May is Mystery Month at Booklist! Check out our recent mystery award winners (plus Talia’s “Spring the Trap: Mysteries That Won’t Let Go” webinar titles) and see which Macmillan titles made Booklist‘s “Best of” reading lists for 2017.
The Year’s Best Crime Novels: 2017 (full list) — Top 10 Crime Novels & Best Crime Fiction Debuts
LET THE DEVIL OUT by Bill Loehfelm
New Orleans rookie cop and loose cannon Maureen Coughlin is tasked with helping the FBI track a white supremacist group. Will Maureen go rogue again, or will she channel what she calls her “killing feeling” into doing good police work? Not only has Loehfelm created the most compelling, complex patrol cop in the genre; he has also reenergized New Orleans as a setting for the best in crime fiction, edgy, dangerous, but pulsing with life.
THE DRY by Jane Harper
Harper’s small-town, big-secrets page-turner tells the story of Aaron Falk, who returns to his Australian hometown to attend the funeral of a friend believed to have shot his wife and son and then killed himself. Falk begins to question the details of the crime and, together with the town’s police sergeant, undertakes an investigation that unearths secrets new and old, some involving Falk’s father. A stunning debut reminiscent of Peter Corliss’ Cliff Hardy series.
Find out what inspired Jane Harper to write THE DRY in Booklist Reader’s “Clues to My Crime” column!
THREE YEARS WITH THE RAT by Jay Hosking
Neuroscientist Hosking turns in a startlingly fine performance with his first novel, about a man so determined to find his missing sister that he risks his own reality to solve the mystery of her disappearance. It’s quickly apparent that this is one of those mind-bending thrillers in which time and space are fluid concepts, but Hosking draws us in completely to his labyrinthine narrative.
For titles reviewed from May 1, 2016 through April 15, 2017.
Top 10 Crime Fiction Audiobooks: 2017 (full list)
BEHIND HER EYES by Sarah Pinborough, read by Bea Holland and others
A fine cast of narrators voices this complex, riveting story of a love triangle based on obsession and deceit.
A GREAT RECKONING by Louise Penny, read by Robert Bathurst
Using realistic voices and impeccable nuances, Bathurst portrays a cast of quirky characters in this atmospheric, multilayered mystery.
For titles reviewed from April 1, 2016 through April 15, 2017.
Trend Alert: Suburban Suspense (full list)
BEHIND CLOSED DOORS by B. A. Paris
The marriage of Grace Harrington and Jack Angel seemed perfect, except for what went on behind closed doors. On their honeymoon, Grace’s new husband, Jack, reveals his psychopathic nature, using Grace’s deep love for her special-needs sister, Millie, as leverage in concocting a depraved scheme that will ruin both women.
COME SUNDOWN by Nora Roberts
Alice Bodine turns up at her family’s Montana ranch and luxury resort battered, bruised, and with no memory of her old life, 25 years after running away. Her niece puts Alice’s return together with the recent murders of two women and suspects that someone very twisted may be living nearby.
TRULY MADLY GUILTY by Liane Moriarty
Moriarty handles neighborhood secrets, indiscretions, and twists like no one else. A spontaneous barbecue upends the lives of three couples in suburban Sydney. From the start, readers know that something terrible has happened—Erika can’t quite remember the details, Clementine doesn’t want to remember them, and their husbands are struggling with the aftermath. But it’s not until midway through the story that Moriarty shows her hand.
A Hard-Boiled Gazetteer to the Pacific Rim (full list)
THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple
This first in a series stars Melbourne homicide detective Joe Cashin, who has been temporarily reassigned to his hometown in rural Australia while he recovers from injuries only slowly explained. But despite its remote landscape, the little town of Port Munro generates some big-city crime. Evoking a view of the continent that is more Ian Rankin than Crocodile Dundee, Temple tells a troubling tale of race and class conflict—with an even darker crime at the heart of it. This deeply intelligent thriller starts slowly, builds inexorably, and ends unforgettably.
CRUCIFIXION CREEK by Barry Maitland
Sydney homicide detective Harry Belltree is as hard-boiled as they come, a kind of Australian Dirty Harry with a little of Lawrence Block’s Matt Scudder, who once said to a killer he was about to dispatch, “I just don’t want you to be alive anymore.” This installment in Maitland’s unsparingly dark series provides backstory, explaining how Harry got to be Harry and how he developed his investigative style: shake the tree, see who falls out, and kill them. So old school you can smell the cordite.
CAMBODIA, LAOS, AND VIETNAM
A GOOD DEATH by Christopher Cox
Cox’s debut begins with PI Sebastian Damon investigating the death in Bangkok of a Laotian refugee, but quickly the sleuth and an American expat are venturing far into the remote mountains of Laos. So begins a story that channels Conrad, Kipling, and Francis Ford Coppola, as Cox creates a vivid sense of place, ties his characters’ rich backstories to the Vietnam War, and illuminates the current plight of Laotian hill tribes. A unique blend of hard-boiled PI novel and transcendent adventure tale.
SHANGHAI REDEMPTION by Qiu Xialong
Character study, crime novel, insider’s look at the hypocrisy and corruption that riddles contemporary China—Xialong’s series delivers it all, with side dishes, in this installment, of ancient Chinese poetry, Confucian sayings, and noodle criticism. Xialong’s hero, Chen Cao, was once chief inspector of special investigations with the Shanghai Police Department and deputy party secretary of the bureau, but he has since been sidelined, fobbed off into heading the powerless Legal Reform Committee. But that doesn’t stop Chen from sticking his nose in where it doesn’t belong, as in this case of the “ernai,” women lured into the thriving sex-club and prostitution business.
BLACK WATER by Louise Doughty
In 1998, amid the instability of Suharto’s collapsing regime, John Harper huddles in his Indonesian hideaway, awaiting the hit squad that his employers at the Institute of International Economics will soon be sending to eliminate him. Harper seems resigned to his fate until he meets fellow expat Rita. Doughty creates a jarringly realistic backdrop of Indonesia’s violent past, sharply contrasting the menacing atmosphere with the growing romance. A tense, contemplative literary thriller.
A CORPSE IN THE KORYO by James Church
This first novel in Church’s outstanding (and far too little known) series introduces North Korean Inspector O, who is asked to go to a certain part of a certain road at dawn and photograph a certain vehicle. Trouble. Inspector O is completely believable and sympathetic, a working cop who isn’t entirely sure he believes in the things his government tells him to believe in. There’s more than a little of Arkady Renko here, Martin Cruz Smith’s Russian detective similarly plagued with ambiguity in a totalitarian world. Like Renko, O’s misgivings only grow as the series matures.
AMERICAN BLOOD by Ben Sanders
Marshall Grade is an ex-cop in Auckland searching for a kidnapped girl and encountering as nasty a crew of killers as ever confronted a hard-boiled sleuth. Whether Sanders is breathing new life into familiar genre scenes (the motel shootout) or wowing us with Chandlerian turns of phrase (a pile of money giving off “the scent of beckoning dreams”), he hits every note perfectly. The novel is soon to be the basis of a film starring Bradley Cooper.
THE SINGAPORE SCHOOL OF VILLAINY by Shamini Flint
The third Inspector Singh novel finds the beer-drinking, turban-and-white-sneakers-wearing detective working on his home turf—an unusual event, as homicides are rare in the authoritarian city-state of Singapore. With most of the suspects being expat lawyers, the investigation has high priority as long as Singh can pin the murder on a local. Naturally, it doesn’t work out that way. Flint combines delightfully quirky characters with a top-notch, twisty mystery. Earlier installments in the series find the inspector moving to other Pacific Rim settings, including Bali and Malaysia.
THE DEPTHS OF THE SEA by Jamie Metzel
Thailand, 1979. A CIA agent vanishes while on a top-secret mission involving Cambodian refugee camps. Only one man can hope to find him: Morgan O’Reilly, a desk officer at the agency who ran a spy network of street orphans in Cambodia during the Vietnam War. Metzel’s knowledge of Washington politics and the refugee camps gives the story an air of realism that few similarly themed thrillers can match. A vibrant, well-paced novel dripping with the noir-tinged atmosphere of the immediate post–Vietnam War years.