Saturday, May 30, 2015

Jay Gertzman's Pulp According to David Goodis: NOIR SITCOMS 1

Gilligan’s island has the classic good girl (MaryAnn) bad girl (Ginger) combo. And Gilligan is obviously a man whose physical and psychosexual growth Has been stunted by a repressive, over-bearing father, who he calls his skipper. Gilligan used to be a beatnik in high school, and now he has given up that independent persona to work on a boat called the Minnow. It’s a brewing noir maelstrom of sexual teasing, fear of authority, manic depression, exacerbated by the wealthy couple and the intellectual—both joining the skipper in keeping Gilligan under their thumbs. He chaffs, he stutters, he jerks off in his hat, he spies on MaryAnn and Ginger under the tent flaps. And then Don Rickles shows up, fresh from a gig at Harriet’s Hut..

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bruce Colbert as Sam Mullins in YIN DRAGON. An Homage to Noirs and Neo-Noirs of the 1960s and 1970s

YIN DRAGON - A Short Noir Film
from Ben Chapins on Vimeo.

YIN DRAGON - A Short Noir Film from Ben Chapins on Vimeo.

YIN DRAGON is a short detective noir film inspired by the noirs and neo-noirs of the 1960s and 1970s.
Sam Mullins (played by Bruce Colbert) is a private detective living in Chinatown, NYC. His code is simple: snoop for money, but never get directly involved. Following this rule has rewarded him with a simple life, that is, until he decides to figure out a little more about his girlfriend, Yin (played by Hiroko Tanaka).
Written and Directed by Ben Chapins
Cinematography: Christian Wilfong
Camera Assistant: Shane O'Reilly
Starring: Bruce Colbert and Hiroko Tanaka
Film Editor: Ben Chapins
Audio Recorder: George Cook
Audio Effects and Mastering: Roy Harter & Sean Barry - Skinnyman
All Original Music Written and Performed by
Music Tracks (In Order of Appearance):
"Monet" - from the album Portrait in Seven Shades
"Dali" - from the album Portrait in Seven Shades
"Picasso" - from the album Portrait in Seven Shades
"Plastic Sax Rumble" - from the album The Creep
"Dali" - from the album Portrait in Seven Shades
And a very special "thank you" to our loyal Kickstarter backers:
Erick Alvarez
Haris Amin
Timur Atalay
Jesse Bull
Alex Carlstedt
Grace Chang
Kaitie Chapins
Lloyd & Shawn Chapins
Joe Charles
Iris Chu
Jason Cipriano
Tony Cohen
M.A. Cumba
Paul & Tara DeGeorges
Leonidas Grimanis
Adam Hattenburg
Raquel Hernandez
Kyle J. Hough
Lauren Reid & Matt Hurst
Janice Kim
Silvia Shin & Ray Kim
Janette Lee
Julia Lee
Nancy Kang & Jesse Lee
Adam Luchjenbroers
Casi Maggio
Amahl Majack
Bridget McElroy
Darlene K. McHenry
Logan McHenry
Tadashi Mitsui
Linda Park
Willy Peng
Steven & Ciel Santoro
Andrew E. Sherman
Mollie and Mike Shipley
James and Linda Siragusa
Ako Tanaka
Zachary Urgese
Amy Wilfong
Sabah Will
Annie Wolf

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Tom Nolan on Ted Lewis for the WSJ

It’s Grim up North

Tom Nolan reviews ‘Get Carter,’ ‘Jack Carter’s Law,’ ‘Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon’ and ‘GBH’ by Ted Lewis.

Some crime-fiction writers chronicle their series protagonists’ careers through dozens of books. Donald Westlake, under the pseudonym Richard Stark, followed the exploits of a murderous crook named Parker for more than 20 novels. Leslie Charteris’s thief, the Saint, plundered through more than three dozen books. Other authors—by chance, design or necessity—say what they must in a handful.
Such was the case with Ted Lewis (1940-82), whose English hoodlum Jack Carter made an indelible impression narrating a trio of hard-hitting novels from 1970 to 1977, and became a permanent part of pop culture thanks to a 1971 movie adaptation, “Get Carter,” starring Michael Caine. All three novels (with supplementary essays by writers Nick Triplow, Max Allan Collins and “Get Carter” film director Mike Hodges) have recently been reprinted as the premiere project of the new reissue imprint Syndicate Books.
The novel then known as “Jack’s Return Home” was published in 1970. In it, a London gangster recounts a pilgrimage back to the middle England steel town of his youth to avenge the killing of his straight-arrow brother at the hands of local hoodlums. The book gave readers a brutal look at hitherto hidden English sleaze and seediness. “It ripped off the rose-tinted glasses through which most people saw our mutual homeland,” writes Mr. Hodges. Forty-four years later, the book, renamed “Get Carter” (Soho, 215 pages, $14.95) after the film, still has the power to jolt.
Now as then, it’s Jack Carter’s professional, clinical, unapologetic application of force that seems most disturbing—as when Carter describes confronting one of the criminals he’s been surveilling: “He was only six feet from the car when he saw who had come to collect him. He gave a short high scream and dropped the hold-all. Then he began to run. I got out of the car and leaned back in and picked up the shotgun . . . I had plenty of time and there was nowhere for him to go. . . . I could hear him scrambling over miniature screes of brick that had fallen from the decaying walls. The sound had the rattle of death.”
Carter tracks those responsible for his sibling’s murder through the village he left 23 years ago: “On the surface it was a dead town. . . . But it had its levels. Choose a level, present the right credentials and the town was as good as anywhere else. Or as bad. And there was the money.” Much of that cash is tied up in dodgy setups: betting shops, booze parlors, shabby improvised studios churning out blue movies that get sent to London for distribution.
The blue-money crew here has ties to Jack’s London employers, Gerald and Lee Fletcher, brothers “in the property business,” Jack says with a wink and a nudge. “Investment. Speculation. That kind of thing. You know.” Just as tactful, the Fletchers caution Carter against doing anything “thoughtless” in his hometown: “[Y]ou do good work for us, Jack. . . . it’d be an unnecessarily difficult job finding someone to replace you.”
But Carter is the last man likely to heed a warning. Fed up with doing the Fletchers’ heavy lifting while they take the bulk of the spoils, he’s poised to abscond with their purloined riches—and Gerald’s wife—to South Africa. Nonetheless, Jack’s determined to enact rough justice for his brother. So the Fletchers send a two-man team to persuade Carter to abandon his lethal plan.
According to Nick Triplow’s biographical sketch of Lewis (appended to “Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon”), even though the author had published an earlier well-received autobiographical novel, his agent refused to represent the first Carter book on the grounds that it was too violent. Another agent found the work a publisher, and sold the movie rights as well.
Critics praised Lewis’s novel, though some were taken aback by its “amoral” tone. Mr. Hodges’s film got good reviews in the U.S., but poor distribution. Posterity has been kind to both works. A new generation of tough British thriller-writers (including David Peace, Stuart Neville and John Williams) has cited Lewis as an influence; “Get Carter” has been hailed by Quentin Tarantino and other filmmakers and critics as one of the best British movies of all time.
Back in the ’70s, though, Ted Lewis scuffled to make good on the success of the renamed “Get Carter.” He wrote another noir caper (“Plender,” 1971) and another autobiographical novel (“The Rabbit,” 1975), but Carter was his ace in the hole. A sequel was out of the question, though, given the first book’s denouement. The solution was a 1974 present-tense prequel, “Jack Carter’s Law” (Soho, 213 pages, $14.95) which sees Jack hard at work for the Fletchers in London, trying to squelch a plot to put the brothers’ firm—and Carter—out of commission.
Carter is no hero, killing rival villains without compunction, manipulating one and all (male or female) to his advantage. But he does have a darkly contagious sense of humor, and his observing eye is keen and mean, as always.
Of the “would-be heavies” guarding a nightclub’s front-door: “They stand there . . . with their hands behind their backs the way they think the real ones do it. Their hair is washed and blown . . . and the hardest time any of them ever had is fighting a cold.” Of a pub’s garish-looking landlady: “She’s got platinum hair and lips that don’t conform to her idea of them, judging by the way she’s drawn them on.”
Of a spoiled copper who’s found out he’s about to be exposed in the press: “The cigarette smoke wreathes upwards round his ears making his head look like a boar’s that’s just been served up on a plate.”
“Jack Carter’s Law,” with its crude and cutting banter, grotesque but fascinating characters, tense situations and exhibitions of ill grace under pressure, is almost as good as “Get Carter.” This is not the case with the third and last Carter book, “Jack Carter and the Mafia Pigeon” (Soho, 282 pages, $14.95) though this unpredictable item published in 1977—in which Jack is tricked by the Fletchers into a Spanish “vacation,” which turns into an assignment protecting a near-hysterical American hood—is not without its odd appeal. To his credit, perhaps, the author tried something new, emphasizing Carter’s mischievous black humor to the point of near-farce. But inevitably, farce gives way to bloody doings; and the book’s disparate parts don’t mesh.
Ted Lewis wrote other books, for a total of nine, before succumbing to alcoholism at age 42. The last of these, 1980’s “GBH” (Soho, 323 pages, $26.95), is an innovatively structured tale told in the first person through alternating chapters, half in the past and half in the present; it’s narrated by a London mobster doing battle both with underworld rivals and inner demons.
George Fowler, head of a blue-movie racket, doesn’t think twice about torturing or killing to protect his interests or fulfill his desires. Among his earliest victims was his conscience—or was it? As he hides out off-season in a gray seaside town, mulling past criminal and sexual exploits, Fowler’s sure he’s being followed by an elusive young woman. Is she trying to rescue him, or bent on destroying him? Or maybe she’s some sort of phantom, feeding on his cannibalistic paranoia?
“GBH” shows Lewis stayed true to his unnerving vision and voice to the end, even while pushing it into farther-out places. This hitherto-obscure book’s resurrection should further enhance the Lewis legend. For now, Ted Lewis’s reputation has rested on a mere two titles—making all the more impressive the lasting impact of this realistic novelist of English mobsters, a writer responsible (in critic Mike Ashley’s words) for “opening a new vein in crime fiction.” It’s one other scribes have tapped ever since.

Jay Gertzman's Pulp According To David Goodis: ALLEYWAYS OF PHILADELPHIA

This alley is in South Philly (in 1958), so it is not the scene at which Eddie and Plyne fought to the death in DOWN THERE [SHOOT THE PIANO PLAYER], but it looks like the same kind of sinister, disorienting place: "It was a very long [snow covered] alley and Plyne was running against the wind." Eddie is actually trying to help Plyne, whose secret erotic wish has just been probed. Therefore his shame has made him hysterical, and probably suicidal. Eddie, who has had that very experience, feels the necessity of reaching out to him. You can guess the result, perhaps, but you need to read the narration to feel the fear, and Eddie's redemptive compulsion. Noble losers?

Thursday, May 7, 2015

NoirCon Writers in the top 101 Best of the Last Decade - Abbott, Harrington, Hobbs and Lippman

The 101 Best Crime Novels of the Past Decade

About the Author: 

Monica Bertz is Booklist's intern for adult books. She holds a bachelor's degree in English Literature from George Washington University. Besides reading, she enjoys binge-watching historical dramas and arguing with strangers about hockey over the internet.

Mystery Month 2015Mystery Month is in full swing here at Booklist, with all of the interviews, webinars, and blog posts about mystery fiction you could possibly want. And now, all of the book recommendations you need.
Every year in the May 1 issue, our Mystery Showcase, Booklist compiles the 10 best adult crime novels reviewed over the previous 12 months. As a special treat to The Booklist Reader faithful, we’ve collected all of these titles from the past decade, spanning 2006–2015, in this post, with links to their respective reviews. Thanks to one of those 10 best lists stretching to 11 titles (in 2007), that makes for 101 novels that will keep you reading into the next year, or at least until August. Put on your best trench coat, grab a spot in your favorite shadowy alley, and dive in.
The Ancient Rain, by Domenic Stansberry
What makes Stansberry stand out from the crowd is the genuine noir sensibility he brings to his work, that overwhelming feeling that things will, even must, go wrong.
The Andalucian Friend, by Alexander Söderberg
Superficial similarities to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2008) aside, this gripping Scandinavian crime novel,  a fast-paced thriller whose multistranded plot holds together as exquisitely as finely wound silk, deserves to stand entirely on its own.
Harkaway-angelmakerAngelmaker, by Nick Harkaway
Joe Spork, a mild-mannered clockmaker in contemporary London, is trying to live down the legacy of his Mob-boss father when he finds himself forced to rebuild and then disarm a doomsday machine of unimagined power. A tour de force of Dickensian bravura and genre-bending splendor.
The Anniversary Man, by R. J. Ellory
Entirely free of formula, Ellory’s breakthrough procedural follows NYPD Detective Ray Irving—overworked, underpaid, and absolutely dedicated to his job—who risks his sense of ethics and, ultimately, his life to track down a serial killer who is imitating the crimes of some of the worst monsters in history.
Bangkok Haunts, by John Burdett
Burdett’s third Sonchai Jitpleecheep novel, starring the Bangkok police detective and co-owner, with his mother, of a brothel in the city’s notorious District 8, builds on the exquisite moral ambiguity implicit in both setting and hero with his tightest plot yet and an even more potent mix of underworld seaminess, startling tenderness, and Buddhist wisdom.
The Beautiful Mystery, by Louise Penny
When the choir director of a monastery in a remote corner of Quebec is murdered, Chief Inspector Armand Gamache and Inspector Jean-Guy Beauvoir are charged with finding a killer among a group of largely silent monks, whose recording of Gregorian chants has made them famous. Roiling human passion set against the sublime serenity of the chants produces a melody of uncommon complexity and beauty.
Black Fly Season, by Giles Blunt
Blunt’s characters, even down to the lonely guy at the end of the bar, are wonderfully realistic, and his pacing never flags; in the end, he leaves us not so much with a story as with a perfectly realized world.
Bleed for Me, by Michael Robotham
Beautiful but understated prose; bright, funny, and touching characters; plotting that is both clever and well thought out—this one has it all.
Blood of Angels, by Reed Arvin
This nail-biter is Arvin’s third thriller, and each has been better than the last. He matches sinister plots with flawed protagonists to create melancholy, suspenseful, epiphany-filled, and pain-drenched noir novels.
Brett is a devastating social critic and master of equally devastating physical characterization. This is the kind of book you’ll have to put down frequently, as you roar with laughter.
Broken Monsters, by Lauren Beukes
Yes, Detroit homicide detective Gabriella Versado is tracking a serial killer, but not just any serial killer: this one likes to fuse the upper halves of his victims’ bodies with various animal parts. Think Peter Straub meets Karin Slaughter and Chelsea Cain.
The Broken Shore, by Peter Temple
Evoking a view of Australia 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.
The Brutal Telling, by Louise Penny
This fifth in Penny’s celebrated Armand Gamache series finds the chief inspector of the Sûreté du Quebec returning once again to the tiny village of Three Pines, where murder seems to disrupt the comfortable routines of the residents with alarming frequency. With rich characters and a firm grasp of human psychology, Penny compares with P. D. James and Donna Leon, writers who use police stories to explore depth of character and the intrigue of human relationships.
Bury Your Dead, by Louise Penny
Penny’s sixth Armande Gamache novel is her best yet, a true tour de force of storytelling. Penny hits every note perfectly in what is one of the most elaborately constructed mysteries in years.
The Cairo Affair, by Olen Steinhauer
Steinhauer follows his acclaimed Milo Weaver trilogy with a stand-alone that is as emotionally rich as it is layered with intrigue. This complex tale leaves us with the feeling that, despite all the information won, lost, hoarded, and put to use, the world of intelligence is no stronger than the fragile, fallible human beings who navigate it.
Cemetery Road, by Gar Anthony Haywood
The author of the critically acclaimed Aaron Gunner series makes a long-awaited return with this gripping stand-alone thriller, which melds an intricately plotted but highly suspenseful thriller to a moving story of belated coming-of-age.
City of Tiny Lights, by Patrick Neate
A star was born when Neate created Tommy Akhtar, a London PI of Ugandan-Indian heritage with a fondness for Wild Turkey, Benson & Hedges, and the game of cricket. Akhtar is one-of-a-kind, his voice a rollicking blend of erudite thought delivered in delightfully crude slang. Neate’s literary fiction has tended to be overweening, but here, in the service of a tightly plotted crime novel, he finds his voice.
Cold in Hand, by John Harvey
In this coda-like, deeply melancholy novel that features the return of Nottingham detective Charlie Resnick, Harvey reveals once again his ability to capture not only the plodding nature of police work but also the uncommon determination of a good copper to tease out truth.
The Collaborator of Bethlehem, by Matt Beynon Rees
In the complex, uncompromising tale of a good man caught in an untenable world, Rees captures the human spark of daily lives being led in totally polarized, soul-deadening conditions.
Cripple Creek, by James Sallis
The superb second entry in Sallis’ Turner series is a violent tale told quietly but powerfully. While his Lew Griffin series remains a cult favorite among devoted hard-boiled fans, don’t be surprised if the Turner novels eventually claim pride of place in the author’s oeuvre.
Edgar-winner Franklin delivers luminous prose and a cast of unforgettable characters in this moody, masterful mix of crime and literary fiction.
Dare Me, by Megan Abbott
This is cheerleading as blood sport, Bring It On meets Fight Club—just try putting it down.
The Dark Horse, by Craig Johnson
From the motel backdrop (think Touch of Evil on the high plains), through the indelibly inked characters, and on to the set piece ending (in snow and lightning atop a mesa), this is one of Johnson’s best.
The Darkest Room, by Johan Theorin
Swedish author Theorin’s latest thriller begins with the drowning death of a woman on the remote island of Oland, but it quickly spirals both backward into the past and downward into the troubled minds of its characters, especially the victim’s husband, a lighthouse keeper left alone in a large and possibly haunted house.
The Dawn Patrol, by Don Winslow
This mainstream hard-boiled detective novel becomes something special thanks to its sandy setting and the panache with which Winslow writes about the light and dark sides of San Diego and the wave-crashing characters who call its coastline home.
The Devil She Knows, by Bill Loehfelm
Character drives this follow-up to Loehfelm’s fine Bloodroot (2009); the deeply conflicted cocktail waitress Maureen Coughlin, in particular, is brilliantly developed, and drives a novel that is both suspenseful and remarkably textured.
Darkness, Darkness, by John Harvey
After an exquisite coda to the Charlie Resnick series (Cold in Hand, 2008), Harvey delivers a definitively final episode in the story of a detective whose focus is perpetually clouded by his abiding melancholy over the all-too-human lives of the individuals caught in the backlash of crime.
Dead Game, by Kirk Russell
Russell is at the top of his game with this novel, giving readers fascinating background into wildlife, compelling undercover procedure, well-drawn characters, and the kind of description—whether of action or scenery—that leaves one gasping.
Death without Company, by Craig Johnson
Like C. J. Box in his Joe Pickett series, Johnson uses the landscape of the Wyoming high country to evoke the sense of lives crushing in upon one another, as secrets refuse to stay buried and old wounds continue to fester. Johnson combines a vivid sense of the dailiness of life with a sure-handed touch for jolting both his characters and his readers out of their comfort zones and deep into harm’s way.
Devil’s Peak, by Deon Meyer
Meyer weds his plot to deep social issues and to flawed but compelling characters in a novel that is almost unbearably suspenseful.
Down into Darkness, by David Lawrence
Stella Mooney, the tough London cop at the center of Lawrence’s noir-driven series, is merely one in a cast of uniformly strong players—Lawrence treats good guys and bad, leads and bit parts, with the same respect, showing interest in their strengths and weaknesses, and especially in their fears.
Echo Park, by Michael Connelly
After the killer in a 1993 murder is caught by chance and linked to nine more deaths, it is revealed that Harry Bosch may have missed a clue that could have solved the case at the outset. As Harry confronts the train wreck that could destroy his career, he must answer a fundamental question about himself: Is he a good cop with no tolerance for phonies, or an uncontrollable rogue whose hubris costs lives? That issue has been at the core of Connelly’s landmark series for years, and the answers that emerge here are not as clear as one might assume. As suspenseful as it is psychologically acute.
Exit Music, by Ian Rankin
With only a few days until he is officially retired, Rankin’s iconic Edinburgh police inspector John Rebus isn’t going gently into any good nights, not with one more meaty case on his plate. Rebus goes out the way he came in, “mistrusting teamwork in all its guises”—or as his partner, Siobhan, says, summing up his career, “decades of bets hedged, lines crossed, rules broken.” We wouldn’t have it any other way. Here’s to Rebus!
False Mermaid, by Erin Hart
Few writers combine as seamlessly as Hart does the subtlety, lyrical language, and melancholy of literary fiction with the pulse-pounding suspense of the best thrillers.
Field of Darkness, by Cornelia Read
Every page is a pleasure in this mystery debut featuring barb-wielding, ex-debutante Madeline Dare. This is sure to be loved by fans of comic mysteries, but don’t be surprised if Tom Wolfe readers are equally smitten by Read’s venomously witty portrait of a fallen WASP.
What makes Furst’s world so utterly seductive is the tantalizing sliver of time he writes about: not World War II but the period just prior to its beginning in earnest, when secret agents of every stripe were huddled in Paris, and cynical individualists were facing the realization that even they stood to be trapped in the coming crossfire.
Free Fire, by C. J. Box
In the sixth installment of his celebrated Joe Pickett series, Box forges a perfect alloy of familiar and fresh. Setting the action in the bubbling Yellowstone caldera—which could blow sky high at any moment, we’re told—is a masterstroke, lending both urgency and the long view to the proceedings.
Ghostman, by Roger Hobbs
First-novelist Hobbs possesses that rare ability for first unleashing and then shrewdly directing a tornado of a plot, but he also evokes Elmore Leonard in the subtle interplay of his characters.
The Girl on the Train, by Paula Hawkins
Melding the voyeurism of Rear Window with the unreliable narration of Gone Girl, Hawkins delivers a riveting tale about a woman peering into the lives of her former husband and his new lover. What makes this wicked thriller so compulsively readable is the way the author expertly mines female archetypes.
Charismatic computer hacker Lisbeth Salander is one of those characters who comes along only rarely in fiction: a true original, larger than life yet firmly grounded in realistic detail.
The God of the Hive, by Laurie R. King
What makes King’s series the absolute best of all the latter-day Sherlock Holmes novels isn’t just the focus on the compelling Mary Russell but the way the novels create their own world, standing almost independently of Conan Doyle.
The Godfather of Kathmandu, by John Burdett
The fourth novel starring Sonchai Jitplecheep, the Thai police detective whose mother runs a brothel and whose boss is a drug kingpin, is stuffed with a dizzying array of story lines, all of which exude the moral ambiguity and cognitive dissonance that have become the series’ hallmarks.
The Good Physician, by Kent Harrington
Harrington’s unflinching examination of the humanity of the terrorist and the inhumanity of terrorism follows the transformation of a doctor at the American embassy in Mexico City, who is also a diffident CIA employee, from dilettante to reluctant antiterrorist to disgusted man of action. A powerful yet remarkably subtle novel in which Harrington heaps plagues upon all the ideological houses whose bombs spray their shrapnel across our landscape.
Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn
Flynn combines a corkscrew of a plot with her own twisted sense of humor in a compelling thriller and a searing portrait of a marriage.
Gone Tomorrow, by Lee Child
Child grounds his hero’s hard body and hard-drive brain in believable detail, and he always sets the action in a precisely described landscape.
Gone, by Mo Hayder
The meticulously crafted plot is heightened by Hayder’s skillful evocation of mood in this utterly gripping thriller.
Heartsick, by Chelsea Cain
Cain never misses a beat here, turning the psychological screws ever tighter and introducing us to the genre’s most compelling villain since Hannibal Lecter.
How the Light Gets In, by Louise Penny
Chief Inspector Armand Gamache has a new case involving the murder of the last surviving sister of quintuplets, a woman with ties to Three Pines, the idyllic, off-the-grid village outside Montreal where several of Gamache’s previous adventures have been set. The novel not only puts Gamache in harm’s way but also exposes Three Pines to defilement—a cozy setting under attack from a decidedly hard-boiled world. Another bravura performance from the magnificent Penny.
Hush Hush, by Laura Lippman
With an intriguing cast of characters, stinging dialogue, and a superbly suspenseful plot, this is a provocative tale about parents good and evil.
In the Morning I’ll Be Gone, by Adrian McKinty
McKinty’s exceptionally smart police procedural brilliantly sets a familiar device from the Golden Age of British mysteries against the gritty backdrop of 1980s Belfast.
Iron House, by John Hart
The present-time plot—hit man Michael trying to carve a new life without endangering those he loves—makes a superb thriller on its own, but it’s what Hart does with the backstory that gives the novel its beyond-genre depth.
The Leopard, by Jo Nesbø
Just as we wonder if Nesbø finally has played out the theme of Oslo cop Harry Hole versus his demons, we are sucked in again, drawn by the specter of a good man undone by a bad world and a too-sensitive soul.
Liars Anonymous, by Louise Ure
This masterfully constructed psychological thriller, which rests on fiercely moral underpinnings, cements Ure’s position alongside such masters as Ruth Rendell and Minette Walters.
The Limehouse Text, by Will Thomas
Scottish “private inquiry agent” Cyrus Barker and his assistant, Welshman Thomas Llewelyn, return in their third adventure in a series that has quickly placed itself near the top of the historical-mystery pecking order.
Live by Night, by Dennis Lehane
A magnetic reimagining of the great themes of popular fiction—crime, family, passion, betrayal—set against an exquisitely rendered historical backdrop.
The Long Way Home, by Louise Penny
As always, Penny dexterously combines suspense with psychological drama, overlaying the whole with an all-powerful sense of landscape as a conduit to meaning.
Cox invokes emotions, from the iciest betrayal to all-consuming love, on a grand scale and gives them an equally impressive backdrop: a fetid London, its streets filthy but its people in thrall to the smallest details of social stratification.
Mine All Mine, by Adam Davies
In a novel that is equal parts comic monologue, screwball romance, and crime story, Davies employs clichéd suspense devices with results that are wholly original.
Natchez Burning, by Greg Iles
This first in a planned trilogy represents perhaps the author’s finest work, with remarkably sharp characterizations and a story of deep emotional resonance.
The Nearest Exit, by Olen Steinhauer
The world of the CIA black-ops unit called the Tourists is a dazzling, dizzying, complex web of clandestine warfare that is complicated further by affairs of the heart. Steinhauer’s hero, Milo Weaver, does his best to save the thing he most despises, a conundrum that sums up the shades of gray that color this espionage masterpiece.
Night Film, by Marisha Pessl
Pessl’s writing is always under control in this multifaceted, byzantine exploration of truth and illusion, and her characters draw us fully into the maelstrom of the story.
Nobody Walks, by Mick Herron
Herron’s remarkable novel has enough suspense, action, and deductive dazzle to keep thriller fans happy, but be warned: these are deep psychological waters. Powerful stuff, written in a clipped style that belies its ability to convey strong emotion.
An Officer and a Spy, by Robert R. Harris
Best-selling historical novelist Harris looks behind a well-known event to find a world of fascinating detail and remarkably complex intrigue.
The Orphan Choir, by Sophie Hannah
This riveting stand-alone, in which suspense snowballs to a climax that is all the more dire for its everyday contemporary English setting, is absolutely haunting, in every sense of the word.
Out of Range, by C. J. Box
Incorporating contemporary issues and his own natural curiosity into his characters’ opinions, Box strides a Teton-sharp line between the hard-boiled ethos, where concepts of right and wrong are almost meaningless given the world’s ways, and a western sensibility, where a man’s gotta do what a man’s gotta do.
Painted Ladies, by Robert B. Parker
Are we honoring the late Parker’s career here or is this really one of his best books in its own right? Well, both. His penultimate Spenser novel captures all the charm of the landmark series. Parker was one of the first to show us that a hard-boiled hero doesn’t have to frown all the time, and we’ve been smiling along with Spenser ever since.
Perfidia, by James Ellroy
Ellroy’s wartime L.A. evokes William S. Burroughs at his surreal best, and, yet, the novel is remarkably balanced and well plotted, and the prose veers away from the bombast of Ellroy’s past.
Poison Flower, by Thomas Perry
Perry’s series heroine, Jane Whitefield, who helps people who have no other choice but to disappear, continues to be one of the most original and intriguing characters in contemporary crime fiction.
The Prop, by Pete Hautman
Hautman’s poker-themed crime novel, with its crisp pacing, slick plot, and canny characters, will have Texas Hold ’Em addicts nodding along with knowing pleasure.
The Rage, by Gene Kerrigan
If you like hard-boiled Irish thrillers in the Ken Bruen mold, and you don’t know about Kerrigan, you’re at least two Guinnesses behind. This tense, thoughtful thriller about an armored-car robbery gets into the heads of both the robber and the Dublin copper who tracks him. Start the word-of-mouth going: Kerrigan is the real deal.
Red Means Run, by Brad Smith
Mixing comedy, caper, and suspense in just the right proportions, Smith keeps the narrative cantering along at a comfortable pace, not so fast as to keep us from enjoying the banter but not so slow as to make us want to use the whip.
The Redbreast, by Jo Nesbø
Nesbø has been among Norway’s leading crime-fiction writers for the last decade, and his American debut shows why. Moving from WWII into the early days of the new century, the novel unfurls a complex plot in which the wounds of history continue to bleed in the present.
A Rule against Murder, by Louise Penny
Penny’s Armand Gamache novels, starring an intrepid Canadian police inspector in the Quebec village of Three Pines, are some of the best traditional mysteries being published today. This fourth entry finds the inspector traveling to a remote resort to celebrate his wedding anniversary; naturally, murder is on the guest list. Despite similarities to Poirot and Maigret, Gamache is a complete original.
The Rules of Wolfe, by James Carlos Blake
Building on his quasi-autobiographical saga Country of the Bad Wolfes (2012), Blake uses the characters of his sprawling Mexican American clan to offer a new spin on the hard-edged outlaw tale. Blake’s prose is muscular, his details are keenly observed, and his plot offers one hell of a ride.
The Sacred Cut, by David Hewson
All the historical detail gives the proceedings a tasty complexity comparable to Pérez-Reverte, but what really makes the novel work is the interplay between the antiestablishment Roman cops. A masterful mix of the high-concept historical thriller and the cynical contemporary Italian procedural.
The Second Objective, by Mark Frost
Frost’s full-throttle World War II thriller draws on an actual Nazi scheme to send English-speaking Germans behind the lines prior to the Battle of the Bulge. He builds character beautifully and manages to generate incredible suspense in the face of historical fact.
The Secret Place, by Tana French
A year after the brutal murder of a young man at a posh school for girls, the case remains unsolved. Then 16-year-old Holly Mackey approaches Detective Stephen Moran with a tantalizing clue. French brilliantly and plausibly channels the rebellion, conformity, inchoate longings, rages, and shared bonds of teen girls in the throes of coming-of-age.
Secret Speech, by Tom Rob Smith
It’s 1956, and Smith’s long-suffering hero, Leo Demidov, heartsick over his work as a Soviet bureaucrat who sends innocent people to the gulag, has become a prime target of recently released prisoners out to even scores. Smith’s plotting is elaborate, his pacing is relentless, and his characters are wonderfully drawn.
Shatter the Bones, by Stuart MacBride
MacBride’s seventh Logan McRae novel, starring the Aberdeen, Scotland, police detective, may be the most harrowing yet—and that’s saying something. The crimes (two kidnappings) are breathtakingly awful, the pacing is breakneck, and the stakes are higher than ever. There’s little comfort in the bleak ending, but still: Brilliant. Bloody. Brilliant.
Shovel Ready, by Adam Sternbergh
This galvanizing debut thriller boasts a compelling antiheroic protagonist—a garbage collector turned hit man—and a vividly evoked landscape in which Manhattan is reeling from a dirty bomb. Mixing edgy science and urban noir with a Palahniuk swagger, Sternbergh creates flesh-and-blood characters who bring humor and a resilient humanity to their torn-asunder world.
The Snowman, by Jo Nesbø
Norway’s maverick detective Harry Hole is back in this fourth installment of Nesbø’s uniformly outstanding series. Nesbø layers the suspense skillfully, deftly mixing scenes from the investigation with glimpses into Harry’s always compelling personal life.
Gores creates a compelling backstory for Sam Spade and does it so completely in the Hammett style that we suspend disbelief in an instant.
Spiral, by Paul McEuen
With the murder of an 85-year-old physicist, it’s left to one of his colleagues to thwart a complex scheme to launch the “most devastating terrorist attack in human history.” McEuen offers lucid disquisitions on science; posits that “synthetic biology” will surpass silicon microelectronics as the next big technological wave; and, remarkably, he makes these ideas accessible to the average thriller fan.
Started Early, Took My Dog, by Kate Atkinson
In the latest entry in Atkinson’s brilliant Jackson Brodie series, the semiretired detective becomes involved in several interrelated cases, one of which concerns a police detective who has rescued a child from a prostitute by paying cash for her. For its singular melding of radiant humor and dark deeds, this is must-reading for fans of literary crime fiction.
Suspect, by Robert Crais
Two PTSD sufferers—Scott, an LAPD cop, and Maggie, a German shepherd veteran of the Iraq War—bond during tryouts for the department’s K-9 unit and soon join forces to solve a murder. Who would have thought that one of the most multifaceted and appealing new protagonists in crime fiction would be a hard-boiled dog?
The Terrorist, by Peter Steiner
An espionage gem with echoes of Greene and Le Carré, The Terrorist is a deeply human story of a man in the last years of his life, who, unexpectedly, has again found love but who is sucked back into a cynical, dangerous milieu he abhors.
The Thicket, by Joe R. Lansdale
In this turn-of-the-century coming-of-age tale, 16-year-old Jack Parker—accompanied by a pair of eccentric bounty hunters—tracks the outlaws who have killed his parents and abducted his sister. Memorable characters, a vivid sense of place, and an impressive body count make The Thicket another Lansdale treasure.
Tigerman, by Nick Harkaway
Harkaway is at it again, celebrating pop culture, mixing genres like a mad scientist, and producing a book that is both deeply moving and deliriously entertaining. Owing as much to Murakami as Stan Lee, this ode to superheroes combines suspense with coming-of-age drama and a noir sensibility.
A Thousand Cuts, by Simon Lelic
A recently hired history teacher walks into a school assembly, shoots three students and one teacher, and then turns the gun on himself. An open-and-shut case, right? It’s anything but in Lelic’s gripping thriller, a searing indictment of a toxic school culture in which everyone is inured to cruelty.
The Troubled Man, by Henning Mankell
This is a deeply melancholy novel, but Mankell, sweeping gracefully between reflections on international politics and meditations on the inevitable arc of human life, never lets his story become engulfed by darkness. The final volume in the Kurt Wallander series represents a landmark moment in the genre.
Turn of Mind, by Alice LaPlante
Part literary novel, part thriller, LaPlante’s haunting debut traces the deterioration of orthopedic surgeon Jennifer White, who at 64 is suffering severe dementia and just might have killed her best friend.
Vicious Circle, by Robert Littell
Littell’s latest brainy thriller probes very near the heart of the timeworn conflict over a land made and kept holy through regular libations of martyrs’ blood. Littell presents a physical and mental landscape of stark beauty and ugliness, spinning a tale fit to hold its own with John le Carré’s Little Drummer Girl and Robert Stone’s Damascus Gate.
Victory Square, by Olen Steinhauer
In the final installment of his masterful Eastern European series, set in 1989, Steinhauer explores the life cycle of a state through the eyes of political idealists, government informants, and good cops who just want to solve crimes.
What Comes Next, by John Katzenbach
An abducted teenager. A perverted villain (or villains). A chase to save the victim. These are not unfamiliar ingredients in crime fiction, but Katzenbach reinvents the formula several times over in this absolutely gripping novel, combining the intricacy of psychological fiction with the pulse-pounding narrative of plot-driven suspense.
Atkinson writes about truly horrific matters, often involving violence against women, but she brings such remarkable tonal range to her material—four revolving narrators alternate between biting humor and somber reflection—that we are struck not by the mayhem being described but by the incredible narrative richness.
The Whites, by Harry Brandt
With one-of-a-kind characters and settings so real you can smell them, The Whites isn’t about cops and killers as much it’s about the damage we all carry, the sins we’ve all committed, and the heartbreaking unlikeliness of forgiveness.
Winter’s Bone, by Daniel Woodrell
Sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly, who dreams of escaping her Ozark family of crank cocaine dealers by joining the army, is caught in the cross fire when her daddy jumps bail. Woodrell, who has made a career of finding poetry in the beat-up souls of Ozark rednecks, mixes tough and tender in word-perfect proportions.
Wyatt, by Garry Disher
Wyatt Wareen, an unsentimental thief with a code, gets double-crossed on a jewel heist and sets out to send a message. An old-style holdup man uncomfortable with technology, Wyatt may be a man out of time, but crime fiction this good is timeless.
Drawing on the obscure historical fact that Alaska was proposed by FDR to become the postwar Jewish homeland, Chabon constructs a nightmarish world in frigid Sitka, where black humor is a kind of life-supporting antifreeze and where a browbeaten detective, Meyer Landsman, must stave off Armageddon. In delectable prose seasoned with all manner of Yiddish wordplay, the novel combines satire, homage, metaphor, and genuine suspense.
The Zero, by Jess Walter
This discombobulating but remarkably imaginative novel posits a disconnected world in which both reader and investigator must piece together not only a conspiracy theory but also shards of meaning floating in the atmosphere like the bits of paper that continue to rain down from ground zero after the explosions. Walter has taken the terrorist thriller into altogether new territory, mixing the surreal cityscape of Blade Runner with a generous helping of Kafka.
Zugzwang, by Ronan Bennett
Remaining apolitical is a tall order for a Jew in 1914 Russia, yet that’s just what psychoanalyst Otto Spethmann is attempting to do—until he’s thrust into the middle of a murder plot involving power players across the political spectrum of prerevolutionary St. Petersburg. Readers who love Anna Karenina as much as they enjoy a gripping mystery will find a little slice of heaven here.