Here at the library, we’re celebrating March Madness all month long, and I figured that’s the perfect time to present suggestions for the 2016 Library Challenge of reading a mystery or thriller.
Personally, I love a good mystery or thriller, and like anyone else who reads this genre, I have favorite authors and favorite series. (I have a pretty wide-ranging list of favorites, everything from light, classic British mysteries to darker American noir to standard police procedurals to amateur detective books to legal thrillers to psychological suspense thrillers. But my biggest soft spot is for Scandinavian murder mysteries, which I was introduced to several years ago. About the only mystery subgenre I don’t particularly care for is cozies, but even then, I sometimes read them.)
I realize, though, not everyone reads a lot in this genre and for those of you that do, you undoubtedly have your own favorite authors or series. For these reasons, I wanted to provide a selection of books that will appeal to you regardless of how much you read in the genre. To that end, I decided to focus on more recent books, either from this year or last year, and also to avoid books from long-standing series. All of the books below are either stand-alones or are intended as first books in a series, so that should make it easier to get into them, regardless of your own amount of reading in these genres.
As always, if you’re interested in any of these books, just follow this link to our online catalog, which will allow you to read more about them, check availability, and place items on hold.
If you want a thriller–
Terri Blackstock’s If I Run (2016)
Casey Cox is on the run from authorities, not because she is guilty of murder but because she knows police will not believe she is not, given the evidence implicating her in a friend’s murder. The private investigator on the case, Dylan Roberts, is puzzled because, contrary to Casey’s expectations, he doesn’t think she is guilty. But he also cannot account for why she fled if she is, in fact, innocent. If you want to read a fast-paced thriller but want to avoid overly graphic content, you might really enjoy this book. Just be warned that the book is the first in a projected series, so don’t expect all of the plot details to be tied up neatly at the end.
Joy Fielding’s She’s Not There (2016)
For all intents and purposes, Caroline Shipley’s life ended fifteen years ago when Samantha, her toddler, was kidnapped while the family vacationed in Mexico. In the ensuing years, Samantha has never been found, and the crime has emotionally devastated Caroline, her husband, and her other daughter. One day, she gets a phone call from a teenager claiming to be her long-lost daughter–but is it? This book has gotten a lot of buzz for its interesting characters, breakneck pacing, and emotional resonance. If you’re intrigued by the description, definitely give this psychological thriller a try.
Jo Nesbø’s Blood on Snow (2015)
Norwegian writer Jo Nesbø is best known for his Detective Harry Hole series, but last year, he veered away from the violent police procedurals he had been writing to start a new crime series that focuses on criminals rather than policemen. In the first book of the series, Blood on Snow, the main character is Olav, who works for an Oslo crime syndicate as a “fixer”–a polite euphemism for “hitman.” But he’s not an ordinary hitman/fixer; he’s actually a fairly complex and sympathetic character. In the course of the novel, though, he falls in love with his boss’s wife, and as you can imagine, complications ensue. If you enjoy this book, you’re in luck because the sequel Midnight Sun was recently released.
I’ve not actually read this series yet, but the reviews for it are good and I was a big fan of the first several books in Nesbø’s detective series, which is frequently described as Nordic noir. In the books I read, I thought Nesbø had a knack for creating interesting characters and harrowing situations. (His book The Leopard gave me nightmares for a few days, and another one, The Snowman, left me with a permanent aversion to snowmen . . . .) I’d be interested in comparing notes in the comment section with anyone who has read his new series.
Ruth Rendell’s Dark Corners (2015)
This novel is, sadly, the last one written by noted British mystery/thriller author Ruth Rendell and was released posthumously last year. Dark Corners tells the story of Carl Martin, who is a bit down on his luck. His luck substantially worsens when he inadvertently causes a friend’s death, but that turn of events is pretty tame compared to his new roommate’s reaction to discovering Carl’s secret connection to the friend’s death. Most people would probably call the police or move out, but this roommate instead decides to stop paying rent and start invading Carl’s space and blackmailing him. Don’t you hate when people do that to you? Carl’s not much of a fan of this behavior, either, but he starts to believe he’ll never be free of his nefarious roommate. . . .
If you want a mystery–
Harry Brandt’s/Richard Price’s The Whites (2015)
This book is the latest from Richard Price, who hasn’t written one of his gritty crime novels in several years. He returns with this one, though under the pseudonym Harry Brandt. NYPD Detective Billy Graves used to be a part of the “Wild Geese,” a self-applied nickname for a group of cops determined to clean up the Bronx back in the 1990s. Billy’s days as a Wild Goose are cut short when he accidentally kills an innocent bystander, however. For the past couple of decades, Billy’s penance has been working the graveyard shift for the Manhattan Night Watch, fielding petty tasks. That all stops when one of Billy’s “whites”–one of the ones who got away, like Captain Ahab’s proverbial white whale–from his Wild Goose days comes back into his life.
Elly Griffiths’ The Zig Zag Girl (2015)
If you like historical mysteries, you might enjoy this one, set in 1950s England. It’s by Elly Griffiths, who is the author of the popular Dr. Ruth Galloway books. With this title, she changes gears and introduces a new series, starring English detective Edgar Stephens and his old army buddy, a traveling magician named Max Mephisto. After finding a dismembered woman, Stephens is reminded of one of Mephisto’s magic tricks and drags his reluctant friend into helping him investigate. This book gets a lot of positive reviews for its eccentric leading characters and also the historical atmosphere.
Tawni O’Dell’s Angels Burning (2016)
Billed as a literary mystery, Tawni O’Dell’s latest offering stays with the setting of her previous books–Pennsylvania coal country. In this book, Dove Carnahan, the police chief in a rural town, is confronted with the brutal murder of a teenager from a local dysfunctional family, while simultaneously dealing with the long simmering aftermath of her own mother’s murder. Angels Burning has received critical acclaim for its complex characters and insightful portrayal of family dynamics, as well as its character-driven plot.
Thomas Perry’s Forty Thieves (2015)
If you like a lot of humor with your mysteries, try Thomas Perry’s Forty Thieves. This madcap mystery is the tale of two couples. One of these couples is the Ables, two retired police officers who now work as private investigators. They’re hired to investigate the murder of a research scientist, which quickly brings them into opposition with the second couple in question, the Hoyts, a pair of assassins responsible for the murder the Ables are investigating. The result is entertaining and action-packed.
Deanna Raybourn’s A Curious Beginning (2015)
If you like historical mysteries but prefer 19th century settings, you may enjoy A Curious Beginning, the first in the Veronica Speedwell series. The protagonist is a lepidopterist (butterfly enthusiast), and with the death of her aunt, she is en route to fulfill a lifelong dream of traveling abroad to pursue this interest when she narrowly avoids being kidnapped. She’s rescued by an enigmatic German aristocrat, who also quickly turns up dead. Veronica then must team up with one of the aristocrat’s friends, a prickly fellow named Stoker, to solve the case. Quite a few reviewers note that Veronica Speedwell seems far too modern for the Victorian setting, but if you don’t mind that, you might enjoy this story that is equal parts mystery, adventure, and romance.
Do you like mysteries/thrillers? Who are your favorite authors and what are your series in these genres? Interested in reading any of these books? Tell us all about it in the comments!