If you love books and you love mysteries, it would make sense that you'd love mysteries with a bookish backdrop. Or "bibliomysteries," a "small but elevated category of literature" that Otto Penzler (owner of the Mysterious Bookshop and the publisher of Mysterious Press) recently discussed over on the Open Road Media blog.
And there are so many good ones out there! Might I recommend a few?
Love cozy mysteries: Death on Demand by Carolyn G. Hart
The very first in Hart's Death on Demand mystery series introduces mystery bookshop owner Annie Laurance Darling and the endearing cast of characters who populate this South Carolina setting. The prime suspect of a murder, Annie becomes a reluctant sleuth, and her adventure is peppered with references to classic mystery authors that will undoubtedly lengthen your TBR list.
Love historical mysteries: Anna's Book by Ruth Rendell / Barbara Vine
Originally published as Asta's Book in the U.K. (long out of print but now available in eBook), this is an unexpected gem from Rendell's extensive oeuvre. A diary written by a young Danish woman in turn-of-the-century London becomes a huge commercial success; years later, these memoirs shed light on two unsolved murders.
Love literary thrillers: The Salinger Contract by Adam Langer
It seems fitting that the author and narrator of this book have the same name; it is, after all, a mystery about writers and writing. It's packed with bookish delights, including a sinister book collector, lots of literary references and shrewd insight into the publishing world.
Love collecting rare books: Bookscout by John Dunning
After years out of print, this one's now available as an eBook—though it's short enough to be considered a short story. Things get desperate for a rare book hunter, and the result is an interesting balance of book-collecting facts and mystery.
Readers, chime in! What bookish mysteries do you recommend?
Kelly Parsons is a board-certified urologist with degrees from UPenn, Stanford University and Johns Hopkins, and he takes all that surgeon's knowledge and puts it to better use (in my opinion, but I'm biased) with his debut medical thriller, Doing Harm.
We meet chief resident Steve Mitchell, a rising star with a bright surgical future who our reviewer calls "engagingly flawed." But then a patient dies of mysterious circumstances, and the killer starts toying with Steve, threatening his career, his marriage and even his life. And with an actual surgeon behind it, Doing Harm is the perfect blend of authentic hospital atmosphere and tense life-and-death moments.
To find out more about the high-stakes hospital world, we chatted with Kelly Parsons in a Q&A about patients, medical school and the fascinating character of Steve Mitchell—who we're reluctant to trust, or even like. And Parsons agrees:
"Readers shouldn’t necessarily trust Steve. They certainly don’t have to like him. But what I hope they do, on some level, is relate to his dilemma. I want readers to understand why he makes the choices he makes, however flawed those choices may be. The story is essentially about Steve’s moral journey. With some help along the way, Steve finishes the book a much different individual than when he began it."
Doing Harm is out today! Will you check it out?
In Sherryl Woods' romance, A Seaside Christmas, songwriter Jenny Collins returns to her family home to nurse a broken heart. But ex-beau Caleb Green—a country superstar that was unfaithful—has followed Jenny back to Chesapeake Shores, and he's aiming to right his wrongs and win her back. Romance columnist Christie Ridgway calls this "A warm tale about understanding, forgiveness and the persuasive power of love." We caught up with her in a 7 questions interview and asked about her love of country music:
"I'm a huge fan of country music. Give me a guy with a great voice, a good love song, a snug pair of jeans and a tight T-shirt and I'll follow him anywhere."
Read the full interview to learn about breaking genre rules, her favorite Christmas movies and more!
As part of our Best Books of 2013 coverage, our editors weigh in on some of their personal favorites from the list.
The future of Red Hook, Brooklyn, hinges upon the mysterious events of one sweltering evening, when two teenage girls take a pink raft out onto the river. One returns, bloody and cold. The other is never seen again. The neighborhood—both haunted and headed toward gentrification—is never again the same.
Unfolding through prose both tense and vibrant, Visitation Street races along as it unravels the mystery of June's fate, simultaneously begging for every word to be savored. And while this urgency makes for thrilling read, it also brings to life a chorus of aching characters, each tied to the grungy world of Red Hook, a "neighborhood below sea level and sinking."
Read our review.
It was an exceptional year for mysteries and thrillers! Plenty of murder, tortured heroes and globe-hopping from here to Venice—and beyond. Read on for the 10 best mysteries and thrillers of the year, as chosen by Whodunit columnist Bruce Tierney and the editors of BookPage.
Starring an antihero detective with no fixed identity, Hobbs' debut thriller is “what the mystery novel would look like if Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had decided that Moriarty was his central character." Noted editor Gary Fisketjon handled the project, and film rights have already been sold.
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Read our full review of The Golden Egg.
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Read our review of A Delicate Truth.
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Read our review of The Abomination.
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Read our full review of How the Light Gets In.
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Read our review of Tatiana.
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Read our review of Death of a Nightingale.
Readers, share in the comments below: What are your favorite 2013 mysteries ad thrillers?
Emma Donoghue became a household name for readers after the her 2010 novel, Room, sold more than 1.5 million copies. But Room was actually an anomaly for Donoghue, who was known as a historical fiction writer—or, as she puts it, a "fact-based historical writer." She returns to the past on April 1 with Frog Music (Little, Brown), a story set in 1876 San Francisco that's based on a real-life crime. A heatwave is sweeping the city—and so is a deadly smallpox epidemic. But French burlesque dancer Blanche Beunon has even bigger problems: Her friend, Jenny Bonnet, has been shot dead, and Blanche is determined to bring her killer to justice.
As Blanche pieces together Jenny's past for clues, she discovers that her frog-hunting friend had more than a few secrets. Will she be able to solve the mystery of Jenny's death before the killer catches up with her?
Peter James is the best-selling author of the Detective Superintendent Roy Grace crime series, including Dead Like You and Dead Man's Grip. In the ninth book in the series, Dead Man's Time, the tenacious Brighton cop faces his toughest adversary yet.
In 1922 New York, a young boy named Gavin and his sister board a ship to Dublin. Their mother has been shot and their Irish mobster father abducted. A messenger hands Gavin a watch and a piece of paper bearing a cryptic message. In 2012 Brighton, Roy Grace investigates a burglary, in which an old woman is murdered and a fortune is stolen, including a vintage watch. Grace's investigation into the stolen watch reveals an ancient hatred and a murderous trail spanning the globe.
In a guest post, James recalls the two incidents that inspired Dead Man's Time, plus some insight into Brighton crime:
In July 2011 I was having dinner in New York with a detective friend in the NYPD, Pat Lanigan. Had he ever told me, he asked, that his great-uncle was Dinny Meehan, the feared and ruthless head of the White Hand Gang—the Irish Mafia that controlled the New York and Brooklyn waterfronts, and much else—from the 1850s until the mid-1920s? It was one of the White Hand Gang’s methods of disposing of enemies in the Hudson that led to the expression, "Taking a long walk down a short pier."
Dinny Meehan was responsible for kicking Al Capone and other lieutenants of the Italian Mafia, the Black Hand Gang, out of New York—which is why Capone fetched up in Chicago.
In 1920 five men broke into Meehan’s home in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn, and in front of his 4-year-old son, shot Dinny Meehan and his wife. The wife survived, and the boy went on to become a famous basketball player. The culprits were never identified. There was speculation whether it was a revenge attack organized by Capone or a power struggle within the White Hand Gang from Meehan’s deputy, “Wild Bill” Lovett. Meehan’s widow had no doubts, confronting Lovett in a crowded bar, and he was eventually murdered, too.
Pat Lanigan told me he’d had many approaches over the years for the archive material, which he possessed, but the family did not want this personal information released. However, because of our friendship, he volunteered to let me see, in case it might make a good story for me.
I was riveted by what I had read, and it sparked an idea which grew into Dead Man’s Time, where instead of becoming a basketball player, the boy ends up in Brighton as a hugely successful antiques dealer, and we pick up nine decades later, when he is an old man with memories and a still-unsolved family mystery.
In addition to my New York detective’s story, a major part of the inspiration for this book came from an attempted break-in at my Sussex country home two years ago during the night. Fortunately our three dogs did the trick and sent them running off the premises. The police were of the opinion they may have been targeting our cars—I have a bit of a reputation as a petrol head (!)—but it made me curious about what kind of person today’s house burglar is. Thanks to the Governor of our local Category B Prison, Lewes, I was able to get some insights.
One character in particular who I met was 38 years old, a career high-end car thief. He had started as a kid, for kicks, taking cars on joyrides, then got recruited by an Indian gang operating in London that tasered people in expensive cars, then pulling them out and dumping them by the road side. My character told me that with modern car security systems, it had become extremely difficult to simply steal a car by the old methods of hot-wiring. A recent Audi model could take four hours to start, he told me, so it is much easier to break into a house and simply steal the keys. And of course, while you are inside the house, then you might as well steal some valuables there, too.
On the topic of crime in London, people often ask why I choose to set my novels in a hip seaside resort, rather than a real hotbed of crime. Brighton—the city I grew up in and love passionately, and where I know virtually every street and alley—has long endured the sobriquet of "Crime Capital of the U.K." A journalist friend of mine recounted how, in a pub in Brighton a few years ago, he asked a fellow drinker at the bar if Brighton had a drugs problem. The man thought for a moment, then shook his head and said, “Nah, you can get anything you want here.”
Thanks, Peter! Dead Man's Time is out now, and his previous novel,
Not Dead Yet, is out in paperback!
Anne Hillerman's debut novel, Spider Woman's Daughter, revives her father Tony Hillerman's best-selling Navajo mystery series, featuring police inspector Joe Leaphorn and Sergeant Jim Chee. Except this time, the tough and whip-smart Officer Bernie Manuelito is on the case. With Spider Woman's Daughter, our Top Pick in Mystery for October 2013, Hillerman proves that she has a superb talent and voice all her own.
We chatted with Hillerman about her book, writing advice and the best food in New Mexico in a 7 questions interview.
Read an excerpt from the first chapter of this captivating novel below:
The town of Window Rock, the capital city of the Navajo Nation, gets its American name from the red sandstone arch, a low eye in the sky, a graceful portal from heaven to earth. Formed by wind and rain, it's known as Tségháhoodzání in Navajo. Beneath the arch, a natural spring bubbles up, a source of healing water and a tangible blessing in desert country. The spring gives the site its other Navajo name, Ni’ ‘Alníi’gi.
Bernie couldn’t see the arch from the parking lot of the Navajo Inn. Instead she looked at the white pickups and SUVs of the Navajo Police Department, more officers than she’d ever seen at a crime scene. But there had never been a shooting of one of the Navajo Nation’s best-known policemen in broad daylight outside a busy restaurant, with a table full of other cops just a heartbeat away.
The assemblage of officers and chorus of sirens alerted the peaceful people of this largely Navajo town of about 30,000 to the fact that something serious had happened. Restaurant patrons left bacon and eggs in the dining room to watch the commotion; travelers heading west from Gallup, New Mexico, or east from Ganado, Arizona, slowed down to gawk. No doubt they talked about it as they drove—probably good for at least ten miles’ worth of conversation.
Tim O'Mara is a New York public schoolteacher, the author of the Raymond Donne mystery series and a library supporter. His new book, Crooked Numbers, continues the adventures of hero Raymond Donne, a Brooklyn public schoolteacher and former cop. In a guest blog post, O'Mara shares some his fondest memories of libraries from around the country.
Growing up on Long Island, I lived a five-minute walk from our public library. And my father never let his kids forget it.
Dad wasn’t a book buyer: He was a taxpayer with a library card and the only books I remember him actually owning were a collection of poems by Robert Frost and the Bible. (Both of which he kept by his bedside.) Books were to be borrowed, not purchased. He passed away a few years before I got published and I’d like to think he would have made an exception in the case of my books, but I can’t swear to it.
While promoting my first book, Sacrifice Fly, I have had the pleasure of visiting public libraries all across the country—if the country ended at Columbia, Missouri, that is. To a one, librarians have treated me as visiting royalty. I’ve seen my name on posters, flyers, websites and in local papers. I’ve appeared on local radio and TV shows to promote library events. I’ve received tote bags with library logos, pens and a coffee mug. (“Swag,” I think they call it at the Academy Awards.) I even made the front page of Missouri’s Fulton Sun after a Daniel Boone Public Library-sponsored event. It must have been a slow news day: They got one picture of me reading from the book, and another of me petting Well Read’s store cat. (Gotta get that pet crowd on your side.)
At my reading event in East Meadow—my hometown library—my old mailman showed up. I hadn’t seen him in 20 years, and I recognized him right away. He’s retired now and told me he enjoys a good mystery now and then. (I asked him where the postal clerks go when they disappear to the back. We may collaborate on that one.) I also ran into some old school friends, including a woman from my first grade class who’s now an East Meadow librarian. (She’s a woman now; in first grade she was only 7.)
Out of the blue last year, I was invited by the Newport Rhode Island Public Library to read for them. I figured out the cost of travel and hotel and almost declined the offer. Then I saw that I was part of Newport’s “March is Mystery Month” and that the following week’s reader was Tess Gerritsen. I said yes. If Dr. Gerritsen could find the time with her schedule, who was I—with only a Master’s—to say I was too busy? (I also had the opportunity to visit the Newport Brewing Company with the wonderful Mary Barrett, who’s taste in books is as good as her taste in beer.)
Since Sacrifice Fly came out last year, I’ve had a few friends “confess” that they did not buy the book; they took it out of the library. I find myself reminding them that libraries do buy books and also keep track of how often they’re taken out. The less time the book spends on the shelves, the more bang for the library’s buck and the more likely they are to purchase my next one. I’ve been flattered that many libraries have multiple copies of the book, and I hope they continue the trend and stack the shelves with a few copies of Crooked Numbers, my second book in the Raymond Donne series, published in October 2013 from St. Martin’s/Minotaur Books. (But, if any of my friends are reading this, go ahead and buy the book. Then you can donate it to your public library. We all win.)
Thank you to the public libraries—and their staffs—for introducing me to the wonder of books and for helping me spread the word about my own. Of all my dollars that go into paying taxes, the ones that end up buying books are among the best spent.
My dad taught me that.
Thanks, Tim! Readers, Tim's newest Raymond Donne mystery, Crooked Numbers, comes out today. Go check it out at your local library.
Hard Case Crime will publish eight suspense novels written by Michael Crichton during his time at Harvard Medical School from 1966 to 1972. They will be released under under the pseudonym John Lange but will identify Crichton as the author.
The eight titles are Odds On, Scratch One, Easy Go, Zero Cool, The Venom Business, Drug of Choice, Grave Descend and Binary. Four of the books will be published on October 29, with the other four following on November 19. They'll also be released as eBooks by Open Road.
Crichton re-edited some of the books before he died in 2008, and Hard Case Crime founder and editor Charles Ardai promises, "they read like a rocket."
Hard Case Crime also released Stephen King's Joyland, so we're feeling optimistic about the Lange books. Will you check out these early Crichton thrillers?