists, as in most of his recent books, but one that he regards as an even greater threat to America: a Russian fanatic. Vasily Petrov has concocted a plan to set off a suitcase nuclear bomb in lower Manhattan and, I hate to say this, but it’s all too credible. A criminal mastermind with an utter lack of humanity who reflects the internal attitude of Vladimir Putin, Petrov has befriended a Saudi prince with the intention of using his gigantic yacht as the delivery system for the bomb. Suspicion will, quite naturally, be aimed at the Saudis when the bomb detonates, vaporizing all aboard, as well as hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers. No one can prevent the success of the mission except John Corey and his mysterious young colleague, Tess. No longer with the Anti-Terrorist Task Force because of his unorthodox and insubordinate methods, he is now a member of the Diplomatic Surveillance Group, where his only job is to watch bad guys and report their movements to superiors, but never to act on whatever he sees. Somehow, Corey doesn’t seem a good fit for anything requiring restraint. A main selection of the CCC. Signed copies. $28.00

Also recommended:

Hunter, Stephen, I, Ripper, Simon & Schuster.

This is a big change for Hunter, one of today’s most successful writers of contemporary thrillers, notably those involving Bob “the Nailer” Swagger. As the title suggests, it is a novel about the notorious Red Jack, the scourge of London’s East End in 1888. It is told in alternating chapters, one being entries in Jack the Ripper’s diary, the other being the adventures of an ambitious newspaper reporter, Jeb Horn, who sees his career reaching great heights by his coverage of the grisly murders. He can spin the smallest detail into a front-page story and is not entirely averse to making up a tidbit here and there on a quiet news day, culminating in giving the East End terror the sobriquet by which he is known to the present day. Some of the violence may be a little difficult for those with a tender stomach, but this a wonderfully written saga that will keep you turning pages and offers some very nice surprises. (Hint: Sherlock Holmes is mentioned more than once.) A main selection of the CCC. Signed copies. $27.99

Ian’s Favorite:

Rich, A.J., The Hand That Feeds You, Scribner.

In most novels there is a varying amount of distance between you and the characters involved.  They are not you.  They are not even remotely you.  And you can pity them, or empathize, or even wish them ill, but ultimately their lives are fiction.  This is not a knock, but a function of the genre.  While we might wish we had the shrewd mind of Poirot or the lightning-quick reflexes of Jack Reacher, we are, ultimately, spectators.  In the case A.J. Rich’s debut, The Hand That Feeds You, I must confess that I felt almost psychically linked to the protagonist.  This character and I don’t share much in the way of personality or experience, but from the opening scene onward, Rich* does an incredible job of putting you in the mind of Morgan Prager.  The confusion, the fear—they’re palpable.  So much so that I had to skip certain parts of chapters for fear of being overwhelmed.  That may seem hyperbolic, but it’s true (and the New York City subway is not a place to get weak in the knees).  The plot revolves around false identities and mysterious deaths, which is all well and good, but it is the intensity of the author’s attention that really binds the book together.  The Hand That Feeds You is the very definition of psychological suspense.  Signed.  $26.00

*A.J. Rich is a collaboration between author Amy Hempel and Jill Ciment.

Steve’s Favorite:

Lovesey, PeterDown Among the Dead Men. Soho Crime.

The fifteenth book in this wonderful series and one of the strongest and wittiest as Lovesey presents us with the odd couple team of Diamond and Dallymore. His boss, ACC Georgina Dallymore recruits him to assist in the internal investigation of a fellow ranking officer in Sussex. When they arrive, Diamond is shocked to discover it's his former boss, Hen Mallin, being charged with ignoring evidence in a case, seven years previously, involving her now-missing niece. With Mallin's assist, and his own persistence, Diamond starts finding connections between more recent missing persons cases, including an art teacher and student. And throughout it all, Dallymore makes the perfect straight man. $27.95

Charles’s Favorite:

Muller, Eddie, Gun Crazy: The Origin of American Outlaw Cinema, Black Pool Productions.

Robberies, car chases, lovers on the run, a man’s lifelong obsession with guns… If you’ve seen Joseph H. Lewis’s Gun Crazy (or one of the scores of films that bear its influence), you know the story well. But what you might not know is the backstory to how this classic film noir came to be made. Now, thanks to the research of Eddie Muller (Dark City, The Distance), that story is available in one handsome volume. This readable narrative history traces the six year long journey of Gun Crazy, from the story’s initial publication in The Saturday Evening Post, through multiple rewrites, and finally onto the silver screen. In an effort to topple auteur theory, and to instead depict the film as being the work of many people (not just that of the director), Muller gives remarkable insight into the project’s many collaborators, including screenwriter Dalton Trumbo, author MacKinlay Kantor, the King brothers, and actors Peggy Cummins and John Dall. Jean-Luc Godard once said that “all you need to make a movie is a girl and a gun,” but, as Muller’s account proves, you actually need much more. And as Muller examines the people involved, he also illuminates the world in which they worked; the book’s details highlight larger themes in the film industry at the time, and readers will learn about everything from the censorship of the film industry at the time to the Black List of the 1940s. They’ll also learn about the clever ways that directors and screenwriters got around these constraints, writing around the demands of the Production Code Administration to include themes deemed unsavory. The book is heavily illustrated and includes stills from the movie, behind the scenes shots, reproductions of shooting scripts, and posters for the film. If you are a fan of Gun Crazy, or have any interest in classic Hollywood, this book is a must-have. PB. $25.00.



June 2015


Otto’s Favorite:

Bruen, Ken, Green Hell, Mysterious Press.

As the first truly noir Irish crime writer, Bruen remains the best (or, at least, my favorite) of a large contingent that includes some of the most outstanding mystery writers working today, including Stuart Neville, Adrian McKinty, and the wonderful (if less dark) John Connolly, among many others, every one of whom I admire. Bruen’s unique style, which looks like concrete poetry on the page, is merely the beginning of his powerful works, led by the Jack Taylor series. In Taylor we have in Irish crime fiction the first really tough ex-cop who drinks whiskey as if Prohibition will be announced in 24 hours, who dresses like a bum, whose sense of humor is visceral, thinks political correctness is an illness, and whose sense of justice is his own—fair and honest but not identical to the legal system. In Green Hell, he goes after a highly respected professor who savagely preys on female students. His dedication to vigilante justice is more than matched by Emerald, a young goth who takes even Jack by surprise with her efficiency and immediacy. $25.00

Ian’s Favorite:

Bollen, Christopher, Orient, HarperCollins.

It’s not often I come across a book that is both lavish in its language and a perfect summer beach read. Christopher Bollen’s second novel and first mystery, Orient, easily encompasses both of these ideals. Orphan Mills Chevern has been a drifter ever since he aged out of the foster system. When he finally makes it to New York, a series of foolish decisions leave him broke, strung out, and homeless. Thanks to the offer of a job from a recent acquaintance, Mills heads out to the historic Long Island town of Orient. But soon after, the town is plagued by a series of mysterious deaths and macabre acts of violence. As the tide of crimes rises, so does the town’s paranoia. With few people on his side, and the threats against his life growing, Mills has to make a choice: run, or help find the culprit. Like the heavy heat of summer, the tension in this book suffuses every detail, relentlessly driving you forward in search of relief. Bollen never piles it on too thick, though. Instead, he distracts the eye with numerous characters and the rich facets of small town life. Suspense at its finest, Orient will give you chills all summer long. Signed. $26.99

Steve’s Favorite:

Mosby, Steve, The Nightmare Place, Pegasus Crime.

DI Zoe Dolan’s recurring nightmare of a lone figure in an empty field is nothing compared to the nightmares lived by the Creeper's victims, raped and beaten in their homes. And now his violence has escalated. He's murdered his latest victim and Dolan hasn't a clue as to how he gets into their homes or what connects the victims. Mosby interweaves several other women into the story, all living with their own fears. Jane Webster volunteers for a helpline and receives a confessional call from a man she believes is the Creeper, and Margaret, an elderly widow, is fearful of her next door neighbor, a man with a violent temper. Mosby quickly moves from one character's perspective to another's, ratcheting up the suspense. Several creepy twists, beginning with the first chapter, lead up to a highly satisfying conclusion. HC. $25.95.

Charles’s Favorite:

Mackay, Malcolm, The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, Mulholland.

Recently published in three paperback volumes by Mulholland, Malcolm Mackay’s Glasgow Trilogy is a welcome import from an exciting young writer. The books follow the saga of Calum MacLean, a freelance hitman whose most recent job puts him right in the middle of a burgeoning gang war. In The Necessary Death of Lewis Winter, the story starts with a phone call—top dog Peter Jamieson wants long-term, low-level drug dealer Lewis Winter killed for working in an area that he, Jamieson, controls. Sounds like an easy job, so MacLean takes it with little hesitation. MacLean is a professional, one of the best in the business. He doesn’t like complications. But what he doesn’t realize is that Winter is working for another big gangster, Shug Francis, who’s in the midst of a power grab aimed at Jamieson’s territory. And after his man is hit, Shug will have to retaliate...
Mix in an ensemble cast from the Glasgow underworld, including crooked cops, drug dealers’ wives, and desperate losers, and you begin to have some idea of how this small incident grows in scope as the feud between Jamieson and Francis escalates. Mackay’s prose is tight and tense, and delves into the psyches of his characters, moving quickly between them to let the reader see each one’s motivations and deceptions. The book is intelligently written, but never gets bogged down in details; it moves at a rapid pace, meaning that after you finish, you’re sure to be left wanting more. Luckily, the next two installments are also available. $15.00


May 2015


Otto’s Favorite:

Swanson, Peter, The Girl with a Clock for a Heart, HarperCollins.

This would have made a fascinating movie serial. Alternating between the present day and 20 years earlier, chapters end with shocking revelations or suspenseful situations that make it impossible to stop reading. George, a young man in college, meets Audrey, a beautiful fellow freshman, and falls passionately in love with her. They spend an idyllic semester, filled with talk, laughter, sex, and other shared learning experiences. He is euphorically happy as Christmas break comes around. He goes home to his family in Massachusetts while she travels to hers in Florida. When the holidays end, he learns that she won’t be returning to school because she committed suicide. Staggered by this inexplicable turn of events, he takes a bus to Florida to attend her funeral. Bringing flowers to the home of her parents, he sees photos of their daughter arrayed everywhere—but they are of a different girl. The one with whom he fell in love has disappeared. Twenty years later, George is in his favorite bar with his on-again-off-again girlfriend when he spots the woman he knew as Audrey. Although he has never heard a word from her during all those years, he has never forgotten her. Not knowing exactly how to feel, he sits next to her and learns that she has come to ask him for a simple favor—one that will result in several murders and eventually put his life in peril. Just as with Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl (which I loved), the ending of this brilliantly executed novel requires a little more suspension of disbelief than I was able to muster, stretching credibility to the snapping point. Still, it was a fabulous ride, even if the needle suddenly showed the gas tank to be empty. I came to this book late (it was published in hardcover last year) so read the trade paperback. I can’t wait to read his new book, The Kind Worth Killing. $14.99

Ian’s Favorite:

Lange, Richard, Sweet Nothing, Mulholland Books.

While they have a long and rich tradition in mystery fiction, short stories often get denigrated by the reading public at large. Which is a shame, because when writers like Richard Lange come along and proceed to deliver ten stories of near-perfection, more people should take notice. Lange’s second collection, Sweet Nothing, is filled with a kind of literary/noir pathos that is extremely difficult to get right. Too much on the noir side and the stories become dark and depressing. Too far the other way and it’s snoozeville. Lange walks that tightrope with aplomb. Included in this collection are stories about average people who make terrible mistakes or let their baser natures take the better of them. They include conmen, gamblers, psychopaths, crooks, and cops. They also include your neighbor, your brother, your wife. As you read these stories you’ll quickly notice how much suspense and emotion the author packs into these tales. And, on top of that, these stories have such pitch-perfect dialogue that they rival the likes of Richard Price and Elmore Leonard. After having won the Hammett Prize for his novel, Angel Baby, and had at least two stories included in The Best American Mystery Stories series, it amazes me that there isn’t more ink on this author. Add together his other acclaimed novel and his previous collection and you have the workings of one of the most talented crime writers working today. But, hey, don’t take my word for it. "Richard Lange's stories are a revelation. He writes of the disaffections and bewilderments of ordinary lives with as keen an anger and searing lyricism as anybody out there today. He is Raymond Carver reborn in a hard cityscape. Read him and be amazed."—T.C. Boyle. Signed copies available. $26.00

Steve’s Favorite:

Walker, Martin, The Children Return, Knopf.

The terrorist threat has come to the village of St. Denis in the latest exciting novel in the Bruno, Chief of Police series. The children of the title refer to Sami, a young autistic student who was smuggled from a mosque and brought to Afghanistan where his technological skills were used by terrorists to make bombs. The Americans want to prosecute him. The French want to debrief him. Bruno wants to protect him. And the terrorists have sent a team to kill him. The other child is an elderly Jewish woman who, with her brother, was saved during the German occupation of WWII. The brother is now dead but has left a large bequest to the village as a thank you. She takes Bruno on a tour of the places she stayed and the story she tells him is heartbreaking. After this melancholy respite the assassins arrive and Bruno goes into action. Along the way there is of course Bruno's mouth-watering recipes and a bit of romance. And a possible new love in the person of CIA Special Agent Nancy Sutton. This is the seventh book of this highly satisfying series. $24.95

Heather’s Favorite:

Duffy, Brendan, House of Echoes, Ballantine.

In this debut novel, Duffy creates a chilling atmosphere in small-town upstate New York. Ben Tierney and his family need a change; his wife, Caroline, lost her job as a bank manager, and his son, Charlie, is being bullied at his prestigious Manhattan private school. On a trip to the village of Swannhaven to survey a piece of property Ben’s late grandmother left to him, the Tierneys fall in love with the strange, small town and the mysterious estate that towers over it: the Crofts. They take a gamble and purchase the dilapidated estate with the intent of restoring it and transforming it into an inn. At first moving to the Crofts is a dream come true, an escape from the city where Ben can write his second novel, Caroline can recover from the birth of their second child and the mental anguish of losing her job, and Charlie can explore the outdoors free from bullies. But the strange little village and its even stranger inhabitants aren’t as welcoming as they first seemed. And animals keep dying around the property—in unnatural and threatening ways. Ben keeps digging into the past of the Swann family—the owners of the Crofts estate for nearly 300 years—and the more he learns about them and his own family, the more disturbed he becomes. I am not usually a reader of thrillers as I’m too easily frightened, but Duffy’s debut kept me reading late into the night. With just the right mixture of suspense and creepiness, House of Echoes had me wondering just what was going on in Swannhaven right up to the book’s adrenaline-filled and satisfying climax. $26.00

Charles’s Favorite:

Lewis, Ted, GBH, Soho Crime.

Last fall, Soho Syndicate resuscitated Ted Lewis’s Jack Carter series, reissuing the trilogy that, in many ways, laid the foundations for British crime writers as varied as Derek Raymond, David Peace, and Stuart Neville. Now, with Soho Crime’s new edition of GBH, it has become clear that the house has a knack for digging up long-forgotten classics. Thirty-five years after its initial publication, this excellent standalone novel is finally being published for the first time in the US.
The novel is worth the wait, and is every bit as well-written as the better-known Carter books. With chapters that alternate between past and present, the book follows two periods in the life of syndicate boss George Fowler, before and after the fallout of his blue film empire. In the past storyline, narrated from the dark streets of London, Fowler pursues the unknown traitor stealing from his company and trying to frame him for murder; in so doing, he goes up against the police and against rival gangs, acting with increased recklessness as he loses trust for those closest to him. In the present chapters, Fowler hides out in a seaside town, keeping a low profile in his getaway house. He reflects on what he’s lost, drinks heavily, and takes somber walks along the beach. But when a mysterious woman shows up in town with a strangely familiar face, the security he thinks he has is called into question, and his old paranoia returns. As both scenarios grow more developed, connections between them seem unavoidable, especially when Fowler’s mental stability loses footing and the two narrative strands tangle in madness.

Artfully written and stylistically experimental, GBH is an exciting and unexpected sort of crime novel. The alternating past and present chapters heighten the tension of Fowler’s paranoia, and makes it clear just how much his past haunts him. The first person speaker is snappy, slangy, and witty, and employs a gangster vernacular as clever as it is tough. The pacing is masterful, and at times I found myself turning pages in a frenzy. It’s a wonder that Lewis isn’t more popular these days, but we’re lucky to have Soho Press to remedy that problem; hopefully we’ll see more of his books reissued in the near future


January 2015

 Otto's Top 10 from 2014: 

Making “best” lists or “favorites” lists is a little crazy because they’re so subjective, but I admit I like reading them and enjoy compiling them, too. One of the great joys of being involved in the mystery fiction world is that there are always new books, new discoveries, new authors, to satisfy the most demanding tastes. There were dozens—no, scores—of wonderful new books published last year, and picking only ten is both difficult and slightly arbitrary, but these are my favorite books of the year and hope you have enjoyed them, or will, too.

  1. Connolly, Michael, The Gods of Guilt, Little, Brown. This may be the best of the Lincoln lawyer series so far. Far more character-driven than most of Connelly’s books, it presents a murder case to Mickey Haller that offers great reward but even greater risk. He has agreed to defend a pimp who is accused of murdering one of his prostitutes—a girl whom Haller had once befriended and possibly put at grave peril. The title refers to the unpredictable verdicts of juries.
  2. Black, Benjamin, The Black-Eyed Blonde, Holt. Aside from Hemingway, I doubt that any American author has been as emulated as frequently as Raymond Chandler. The latest to do it is John Banville. Talk about the least likely suspect! Banville has won numerous awards, including the Man Booker Prize, and is regarded as a candidate for a Nobel Prize. Eight years ago, he tried his hand at detective fiction, using the pseudonym Benjamin Black. Now Banville has written a Philip Marlowe novel. I’ll get right to the punch-line: It is a remarkable achievement. I had my doubts, but no one has come closer to capturing Chandler’s style, tone, and ambience.
  3. Finder, Joseph, Suspicion, Dutton. A departure from Finder’s novels of international and corporate espionage, this is his most personal. It is about a Boston writer (as Finder is) who has a daughter he adores (as Finder adores his), and the lengths that he’d go to protect her from one of the most chilling villains since Hannibal Lecter. This is what his hero is told: “You know the videos on the Internet of those guys with chain saws cutting off people’s heads and all that? The ones you see in your nightmares? Well, this is the guy who gives those guys nightmares.” More than just a novel of terror, Suspicion is also a beautiful, often poignant, father-daughter love story.
  4. James Lee Burke, Wayfaring Stranger, Simon & Schuster. This may be Burke’s most ambitious book—a novel that has crime in it, even if it is not exactly a crime novel. It is a narrative of the United States in the middle of the 20th century, and a superb inside look at the oil industry as it grew, the violence endemic to it, and the men who did the heavy lifting.
  5.  Penzler, Otto, The Best American Mystery Stories of the 19th Century, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I am reluctant to mention my own anthologies for obvious reasons, but this one is special. It features 37 stories in chrono-logical order but Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” is not the first, though it has always enjoyed the reputation of being the first detective story. Washington Irving leads off with “The Story of a Young Robber,” one of the darkest tales I have ever read. The second has a legitimate claim to being the first detective story. “The Rifle” by William Leggett was published 14 years before Poe’s tale and is virtually unknown. There also are stories from such unlikely sources as authors of children’s books, (Louisa May Alcott, L. Frank Baum), adventure writers (Jack London, Stephen Crane), literary writers (Ellen Glasgow, Edith Wharton), two of the greatest American novelists of the 19th century (Mark Twain, Nathaniel Hawthorne), and even a somewhat fictionalized true crime story by Abraham Lincoln. A long foreword discusses the ascension of the mystery story in America in the 19th century, and each story has an introduction that places it in historical context. 
  6. Smith, Tom Rob, The Farm, Grand Central. Daniel gets a call from his father telling him that his mother is not well, that she’s “been imagining things—terrible, terrible things” and been committed to a hospital. He gets a second call from his father to say that his mother is gone and no one knows where she is. Daniel gets another call almost immediately after hanging up and hears his mother’s voice tell him that she’s sure his father has spoken to him, but continues with, “Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad. I don’t need a doctor. I need the police.” It is unthinkable that any reader could begin this book and not absolutely have to know what is real and what is not.
  7. Rankin, Ian, Saints of the Shadow Bible, Little, Brown. After retiring in 2007’s Exit Music, Rebus is back, demoted to a position of little power and forced to investigate a series of crimes and cover-ups from thirty years in the past that involved his own team. The old cops, now mostly retired, remind each other that things were different back then, when solving crime and getting the scum off the street was the only goal, and no one worried about whether the bad guys took a beating or had their rights violated in order for the truth to come out.
  8. Neville, Stuart, The Final Silence, Soho. A woman in Belfast inherits a house in which she discovers a photo album. Affixed to its pages are small artifacts that it quickly becomes evident are mementoes of her brother’s victims: locks of hair, fingernails, and other testaments to depravity. A mystery novel, and a very suspenseful one, but also a portrait of the interactions of a family that has secrets connected to “the troubles” that it wants to keep, and that will do almost anything to prevent their revelation.
  9. Carcaterra, Lorenzo, The Wolf, Ballantine. Organized crime and international terrorism blend in an unexpected way. Vincent Marelli, known to criminals and police alike as The Wolf, is the head of a massive organization of criminals with footholds all across the globe. Rather than fight each other, Marelli and his colleagues have organized a kind of union to which most powerful criminal groups have joined to keep peace and earn billions in profits. When terrorists kill his family, he declares war on international terrorism, pitting the might of the crime cartel against them.
  10. Cain, Chelsea, One Kick, Simon & Schuster. I was disappointed when Cain’s new novel wasn’t about the psychotic beauty Gretchen Lowell and the obsessive Archie Sheridan—but I was wrong. Cain’s new character, Kick Lannigan, was kidnapped while a six-year-old child. During her imprisonment, her abductor taught her such skills as lock-picking, bomb-making, and being an escape artist. After her rescue five years later, she continues her education and learns knife-throwing, martial arts, and other deadly skills. Seeing herself at the age of 21 as a protector of at-risk children, she is hired by a wealthy former weapons dealer to find some missing children, which puts her own life at risk. She’s a fascinating character, destined for future adventures.

Ian's Top 10 from 2014:

  1. Evie Wyld, All the Birds, Singing, Pantheon
  2. Tom Rachman, The Rise and Fall of Great Powers, Dial
  3. John Connolly, The Wolf in Winter, Atria
  4. Peter Heller, The Painter, Knopf
  5. Rene Denfeld, The Enchanted, HarperCollins
  6. Ben Winters, World of Trouble, Quirk
  7. Peter May, The Lewis Man, Quercus
  8. Nick Harkaway, Tigerman, Knopf
  9. Lavie Tidhar, A Man Lies Dreaming, Hodder & Stoughton
  10. Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See, Scribner

Steve's Top 10 from 2014 (and 2 Honorable Mentions):

  1. Bayard, LouisRoosevelt's Beast, St. Martin's
  2. Capus, AlexAlmost Like Spring, Haus
  3. Cash, WileyThis Dark Road to Mercy, Morrow
  4. Dufresne, JohnNo Regrets Coyote, Norton
  5. Hill, AntonioThe Good Suicides, Crown
  6. Kallentoft, MonsMidwinter Blood, S&S
  7. Lange, JohnAngel Baby, Mulholland
  8. May, PeterThe Black House, Quercus
  9. Monroe, AlyThe Maze of Cadiz, Hodder
  10. von Schirach, FerdinandThe Collini Case, Penguin
  • Tidhar, LavieA Man Lies Dreaming, Hodder UK
  • Williams, TimothyConverging Parallels, Soho